When the Philadelphia Flyers acquired Matt Niskanen in the 2019 offseason, GM Chuck Fletcher thought he solved the Flyers biggest problem. A problem that has been a clear issue for the past decade of Flyers hockey.
However, after just one season & a shocking retirement from Matt Niskanen, that same problem arose again.
Instead of immediately trying to replace Matt Niskanen, Fletcher decided to put his faith in the young Flyers group. A decision that backfired and blew up in his face.
“Think we have more veteran leadership back than last off-season. This falls on me,” Chuck Fletcher said on Tuesday about his offseason moves.
Fletcher continued saying “Matt Niskanen retired. We let Nate Thompson go, or we didn’t re-sign Nate Thompson or Tyler Pitlick. We lost some players that are kind of low maintenance, high character veteran players and we replaced them with some younger players.”
After a disappointing & underwhelming season, it was very obvious of the hole that was left by Matt Niskanen on defense. Not just on the ice. But, off the ice as well.
“Last year, when things started to go awry and we lost our way a little bit,” Chuck Fletcher said about the Flyers struggles last season. “We didn’t have what I thought was maybe enough veteran leadership, enough players that could maybe help the younger players get through that situation.”
This hole led Chuck Fletcher to completely transform his defense in the offseason. A transformation that saw the Flyers get older & a lot more experienced on the blue-line.
Chuck Fletcher’s first move was acquiring veteran top pair defenseman Ryan Ellis from the Nashville Predators. Sending former #2 overall pick Nolan Patrick & struggling young defenseman Phil Myers to Nashville.
“Ryan is a veteran right shot defenseman who is highly competitive, logs big minutes and can contribute both on the power play and penalty kill,” Chuck Fletcher said about Ellis. “His veteran presence and leadership will positively impact our dressing room.”
With Phil Myers going to Nashville, a new hole opened. A hole on the Flyers 2nd defense unit next to Travis Sanheim.
To fill this hole, Fletcher acquired Rasmus Ristolainen from the Buffalo Sabres. Sending depth defenseman Robert Hagg, 2021 1st round pick, & 2023 2nd round pick to Buffalo.
“He (Ristolainen) is a 26-year-old, right shot defenseman who will immediately add grit to our team,” Chuck Fletcher said about Ristolainen. “His size, mobility and physicality will make him an important piece to our group going forward.”
With many thinking his retool was complete, Fletcher surprised everyone & was not yet done. Signing veteran & ironman Keith Yandle to a one-year contract.
“He (Yandle) is an established veteran defenseman who excels moving the puck and playing on the power play,” Chuck Fletcher said about Yandle. “He is a true professional who comes ready to play every night.”
These moves by Fletcher were all made to solve the one problem that has plagued the Flyers for so many years. Moves that not only made the Flyers better for this season. But, also for the years to come.
After admitting fault for not replacing Matt Niskanen last season, Chuck Fletcher made that his mission this offseason. Leaving no doubt that it was his #1 goal with the acquisitions of Ryan Ellis & Rasmus Ristolainen. As well as the signing of Keith Yandle.
Now, with Ivan Provorov 24, Travis Sanheim 25, Rasmus Ristolainen 26, & Ryan Ellis 30, the Flyers have the making of a great defense core. A core that is set to be together for the next 5-years.
Photo Credit: Zack Hill -Flyers PR Guru