With all of Chuck Fletcher's wheeling and dealing over the past six days, two results stand out in particular.
Firstly, the general manager has done what was asked of him. He was brought on board by president Paul Holmgren and Comcast Spectacor chairman and CEO Dave Scott to make things happen now, not later. Back in late November, early December, both Holmgren and Scott believed the Flyers had all the resources to be further along in their process toward contending for a Stanley Cup.
They wanted action.
In a span of six days before the NHL entry draft has even arrived, Fletcher parted ways with Radko Gudas and Andrew MacDonald, added experienced veterans Matt Niskanen and Justin Braun, and signed Kevin Hayes, a top-six forward entering "the prime of his career," as the GM put it Wednesday.
Secondly, the process suffered no casualties. Fletcher didn't injudiciously disassemble the work done before him. The Flyers didn't lose a prospect from their impressive pool or sacrifice a young foundation piece to get better.
They had 10 picks in the 2019 draft and upwards of $30 million in cap space. It's been more than time to augment what's in place, so Fletcher took his resources and went to work. The Flyers lost three picks (one in 2020) and cap space.
It's how you get better.
"Speaking with the group, that's always been the intention," Fletcher said. "The past few years, the staff has worked hard to acquire as many young assets as possible and rebuild the foundation of the club. At the right time, the idea has always been to more aggressively add veteran pieces. We feel we've done that now."
Down the middle — where the Flyers wanted to be deeper and tougher to play against — the team looks much improved. From first-line center to third-line center, the Flyers boast 26-year-old Sean Couturier fresh off back-to-back 30-goal, 40-assist seasons, 27-year-old Hayes coming off a career-high 55 points split between two teams, and 2017 No. 2 overall pick Nolan Patrick, a two-way guy only 20 years old.
On defense, the Flyers now have three righty-shot blueliners to potentially complement a trio of 22-year-old Ivan Provorov, 23-year-old Travis Sanheim and 26-year-old Shayne Gostisbehere. Niskanen is a Stanley Cup champion, Braun has played 84 playoff games and the Flyers are "bullish" on Philippe Myers, a 22-year-old who was rated as a top-50 prospect last season by NHL Network.
"When you combine our signing of [Hayes] with acquiring the two veteran right-shot defensemen that we did in the past week, we just think as a group, we're stronger, we're deeper and we filled a lot of the holes that we identified coming into the summer," Fletcher said.
On paper, it looks good — especially with how it was done.
"As importantly as anything, we've kept all of our prospects," Fletcher said. "Our staff has worked hard the last few years to acquire some top picks, some top kids, and we've been able to keep all of those assets. We're still as deep as any franchise with respect to quality and quantity of prospects, and we certainly anticipate adding to that this weekend.
"We knew we were going to have to give up some assets going forward to acquire some pieces that we felt we needed. We kept our first-round pick, which should be a great asset for our franchise — it's a strong draft and we have the 11th selection, so we anticipate drafting a very good player there. We still have two third-rounders, both of which are early in the round.
"We're a deeper group right now, a more talented group. But we have a lot of work ahead of us. We have a new coaching staff coming in and we'll have an opportunity in training camp to put the pieces together and push forward."
Fletcher will now focus on this weekend's draft and his restricted free agents. It's only June 19, though. Don't rule out some moves ahead.
"Obviously we'll continue to speak with teams and see what opportunities may be out in the trade market," Fletcher said.
On April 18, the GM was adamant about the Flyers' picture.
"It's not like you have to gut this thing," Fletcher said. "We have cap space, we have picks.
"We're set up where we should have an opportunity to get better quickly."
So far, the Flyers look better. It took less than a week and little was gutted.
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