As the NHL draft approaches, the Flyers are certainly going to be active in trying to improve their club for next year. Draft-day trades are inevitable, but whether or not the Flyers get involved is another question.
With Jonathan Bernier's being dealt to Toronto, there doesn’t seem to be anything standing in the way of a Steve Mason-Ilya Bryzgalov competition in training camp. Or is there? Could there be some interest in acquiring the rights to Tim Thomas from the New York Islanders? I think the Flyers might be able to trade their fifth-round pick for that.
If Thomas, 39, turns them down, they still have two goalies to battle in camp. And if Thomas wants to come to Philadelphia, even after a year off, Bryzgalov will get a compliance buyout and Thomas would become the favored goalie in town -- until he proves otherwise, based on his track record.
The Flyers' 11th-overall pick has to be a keeper this year. I wouldn’t include that in any deal. If anything, could they trade up a bit? I think that’s a real possibility. Do I think Darnell Nurse is the only target? No, I think they would take Sean Monahan, Ryan Pulock or Rasmus Ristolainen -- all players they tend to like ... but there’s a price for trading up.
In this draft, teams will be more than willing to trade down to 11 for a price because there are so many terrific players to choose from. As far as the Flyers go, I think they might start thinking about it around the 7th pick. Edmonton is looking for quantity, and if they added a player to trade picks, that’s something that might interest Craig MacTavish since the club already has had so many top picks. So who do you trade?
A team like Edmonton might take a player like Erik Gustafsson. With the Flyers' acquisition of Mark Streit, they could part with a solid skater with some offensive upside. By the time pick No. 8 hits, there’s a good chance that only two will remain among Monahan, Pulock, Ristolainen and Nurse. So will the Flyers be patient, or will they pull the trigger to get their defenseman? At this point, I would think that’s what they need in their system. What would it take to get Buffalo to move down?
The Sabres could go either way with needs so maybe the Flyers offer them Nick Cousins to trade up? I think it’s possible. Then the Flyers would likely have a choice between two of the upper echelon defensemen rather than waiting on one in the 11th spot. Two could be there at 11, but I don’t think so.
One more option could be for the Flyers to package their third-round pick, along with their second, for a higher second-round pick. Right now, they are sitting with the 41st pick. I would keep an eye out for Marko Dano. He showed off some good strength, formerly a knock on him, at the combine and he’s a very mature center. Between his excellent skating and great hockey sense, the Flyers could get a guy who might surprise people. He could get to the NHL faster than some others because he’s been playing overseas against men.
If the Flyers decide to wait on Dano and see if he slips into the third round, then Oliver Bjorkstrand might be the guy to go with. He might require a trade to move up and get, or he might not. He’s been a great player for Portland, and he’s the kind of winger the Flyers like. He’s only 5-11, but his compete level is great and he has terrific skills. He has first-round talent -- that’s for sure. The Flyers have had some success in the second and third rounds in the past, and this year they should have success based on the quality of players.
After the third round you hope for the best.