Throughout the offseason, we’ll ask questions about the Flyers to our resident hockey analysts and see what they have to say.
Going End to End today are CSNPhilly.com producers/reporters Tom Dougherty, Jordan Hall, and Greg Paone.
The question: Does the No. 2 overall pick make Sean Couturier expendable in the trade market?
This is an interesting question because, in Nolan Patrick or Nico Hischier, the Flyers will be getting another top-six center to build around and eventually take over for Claude Giroux. It also is an interesting question because there appears to be a certain sector of Flyers fans and the media that has soured on Couturier and want to move on from the 24-year-old. Perhaps it’s because Couturier has yet to blossom into an elite scorer at this level. Perhaps people see his draft position and want more points. Whatever the reason is, I don’t get it.
We know a few things about Couturier as an NHL player. He’s an excellent defensive pivot who plays tough minutes against opponents’ top players. (He does that extremely well too.) He scores plenty at even strength — his 14 even-strength goals and 31 points were second only to Jakub Voracek last season, and that’s something the Flyers need. His possession numbers have increased each year that he has been an NHL player. Last season, of players who played 20 or more games, only Jordan Weal (55.9) had a higher Corsi For percentage than Couturier’s 54.5. During the final month-plus of the regular season, Couturier led the NHL with a plus-18 rating, and from March 4 to April 9, he recorded the 17 even-strength points, which was fourth-most in the NHL during that span. He’s a piece to build around.
Sure, there are frustrating parts of Couturier’s game. He’s not good on the power play. That much we can say. The Flyers have given him ample opportunity the past two seasons to prove he can produce on the man advantage and he simply hasn’t been able to prove it. It’s frustrating, sure, but it’s not a reason to turn on Couturier. He’s more than capable of producing at even strength. He dealt with some injuries last season and claimed he wasn’t fully healthy when he returned. Let’s remember, he was solid before the injuries hit, too.
Trading for Valtteri Filppula helped take some pressure off Couturier, and having a full season of Filppula will help too. Adding either Patrick or Hischier to the fold will also help. There aren’t many untouchables on the Flyers’ roster — Ivan Provorov is the only definite — but for me, Couturier is a player I would continue to build around. The overall package there is too valuable to a team, and if he’s, at worst, a third-line center, then that’s OK.
I don’t think landing the No. 2 pick makes Couturier any more available than he was before. But that’s also because I don’t think he is a guy the Flyers should want to trade anyway.
Drafting a high-caliber center at No. 2 would certainly give Hextall greater flexibility and incentive to trade Couturier.
The Flyers are about to add to their cupboard, so trying to sell Couturier high wouldn't be a terrible idea because he is only 24 years old with tangibles teams covet.
Some may think Couturier is what he is after seeing him for six seasons. But I feel like the Flyers believe there's bigger potential for him to reach and Hextall isn't ready to throw that away just because they've landed a prominent draft slot and will add a prospect that plays Couturier's position.
And, heck, maybe Couturier would thrive as a bottom-six center. That would be true depth and secondary scoring the Flyers need. We all saw what Couturier did at the end of the regular season once he felt healthy and some pressure was lifted by the acquisition of Filppula.
Maybe Hextall will be more open to the thought of trading Couturier, but the still-maturing center is locked up by the Flyers through 2021-22 and I don't see that changing.
I find this to be a very intriguing, thought-provoking question and possibility. It's a question that makes me (and hopefully you guys, too) think. And that's a good thing.
Let's recall the Flyers went into this season with Couturier pegged as their No. 2 center behind Giroux. Things didn't go as smoothly as planned and Ron Hextall felt the need to go out and get Filppula from Tampa at the trade deadline and slide the veteran into that No. 2 center slot.
After that trade, Couturier slid down to the third line and played extremely well down the stretch. But then the Flyers landed the No. 2 pick, which will net them a potential stalwart center.
I do think the No. 2 pick makes Couturier more available than he was before the ping-pong balls were drawn last Saturday night in Toronto. How could he not be with a young center on the way and how pleased the Flyers were with Filppula?
But this pick also means a lot of different things are on the table now. It's a game-changer.
Also, remember Filppula is a free agent after this coming season and Couturier and Giroux are locked up for the long haul.
Teams like to build these days with strength down the middle at center. A triumvirate of Giroux-Patrick/Hischier-Couturier down the middle of the lineup would be the envy of a lot of teams around the NHL.
So do I think Couturier is more available now? Yes, probably so. Do I think he will get moved prior to when the new season starts in October? No, I believe he'll be here. He's still just 24 years old and the Flyers shouldn't be ready to move on just yet. He brings a two-way dynamic that can be invaluable. Consistency, especially at the offensive end, is the missing ingredient.
I'm very interested to see how he fits into a lineup with a new, young center in the mix. If it's as a third-line center, there's nothing wrong with that.