Carter Hart, Danny Briere, Ivan Provorov, Keith Jones, News and Rumors, Philadelphia Flyers

Flyers News & Rumors: Hart, Provorov & More

Keith Jones is still finishing up his broadcasting duties during the Stanley Cup Final, but Danny Briere has already made his first major splash as general manager (GM). He moved Ivan Provorov to the Columbus Blue Jackets in a three-team trade that also included the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for the 22nd-overall pick, two future second-round picks, Sean Walker, Cal Petersen, and Helge Grans.

The Philadelphia Flyers have sent the National Hockey League into a frenzy with the first major move of the offseason weeks before anyone expected it. How will the blockbuster trade impact their short-term and long-term direction, and what impact will the shuffling roster pieces have on the availability of Carter Hart?

Provorov to the Blue Jackets

Briere announced his presence as the architect of the first long-term rebuild in franchise history by moving a defenseman who had played at the top of the lineup for the majority of his seven seasons with the Flyers. The major subtraction, of course, got some buzz going within the fan base. However, it was the complexities of a three-team trade that involved three draft picks, salary cap gymnastics, and a calculated strategy that drew the most notable reactions. Fans vehemently criticized Chuck Fletcher during the final two years of the former GM’s tenure, but they might have regained at least a minimal sense of hope.

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The stockpile of draft picks all of a sudden looks impressive. The Flyers own seven picks likely to fall in the first or second rounds in 2023 or 2024. Briere will likely move more veteran players this offseason, which would in theory continue to grow the draft capital. It’ll now be up to the front office and the scouting department to identify the right prospects and execute the picks to help the rebuild take shape.

The loss of Provorov will impact the usage of the entire corps of defensemen. He led the unit in ice time in each of his seven seasons after entering the NHL in 2016-17. If Travis Sanheim stays with the Flyers, he will need to absorb some of Provorov’s former responsibilities as a veteran left-handed defenseman. The 27-year-old has sandwiched a good 2021-22 season with down efforts in 2020-21 and 2022-23, and the Flyers should expect better production from a player beginning an eight-year contract with a $6.25 million annual cap hit.

Related: Evaluating Flyers’ Rebuild After Provorov Trade

Grans joins a group of young defensemen eager to take advantage of the changing parts in Philadelphia to land their spots as full-time NHL players. Egor Zamula, Ronnie Attard, Emil Andrae, and Adam Ginning have all flashed potential to become future pieces along the blue line. The rebuild will allow head coach John Tortorella to give inexperienced players the opportunity to work through mistakes, and each of the young defensemen will get their chance to make an impression during training camp. The addition of veteran right-hander Sean Walker might also mean the end of Tony DeAngelo’s short tenure with his childhood favorite team.

Carter Hart Next?

While the Provorov trade will impact the Flyers significantly, its role as an indicator of another looming deal might generate even more conversation. The willingness to take on the $5 million annual cap hit of Cal Petersen to clear cap space for the Kings changes the dynamic of the goaltending situation. Anthony DiMarco believes that the 28-year-old netminder has the expectation that he’ll get a fair crack at the NHL level in 2023-24. Does the acquisition of a veteran goalie mean Hart’s time in Philadelphia is over?

Carter Hart
Carter Hart, Philadelphia Flyers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

“I think everybody knows that Danny Briere is open for business. What I get a disagreement on is how close any of this is, and that’s going to be the most fascinating thing over the next few days,” Elliotte Friedman said on the 32 Thoughts podcast.

The magnitude of a deal involving Hart would outweigh the prominence of moving any other player on the roster. Trading the goaltender who was supposed the solve the tumultuous situation between the pipes in Philadelphia that had continued for almost two decades before he reached the NHL would be bold, controversial, and downright stunning. The Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, San Jose Sharks, Buffalo Sabres, and Kings might have interest as trade partners.

On one hand, the return package in a potential Hart trade would outweigh the impressive haul Briere got in return for Provorov. The rebuild could take shape quicker and more effectively with the proper execution of a blockbuster trade. On the other hand, the decision to trade the anointed franchise goaltender at age 24 is a risk that could ultimately define Briere’s tenure as GM when it’s all said and done.

The move would take incredible confidence on the part of a rookie GM. However, the idea of a safe move versus a risky one is inherently flawed. The Flyers have nothing to show for themselves following the past three seasons, and keeping the current roster intact wouldn’t help them climb out of the incredibly deep hole they’re in. Fletcher continued to retain veterans on long-term deals even after the team started an epic fall from grace in 2020-21, and it became a factor in the decision to fire him. Keeping Hart and other big names on the roster is anything but a safe bet for Briere.

Jones Making Changes

Jones spoke on 97.5 The Fanatic on June 7 about the move that sent Provorov to the Blue Jackets.

“This is a good start. Are we doing jumping jacks? No, we lost a very good player in Ivan Provorov who did a lot for the organization. Columbus is going to be better with him in the short term, and we’re looking more long term from our perspective,” he said.

Former NHL Winger Keith Jones

The newly-hired President of Hockey Operations has already given indicators of a comprehensive approach that will properly weigh the big picture of the organization. He’s openly spoken about how the 1970s style of rough and tough hockey and the grinding, physical game played during his career in the 1990s and early 2000s won’t be a major focus for the Flyers during the rebuild. 

The organization has restructured hockey operations by appointing Alyn McCauley, Riley Armstrong, and Nick Schultz and moving on from Kjell Samuelsson, Mike O’Connell, and John Riley. The decision to fire Samuelsson answers a major question attached to the hiring of Briere and Jones. The criticism of dependence on former Flyers isn’t entirely valid if they’re willing to move on from a former player who spent the longest tenure of his playing career with the team, over a decade on the bench with the American Hockey League affiliate, and another decade as a development coach.

Samuelsson, along with his family members, has built a good reputation within the organization over many years. However, the new direction of the franchise shouldn’t be defined by former Flyers if the decision-makers determine that a new direction is necessary. Jones has also hinted that more changes will come.

Loose Pucks: Hayes, Larsen

Before Provorov to Columbus took shape, it looked like Kevin Hayes was on his way out to Ohio to join his good friend Johnny Gaudreau. Anthony DiMarco doesn’t believe the recent trade necessarily means another deal between the two Metropolitan Division teams won’t happen.

“I think there was more urgency on Columbus’ part to zero in on Provorov. I don’t think teams were banging down the door for Kevin Hayes, but I do still see a fit there,” he said.

It wasn’t the only relevant news from the Blue Jackets, who just hired the controversial Mike Babcock to replace Brad Larsen as head coach. Charlie O’Connor believes that Tortorella could look to bring his former long-time assistant coach Larsen to Philadelphia in some capacity.

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