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Chuck Fletcher on the trade deadline, if Flyers will be buyers

The Philadelphia Flyers have looked like a shear image of how they played in 2020 and are in danger of losing control of the current NHL season. For Flyers GM and President of Hockey Operations Chuck Fletcher, help could still be on the way if he wants to make a move before the April 12th Trade Deadline.

Alain Vigneault’s team has lost six of their last eight games and are currently outside of the top four in the East Division. While the shortened season has forced every NHL team to be ready to go for every game, it hasn’t helped the Flyers get ample practice time to improve on their struggles.

The Flyers financially aren’t in the market for a big splash prior to the Trade Deadline, but Fletcher has tried to stay busy in hopes of adding the right piece at the right price.

“We’re certainly not looking at selling right now,” Fletcher said Wednesday in a conference call with media. “I would say to you, in my calls with managers around the league, first of all, I have received very few calls. It’s been really quiet in terms of receiving calls.”

“I’ve made many. I’ve been much more aggressive, I think, than a lot of people just looking at different options. There doesn’t seem to be many teams out there willing to take on dollars or term at this point in time. There seem to be more teams that are looking to move some pieces and take on pieces just for various reasons. We’ll take a look. Anything we do, we want to make sure it make sense. If we can fill a box for the long-term right now, we can potentially explore that. Certainly, if we can upgrade our team, we’ll do that.”

Defensive and goaltending are two areas where the Flyers were among the best at in the NHL in 2020. Both areas have struggled for consistency in 2021 with many players in need of a confidence boost with several games left to play.

The Flyers have allowed the fourth-most goals in the NHL (109) and have registered the second-highest Goals Allowed per game with 3.52, two major reasons for why they are outside of the top four. Carter Hart hasn’t delivered a strong season so far for the Orange and Black while Brian Elliott has also been picked apart at times.

Ivan Provorov remains the leader of the Flyers defensive corps, but even he hasn’t been able to deliver the type of season he would’ve wanted. Robert Hagg has been injured while Shayne Gostisbehere has been at fault for several game-changing moments in losses this season. With the issues continuing to pile up defensively, Fletcher is keeping his eye open for a possible acquisition to spark a change.

“We are always looking to improve,” Fletcher said. “I think long-term, there’s certainly some holes that we need to fill to get to where we want to get to. For this year, I think we have a good hockey team. We’ve had a really tough month. I think at the end of February, we were 11-4-3 after consecutive shutout wins in Buffalo. I think our play had been a bit uneven but we’d had great results. This month has not been good. We’re 4-8-1.”

“We’ve just gone through a challenging stretch of 13 games in 21 days and the results haven’t been good. I do think we can rebound from this. I think we’ll get a chance to catch our breath a little bit here. We don’t have as many back-to-backs in the next little stretch here. We’ll actually get a chance to have a practice or two and have a chance to reset a bit here. We have good players. We need to play better. Again, in the last week, we’ve had two of our best efforts. The way we played in those games showed me that we can be a good competitive team. That’s what we’re going to focus on – how do we get to that level on a more consistent basis?”

One player that could help the Flyers significantly is Nashville Predators defenseman Mattias Ekholm. The 31-year-old has been mentioned with a move away from Nashville over recent weeks with several other Eastern Conference teams in the mix for his services.

Ekholm, a tall and physical Swedish defender, has played in 26 games this season and has logged over 560 appearances to date in the NHL. The veteran is nearing the end of a six-year deal which he signed in 2015 and could be a name the Flyers consider, that is if they are willing to trade multiple players or a mix of players and draft picks for him.

“Well, we aggressively looked at a lot of options this offseason,” Fletcher said about defensive reinforcements. “Certainly our cap situation was not helpful for adding significant dollars without moving significant dollars.  We looked at a lot of different things, and this is what we ended up with. I think I said to somebody earlier, I don’t think I ever spent more time on the phone than I did this offseason.”

“For various reasons, things didn’t break our way, the way we had hoped. It’s a flat-cap era, and most teams are not looking to take on any money or any term right now. To add a player with dollars, you have to subtract the same amount. Those types of trades are a little more difficult to make.”

For now, the Flyers will have to take ownership of their struggles and try to stop the bleeding as soon as possible. Up next is a two-game home series with the New York Rangers on Thursday and Saturday before the Orange and Black hits the road for games against Buffalo, New York Islanders, and Boston Bruins.

The schedule won’t get any easier this Spring, but the Flyers can help themselves by turning around their ugly play quickly.

You can follow Larry Henry on Twitter (@lhenry019) and e-mail him at [email protected].

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