What I’m hearing — Flyers unlikely to make blockbuster; Nick Seeler avoids long term injury

The Flyers likely breathed a sigh of relief when, according to a team official, they learned that defenseman Nick Seeler would not be out long term after blocking a Colton Parayko shot in his left ankle area in the second period of a 2-1 shootout loss to the Blues at Wells Fargo Center on Monday night.

Seeler returned for the start of the third period but didn’t play for the final 10 minutes of regulation or in overtime. While he could end up missing some time, including potentially Thursday’s game in Florida, Seeler is expected to return to the ice sooner rather than later.

Whether that is for the Flyers, or another team, though, is still uncertain.

The Flyers remain engaged in contract discussions with Seeler and Sean Walker, and there’s a chance that the two — who have been partners for most of the season — will stay with the team on multi-year deals. Nothing has changed since general manager Daniel Briere, who has been very transparent, said as much in his media availability in Washington last Friday.

This is probably going to go down to the wire. The Flyers know they might not get their best offers until shortly before the 3 p.m. deadline, and, as Briere has said, they don’t feel they’re under immense pressure to make a deal simply for the sake of making a deal, considering they are still in third place in the Metropolitan Division. They’re also not opposed to taking a player or players back in a deal, especially if it helps them plug a hole to keep them afloat in the playoff race.

A pair of league officials suggested that Walker is the more likely of the two to get moved.

“Seeler is a true culture driver and warrior who won’t cost as much to re-sign, and less term,” said a person briefed on the matter. “Walker, you’re letting him go at his peak after a strong rebound (season) and who will want to maximize his contract.”

I thought it was telling, too, that on Feb. 19, when asked if he’d like to re-sign, Walker simply said: “I’ll leave that to my agent, and Danny.”

I do believe Walker would ultimately like to stay with the Flyers. On Jan. 12 after the Flyers’ morning skate in Minnesota, he said: “I love the city, love the team, love the organization and what they’re trying to build here.” His dialing back that kind of enthusiasm a month later could be more tactical than anything else as this is his best chance at a significant contract.

Seeler made it no secret that he’s really hoping to remain with the Flyers past Friday.

On Monday, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman mentioned that the Flyers had “checked in on” young and skilled Ducks forward Trevor Zegras, who has been the subject of some trade speculation lately. That includes here, as colleague Eric Stephens and I explored why a Flyers trade for Zegras might make sense.

Firstly, the Flyers are going to have difficulty unearthing Zegras-like talents in the draft. They won’t have a top 5 pick in this year’s draft, and considering how many of their young players have taken steps this season, it’s not like they’ll be expected to be among the NHL’s poorest teams in the immediate future, either. Logic would dictate that in order to get that high-end talent, it’s going to have to be through trades or free agency. Whether you like his game or not, players of Zegras’ age and his kind of skill level aren’t often made available.

But I got some pushback on that notion. The Flyers believe they already have a future elite-level player in Matvei Michkov — named the NHL’s top prospect by our Scott Wheeler earlier this week — and they’re also comfortable with their ability to bring talent along under their new player development staff, the revamping of which was a priority for Briere and team president Keith Jones.

The Flyers’ front office has seen players like Tyson Foerster, Joel Farabee, Cam York and Travis Konecny take significant steps this season, and they figure there are other players already in the system that can traverse similar paths as they continue on in their careers while under the watch of new management. And, the younger players already in the NHL lineup will, in theory, keep getting better.

In other words, don’t expect any big, bold moves for notable high-end players like Zegras or anyone else before Friday. The Flyers don’t feel that they’re at the correct stage of their rebuild for that kind of deal.

One player who was signed in the offseason with the expectation that he could be moved at the deadline is Marc Staal, who has played in the last 10 games on the third pair, mostly with rookie Egor Zamula.

Coach John Tortorella suggested on Monday that Staal, who played in just 17 of the Flyers’ first 51 games, would like to remain and take part in another playoff run with the Flyers after he helped Florida advance to the Stanley Cup Final last season.

“He’s playing meaningful games in March, and I think in Florida when they brought him in there it was a little bit of the same situation,” Tortorella said. “He ended up playing over 100 games, they go to the finals. I watched him play in the playoffs, and he was really good. You never know where it goes. And that’s why we went after him, it was kind of a mutual thing. We knew how he was going to handle the situation because we made sure he understood that (he wasn’t) not going to get in the way of the kids. So, he’s been great that way.”

Could Staal generate some interest ahead of Friday, though? One pro scout was skeptical that he still has value, but it wouldn’t completely surprise him if a team valued having him around for depth over a youngster.

“I can’t see it, but some people value vet presence and would rather have him post-deadline as an eight or nine than an AHL kid,” said the scout.

Briere said on Friday that the Flyers could potentially look to add a backup goaltender if one becomes available.

“We’re certainly looking at all options, and if there’s something that makes sense, yeah, we might jump on something,” he said.

But that was a day before Felix Sandstrom played well in the Flyers’ 4-2 win over Ottawa. He finished that game with 24 saves, many of which were difficult, on 26 shots. Ottawa was credited with 3.06 expected goals in that game per Natural Stat Trick, which helps to reflect Sandstrom’s effectiveness.

Coach John Tortorella said on Monday that Sandstrom has earned at least one more start.

“I thought he played better and he earns the next game, and we’ll see where it goes from there,” Tortorella said. “We certainly haven’t forgotten about Cal (Petersen). … But Sandy played better, and he’s going to get the next game when we decide to put him in.”

If that’s the case, that next start almost certainly won’t come until after the trade deadline, perhaps on March 12 when the Flyers host the lowly Sharks at home.

Flyers president of hockey operations Keith Jones set Flyers Twitter (or X…whatever) ablaze last Thursday when, during an appearance on WIP, he said: “We’re saying one thing to everyone as far as our message in that we’re rebuilding. But we made sure to tell every player on the team that that’s BS.”

The quote got a good laugh from the hosts, because, well, it’s funny. And obviously, Jones is known for having the kind of sense of humor that helped make him a successful media personality in the first place.

I had a quick chat with Jones before the Flyers-Capitals game last week, and he confirmed that he was just kidding around.

Still, there’s almost certainly some truth to it in regards to the message that team brass gave to the players in the dressing room, and it’s nothing anyone should be upset about, at least in my opinion. It’s not difficult to envision a hypothetical scenario in which the team brass addressed the players before the season opener in Columbus on Oct. 12 and told them that they believed this was a group that could exceed expectations, regardless of their declaring publicly that the organization was now in a rebuild.

None of the players on the Flyers could give two you-know-whats about what the roster looks like three years from now. None of them are pouring over statistics of prospects in the junior leagues, or tuning into Michkov’s KHL games.

Jones and Briere certainly know that as former players if there is no hope to compete on a nightly basis, well, good luck trying to foster the right kind of environment that, along with Tortorella, they have all made a priority to reset.

(Photo of Sean Walker: Len Redkoles / NHLI via Getty Images)

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