It's that time of the year again. Rumors will be rampant over the next few weeks leading to free agency on both the free agent and trade front. In these posts we will assess the potential availability of the hottest names on the market, and see if the Stars could be a fit.
Our first post of the new offseason is going to focus on two young centers in Philadelphia. The Flyers acquired Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier in the deals for Jeff Carter and Mike Richards a couple years back. Could either be available? If so, for what, and could the Stars be interested?
What are they?
For starters, both players are very young. Couturier is 20 years old and has 123 games of NHL experience. Schenn is 21. and he has 110 games in the NHL. They've both seen heavy workloads for their age, but offensively neither player has produced at the level at which the Flyers think they should be able to yet. Given their ages, any team acquiring Schenn or Couturier is doing so banking on more offense being in the tank down the road.
Both players have prodigious scoring careers to their names in juniors. Both players have recently been point per game players in the AHL. They clearly have offensive ability inside of them waiting to come out. Schenn's offensive ability began coming out this year in the shortened season. In 47 games Schenn had 26 points, or a pace of 45 points in 82 games at age 21. If Schenn takes one more step forward you're looking at a legit soon to be 22 year old top six offensive forward.
Couturier is a different animal. He has the offensive pedigree of Schenn, but as a young NHLer he has been providing elite-level defense for the Flyers. His role has unquestionably hindered his offensive production, particularly last season when he was credited with 15 points in 46 games.
Only 11 forwards in the NHL were given a lower percentage of offensive zone faceoffs. Of those 11 only Jay McClement and Vernon Fiddler were used in a checking capacity like Couturier. As a 20 year old he was playing the minutes of a much more experienced player. In this minutes he was fantastic. posting a positive Corsi. If his load is lightened a touch and he gets some power play ice time how high is his ceiling? I think you're looking at an elite two way forward if all breaks right.
The Flyers are going to rightfully want a lot for either player. The Stars could use either center, but the more valuable of the two is probably Couturier given the difficult role he is able to handle as a kid. Adding Couturier would allow the Stars to allow their more offensive players to continue to focus on offense without the second line missing a beat.
The Flyers have needs on defense and in goal. They recently acquired the right to Mark Streit to help the defense, and many expect them to release goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov as an amnesty buyout when the release period opens after the Stanley Cup Finals. The Stars have depth on defense, a goaltending prospect in Jack Campbell, and a high first round pick. A deal could be made.
If you're the Stars you could try to make a deal materialize centering around Alex Goligoski or Trevor Daley. Neither player will end up making much sense in a deal for either center, but they would be a reasonable starting point. If you're the Flyers you push for Brenden Dillon. You get rejected, but you have a very realistic demand. Dillon is basically the defensive equivalent of Couturier, but opening another hole to plug one up front doesn't make sense for the Stars.
The most likely scenario for a deal to happen involves the Stars moving a defensive prospect like Jamie Oleksiak with some other pieces. If Rasmus Ristolainen drops to the 10th pick in the draft, perhaps the Flyers would be interested in taking the Stars pick in return for one of the centers.
Unless one of those scenarios arises the price for either player is likely to be prohibitive for the Stars. Moving Dillon in any deal should be unthinkable, and the Flyers would be nuts to discuss their centers with the Stars without requesting him unless they love Oleksiak or Ristolainen.
In the end I don't see it happening. If a young player like Couturier can be had you have to inquire, but is it realistic to think the Stars can pull off a deal? No, but it's fun to think about Couturier skating in the Stars top six for the next decade regardless.