Chuck Fletcher moved some money off his books on Thursday when he traded defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere to the Arizona Coyotes.
The Coyotes will pay full freight on the 28-year-old. That’s two more years at a cap hit of $4.5 million per season, with $6.5 million in total owed in real dollars. To clear the full value of the contract, Fletcher also surrendered his second and seventh-round picks in the 2022 draft.
Ghost Traded For Cap Space
Officially, the Coyotes send ‘future considerations’ back to Philadelphia. In all likelihood, that will amount to little or nothing. It’s the second such deal that Arizona GM Bill Armstrong has made in the last week. He also took the last two years of Andrew Ladd’s contract from the New York Islanders, with its $5.5 million cap hit, in exchange for two second-round picks and a conditional third.
“Our reality was pretty simple,” Fletcher said Thursday. “When you factor in the expected raises that (RFAs Travis) Sanheim and Carter Hart will receive, and we very much want to sign those two players, we didn’t have a lot of space left to fill the holes we needed to fill. We made the move we had to make.”
When Gostisbehere successfully cleared waivers in late March, it became clear that despite his effectiveness on the power play and his pedigree as a strong skater, the combination of his injuries and his cap hit had significantly diminished his value in the NHL marketplace.
Sweetening his trade with two draft picks is a hard pill to swallow, but it could have been worse. “A couple of teams had made offers,” Fletcher said. “One team had asked for Cam York to take Gostisbehere. Another team had asked for our first round pick this year to take Gostisbehere. This was the best move we can make.”
No Deal With Kraken
After former Flyers bench boss Dave Hakstol was hired in Seattle last month, there was a glimmer of hope that he might persuade Francis to go after Gostisbehere, who emerged as an NHL player during Hakstol’s time in Philadelphia, or another pricey vet like Jakub Voracek or James van Riemsdyk.
No dice. League-wide, Francis stayed away from big contracts and older players, and ultimately claimed winger Carsen Twarynski from the Flyers.
“I had many, many, many conversations with Ron Francis before,” Fletcher said. “I spoke to him last night and again today. He made clear they wanted to keep their powder dry. Cap space is so important and teams are going to be in trouble, if not now then later on the summer or next year.”
Drafted in the third round in 2018, 23-year-old Twarynski played 22 NHL games for Philadelphia over the last two seasons, scoring one goal. He’s currently a restricted free agent without arbitration rights.
Twarynski’s most memorable moment as a Flyer might have come in Prague, when the Flyers opened their 2019-20 season against the Chicago Blackhawks as part of the NHL Global Series. With cameras rolling for NHL Network’s ‘Behind the Glass’ docuseries, Twarynski was called into the lobby to learn that he’d made the opening-night lineup and that his parents had flown in from Calgary to watch him play.
Per #Flyers PR guru Zack Hill, Chuck Fletcher called Carsen Twarynski to meet him in the lobby for a meeting.
It ended up being Twarynski's parents surprising him for his NHL debut Friday.
— Jordan Hall (@JHallNBCS) October 3, 2019
Next Steps And New Additions
With Gostisbehere and Twarynski off the roster, the Flyers now have 16 players signed for next season, and just under $14 million in available cap space to fill out their roster, according to CapFriendly. In addition to the new contracts for Sanheim, who has arbitration rights, and Hart, who doesn’t, Fletcher also needs to acquire a backup goalie and fill out the rest of his blue line.
Last week’s acquisition of Ryan Ellis was an important first step, but Fletcher isn’t done. “We need to look at one or two other opportunities on defense,” he said. “We have some guys internally that can push, but we certainly are still looking at the outside.”
Specifically, Fletcher said he hopes that Cam York and Egor Zamula will step up to become everyday NHL players within the next 12 months. Talking about plugging holes until they’re ready, he also mentioned depth veteran Robert Hagg and Sam Morin, the hulking 26-year-old who showed some snarl in his game as he came back from two ACL surgeries to play 20 games with the Flyers last season, both as a winger and a defenseman.
Morin is heading for unrestricted free agency, but it sounds like Fletcher is expecting to have him back next season.
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13th Pick Remains In Play
As for the 13th pick in Friday’s draft, Fletcher’s still ready to draft or deal.
“I was pretty adamant I wasn’t going to use it to dump salary. I did make that decision,” Fletcher said. “We’re certainly ready to draft at 13. I would say that I’m very open-minded to using it if we can add a player that can help us.”
With the July 28th opening of free agency less than a week away, the market remains fluid.
“What we can get at what price will be a determining factor in which way we go, or cap space will be a determining factor,” Fletcher summed up. “Trying to make judgments on which young players we think are closest to making it will also be a factor.
“We have all our staff in. We’re meeting. We’re talking. It’s been a lot of fun. It’s been busy. That’s exactly what we’re going to try to determine here over the next week and see if we can add another piece or two. You never know.
“I believe we can, but we’ll see. I do expect to have a better team by the end of next Wednesday. And that’s exciting.”