This is an article I never hoped or intended to write even as recently as this past summer. But, with that said, it is TIME TO TRADE Shayne Gostisbehere! The defenseman had a terrific start to his career in Philadelphia but has fallen on hard times recently, and now, most everyone is asking themselves “Have we seen the best of Ghost?”
How Did This Happen?
Gostisbehere exploded onto the scene with an incredible rookie season in 2015-2016 in which he scored 17 goals and had 46 points in only 64 games. In fact, Ghost set the franchise record for “rookie point streak” and helped carry the Flyers to a playoff birth. At that time, Ghost’s play and popularity even led to a local brewing company, Conshohocken Brewing, creating a beer in his honor “Ghost Bear.”
The following season, Ghost followed up his rookie campaign with 39 points in 76 games and a minus 21 rating. One of the first signs that the NHL had made an adjustment to Ghost’s game. This poor performance also led to head coach Dave Hakstol making him a healthy scratch for multiple games. A decision fans were not happy with at the time especially since “Hak” was known to make questionable lineup decisions.
Next, in 2017-2018, Shayne bounced back with 65 points in 78 games and a plus 10 rating. This performance helped Ghost finish in the Top 10 in Norris Trophy Voting, an award given to the league’s best defenseman, and making us hopeful that it was just the “sophomore slump” that had gotten the best of Ghost the year before.
However, the doubts started to creep back in during the 2018-2019 season for Ghost as he had his worst season as a Flyer scoring a career low 37 points and again having a minus 20 rating. It should be noted that Ghost was not the only Flyer to disappoint during this campaign as the entire team fell short of expectations – ultimately leading to the dismissal of General Manager Ron Hextall and Head Coach Dave Hakstol.
Now, with a new regime at the helm, 2019-2020 was a perfect opportunity for Ghost to put last season behind him and start with a clean slate. Unfortunately, however, in what should be a bounce back year, Ghost has put up HORRIBLE numbers with only 12 points in 40 games as we hit the halfway point of the season. Adding injury to insult, Ghost recently had knee surgery that will keep him sidelined for 2-3 more weeks.
Once Ghost returns at the end of January, the Flyers will have approximately 3 weeks to decide if he should be traded before the fast approaching February 24th deadline.
Contract Status and Possible Trade Partners?
Gostisbehere signed a 6 year 27 million dollar contract entering the 2017-2018 season. After this season, we have hit the midpoint of this deal. Ghost will have 3 additional years remaining at a 4.5 million dollar cap hit. This cap hit is reasonable for NHL defenseman with the upside of Gostisbehere which means he could be traded if that is the direction the Flyers decide to go.
So then, the question every Flyers fan should be asking themselves is, “If we do trade Ghost, what can we realistically hope for in return? This is where things get tricky because a player currently in an extended slump with a 4.5 million cap hit would be tough to move for anything of “immediate value.” With that being said, let’s look at some potential options moving forward.
The Canadians are the team most linked to Gostisbehere in trade rumors. The Canadians are looking to get younger on the blue line and could put Ghost on the 2nd Power Play unit behind Shea Weber. In return, the Flyers could certainly look to add a young, scoring offensive player, which would make LW Jonathan Drouin and LW Arturi Lehkonen worth a look.
If the Flyers are looking to add a more established NHL player to the roster, they could look at Jason Zucker. Yes, Zucker has a broken leg, but he did have a solid 24 points in 36 games before the injury. The additional key to this deal is the similarity of contracts. With Zucker owed 5.5 million over the next 3 years, financially both sides could work out the finances relatively quick.
While this one might be a bit far-fetched, another possible option is the Red Wings. General Manager Steve Yzerman has shown he is not shy when it comes to making trades and trying to improve his team. So then, he could see Ghost as the perfect buy low high reward type of acquisition. In this instance, a player to look at in return would be Andreas Athanasiou. The main problem with this type of trade, however, is that Andreas is a Restricted Free Agent after this year, so Detroit would have to offer some draft capital as well.
Time to Make a Deal?
In the end, this is going to be one of the first tough decisions that Chuck Fletcher will have to make in his Flyers tenure, and it is a decision that could have ripple effects throughout the organization for years.
On one hand, you have an electric puck moving defenseman, who – when at the top of his game – can score offensively with the best in the business and is a top 4 defenseman.
On the other hand, when Ghost struggles with scoring, he is a liability defensively as well, and so, will continue to see his ice time dwindle..
Overall, it will be make or break time when Ghost returns from his injury in the next few weeks. If he is able to get back into the lineup, and bring value offensively – like we have seen in the past – he will be a key piece for this year’s team as the drive for the playoffs gets underway. If, however, Ghost returns to the lineup and continues to be a liability defensively and is playing bottom pair minuets, I believe it will be best for all parties to look for a change in scenery.
Either way, it is going to be a very interesting and entertaining month of February for the Flyers and Shayne Gostisbehere.
Author: Kevin Mihalik