After spending seven seasons in Orange and Black, Shayne Gostisbehere is off to Arizona in a salary-cap-clearing trade. (Chris Szagola/AP)

Flyers Trade Shayne Gostisbehere, Two Draft Picks To Arizona

After the Seattle Kraken threw a curveball and selected prospect Carsen Twarynski in the expansion draft, the Flyers had to pivot. A team strapped for cap space to re-sign restricted free agents Travis Sanheim and Carter Hart and with a desire for improvement needed to move an expensive player. Seattle appeared to be the easiest way to do that, but the Kraken ultimately failed to take the bait. Unfazed, Chuck Fletcher activated Plan B on Thursday afternoon, dealing defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere to the Arizona Coyotes.

The five-minute window where it seemed like Fletcher had acquired two picks for Gostisbehere thanks to an Elliotte Friedman typo was fun but ultimately not meant to be. After all, Gostisbehere was placed on waivers only about four months ago. Every NHL team, including the Coyotes, had the chance to take him for free, and all of them passed. So to move on from the 2016 Calder runner-up, the Flyers attached their second-round pick and the seventh they acquired for Erik Gustafsson at the deadline, receiving nothing in return. The cost is fairly steep but apparently better than the alternatives GM Chuck Fletcher discussed.

Saying “So Long” To Shayne

It is sad to see Gostisbehere depart Philadelphia on such sour terms. After the team fell off in the mid-2010s, Gostisbehere was the first piece of the new wave to make an impact in the NHL. He lit the world on fire as a rookie in 2015-16. Highlighted by four overtime winners and a record-breaking 15-game point streak, Gostisbehere was a beautiful breath of fresh air. He did undergo a sophomore slump in 2016-17 but was better than ever in 2017-2018, setting a career-high in points (65), posting stellar underlying numbers, and finishing 10th in Norris Trophy voting.

Since then, Gostisbehere’s play has been inconsistent. He has never been stout defensively, and while his offense can make up for that when firing on all cylinders, it did no such thing in 2018-19. He lost his top pair spot next to Ivan Provorov that year and fell out of the lineup entirely during a legitimately bad 2019-20 campaign by all metrics; points, advanced stats, and ice-time all fell off a cliff for Gostisbehere that year. Yes, Gostisbehere did deliver a solid bounce-back season in 2020-21, scoring at a half-point-per-game clip with improved underlying numbers, but his $4.5 million cap hit for three more years became dead weight in a pandemic-caused flat-cap world.

What Does This Move Mean For Both Sides?

Gostisbehere could be a good fit in Arizona; though it is worth noting the Coyotes already have a couple of offensively inclined defensemen in Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Jakob Chychrun (who is good all around). Arizona has several defensemen likely leaving as unrestricted free agents that they will need to replace in Niklas Hjalmarsson, Alex Goligoski, and Jason Demers. And Arizona, who had their first-round pick this year and second rounder last year stripped for violating draft combine policies, acquired their seventh second-round pick across the 2021 and 2022 drafts.

Here’s your daily reminder that Ryan Ellis is a Philadelphia Flyer.

For Philadelphia, the biggest win is clearing Gostisbehere’s $4.5 million in cap space; they now have $13.9 million in space, per CapFriendly. Philadelphia also had a couple of young defensemen in Cam York and Egor Zamula, and both are nearly ready to can take Gostisbehere’s spot on the third-pair and second PP units. At the very least, the Flyers now have enough money to re-sign Sanheim and Hart. Plus, they could add a quality backup goalie, and maybe either a decent bottom-six center or bottom-pair defenseman.

If they desire to do more (and it appears as though they do), the Flyers will need to jettison James van Riemsdyk or Jakub Voracek. The latter is unmovable without significant sweeteners, as his contract is the same term as Gostisbehere’s but is almost twice as expensive, and Voracek is four years older. Gostisbehere may have once been a part of a new wave in Philadelphia. But today, he became a necessary causality for Philadelphia’s next wave to take over. Thanks for everything, Ghost Bear.

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