Stop if you’ve heard this before, but the Flyers are in desperate need of some help when it comes to the blueline. The Flyers gave up the most goals in the NHL this past season. This coming off the heels of a 2019/20 campaign where they allowed the seventh-least amount of goals per game in the NHL. A drastic shift in performance that cannot go unaddressed yet again. Lucky for the Flyers, this offseason is flush with free agents and players on the trade block that could help them solidify the back end.
The reality of the situation is that even though the Flyers are rumored to be heavily-in on Seth Jones, they still need more than that. Adam Larsson has been discussed as a solid option to bolster the defensive core. Aside from that, the focus has mainly been on Seth Jones after news of the Flyers not viewing Dougie Hamilton as their top priority broke. A name that has recently come into the rumor mill is Vancouver’s Nate Schmidt.
Dave Pagnotta of The Fourth Period tweeted out Thursday afternoon that Nate Schmidt may very well be on the move if Vancouver can find a trade partner. It would all hinge on Schmidt’s 10-team no-trade list, but the Flyers could use a guy like him as long as he isn’t the move this offseason.
The Skinny on Nate Schmidt
Nate Schmidt is an interesting player. The guy exudes charisma and can play a solid two-way game. He’s signed for four more years at an AAV of $5.95mil. The term and cost of Schmidt are worrisome, but shouldn’t completely scare off Chuck Fletcher. Schmidt started his career out with the Washington Capitals organization. His first two professional seasons were split between the Caps and their AHL affiliate, the Hershey Bears. Entering his third season, he remained with Washington for the entire year. Before being selected in the Vegas expansion draft in 2017, Schmidt had registered eight goals and 35 assists in 200 games for Washington.
Schmidt went on to be a solid piece for the Vegas Golden Knights. He spent three years with the Golden Knights and averaged nearly 22 minutes of ice time each night. He more than doubled his offensive output, notching 21 goals and 76 assists in 196 games. Pair that with his 312 blocked shots and 103 hits, Schmidt was a key piece to the back end in Vegas.
With Vegas up against the cap, Schmidt was dealt to Vancouver last offseason for a third-round pick. Schmidt would go on to have one of his worst seasons in the NHL, posting 15 points in 54 games with 72 blocks and 15 hits while averaging just over 20 minutes per night.
The Schmidt Fit
At first glance, a lot of you will say this is a terrible idea. That’s totally understandable. Given the state of the Flyers defense right now, however, it might behoove most to think a bit outside the box and realize that just about anything would be an upgrade over last year’s unit.
With that being said, Schmidt is not the answer to put on the top pair with Ivan Provorov. He can log decent minutes, can kill penalties, but he isn’t the solution to the problems ailing that top pair. What he would be a great fit for is the second pair with Phil Myers. Assuming Travis Sanheim is part of the deal that brings in Provorov’s partner, bringing in Schmidt would preserve the righty/lefty dynamic and allow them both to play on their strong sides. Schmidt would be a solid mentor to Myers, and Myers may certainly need one after last season.
Schmidt presents an opportunity to spell Provorov of some PK minutes as well. In accordance with the aforementioned righty/lefty dynamic, Schmidt could partner up with Justin Braun on the penalty kill. For a unit that ranked 30th in the NHL at killing penalties, the Flyers should try any and all options to upgrade in that area. Schmidt presents an opportunity to do so.
…But at what cost?
This is where we get to have some fun. Schmidt had a down year, there are no two ways about it. Schmidt was on pace for about 23 points at an 82 game pace. While defensemen shouldn’t necessarily be judged by their point totals, it’s not the most encouraging stat line considering Vigneault’s affinity for defensemen who can jump up on the play and contribute on the scoresheet. Schmidt’s main partner, Alex Edler, also isn’t the ideal partner for him. The 35-year-old has lost a bit of a step and it showed this season. Averaging a minor penalty just about every other game, posting eight assists and a minus-eight as well, it’s safe to say that could be one reason why Schmidt didn’t have the season many were accustomed to during his time with Vegas.
Vancouver acquired Schmidt last offseason for a third-round pick in 2022. Now that his value has likely dropped even more, it could give the Flyers an advantage in negotiations. His down year paired with his almost six million dollar cap hit could give Chuck Fletcher an edge if trade talks were to occur. Trading for Schmidt shouldn’t be the top priority by any means, but it could upgrade a spot in the lineup and could look something like this:
- Vancouver Receives
- Philadelphia Receives
- Nate Schmidt (25% salary retained)
So Nate Schmidt regressed, and calling teams will use that as a sticking point. Vancouver won’t have much of a leg to stand on between his regression and cap hit. The Flyers are basically giving them what they gave for him in the first place, but asking for a 25% salary retention. Yes, Vancouver needs to re-sign multiple defensemen this offseason including Quinn Hughes. While asking for the Canucks to retain salary may be risky, it’s also clearing approximately $4.463 million off their books.
If Jim Benning won’t bite on the first offer, Chuck Fletcher may look to add a condition to the 2022 third-round selection. Add a stipulation around games played, points scored, any type of performance-based stipulation that would assure the Flyers are getting their money’s worth. Maybe the third turns into a second. While it may be steep for a borderline reclamation project, moves like this have panned out before with Matt Niskanen and Justin Braun. Not to mention if this team wants to win now, do those draft picks matter in the grand scheme of things?
This move would essentially replace Shayne Gostisbehere’s contract on the blue line if Seattle decided to take him in the expansion draft. It’s a big if, but worth the discussion if they lose a defenseman to Seattle.
It’s worth reiterating that this should not be the Flyers’ main priority. A top pairing defenseman always takes priority, and it’s not even close. Given the corner the Flyers have backed themselves into pertaining to defense, they should absolutely be looking to bring in two defensemen. Nate Schmidt falls into that secondary priority list. He could eat up some minutes on the PK, assume the mentor role to Phil Myers, and be a solid all-around contributor if he rebounds.
The key here is money. Like any deal, really. Vancouver would assuredly have to retain at least some of Schmidt’s contract for this to work. The Flyers cannot take on the full $5.95mil without the assurance of losing at least Gostisbehere’s contract to Seattle. The Canucks retaining a portion of Schmidt’s salary is just the cherry on top. His and Ghost’s deals would basically wash out, leaving the Flyers with essentially the same amount of cap space they had before the deals went down. Bingo bango bongo, the Flyers have gotten better on the blue line and didn’t really take on any more cap than they had before.
Photo Credit: Derek Cain/Icon Sportswire