General Manager Chuck Fletcher had plenty on his plate when it come to necessary moves and holes to fill to give Philadelphia Flyers a much needed facelift. A task so mighty that very few people thought he could’ve pulled it off. Though as we sit back and catch our breath from the breakneck pace the NHL offseason has moved at, the dust has settled and Fletcher walked away from the trenches a victorious man, but just how good did he do?
Acquiring Ryan Ellis
Chuck Fletcher shocked the fan base when he acquired Predators star defenseman Ryan Ellis right before the pre-NHL expansion draft roster freeze in exchange for Nolan Patrick and Phil Myers. Ellis, 30, has six seasons left on his current contract that carries a $6.25 AAV. He solves the Flyers need for a top right-handed defenseman next to Provorov and came at the low price of Patrick and Myers, both of whom have severely underperformed since donning a Flyers sweater. This was not only the biggest Flyers trade since the Richards and Carter deals, but it was also one of, if not the, biggest trade of Chuck Fletcher’s entire career as a general manager.
After a three year wait, the Seattle expansion draft is in the books and it left much to be desired. They more or less picked an AHL team and kept that trend when it came time to select Carsen Twarynski from the Flyers. He has 22 NHL games under his belt, seven of which came during 2020-21, and only a single goal to his resumé. Since Seattle cheaped out everywhere across the league, it is hard to lay the blame on Chuck Fletcher’s feet when it comes to the inability to shed a bad contract, but overall the experience has very little effect on the Flyers now or in the future as Twarynski probably wasn’t a long-term NHL option anyway. In a way it is just as okay to walk away unscathed as it would be losing a big contract, instead of Fletcher re-doing his mistakes from the 2017 expansion.
Trading Shayne Gostisbehere
In a move that’s at least a year in the making, the Flyers finally dealt away defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere, but it wasn’t quite the reality most had in mind. They sent him to Arizona along with a 2022 second round pick and a 2022 seventh round pick in exchange for nothing. Just clearing his $4.5 million cap hit for two more years off the books. It wasn’t pretty, but this was the third time the Flyers tried to give Ghost away for nothing. They put him on waivers before the trade deadline but he wasn’t claimed, they left him exposed for the expansion draft but he wasn’t selected, so the had to do what was necessary to remove his salary from the books.
Acquiring Rasmus Ristolainen
Well the Flyers did a thing. Chuck Fletcher traded their 2021 first round pick, a 2023 second round pick and Robert Hagg to Buffalo in exchange for Rasmus Ristolainen. The trade has triggered a war amongst the fans of analytics and the eye test crowd, and while those results are TBD, the trade itself was fine. Yeah, it may have come across as an overpayment, but the rumored market for Ristolainen was a first round pick and the Flyers should be well past the point where they concern themselves with draft picks. Ristolainen, who will turn 27 early in the 2021-22 campaign, has one year left at a $5.4 million cap hit and will bring some much needed physicality to the lineup. We’ll have to wait a few years to see how the draft picks traded away ultimately turn out, but in the short term, Ristolainen brings more to the lineup than Hagg, and if he does indeed turn out to be bad, he’ll be a free agent next summer anyway.
Voracek for Atkinson
The rumors of a potential Voracek trade have been swirling all offseason, but once the expansion draft came and went and they passed over Voracek, it didn’t seem like he would be leaving Philly any time soon. That changed during day two of the draft when he was sent back to Columbus, ten years after he was dealt away, in exchange for forward Cam Atkinson. The 5’8 winger just turned 32 and has four years left at a $5.87 million cap hit. He has 627 NHL games under his belt as well has a 40-goal season, a 35-goal season and four 20-plus-goal seasons to boot. Atkinson sees time on both the powerplay and penalty kill, racking up 16 shorthanded goals during his career and 95 of his 402 points are on the man advantage. Will Atkinson be able to replace Voracek’s production? Will he perform well over the last four years of his contract? Time will tell, but what matters right now is Fletcher managed to get Voracek’s $8.25 million cap hit off the books and added a new leader in the locker room.
This… sure happened alright. With the Ristolainen trade taking place hours before round one on Friday, and the Voracek trade breaking early Saturday, there were bigger fish to fry in terms of interest level in the selections the Flyers were making. It sounds like their prized takeaway was their second round pick Samu Tuomaala, who is a 5’10 Finnish winger who has some upside when it comes to speed and becoming a potential sniper. This doesn’t seem to be as great as Fletcher’s first two drafts in Philly, but again, it shouldn’t be the main focus at the moment.
Signing Keith Yandle
After a decade of rumors, Keith Yandle is finally a Philadelphia Flyer. Now, what he has left in the tank is to be determined, but at a cheap one-year, $900k cap hit, it really doesn’t matter. Fletcher wanted a swing on the left side in the off chance that Cam York wasn’t fully NHL ready to start the season and he got it. While Yandle leaves plenty to be desired defensively, he still knows his way around the powerplay, and on the third pair, probably with Braun, there shouldn’t be too much trouble to cause. He is a 16-year NHL vet with 1,032 games under his belt, has previously played for Alain Vigneault in New York, and is best friends with Kevin Hayes. Fletcher wanted to improve the room and he found yet another player to help do that.
Chuck Fletcher was showboating to the endzone and got tackled at the one yard line. Martin Jones statistically is probably one of the worst options they could have secured. Granted, it’s a one-year, $2 million contract, so it’s nothing that will effect the team long term, but it is a puzzling move nonetheless. To be fair, his numbers were slightly above Elliott’s this past season and he doesn’t have the injury record Moose did, so he can at least start a few games in a row if need be. On a positive perspective, Carter Hart is the guy. If he can revert back to his 2019-20 form, the quality of their backup goalie shouldn’t be as important.
The collective groan released by Flyers fans on social media when it was announced forward Nate Thompson was returning was well worth his one-year, $800k cap hit alone. For those of you that don’t remember, Thompson was a depth acquisition by the Flyers at the 2020 deadline and was on of Alain Vigneault’s favorite toys during the playoff bubble in Toronto. He became the scapegoat by the fans and the on-running meme was that everything was his fault. Well, he’s back again. This time, the Flyers should be a little deeper overall so he should stay as the 13th forward more often than not, which is a role he should be just fine in. Thompson actually had a decent season last year in Winnipeg and will be fine in a plug-in role this year as well.
The last free agent signing the Flyers made is veteran forward Derick Brassard, who shines some light on the Flyers’ 3C issue. Brassard has experience playing for Alain Vigneault in New York, where he had his two best statistical seasons from 2014 to 2016. He’s a veteran of 905 NHL games and has plenty of experience being a sub-in depth guy over the last few seasons. He may not be the sexiest name, but he provides another option for the Flyers down the middle, which Fletcher seemingly ignored earlier in the offseason.
Carter Hart- 3 years, $3.9 million aav
In a bubble, Carter Hart’s extension isn’t that bad, but compared to every previous goaltender getting their first contract, it’s not great. After Hart had a down year where statistically he was one of the worst goalie in the league, it seemed as though it’d be an opportunity to snag him on a cheaper contract, but that wasn’t the case. Instead he signed the second biggest contract for a goaltender in NHL history. Reality is, he probably could’ve been had for a million dollars less, but Hart is still the unquestioned guy in Philly and has proven to be a borderline elite goaltender in the past, so there’s a good chance that in time the contract will end up being just fine, but it is a bit confusing that he got top dollar after the season he just had.
Travis Sanheim- 2 years, $4.67 aav
The team opted to take Sanheim to arbitration, and even though they never made it that far, the Flyers still got a decent deal for Sanheim. His aav was close to expected, but it was the term that works out well in the Flyers’ favor. Sanheim was coming off of a bridge deal and typically would sign his first long-term contract of his career, but a cocktail of uncertainty forced Fletcher to give him another short deal as he waits for things to shake out. Between the cap constraints, Sanheim’s wildly inconsistent play and the logjam of left-handed defenseman in the pipeline, there was no reason to lock up Sanheim longterm. It’s a good deal that keeps him around now, but give the Flyers an opt-out clause if they, for one reason or another, no longer need his services in 2023.
Overall, this was an impressive offseason for Fletcher. Given his lackluster history in terms of making blockbuster moves, the fact he rose to the occasion and made quite a few hard decisions is very commendable. Now, there were some head scratching moves when it comes to the personnel added, but overall it was the kind of seismic shift the organization desperately needed. We’ll just have to wait and see what pans out when the team hits the ice in October, but for now there is little more Fletcher can do, and he actually earned his hibernation this year.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: SI.com / spectrumlocalnews.com / nhl.com