Jordan Weal

What Chuck Fletcher could be looking for by evaluating his first few trades

What Chuck Fletcher could be looking for by evaluating his first few trades

VOORHEES, N.J. — Chuck Fletcher has made two deals as Flyers general manager and neither one has budged the needle in terms of impact on the current roster.

But there are signs that indicate what the new Flyers GM could be thinking and evaluating moving forward.

Thursday night, Fletcher essentially pulled off a minor-league swap, dealing Taylor Leier to the Buffalo Sabres' organization in exchange for Justin Bailey, who is a little younger but considerably bigger. Bailey is listed at 6-foot-4, 214 pounds, or five inches and 34 pounds heavier than Leier.

Fletcher seized the opportunity to strike while Leier’s value was high. The former Flyer had scored seven points with the Phantoms over his past six games, and while Leier may have displayed some offensive potential in the AHL, that was never going to be his role with the Flyers.

“I don’t think his offense was able to translate to the NHL,” Flyers interim head coach Scott Gordon said Friday of Leier. “Ultimately, if you’re not filling a role like killing penalties and getting more minutes, it gets hard to find a niche.”

Instead, the Flyers received a player with size coupled with good skating ability and a little bit of grit that may come in handy on the Flyers' checking line. On Friday, Bailey was assigned to Lehigh Valley, but this trade was more of a change of scenery. Last season with the Flyers, Leier displayed a spark and at times a burst of energy, but nothing that he was able to sustain.

Same can be said for Bailey, who appeared in 52 games during his time with the Sabres but never gained traction and established himself as a checking-line forward.       

But look at the makeup of Fletcher’s Minnesota team and you can see that the Flyers' GM has a penchant for size, especially up front. Coming into this season, the Wild were the third-tallest team in the NHL with an average height of 73.7 inches and the fourth heaviest at 205.2 pounds. The Flyers are slightly on the lighter side at 198 pounds, which ranked in the bottom half of the league.

Against the Flyers this past Monday, the Wild had six forwards listed at 6-foot-2 or taller, including 2015 second-round pick Jordan Greenway at 6-foot-6, 230 pounds. If you don’t think Minnesota tried to impose its will down in the trenches, here’s what Carter Hart had to say afterward.

I think they were trying to shovel pucks into the net and shovel me into the net as well. I think that’s kind of the style they play and I think that was our pre-scout as well.

You have to think Fletcher would like to see some of that from his current team, especially from his bottom-six forwards.

In trading Jordan Weal a week earlier to Arizona for a sixth-round pick and ECHL-level defenseman Jacob Graves, Fletcher essentially received a minimal return for an undersized center who had become a perimeter player unwilling to work down in the trenches, as well as a forward in the final year of his contract who Fletcher wasn’t willing to re-sign. 

If there’s an aspect that should bother Fletcher from what he’s seen in his first six weeks on the job, it’s been a lack of toughness, grit and at times physicality from the current Flyers team, which is the main reason Dale Weise was placed on waivers (see story).

Moving forward, it may also be a reason why Fletcher is on the fence regarding Wayne Simmonds. Trading Simmonds would only deplete the Flyers even further in these much-needed areas, unless they acquire a similar style of player.

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Flyers weekly observations: Chuck Fletcher's telling trade, Jim Montgomery's candid comment, more

Flyers weekly observations: Chuck Fletcher's telling trade, Jim Montgomery's candid comment, more

In a way, things have picked up a little bit for the Flyers.

They made a deal and won a game last week, while the Feb. 25 trade deadline gets closer with each day.

So let's get into some observations:

• Obviously, the Jordan Weal trade was not an earth-shattering move, but it was telling. Chuck Fletcher had not made a trade as Flyers general manager and there was no sign of what his deadline motives would be with this underachieving team.

This gives us some idea. If the Flyers were contending at all, they wouldn't have shipped Weal away in January for just a sixth-round draft pick and an ECHL player. There would have been no real reason to for such an unappetizing return.

But it's something for a player that frankly had no more value because the season no longer does. Now it's clearer that Fletcher will start selling some parts, logical moves before the offseason.

Wayne Simmonds is the no-duh big decision (see story). However, keep an eye on Michael Raffl, a role forward set to become an unrestricted free agent like Weal.

Another small, under-the-radar deal would involve defenseman Christian Folin, a pending UFA as well. Receiving anything for Folin makes sense, as it would also open a roster spot for possible call-up Philippe Myers, who could see audition time in the second half.

• The Flyers brought the whole crew to Newark, New Jersey, for Saturday's 3-2 loss to the Devils. 

It's not often you see these many members of the front office at a road game. The NBC Sports Philadelphia broadcast showed president Paul Holmgren, general manager Fletcher, senior vice president Bob Clarke, senior advisor Dean Lombardi and assistant general managers Brent Flahr and Barry Hanrahan all together at the Prudential Center (see story).

Don't make too much of it. The New Jersey trip is one of the easier ones and very well could have been planned ahead of time for Clarke and others. However, Fletcher is a listener and values input. You can bet things are being discussed.

After all, these are critical months for the Flyers and their direction.

• Want some outside perspective on the Flyers?

First-year Stars head coach Jim Montgomery provided an interesting and honest comment following his club's 2-1 loss Thursday to the Flyers.

The Flyers typically at home come out strong and it's a team that can score goals, they feel good about themselves and if they don't score goals, they tend to not stick with the process sometimes.

Montgomery was talking about the importance of the game's first 10 minutes, which assuredly was highlighted on the Stars' scout — how vitally a start can dictate the Flyers.

If anything, Montgomery, who played 13 career games for the Flyers and 159 for the Phantoms, explained what many are seeing. The Flyers are who they are right now. They've battled confidence issues, especially at home, where they sport an 8-10-3 record.

• On Saturday, Carter Hart allowed just his third first-period goal through nine starts. He has kept the Flyers in games. He has a 2.28 goals-against average and .932 save percentage over his past four starts.

He has been the team's best goalie this season among the seven to play.

Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth are both on injured reserve. When they are deemed healthy, the Flyers will have a decision to make on Hart.

Could you justify sending him back to AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley? Right now, you can't (see story).

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Flyers trade Jordan Weal to Coyotes for Jacob Graves and 6th-round pick

Flyers trade Jordan Weal to Coyotes for Jacob Graves and 6th-round pick

General manager Chuck Fletcher has made his first trade.

Jordan Weal was dealt to the Coyotes Friday night for a 2019 sixth-round draft pick and defenseman Jacob Graves.

Weal, a 26-year-old center, was a logical trade candidate for the Flyers given he's set to become an unrestricted free agent after the season and was in and out of the lineup.

With the Flyers entering Friday 30th in the NHL at 16-22-2 and 38 points, Fletcher is likely going to sell off some parts to retool and look ahead.

This season, Weal played in 28 of the Flyers' 44 games, posting three goals and six assists.

Weal couldn't find a true role with the Flyers. He was acquired in the January 2016 trade that saw former general manager Ron Hextall unload Vinny Lecavalier and Luke Schenn to the Kings.

Hextall was a big fan of Weal from their days back in the Kings' organization. After the 5-foot-10, 179-pounder played mostly winger in 2017-18, he was given a shot this season to play third-line center, his natural position.

During his time with the Flyers, he was often the last player off the practice ice, constantly getting in extra work. Unfortunately for Weal, his offensive ability never translated into consistent production and he wasn't exactly a bottom-six style forward, which turned him into a healthy scratch at times and ultimately expendable.

"Jordan cares so much," Hextall said last July. "Sometimes he can be his worst enemy. He's the last guy on the ice every day. He works his tail off. Sometimes you just want to go, 'Jordan, get off the ice and relax a little bit.' He's so driven to be the best he can be. It's something he can get better at, in terms of the mental part of it where sometimes you've got to let things go. 

"When he gets on a roll, he's a good player."

Graves, a 23-year-old blueliner, has been playing in the ECHL this season for the Norfolk Admirals. The 23-year-old had seven points in 32 games.

He will report to the Flyers' ECHL affiliate the Reading Royals.

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