What Has Chuck Fletcher Built?

David McLeod
October 3, 2022  (6:52 PM)

On December 3, 2018 the Philadelphia Flyers hired Chuck Fletcher as their new General Manager, replacing former Flyers legend, Ron Hextall. Entering Fletcher's fourth full season as GM, are the Flyers in a better position to win now and in the future, then the Hextall era?

Fletcher has made several notable moves to put his stamp on the Flyers, but just how productive have and will those moves be?
Fletcher's first big splash was trading for the rights to Kevin Hayes and signing him to a seven-year $50 million extension. I love what Kevin Hayes brings to the Flyers, I've never been shy about that. Hayes is a phenomenal mix of size, strength, elite hockey IQ, patience, and execution. He boasts soft hands, a top tier shot, can thread the needle with a pass, and is relied on in all situations. Hayes is a complete, two-hundred foot player. Kevin Hayes also brings intangibles to the organization, as one of the leaders of the Flyers on and off the ice. The only question looming with Hayes, is his health. Hayes has yet to play a full, uninjured season with the Flyers and as a result, has posted seasons of 41 points, followed by two 31 point seasons. Not exactly what you are looking for from a $7 million dollar player. If Hayes is healthy, he is a catalyst, but he needs to be healthy!

Matt Niskanen – Fletcher dealt The Butcher – Radko Gudas, for Matt Niskanen and the move paid immediate dividends. Niskanen immediately landed on the top defensive pairing with Ivan Provorov, who was revitalized by the stability of the acquisition Niskanen provided. Unfortunately, Niskanen opted out of the last year of his contract and forfeited $5.75 million by retiring at the end of the season; his only season as a Flyer. The Butcher remains a serviceable, rugged defenseman, at a relatively low cost.
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The summer of 2021 will define Chuck Fletcher's tenure with the Flyers, as he acquired Ryan Ellis, Keith Yandle, Rasmus Ristolainen, and Cam Atkinson; dealing away Jake Voracek, Shayne Gostisbehere, Nolan Patrick, Robert Hagg, and Phillipe Myers and a bevy of decent draft picks. Fletcher also extended Sean Couturier to a maximum length contract, in August of 2021.
Ryan Ellis was supposed to be the replacement for Niskanen and a top pairing defenseman, but it doesn't look that may be in his future. Presumably, Ryan Ellis' $6.25 million per year salary will get shifted to an LTIR and his money freed up, but his inability to play last year and the uncertainty surrounding his injury when free agency opened this year, handcuffed The Flyers and placed them in a terrible predicament. Money that could have been spent on a top tier roster player, was unfortunately tied up on a player who only played 4 games last year and likely won't play this year. If he does return, The Flyers will have to figure out how to accommodate his $6.25 million dollars, which extends until 2026-27.

Keith Yandle signed for a modest $900 000 dollars and was thought to be a point producing, veteran presence defenseman. Yandle eclipsed the Ironman streak last year, but in doing so, posted a league worst -47. Yandle was also on the top unit power play that laid waste in the basement of the NHL, at a pathetic 12.55%. The Flyers coach's penchant for playing Yandle on the power play, when he posted the worst statistics of any regular Flyers defenseman despite the advantage, was beyond puzzling. Yandle was eclipsed on a points per game basis Justin Braun, who I doubt logged two minutes on the PP. Provorov, Sanheim, and Ristolainen were all more productive, but couldn't de-thrown Yandle.
Rasmus Ristolainen was acquired seemingly for a king's ransom. Ristolainen was acquired by Fletcher, for Robert Hagg, a first round pick in 2021 (14th overall), and a second round pick in 2023 draft. Ristolainen is the worst active, career plus/minus player in the NHL and ranks 18th worst all time at -172. It is easy to attribute that staggering stat to his time in Buffalo, who were perennial basement dwellers during his time there. If it was an indication of his game, Ristolainen is signed until the end 2026-27 at a hefty $5.1 million per year. Ristolainen adds a physical dimension to our blue line and is a throwback type Flyer, but that is not an easy contract to move, or swallow, if Ristolainen is a consistent liability on D. Did the Ristolainen contract limit the Flyers ability to resign Sanheim?

Cam Atkinson is a shoot first player, who can bury the puck; something the Flyers haven't seen since Jeff Carter. Atkinson was traded for Jake Voracek, who just couldn't seem to endear himself to the Flyers faithful. Jake put up some impressive numbers as a Flyer, but it was evident his time in Philadelphia had expired. The addition of Atkinson has been a positive move. Atkinson has a phenomenal work ethic, is a team-oriented player, and will consistently produce. However, at 33 years of age and with three years remaining at $5.875 million, I doubt he will see a Stanley Cup with the Flyers. Atkinson is the type of player who teams will covet, when loading up for a playoff run, but the Flyers will benefit from him being in their lineup until that time comes.
Sean Couturier is undoubtedly the heir apparent to the Flyers captaincy and a premier two-way forward in the NHL. Fletcher locked up the former Frank J. Selke winner to an eight year, $7.75 million dollar extension; ending when Couturier is 37 years old. Couturier has suffered multiple knee injuries, including a torn MCL, had season ending back surgery in February of 2022, and is now reportedly having issues with his back once again. Couturier has the potential to be a top tier point producer, as evident from his posting back-to-back 76 point seasons in 2017-18 and 2018-19. Similar to Hayes, Couturier is an «if healthy» player and has only posted 59, 41, and 17 points respectively over the past three, injury riddled seasons. You hope Couturier fully regains his health, but his unfortunate luck and ongoing back issues gives reason for concern, especially for eight-years.

Another peculiar signing occurred this off-season, as Fletcher inked 31 year-old journeyman tough guy, Nicolas Deslauriers, to a four year $1.75 million dollar deal; a $750 000 raise from his previous contract. I love the player. I love what he brings to the team. He is exactly the player you want on fourth line and he will be loved in Philly. His reputation is well earned and he will go to the wall for anyone on the team. I just question the hefty raise and four-year term. Was the market for Deslauriers that competitive, that it took a four-year deal at almost double his previous earnings, to land him?
Tony DeAngelo! Fletcher traded three picks (2nd, 3rd, 4th) for the controversial DeAngelo. If he's willing to call out his own teammate (Georgiev) and slap him around a bit after a loss, he'll do just fine in Philly. DeAngelo plays with edge and can rack up points on the power play, exactly what we need. On pace for 65 points last year, DeAngelo and Provorov can make up a dynamic top pairing D, if the two gel. Fletcher may have rolled the dice on this one a little bit, but a two-year contract at $5 million per year for a 26 year-old, point producing, two way defenseman, may turn out to be steal.
The question is, has Chuck Fletcher put the team and the organization in a better position to compete for the Stanley Cup now and in the immediate future? Or has he made parallel or regressive moves that will further bury us in mediocrity? I can't help but think the «aggressive retool» approach should have been a rebuild; building around Provorov, Konecny, Hart, and Farabee, but the contracts he inked made that option impossible.
Chuck Fletcher still believes this team, with the contracts he has locked in, is capable of competing and winning. To those not named Fletcher, the overwhelming consensus throughout the league seems to argue otherwise.
What Has Chuck Fletcher Built?

What contract will be the most detrimental to the Flyers?

Rasmus Ristolainen5125.6 %
Not signing Sanheim?2613.1 %
Ryan Ellis8844.2 %
Sean Couturier3417.1 %
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