Predicting the Flyers’ 2021-22 Opening Night Lineup

We’re a few months away from the start of the Philadelphia Flyers’ 55th season, but it’s never too early to guess who we might see on the roster come October. As realistically as possible, I predicted what the Philadelphia Flyers 2021-22 opening night roster might look like with potential additions that might be made.

Forwards

First Line: Claude Giroux – Sean Couturier – Sam Reinhart

The power couple of Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier are reunited once again, but with new teammate Sam Reinhart, whom they acquired from Buffalo in exchange for Travis Konecny. It’ll be their main acquisition at forward and an upgrade over Konecny.

Second Line: Joel Farabee – Kevin Hayes – Wade Allison

This trio were rockstars for the Flyers late in the season when they were put together, so there’s no sense in breaking them up. Hayes is undergoing core muscle surgery during the summer, so he should be back to 100% next season and with two of the Flyers’ rising stars flanking him, there’s no reason to think they won’t end up being the best line on the team in short order.

Third Line: Zach Hyman – Morgan Frost – Jake Voracek

The search for a legitimate third line center has been years in the making, and now it’s time for Morgan Frost to get his shot to hold down the fort. He will be joined by veteran Jake Voracek after they failed to move his contract during the offseason. Zach Hyman has been one of the best kept secrets in the league over the last few seasons as a part of the Toronto Maple Leafs, but due to cap restrictions, he’ll probably hit the open market, a play the Flyers will cash in on as he’s exactly what the doctor ordered. He can play anywhere in the lineup, score, hit, and his two-way skills are up to snuff as well. Just the all around Swiss army knife the Flyers have needed.

Fourth Line: Oskar Lindblom – Scott Laughton – Tanner Laczynski

The fourth line survives in-tact as all of Lindblom, Laughton and Laczynski are all signed for at least next season. Before his injury, Laczynski seemed to secure a roster spot at the end of the 2021 season, so when he returns healthy with a full training camp under his belt, it’s safe to assume he’ll be given a shot to reclaim his role on the main roster ahead of other prospects challenging for the same role.

Defense

Top Pair: Ivan Provorov – Dougie Hamilton

The Flyers win the Dougie Hamilton jackpot this summer and finally find Ivan Provorov a decent long-term partner to play with. Hamilton’s addition will be the crown jewel of the offseason for the Flyers.

Middle Pair: Cam York – Seth Jones

The Flyers make a bold move and trade both Phil Myers and Travis Sanheim to Columbus to acquire Seth Jones. It adds another top defenseman to the team who is both a veteran, yet at 26 years old, young enough to fit in the current age range the Flyers are working with. Cam York dazzled in the three games he played at the end of the 2021 season so there’s no reason to believe he won’t win a roster spot out of camp, so pairing him with someone like Jones gives him the best chance to succeed next season.

Bottom Pair: Egor Zamula – Justin Braun

Justin Braun may have been the most important defenseman the Flyers had during the 2021 campaign and will stick around during the last year of his deal, but in a much more fitting third pair role. He will take young gun Egor Zamula under his wing as he gets his feet wet during his first prolonged stint in the NHL. Hopefully he is ready for the big time, but it will probably be a cost saving method as well as Zamula is still on his ELC. It’s possible Robert Hagg could tandem with Zamula for that last spot as well.

Goaltending

Starting Goalie: Carter Hart

This one’s a given. Even after the disaster of a season 2021 turned out to be, Hart will return to the helm for 2021-22 and hopefully return to the form we all know and love…

Backup Goalie: Jonathan Bernier

But if he doesn’t, he will have a new partner in Jonathan Bernier to help pick up the pieces. His name has been attached to the Flyers ever since the trade deadline but when Philly fell out of the playoff race they had no need to acquire him during the season, but they still pursued him in free agency.

Additions

Dougie Hamilton, Seth Jones, Sam Reinhart, Zach Hyman, Jonathan Bernier

There are only five additons, but each one fills a hole and makes the team better. Hamilton and Jones are the two best, yet most expensive, players in either free agency or via trade, but it’s pretty clear the Flyers need a major upgrade on the back end, and this is absolutely the way to do it. They’ll be able to pocket a bit of money with two ELCs on the roster in York and Zamula, both of which will be paired with a veteran to cover any mistakes.

Reinhart is an upgrade over Travis Konecny on the wing, and his versatility as a center gives the Flyers peace of mind that he could shift to 2C if Kevin Hayes’ play doesn’t rebound next season. Reinhart is also solid on the powerplay, another addition that is much needed on the roster.

Zach Hyman is just a man who can do it all. The versatility in his style of play, as well as the fact he can be deployed on either wing or at C, he’s just the kind of guy that would be a prototypical Flyer and just what the doctor ordered in the middle six.

Jonathan Bernier is an upgrade at goaltender without going overboard. Obviously everyone is banking on Carter Hart re-finding his elite form, but whether he does or does not, Bernier can be great in spot starts, but also handle regular starts in the situation calls for it. Either way it’s a much needed addition.

Losses

James Van Riemsdyk, Travis Konency, Shayne Gostisbehere, Travis Sanheim, Phil Myers, Nolan Patrick, Brian Elliott

James Van Riemsdyk was the player that got fed to the Seattle Kraken in the expansion draft. It’s a move that will clear $7 million, a significant step to signing Hamilton.

Travis Konency and Shayne Gostisbehere were packaged together to get Sam Reinhart from the Buffalo Sabres. Not only do the Flyers get an improvement over Travis Konecny, but they finally shed the contract of Shayne Gostisbehere as well. It’ll cover the rest of Hamilton’s tab and the extra million or so will make up the difference between Konency’s $5.5 million and the new contract Sam Reinhart will sign, probably in the $6 million range.

The Flyers were faced with a decision on defense. The already signed Hamilton, but want another big ticket acquisition on the blue line. They package both Travis Sanheim and Phil Myers (and possibly more if necessary) to Columbus for Seth Jones. Sanheim is due a contract as a restricted free agent this offseason and his wildly inconsistent play makes him a risky signing for the Flyers, but there’s enough potential that in the right scenario he can still be a successful NHL defenseman. Myers at $2.5 for two more years provides a cost certainty as Columbus rides out the remainder of the flat cap era. They’ll just have to hope Myers can re-find his game from his rookie season that made him such a hot commodity to begin with. It’s a two good players for one top one, and the Blue Jackets can use multiple high-level additions on the blue line to begin with.

Given the additions to the roster, it makes guys like Nicholas Aube-Kubel and Robert Hagg expandable. they’re not big ticket guys, but flipping them for a draft pick or two to a team looking for depth clears a million dollars per player. An easy way to back a bit of pocket change in case any of the players get more than predicted. The other losses, Nolan Patrick and Brian Elliott are relatively non-consequential. Elliott is a UFA and will walk in free agency, Nolan Patrick is an RFA, but will, one way or another, not return to the team.

Conclusion

As much as we’d all like the roster to be completely turned over, that just isn’t the likely outcome. Instead, they will probably be precise and focus their attention on filling a few key holes. At the end of the day, the most important word is “versatility.” Finding players that can play and succeed where ever they’re needed is something that has been sorely lacking from the team lately.

At forward, hoping the two additions of Reinhart and Hyman, as well as the continued development of Allison and Farabee, give the group enough lifeblood to get the most out of everyone. The question at 3C persists, but the additions of Hyman and Reinhart also give the Flyers more flexibility with their forward group as they can play any position, so when Alain Vigneault undoubtedly tweaks the lineup, he will have a broader array of options to work with.

This is absolute best case scenario for the defense. Winning the Dougie Hamilton sweepstakes and securing Seth Jones means they will have quite a bit of money locked up for the foreseeable future, but it provided the huge shakeup they need in the short term. Relying on young defensemen to jump in the lineup and immediately take the reins hasn’t worked well in the past, but York possesses the pedigree to a point where he may be able to overcome the odds and make an impact right away.

The goaltending is an improvement, plain and simple. Bernier is probably the best veteran option on the free agent market and hopefully the Flyers learned their lesson that they can’t afford to cheap out on a backup yet again after the disaster that was the 2021 season.

Financially speaking, the additions and losses are fairly close. The losses of JVR ($7), TK ($5.5), Ghost ($4.5), Sanheim ($3.2), Myers ($2.5), and Elliott (1.5), add up to $24.2 mil and the additions of Jones ($5.4), Reinhart (projected $6), Hyman (projected $3.5), Hamilton (projected $8) and Bernier (projected $3) come out to $25.9 million. Obviously that can change depending on how their contracts end up working out, but it should be close to accurate. As stated earlier, they have Hagg ($1.6) and NAK ($1) they could sell for picks to clear a couple extra million if necessary.

We’ll revisit this in October and see just how wrong (or right) I was.

By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)

photo credit: tsn.ca

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