The Flyers seem to be recognized league-wide for their abundance of young, talented forwards. Of course, whether we’re talking about development, ceiling, or prime trade bait in acquiring an upgrade on the blueline or a proven sniper on the wing, the two names that get tossed around the most are recent first-round picks Sean Couturier and Brayden Schenn.
Often more distant in those conversations is that other sophomore – winger Matt Read. Sure his name pops up in the occasional trade rumor, most recently involving teams like Los Angeles and Calgary (around last year’s trade deadline). But it’s usually the younger, more highly touted center duo of Coots and Schenn that surface in trade rumors and, of course, how and when to extend their entry-level contracts after the end of the 2013/2014 season with a CBA mandated cap cut.
So what’s different about these situations? What is the future looking like for Matt Read, whose is also entering the final year of a contract paying $900K annually? Well, it’s a bit trickier. Since Read was signed as an overage college free agent and not drafted out of juniors like the aforementioned tandem (Schenn 5th overall by LA in 2009, Couturier 8th overall by Philly in 2011), he qualifies as an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2013.
Also, Read just turned 27 last week and is likely at or close to his developmental peak in comparison. He is close to a finished product and is able to test the free agent market after this season. Ideally, I’m sure most fans would like a scenario where all three of these players are locked up to multi-year extensions after (or during) the season. However, with the state of the Flyers’ needs at defense (still), the possibility of having to bring in an external candidate for goaltender if Bryzgalov is amnestied, and captain Claude Giroux due for a huge raise next summer, the reality of the third-year trio ALL being extended with the ramifications of the new salary cap is quite a longshot. The math just doesn’t add up without another significant contract (or trading at least one of these players) parting ways with the organization.
My hunch is that the Flyers won’t end up trading Couturier or Schenn unless, and only unless, it brings in a bonafide number-one defenseman (note: Keith Yandle, while a terrific player, does not warrant this status as he is more of a fringe 1/2 IMO). The likelihood of this happening is slim to none at this point because A) teams that have such a player under contract are not likely to let them go without an outrageous premium being paid, B) the Flyers have just added Mark Streit to the mix and he is expected to sign with the team at a likely annual cap hit north of $5M, and C) Paul Holmgren and the front office seem reluctant to part ways with their developing youngsters; if they were not dealt in the Shea Weber package, they will certainly not be dealt for a lesser player.
Before the Streit acquisition (and he is not a guarantee to sign with Philly), I still would have said the chances of one being traded are slight. If I’m wrong on this one, then it is entirely possible (and perhaps likely) that they focus on extending Read during the season. I just don’t see how they can afford to keep – and pay – all three players moving forward. Let’s keep in mind that it’s also just as possible that Read is looking forward to testing the market regardless of what decisions are made in the interim. He will warrant a significant pay raise whether it’s in Philly or with another squad.
So how much is Read worth? While he is still less than two full seasons through his promising NHL career, we’re talking about a player that is reaching his prime years and SHOULD have been a Rookie of the Year finalist with his class-leading 24 goals in the 2011/2012 (Colorado’s Gabriel Landeskog edge out Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Adam Henrique for the prize).
We’re talking about a player that was second on the team among forwards in average ice-time at 18:01 minutes/game. We’re talking about a guy who is one of the faster skaters in the NHL, plays in all situations (2:04 PP minutes/game, 1:50 SH/minutes game, is extremely versatile (can play all three forward positions on all four lines, often plays the point on the second power-play unit), is defensively responsible (+1 last year on team mostly with minuses, plus-14 since entering NHL), and has above average sniping abilities (15.4% career shooting percentage) and shootout success (5 goals in 9 career attempts).
Matt Read can flat out play. He won’t “wow” you and is somewhat undersized at 5’ 10 and 185 lbs, but he can contribute in a lot of ways and would be an asset to almost every NHL team. If another team were to acquire him for this season – whether it be before free agency or at the trade deadline – they would only be on the hook for a $900K cap hit.
Beyond 2013/2014? Whether it’s the Flyers signing him or not, I think that you’re easily looking at that cap hit tripling or quadrupling. He has been a tremendous find for the Black & Orange and will certainly help their chances of playoff contention this upcoming season. However, barring a trade involving another budding young star on the roster to address a need, I don’t see that contract being signed in Philadelphia.
And if this is the case, the Flyers may need to put on their long-term hats and start listening to some offers sooner rather than later. Such a player is sure to net a nice package in return.