The 2021-22 Philadelphia Flyers season was supposed to be a triumphant return to glory for a once-great franchise, as the quarter mark of the season hits, it has been quite the opposite. It has led fans to wonder what the next steps for the franchise are. While some whispers of a teardown and possible rebuild are starting to swirl, what if general manager Chuck Fletcher feels otherwise and instead wants to take once more kick at the can next season?
Fletcher has blamed the problems plaguing the Flyers this season on injuries. While he’s not entirely wrong, the injury bug striking key players has derailed any chance of real success, it’s also pretty clear the team just isn’t dynamic enough to win as currently constructed.
If the Flyers choose to salvage the roster and make one more run with the current core, they’ll need a thorough improvement when it comes to producing offense. The free agent pool isn’t exactly deep this coming summer, but it does feature a few players that could cure what ails the Flyers.
It’ll be a balancing act between staying cap compliant and improving the offense. Theoretically, they need more help down the middle, but thanks to Couturier’s new deal and Hayes’ big contract, there isn’t much wiggle room there, so they need to make their addition count. Fletcher will need to look at possible wingers with higher upsides than their current group as potential fixes.
Joel Farabee – Tomas Hertl – Patrick Kane
It’s pretty clear Joel Farabee is the only worthwhile internal option for the Flyers when it comes to producing offense, so giving him duties on the top line makes sense, and finding top talent to insulate him should be priority number one this offseason. Hertl is the big ticket upcoming free agent. His offensive numbers may not be earth shattering, but he’s firing on a better pace than pretty much everyone else on the current Flyers roster. Nobody probably wants to touch the Blackhawks with a ten-foot pole right now, but Patrick Kane produces offense, plain and simple. Next year is the last of Kane’s current contract, so it’s a perfect one-off for the Flyers if they would actually consider a rebuild if a serious run fails, or a great addition that will be a high scoring player for another couple years.
Johnny Gaudreau – Sean Couturier – Wade Allison
I don’t know if you’ve heard, but Johnny Gaudreau is from South Jersey. It may just be a matter of time before he returns home and now that his current deal with the Flames ends this season, now may be a good time to bring him back. He’s over a point-per-game player so far this year. His hands mixed with Allison’s shooting ability could go a long way. Moving Couturier down to the second line means he can focus more on the defensive side and won’t be required to be the top offensive producer.
Claude Giroux – Kevin Hayes – Cam Atkinson
The fate of Claude Giroux is a hot question right now, but if the Flyers are convinced they can win next season and can convince Giroux of the same, he’ll more than likely be back for at least one more season. If he does return, it’s clear he will need to play in a depth role as he just can’t carry the team anymore. Putting him with Hayes and Atkinson on the third line takes the pressure off all three and hopefully that will squeeze the best of what’s left of their respective careers.
Oskar Lindblom – Morgan Frost – Tanner Laczynski
This ideally isn’t a great fourth line. Quite frankly there’s a good chance none of these players are on the Flyers roster next season. Frost would be an ideal trade chip if they target a different forward. Laczynksi’s contract is up and, even if he’s re-signed, may spend the season with the Phantoms, and Lindblom, even though he is beloved for his cancer battle, has a contract with a $3 million price tag for one more season, making him a moveable piece of the Flyers are short on cap elsewhere. Chuck Fletcher and the Flyers may take the same approach they did this year, veterans on league minimum contracts to plug the depth holes.
Ivan Provorov – Ryan Ellis
There’s a good chance that this top pair isn’t going anywhere any time soon.
Cam York – Rasmus Ristolainen
It’s no secret that Travis Sanheim signed a short-term deal last summer with the intention of the organization being able to move on from him if need be. Cam York is breathing down his neck as the next hot commodity on the blue line and ultimately, the second pair left defense spot is his to lose. Even though Ristolainen is on an expiring contract with the Flyers, there’s a good chance the Flyers bring him back. A top four right handed defenseman aren’t easy or cheap to come by, and with maybe the second best option on the market already in house, there’s a good chance he’ll return, much to the chagrin of a section of the fanbase.
Egor Zamula – Josh Manson
Zamula has been a bright star for the Phantoms this season and could look to make his jump to the NHL next season. Pairing him with a veteran like Josh Manson makes plenty of sense. Manson is a solid, stay-at-home, very physical defenseman. It’s be the best way to introduce Zamula to the NHL while adding a solid blue liner to the mix at the same time.
Carter Hart obviously isn’t going anywhere. He’s locked in for two more seasons at $3.9 million.
Sandstrom re-signed with the Flyers organization during the summer of 2021 after some confusion, but he has been great for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms during the early parts of the 2021-22 season, and could very well punch his ticket to an NHL backup gig next season. He’d have to re-sign again, probably less than a million as an untested NHL caliber goalie, so it won’t break the bank.
Notable losses– Travis Konecny, Travis Sanheim, James Van Riemsdyk, Scott Laughton, Martin Jones
At the end of the day, Travis Konency and Travis Sanheim are two of the best trade chips on the current roster. JVR, who is entering the last season of his contract, is a prime candidate for a buyout. Laughton does have four more seasons at a $3 million cap hit, but should be plenty attractive on the trade market for teams in need of a solid middle-six forward. Jones only signed for one season, and even though he has played much better than expected, they Flyers won’t have the luxury of dumping big money on a backup goaltender next year. It likely saves at least $1 million in cap space.
Working the cap– The key to the offseason will be working with entry-level deals and cheap in-house options to fill holes on the roster that may be opened via trade or other necessity. Egor Zamula and Cam York are both still on their ELC’s, Felix Sandstrom, Wade Allison and Morgan Frost will be on cheap deals, signing their first real NHL contracts.
It’ll be the main way to combat rising costs on the roster, as Couturier’s new deal kicks he’ll see a 3.5 million raise, and Farabee’s ELC is up and goes from $925,000 to $5 million. Those are numbers that will add an additional layer of impossibility to the possible upgrades this summer.
The major losses in Konecny, Sanheim, Van Riemsdyk and Laughton equal to $20.1 million dollars that would be coming off the books for next season. If JVR would get bought out, the Flyers would owe him $4.3 million next season and $1.3 million in 2023-24, compared to his $7 million cap hit for just next season, so that would take the available funds to $15.8 million. Their other option would be similar to Gostisbehere last season where they overpay one team to eat the full $7 million cap hit, it may sting a bit, but it’s their best option when it comes to the financial side.
The two biggest players left to re-sign in-house are Claude Giroux and Rasmus Ristolainen. Let’s say Giroux settles for three years at $5 million, which is more than $3 million less than his current deal and Ristolainen essentially re-signs for the same aav at $5.4 million. So the $20.1 million plus the addtion of the money the save from Giroux would take them to $24.4 million.
Realistically, though admittedly on the low side, potential contracts would look like- Hertl (7×7) Gaudreau (5x$6) Manson (3×3.5), not to mention Kane at 1x$10.5. That equates to $27 million.
The Blackhawks did something very similar to the Flyers last summer in trying to build a team for one last hurrah, but they ultimately haven’t been able to put the pieces together. The Flyers have an abundance of riches when it comes to trade chips. Whether the Hawks want picks or current NHL players, the Flyers could dance either way. Let’s assume they’d take a package featuring Travis Konency and Travis Sanheim. That’s $10.4 million from the Flyers, almost enough to cover the cost of Kane’s contract. The Flyers could also try and sweeten the pot and convince Chicago to eat at least part of that contract.
It’ll be a tight squeeze, but as noted, they also have Lindblom’s $3 million to deal away as well if they work themselves into a corner. They could also look into flipping Cam Atkinson and his $5.8 million cap hit if he ends up getting worked out of the top six.
Chuck Fletcher seemingly did the impossible last summer and gave the Flyers various new pieces. It was the biggest overhaul the Flyers saw since 2007. But he clearly isn’t done just yet. There are plenty of options for the Flyers to pursue in the offseason to give the team a pièce de résistance that will hopefully put them back in contention and potentially over the top. It’s just a matter of how much renovation the front office will feel necessary to finally put a good hockey team on the ice.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: espn.com / dailyfaceoff.com