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Flyers trade Sean Walker to Avalanche couple of days before deadline

The Flyers received a first-round pick and Ryan Johansen

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VOORHEES, N.J. — Two days before Friday's 3 p.m ET NHL trade deadline, the Flyers moved Sean Walker and a 2026 fifth-round pick to the Avalanche in exchange for a conditional 2025 first-rounder and Ryan Johansen.

Per national reports, the Flyers placed the 31-year-old Johansen on waivers Wednesday.

Walker, a 29-year-old, right-handed defenseman, was having a career year for the rebuilding Flyers. He's on an expiring contract and was one of the club's top trade chips.

"It's probably one of the best problems to have, right?" Walker said of the trade buzz last month. "At the end of the day, you're playing really well and teams want you. That is the situation when you come to a place on an expiring contract, the situation I'm in."

Walker surprised just about everyone in Philadelphia. He arrived last summer in the three-team Ivan Provorov trade, a move made by the Kings very much for the purpose of clearing cap space. Flyers head coach John Tortorella had to do his homework on Walker, reaching out to then-Los Angeles coach Todd McLellan for a scouting report.

"I didn't know anything about him, talked to Mac when we got him," Tortorella said last month. "Great competitor. When he's a safe player, he's a bad player. When he's a player that takes a chance, takes a chance on his gaps, takes a chance making plays, he's a really good player."

With the Flyers, Walker has had a career resurgence after suffering a torn ACL and MCL in his right knee not even two and a half years ago. Playing mostly alongside Nick Seeler on the Flyers' second defensive pair, Walker put up six goals, 16 assists and a plus-9 rating over 63 games.

He entered Wednesday tied with the Hurricanes' Jaccob Slavin for the most shorthanded goals by a defenseman (two) and was second among Flyers blueliners in hits (86).

While Walker played an important role in the Flyers' turnaround this season, the organization has stated it's rebuilding. The Flyers have put an emphasis on the future and not losing sight of it because of one playoff run.

Walker is a pending unrestricted free agent. He'll have his suitors and a potential payday in the offseason. Danny Briere did a good job by netting a first-round pick for a player he could have lost for nothing come the summer.

"We've said from the beginning we wanted to build a team that was going to be a Stanley Cup contender for years to come and not just a one in, one out, one in, one out [of the playoffs] like it has been," the Flyers' general manager said in January. "The eye is still on the future."

More: Trade or keep Laughton? Soft sellers? Dissecting Flyers' outlook at deadline

Along with Walker, Briere acquired a first-round pick in the Provorov trade. The Flyers drafted righty-shot defenseman Oliver Bonk with the pick at No. 22 overall last summer. Briere was then able to flip Walker for another first-round pick.

In 2024, the Flyers will have two first-round selections, one of them coming from former general manager Chuck Fletcher's Claude Giroux trade. In 2025, they'll have two first-rounders as long as the Avalanche's pick doesn't fall in the top 10. If it does, the Flyers acquire Colorado's 2026 first-round selection.

Right now, the Flyers' depth on defense has shrunken considerably. Seeler, who signed a four-year contract extension Wednesday, is on injured reserve. He'll miss at least the next two games (Thursday and Saturday), while Jamie Drysdale and Rasmus Ristolainen are out week to week with injuries.

Four of the Flyers' six healthy defensemen are 24 years old or younger in Cam York, Egor Zamula, Ronnie Attard and Adam Ginning.

"You've got some young kids on the back end now getting some time maybe in our next game here," Tortorella said Wednesday after practice. "That's the way we've got to look at it. You just fill it in and hopefully Seels gets back as quickly as possible."

Johansen, a veteran center, has this season and the next remaining on his contract at an annual $4 million cap hit.

More: As trade rumors 'start flying,' Laughton reminding Flyers of his value

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