Yet another lackluster season almost in the books and all eyes will be on Chuck Fletcher and how he can maneuver through the offseason. He will have to find a way to clear cap space while making worthwhile additions. So, what kind of cap space can the we expect the Flyers clear this summer?
First and foremost, the Flyers will get a hair over $2.5 million of free space back simply with the buyouts of Andrew MacDonald ($1.91 million) and David Schlemko ($600,000) coming off the books. Elsewhere in the lineup, it’s pretty safe to say Erik Gustafsson and his $3 million cap hit will not be brought back when his deal expires. That’s $5.5 million in free space by itself.
The Flyers have three expiring forwards to deal with, that being Scott Laughton, Michael Raffl and Nolan Patrick. While Laughton and Raffl have been key pieces for the Flyers depth over the past few years, their cap hits, Laughton at $2.3 million and Raffl and $1.6 million, could be hard to re-sign this summer.
Laughton will turn 27 at the end of May and has been all over the Flyers lineup for much of the past two seasons, ranging from a second line left winger to a fourth line center. It’s fair to assume he could ask for a bit of a raise from his $2.3 million cap, and even if it’s not much, say in the neighborhood of $2.7 to $3 million, it could be enough to turn off the Flyers from re-signing him. Ditto for Raffl, whose $1.6 million cap hit could be used elsewhere. He has been with the organization since 2013.
While it would be tough to see both Raffl and Laughton walk, the Flyers have plenty of prospects in the AHL that will be making the leap to the NHL soon and could challenge for full-time roster spots by next season including Tanner Laczynski, Wade Allison, David Kase, Connor Bunnaman and whoever they may target during the offseason.
Patrick is in an interesting situation. He’s coming off of a one-year contract that he signed last summer, a prove-it deal that clocked in at just $874,125. He has been an underwhelming player this season and has played himself out of the top nine and has festered on the fourth line for the past few weeks. If the Flyers choose to bring him back, they could probably re-sign him for less than they are paying Michael Raffl now for the exact same role. For argument sake, let’s say he signs a three year deal at a $1.2 million cap hit, between losing Laughton and Raffl and re-signing Patrick, the Flyers could clear another $2.7 million, which would bring the total so far to $8.2 million.
Other than Gustafsson, the only other player on the blueline that doesn’t have a contract next season is Travis Sanheim. Now, we’ve sugested they shouldn’t re-sign him, or use him as a trade chip for Seattle to take a big contract off the books, but realistically the chances are they bring him back on a longer term contract now that he is 25 years old and coming off a bridge deal. His underwhelming play may ding his value a bit, but it’s not out of the question he could see $4 or more million average on a 4-5 year deal.
It also seems like a growing possibility that Shayne Gostisbehere get’s dealt sooner rather than later, maybe as early as the trade deadline next week. If he makes it to the summer as a Flyer he could be a candidate for Seattle in the expansion draft or some team that is willing to take a chance on him with a bit of cap flexibility unlike most teams have during the season. Either way, it’d be a shock to see Ghost start the 2021-22 season in orange and black.
The goaltending is very much up in the air. Carter Hart will be re-signed now that his ELC is up, but his cap will probably be relatively low on a 2-3 year bridge deal. There’s a good chance Brian Elliott doesn’t come back, and with rumors swirling that they’re looking at the trade market for help in net, who knows who will be between the pipes by the end of this season. Rumor has it they’re looking at Detroit’s Jonathan Bernier who is on an expiring three-year, $9 million contract. At 32 years old and posting solid numbers, he could still aim to be around the $3 million average mark, possibly a little higher, which is a fair going rate for above-average backups.
Now, what about contracts with term and the Seattle expansion draft? The Flyers have to walk away from the expansion draft losing at least one of their albatross contracts. James van Riemsdyk would probably be the easier of the two to move, with two years left at $7 million, though the more helpful move would be ditching Jake Voracek and his $8.25 million cap hit for three more years. Voracek is the more productive player in terms of racking up points, but they’re both wildly inconsistent players who are known to go on extended pointless droughts and low effort levels on the ice. It may be easier to ditch JVR, but Fletcher should try his hardest to make sure Voracek is the one to go. Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and say he’s able to pull of a miracle and Jake Voracek is packing his bags for Seattle this summer, that’s $8.25 million off the books for next years cap.
It’s also possible that if Fletcher goes to town in the trade scene, that a few other lesser contracts may get ditched as well. Maybe Nicholas Aube-Kubel’s $1.075 million or Robert Hagg’s $1.6 million cap hit can disappear too. If sweeping changes are coming, it’s more than likely a depth player on a decent contract could be an attractive option for some cap-strapped teams.
So what’s the overall assessment of the cap? Well, assuming they lose Gustafsson, Laughton, Raffl, Hagg, Gostisbehere, Voracek and the money from the past buyouts that’s a whopping $23.75 million in freed space.
If they re-sign Sanheim at 4 x $4 million, Patrick at 2 x $1.2 million, Hart at 3 x $3 million, and a legitimate backup goalie 2 x $3 million, that’s $11.2 million sticking around. That’s still $12.55 million in the green for the Flyers. That’s enough to make a legitimate addition or two this summer, and it may be a conservative number if they could find a way to get rid of JVR’s contract as well.
It may be a very busy summer for Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher if he’s serious about making changes. There should be not shortages or moves to make, the real question becomes will he?
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: NHL.com / photos.com