Flyers

Flyers making right move with Mikhail Vorobyev … for now

Flyers making right move with Mikhail Vorobyev … for now

This wasn't one of those times Dave Hakstol benches a young player for no particular reason and Flyers fans throw fits on social media.

In actuality, fans were somewhat receptive to Hakstol's decision to healthy scratch Mikhail Vorobyev Thursday night for Corban Knight … as long as it's for the short term.

Vorobyev knocked the Flyers' door down in training camp and won the competition as the third-line center. He was impressive in his NHL debut, scored his first goal in his second game but hasn't made much noise since. He's been ineffective in his past three games.

"I wouldn't say concerned. I think what he's going through right now is fairly normal but you've got to be better," Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said. "He played six really good preseason games. He played two, what I thought, really good games and three out of four he hasn’t been very good. It’s not good enough. An established player, you live with stuff like that because you know what he can do.”

Sitting Vorobyev down for a couple of games isn't such a bad idea, but it will get interesting what the Flyers do with Vorobyev once Nolan Patrick returns from his "upper-body" injury, which could be as early as Saturday afternoon against the Devils.

With Patrick's return looming, the Flyers' forward depth doesn't look like a mirage anymore. They're still without James van Riemsdyk.

When Patrick returns and with Knight healthy, the Flyers' depth down the middle will be strong again, at least in numbers, but it also means lineup changes are coming.

Currently, the Flyers are carrying 14 forwards with JVR on injured reserve but 13 healthy forwards. At some point in time, Michal Neuvirth will be healthy again. It's unlikely the Flyers carry three goalies, so Calvin Pickard likely will be on the move once Neuvirth returns. If Knight remains, then a forward will have to be on the move. The Flyers did waive Dale Weise before the season, so he could be an option.

While there remains a chance Vorobyev could be sent back to Lehigh Valley, it doesn't seem likely. Vorobyev made the team and a six-game sample size will not be enough for Hextall to send him back down to the AHL.

By all indications, Hextall will allow Vorobyev the opportunity to prove himself worthy of sticking around, but the GM did leave the door open, however slightly, for a scenario in which Vorobyev ends up back with the Phantoms.

Misha has to show us that he can do it. He's got to be better, and sometimes when guys sit out — first of all, he can let his breath out. It's a lot for a young player. He comes from Russia, playing 50-60 games and all of a sudden you go to the American League and you play 76 and a couple rounds in the playoffs, it's a lot of hockey.

Now, all of a sudden, you step up a level, everything's faster and stronger, more competitive. Points mean a lot, and it's a lot. He hit a little bit of a wall and he needs to get through it.

At the very least, Thursday's healthy scratch was a message well sent by Hakstol to Vorobyev. He may be out again Saturday; we won't know until warmups. It doesn't hurt to remind Vorobyev that his spot isn't guaranteed, that he has to work on the little details to get back to the player he was in the preseason and out West.

Whether we agreed with the benchings at the time or not, it's hard to argue against this coaching tactic. Hakstol has previously sat Shayne Gostisbehere, Travis Konecny and Travis Sanheim, and in the long game, it worked.

Ultimately, Vorobyev should be playing … somewhere. If he doesn't work hard enough to get back in the lineup up here, then the Flyers will have no choice to send him back to Lehigh Valley.

The Flyers have a lot of problems right now, mainly team defense and goaltending. A bottom-six rookie center sitting is nowhere near the top of the mountain.

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2020 NHL trade deadline: Everything Flyers fans need to know

2020 NHL trade deadline: Everything Flyers fans need to know

The NHL trade deadline will arrive Monday at 3 p.m. ET.

Deals can be processed after the cutoff point, but around the deadline time, we should know for certain what the Flyers will look like moving forward.

So, what are the key questions surrounding the Flyers' outlook?

Let's dive into everything you need to know ahead of the deadline:

Where do Flyers stand in playoff race?

With 20 games remaining, the Flyers sit in third place of a busy Metropolitan Division. They are five points behind the first-place Capitals and three points back of the second-place Penguins. The Islanders, Hurricanes and Blue Jackets are all within striking distance.

For some context on how deep the division is compared to the league's other three, the Rangers are in seventh place of the Metro but would secure the first wild-card spot if they were in the Western Conference.

At 35-20-7, a top-eight team in the league and projected to finish with around 100 points, the Flyers entered Sunday holding an 83.4 percent chance to make the postseason, according to Hockey-Reference.com.

How should Flyers approach deadline?

Last season, general manager Chuck Fletcher was selling parts. Prior to the deadline, he traded Wayne Simmonds, Jordan Weal, Christian Folin, Dale Weise, Taylor Leier and Anthony Stolarz.

This season, there is no For Sale sign. The Flyers are contenders and Fletcher, in his first full season as GM, will not be looking to subtract. If anything, the Flyers will buy to strengthen their playoff push.

However, adding won't be easy. The Flyers have a little over $2 million in cap space, according to CapFriendly.com. To make an expensive, splashier acquisition, the Flyers would have to lose a player or players in a deal, and that might not be Fletcher's objective with how well his team is playing.

“You have to maybe look at including players in the deal. It’s hard to trade a fourth-round pick for a $4 million player," Fletcher said in mid-January. "With our group right now, I don’t know that’s what we’re looking to do. If we can improve our team, we will.

"For our situation, I don't know if it makes sense to pay a massive price for a rental right now. I don't think that that is the right move for this group but if we can add a forward that can help our team, sure."

Which areas will Flyers target?

One of the Flyers' biggest areas of strength is on defense and the team is getting healthier at the position with Shayne Gostisbehere's return. After a disastrous 2018-19 in net, the Flyers have gotten excellent stability from Carter Hart and Brian Elliott.

So if the Flyers make moves, they'll likely be eyeing bottom-six forward depth, particularly at center. For a while, it appeared the team was lacking consistent and secondary scoring.

But the Flyers have improved in those facets and have seen significant strides from their younger forwards Connor Bunnaman, Joel Farabee and Nicolas Aube-Kubel. With Morgan Frost (three goals, two assists in last five games at AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley) available for another call-up and Nolan Patrick (migraine disorder) in the fold, the Flyers may stand pat Monday at center.

The Flyers are a top-10 goal-scoring club (3.24 per game) and 13-5-1 with an NHL-high 68 markers since Jan. 8. Meanwhile, their goal prevention has been vastly better all year (2.87 goals allowed per game) after it was a real problem last season (3.41 goals allowed per game).

"I like my team," Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault said Saturday. "I know that Chuck looks at any option that can improve our team, he’s been doing that since the first day that I was hired. Now we’re into the final stretch. If there’s something that he feels can improve our team, he’ll definitely look at it. But I’m very happy moving forward with the players that we have here.”

Could any Flyers be moved?

It feels unlikely unless Fletcher pulls off something big.

Gostisbehere has seen his name pop up in trade rumors going back to last season. The defenseman is an attractive chip because he's not far removed from a career 65-point year in 2017-18, is only 26 years old and under contract for the next three seasons at a reasonable $4.5 million cap hit.

Robert Hagg, who just turned 25 years old, has played well this season and will be a restricted free agent in the offseason.

The Flyers have depth on the blue line and quality defensive prospects in the system — Egor Zamula, Cam York, Wyatt Kalynuk, Mark Friedman and Wyatte Wylie, to name some.

If they have a position from which to shed in order to improve another, it's defenseman.

Three players on the Flyers' current roster have expiring contracts this offseason — Elliott, Justin Braun and Tyler Pitlick. Those three aren't going anywhere at the deadline.

What are Flyers' assets?

The Flyers have a first- and second-round pick this summer. Overall, they have eight selections in the 2020 NHL draft — a first, second, two fourth-rounders, a fifth, sixth and two seventh-rounders.

The organization, of course, has an appealing prospect pool, as well, highlighted by Frost, York, Zamula, Isaac Ratcliffe, Jay O'Brien, Bobby Brink, Tanner Laczynski and Noah Cates, among others.

“I don’t think we need to mortgage the future to try to get into the playoffs this year," Fletcher said earlier this month in an interview with NBC Sports Philadelphia's Taryn Hatcher. "I think our team is more than capable of getting into the playoffs with what we have, but if we can find a way to improve our team for this season and going forward, we’ll definitely not be hesitant to make a move right now.”

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Flyers NHL trade deadline option: A boost from Ducks' Derek Grant?

Flyers NHL trade deadline option: A boost from Ducks' Derek Grant?

Leading up to the Feb. 24 NHL trade deadline, we'll look at potential targets on the market and why they may or may not fit the Flyers' plans.

Derek Grant

Age: 29
Height: 6-3
Weight: 206
Team: Anaheim Ducks
2019-20 cap hit: $700,000

Scouting report

The well-traveled center has picked an opportune time for a career year. Grant, who is playing for his sixth NHL team, already owns a personal-best 14 goals and is five points away from breaking his career high of 24 set in 2017-18.

Grant, who has some positional versatility, possesses the characteristics the Flyers targeted last offseason — quality size, good physicality and strength in puck battles.

He's not highly skilled or an active playmaker, but the fourth-line center leads Anaheim's forwards in shorthanded minutes per game and is solid in the faceoff circle.

Projection

This one checks a lot of boxes.

It would make sense for the Ducks, who are in second-to-last place of the Western Conference, to sell high on Grant's stock. He's an older role player putting up career numbers and can become an unrestricted free agent in the offseason.

Grant's cap hit fits the Flyers' plans and he wouldn't block the team's future down the middle given his expiring contract.

The Flyers very well may be happy enough with 21-year-old Connor Bunnaman's play. And if they want more offense, Morgan Frost is heating up at AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley (three goals, two assists in last five games). The 2017 first-round pick could take over third-line center duties, while Scott Laughton would give the Flyers tons of depth at fourth-line center.

But if they want more experience and a player enjoying his best offensive season yet, Grant is a nice option. Adding him would likely only require trading a lower-round draft pick.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

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