Rest is a weapon, they say.
And with the opportunity to sleep in their own beds for three weeks, with no travel and just one set of back-to-back games, the Philadelphia Flyers finished out their team-record-setting eight-game homestand with a pair of wins.
The home squad took down the Chicago Blackhawks by a score of 4-3 in a feisty matinee on Sunday, then held on to beat the Vegas Golden Knights 2-1 on Tuesday. It’s just the second time in 2022 that Philadelphia has won two straight games.
Where They Stand
The Flyers came out of the homestand with a 3-4-1 record. They’re now 18-28-10 with 56 games played, compared to their record of 25-23-8 in last year’s shortened season.
With 26 games remaining, they sit last in the Metropolitan Division. They’re one point behind the New Jersey Devils with one game in hand. Overall, the Flyers rank 27th of 32. They’re ahead of Ottawa, Buffalo, Seattle, Arizona and Montreal — with those last two teams both currently surging.
Not all the details of how the 2022 Draft Lottery will work have been released yet by the NHL. But there are some changes to note this year.
First off — only two lottery drawings will be made this year, instead of three. Secondly, winning teams won’t be allowed to move up more than 10 positions. So, no more jumping from 13th to second, like the Flyers did in 2017 when they drafted Nolan Patrick. And thirdly, no team is allowed to improve its draft lottery position more than twice in five years, starting with the 2022 lottery. Call that the Edmonton Oilers Rule.
With those details in mind, Tankathon has created an estimate of the 2022 NHL draft lottery odds. As of March 9, the Flyers have a 7.6% chance of winning the first pick, a 7.9% chance of winning the second pick, and the greatest likelihood of picking seventh overall (43%).
What Lies Ahead
The idea of a team tanking to improve draft position is always hard to chew on. But Chuck Fletcher could strip his roster down to its foundation by shipping out multiple players at the trade deadline.
If that happens, Philadelphia could sink even deeper in the standings, and potentially improve its chances of snagging a young stud like Shane Wright or Logan Cooley.
The Flyers have 10 games remaining at home and 16 on the road. They’ll play three of each before the trade deadline, starting with a tough two-game set this week — in Florida on Thursday and Carolina on Saturday. Immediately after the deadline, they’ll head out for a tough five-game trip. That starts in Detroit on March 22, and they’re 0-2-0 against the Red Wings so far this season. Then, they’ll play four games in six nights against hungry Central Division foes — St. Louis, Colorado, Nashville and Minnesota.
The regular season will wrap up later than usual this year. The Flyers will play 15 times in April, wrapping up this lost season by hosting the Ottawa Senators on April 29.
Who Could Be Leaving?
Claude Giroux is the best player who’s presumed to be available at the trade deadline, and teams are interested in acquiring him. In his latest ’32 Thoughts’ column, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman mentions that the St. Louis Blues are in the mix, as well as the Colorado Avalanche and Florida Panthers.
Impending free agent defenseman Justin Braun will almost certainly be dealt. Martin Jones could be a decent depth addition in net for a playoff team. And on this week’s ’32 Thoughts’ podcast, Friedman indicated that Rasmus Ristolainen could be on the block if the Flyers can’t get an extension done with him.
Friedman says both the player and the team have been happy with the fit in Philadelphia and would like to continue the marriage. He also shot down internet rumours that the Flyers had offered Ristolainen a six-year contract with an average annual value of around $6.3 million. He said the number he’s hearing is more in the range of $4 to $4.75 million.
Now in the midst of a second-straight underperforming season, Travis Konecny’s name has also been bandied about. That chatter seems to be coming more from teams that would like to buy low on the 24-year-old than from Chuck Fletcher’s desire to move him.
Derick Brassard, Gerry Mayhew, and Nick Seeler are all impending unrestricted free agents. They could be picked up by playoff-bound teams for additional depth.
Who Will Be Left?
After a difficult personal year in 2020-21, Carter Hart has reclaimed his title as the Flyers’ goalie of the future. He almost single-handedly stole the two points for his team against Vegas on Tuesday, allowing just one goal while making a career-high 47 saves.
Hart’s stat line has rebounded to pre-pandemic levels, with a .913 save percentage and 2.88 goals-against average. He’s at 5.5 goals saved above expected for the year according to MoneyPuck, just behind the Dallas Stars’ young phenom Jake Oettinger (6.8).
Scott Laughton has also stepped up. He could help fill the leadership void after Giroux’s departure.
The 27-year-old signed a team-friendly contract extension last April, which will have him in Philadelphia for four more seasons at a cap hit of $3 million a year. His average ice time this season is at a career-high 16:39. And after assisting on both Flyers goals on Tuesday, he’s now at 28 points in 53 games this season, just four points off his previous career-high from 2018-19.
Perhaps most valuably on a Flyers team that has been hammered by injuries over the last two seasons, Laughton has managed to stay healthy. Knock on wood, he has missed just three games in each of the last two seasons, both times due to Covid protocols.
As roster spots open up after the trade deadline, more players from the AHL could also earn recalls. Defenseman Cam York re-joined the big club on Wednesday after Kevin Connauton was injured against Chicago last weekend. Morgan Frost may not be far behind. Also, keep an eye out for NCAA stars like Bobby Brink and Noah Cates. They could ink their entry-level contracts and make their Flyers’ debuts as their college seasons come to a close.
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