Two weeks ago I explored the possibility of the Flyers utilizing an offer sheet regarding Toronto's restricted free agent William Nylander, who still remains unsigned.
The prospect of surrendering four future first-round picks to Toronto just didn't seem feasible, and for a general manager with a keen eye toward building for the future, it seemed to be an unwarranted sacrifice.
As Nylander approaches Dec. 1, the deadline to reach an agreement or forfeit playing this season, there's plenty of buzz surrounding potential trade partners, and the Flyers continue to surface.
During his 31 Thoughts podcast Thursday, Sportsnet Canada's Elliotte Friedman mentioned the Flyers as a "stealth team" flying under the radar at this point.
"The interesting thing about this is they haven't been a team that's been mentioned a lot with Nylander, but they could do it," Friedman said on his podcast. "They have pieces that I think Toronto could like. We've mentioned Los Angeles, we've mentioned Minnesota, Carolina definitely - they're all over the place there - but I really do believe that a stealth team that has what Toronto would want would be the Flyers."
The pieces Friedman is referring to are defensemen. Organizationally, the Flyers have some depth at the position if they were willing to part with one of those players, but who exactly?
• Ivan Provorov is a top-pairing defenseman who also led all NHL blueliners with 17 goals last season. The Flyers would need more than Nylander to facilitate this deal, and quite frankly, it would set the franchise back rather than move them forward.
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• Travis Sanheim is finally evolved into an NHL regular and his two-way game has started to stabilize after an up-and-down rookie season. Sanheim is the name that surfaces whenever teams are looking to add that gifted offensive defenseman. After refusing to part ways with Sanheim in previous years, it doesn't make much sense for Hextall now that Sanheim is finally starting to figure things out.
• Phillipe Myers was on the cusp of making the Flyers out of training camp, but still needs some AHL seasoning to ensure he's ready for the NHL grind. The attraction for Toronto is that Myers is right-handed and still has a year remaining on his entry-level contract after 2018-19. That's attractive with the Leafs having to re-sign Auston Matthews, who's in line for a significant raise next season.
• Robert Hägg is showing that he can be a serviceable top pairing defenseman as he's played steady minutes with Provorov. Despite some early-season point production, Hägg is more of a stay-at-home defenseman who brings a punishing physical presence that would work well on Toronto's blue line. Hägg signed a very reasonable two-year contract this summer at $1.15 million/season and is an RFA after the 2019-2020 season.
We do know that Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas was in Philadelphia watching the Flyers-Avalanche game on Oct. 22, and four nights later he was in Carolina for Sharks vs. Hurricanes, another team with a solid surplus of defensemen.
If I'm Hextall, Hägg may be the only defenseman I'd be willing to part with in a deal for Nylander and it would likely take a little bit more on the Flyers' end to facilitate a trade. But a potential blockbuster comes with other concerns. How could the Flyers lock up Nylander when the Leafs haven't had much success in negotiations - a frustration the organization doesn't need at this point with their early-season struggles.
Secondly, the Flyers don't have a huge need at left wing once James van Riemsdyk returns to the lineup. Unless Dave Hakstol plans on moving Claude Giroux back to center or the right side, Nylander would be slotted onto the Flyers' third line and their second power play unit. You don't make that trade to put a player like Nylander with back-to-back 61-point seasons in a bottom six role. Interestingly, Friedman had previously stated he thought the Flyers kicked the tires on Columbus winger Artemi Panarin, but that was prior to signing JVR.
Right now, I see the Flyers standing pat with what they have, but the longer the Nylander situation goes unresolved, the more you'll hear the Flyers mentioned as a possible trade partner.
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