VOORHEES, N.J. — Somehow, when the dust settled from the NHL trade deadline, James van Riemsdyk was still a Flyer.
In Chuck Fletcher's post-deadline press conference, the Flyers' general manager tried to explain why. But at this point, Flyers fans may be totally fed up with listening.
Listening about why something didn't happen or hasn't happened yet. Listening about an aggressive retool followed by more patience being required. Listening about why the team was selling at a third straight deadline but then couldn't move its most obvious trade chip.
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Justifiably, Fletcher had to defend his job as general manager Friday afternoon.
By Friday's 3 p.m. ET deadline, the Flyers moved Zack MacEwen and Patrick Brown, two role players on expiring contracts. MacEwen was dealt to the Kings for Brendan Lemieux and a 2024 fifth-round draft pick, while Brown went to the Senators for a 2023 sixth-round selection.
Van Riemsdyk, a big winger with two seasons of 30 or more goals on his long NHL résumé, was not moved. His age (33), contract (pending unrestricted free agent) and biggest strength (goal scoring) made him the Flyers' most clear-cut candidate to be traded.
The Flyers were willing to retain half of his hefty $7 million salary left on an expiring, five-year, $35 million contract. Fletcher said he didn't get an offer for van Riemsdyk until Friday around 1:40 p.m. ET. It was a conditional offer. The interested club needed to move one of its forwards to another team in order to finalize a deal for van Riemsdyk. The prerequisite move didn't go down, so the van Riemsdyk offer was quashed.
Fletcher said he talked to every team over the last three weeks and the only offer he received was the conditional one Friday afternoon. He couldn't find a buyer, even with spicing up offers.
"I told teams absolutely I would take a player on an expiring deal, I would take a one-way contract in the minors, I could help on the cash," Fletcher said. "I was not interested in taking a player with term, unless that player could help us going forward. We tried to be as accommodating as possible.
"But we never had an offer, there was never anything that broke down, there was never anybody that said, 'I'm only going to give you a third or a fourth or a sixth and take it or leave it' — I never even got that. I don't know what to say.
"Yesterday, for example, I received two calls — one on JVR, one on another player. And I made 17. I just counted my log. We actively did our best to get an asset and to give JVR the opportunity to play in the playoffs. It didn't happen."
Couldn't the Flyers have recognized the market wasn't going to change in their favor as the deadline got closer? Couldn't they have pivoted earlier in the week — or prior to that — to ensure they at least moved van Riemsdyk for something?
Last offseason elicited plenty of questions with the Flyers. Now it's the trade deadline that left many asking why and how.
The Flyers are 23-28-11 with 20 games left on their schedule. Those games will be about the future and van Riemsdyk will be along for the ride before he walks in free agency during the summer.
First-year head coach John Tortorella has been honest about the Flyers' timeline. Fletcher, in his fourth full season as GM, has admitted it'll be a longer process as the Flyers build back up through youth.
"We need more talent and that's on me," Fletcher said.
A massive summer is not far away for the Flyers. One of the bigger questions ahead is if Comcast Spectacor chairman and Flyers governor Dave Scott will maintain his faith in the club's direction under Fletcher.
"I'm not worried about my job — whatever happens with me will happen with me. That's up to Dave Scott," Fletcher said. "But everything I do is about doing what's right for the Philadelphia Flyers and not taking shortcuts, and that's in part why we didn't make any more deals today. The deals that were presented to me were not good deals for the Philadelphia Flyers.
"Last summer, being more aggressive was not going to be good for the Philadelphia Flyers. Maybe in the short run, it makes me look better. But we don't want band-aids anymore. We want to build this the right way and we're committed to doing it.
"Those are my words; my actions will have to back it up, but we're committed to doing it."
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