The NHL Trade Deadline has passed, and the Philadelphia Flyers made a small flurry of moves. First, the Flyers announced they re-signed center Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and goalie Michal Neuvirth to 2-year extensions. The Flyers later traded defenseman and alternate captain Mark Streit to Tampa Bay for center Valtteri Filppula, a 4th-Round Pick and a 7th-Round Pick. For what it’s worth, Streit was later traded from the Lightning to the Pittsburgh Penguins for a 4th Round Pick.
There is a lot to break down here, so let’s get to it.
- Flyers Re-Sign Bellemare
The first order of business for the Flyers was to re-sign Pierre-Edouard Bellemare. A free agent to be, the Flyers wasted little time in re-signing him to a 2-year deal. Bellemare essentially earns a 100% raise, going from $712,500 per year to $1.45 million annually.
This move may seem to be the least significant of the three the Flyers made, but it is still important. Bellemare isn’t going to light up the score sheet by any means, but he is the team’s best defensive forward and top penalty killer. He has improved on faceoffs and has become a team leader. In fact, in a surprising move, Bellemare will inherit the “A” for alternate captain that Mark Streit left behind.
Bellemare on the ice is a consistent player year in and year out. His lack of production (only 3 goals and 6 points this year, single-season highs of 7 goals and 14 points) does make his cap hit seem a bit pricey, but the Flyers really like Bellemare’s role on the team. Akin to a Blair Betts or Adam Hall player, the Flyers have finally found a longtime fourth-line center in Bellemare. The role of a fourth-line center seems minor, but when you can have a guy like Bellemare that leads the team in shorthanded minutes and never misses a game, it can be tough to fill that hole.
- Flyers Re-Sign Neuvirth
The second move the Flyers made yesterday was the most confusing. The team re-signed goaltender Michal Neuvirth to a 2-year, $5 million contract extension. Simply put, there are many problems with this deal.
Anyone that has watched the Flyers this year knows that Neuvirth has had a rough go of things this year. Neuvirth has a 10-9-1 record this season to go along with a 2.90 GAA and .887 save percentage in 24 appearances. He has lacked confidence in the net, has allowed easy goals at crucial times, and has not shown any consistency whatsoever, often following up a good game with a clunker. Neuvirth has yet to post a shutout this season.
Furthermore, this signifies that the Flyers are ready to move on from Steve Mason after parts of five seasons in Philly. Mason hasn’t exactly had his best season this year either, but his 17-17-6 record, 2.83 GAA and .903 save percentage (along with 2 shutouts) are superior to Neuvirth’s numbers. Mason has a better track record as a starter, and has put the team on his back before for long stretches at a time. He is a bigger goalie and a better puck-handler, and overall just seemed to fit the Flyers’ needs better than Neuvirth did.
It is true that the Flyers needed to sign another goalie before the Expansion Draft so they can protect young Anthony Stolarz. However, not only did the Flyers pick the wrong goalie, they overpaid and are stuck with a mediocre goalie for the next two years. The Flyers paid for the 2016 version of Neuvirth: the rock who posted a 2.24 GAA, a .924 sv%, and 5 shutouts (including a playoff whitewashing of the dangerous Washington Capitals). The Flyers better hope that rewarding Neuvirth with the security of a contract helps him rediscover his game.
- Flyers Trade Mark Streit to Tampa Bay for Valtteri Filppula, Two Draft Picks
The Flyers’ last move of the day was their best. The Flyers traded Mark Streit to the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for center Valtteri Filppula, a 4th-Round Pick, and a 7th-Round Pick. Not only did the Flyers get something in return for a free agent to be, they actually got something of value.
There’s no doubt about it though: losing Streit will hurt the Flyers’ defense. Streit was arguably the club’s second-best defenseman behind Ivan Provorov. He ran the power play with authority, was a valued leader, and had more hockey sense than anyone on the Flyers’ remaining D-Corps.
However, this is exactly what made Streit’s return so valuable to the Flyers. With the Flyers looking extremely unlikely to make the playoffs, it made sense to cash in on Streit’s value and trade him as a rental to a playoff team.
Streit will be missed, and the fact that the Lightning quickly sold Streit to the Pittsburgh Penguins makes it even more painful for Flyers fans. However, the team got a lot in return for the alternate captain.
The centerpiece of the deal was veteran center Valtteri Filppula. Filppula, 32, is a speedy two-way center that instantly makes the Flyers’ forward group better. Filppula has scored 7 goals and 34 points this year, an increase from his down year the season prior. Filppula’s totals would place him fifth on the Flyers, behind only Jake Voracek, Wayne Simmonds, Claude Giroux, and Brayden Schenn. Filppula brings a winning attitude about him; he is a Stanley Cup Champion and has never missed the playoffs in his NHL career.
Filppula is owed $5 million this year and next, but he is worth it. He is the type of veteran depth player the Flyers have been chasing for years (R.J. Umberger, Sam Gagner, Dale Weise), but Filppula actually stands a good chance at living up to expectations.
The Flyers also acquired two draft picks in the trade, a fourth-rounder and a seventh-rounder. This adds to the bevy of picks the Flyers will have in this year’s draft; no team has had more draft selections over the past two years than the Flyers. This will help expedite the rebuild.
The Flyers had a very interesting trade deadline yesterday. Their one actual trade checked off every box the team was looking for, but their two contract extensions ranged from slight overpayments to straight-up unnecessary and undeserved. The Flyers took one step forward offensively yesterday, but may have taken a step back in the goalie department. Only time will tell if the Flyers knew what they were doing yesterday, but so far reactions have been decidedly mixed.