Now that the end of the atrocious 2021-22 season is finally on the horizon, the planning for a busy summer can commence. The winds of change will be blowing and general manager Chuck Fletcher has to spare no expense when it comes to giving his roster a desperately needed overhaul. The Flyers are missing some serious star caliber players in key positions, and whether or not those holes are addressed properly or not will ultimately determine the fate of the 2022-23 season.
Rolling with the assumption everyone under contract is healthy and ready to go on opening night in 2022, which is a major question in and of itself, here’s what the roster could look like to start the season.
Johnny Gaudreau – Dylan Larkin – Alex DeBrincat
The rebuilt top line consists of one free agent signing and two massive trades. Larkin is the dynamic center the team desperately needs, DeBrincat is the pure goalscorer, and Gaudreau is the top playmaker to tie the three together. It’s the caliber of moves that need to be made to give the Flyers a fighting chance next season.
Joel Farabee – Sean Couturier – Cam Atkinson
The second line consists of the best Flyers still on the roster from this current team. The talent gets put together, but dropped to the second line to better utilize the pair of 30-year-olds, and it keeps Farabee and Atkinson together, who have had decent chemistry all season. Farabee can be the swing for the top line if or when necessary.
Scott Laughton – Dylan Strome – Wade Allison
Laughton has had a breakout season in 2021 and will probably return to his patrol on the third line. Allison finally makes his fully healthy jump to the NHL. The new 3C is Dylan Strome, whose rights were acquired in the DeBrincat trade, can add a layer of versatility and offensive potential. He and Laughton can split the center duties as needed, but it’s a solid combination of scoring, energy and physicality.
Owen Tippett- Tanner Laczynski – Zack MacEwen
Owen Tippett starts out on a bottom line role and an increase of ice time will be up to him, Zack MacEwen is the perfect depth guy and will re-sign with the team, and Tanner Laczynski, who had surgery on both hips and is playing well in the AHL since making his comeback, returns to the NHL lineup. They can be easily swapped out with other fringe-NHL players if need be.
Ivan Provorov – Ryan Ellis
The top defense pair probably isn’t going anywhere. It’s just a matter of is Ellis is healthy and Provorov can re-find his game.
Cam York – Rasmus Ristolainen
It’s only a matter time before Cam York shows up and steals a full-time spot in the NHL, and with Ristolainen locked up, it may be their second pair for the foreseeable future.
Egor Zamula – Josh Manson
Zamula may not be NHL just ready just yet, but his entry-level deal is enticing and a learn-on-the-fly approach with veteran Josh Manson would be just as worthwhile as another season in the AHL. Manson also provides the flexibility on the right side in case Ellis misses time.
Carter Hart is obviously still the starter in Philly.
Sandstrom has emerged as the top prospect in the Flyers’ goalie system after cutting his teeth in the AHL for the last few seasons. He can probably be had at a cheap $1 million cap hit for a season or two. It beats signing yet another washed up veteran for $2 million.
Notable losses- Travis Konecny, Travis Sanheim, James Van Riemsdyk, Kevin Hayes, Martin Jones, Oskar Lindblom, Morgan Frost
The Flyers need an overhaul and that’s exactly what they’re going to get. Some players will be huge trade chips to acquire new blood and others will have to be moved to clear the proper cap space.
Martin Jones leaves in free agency. James Van Riemsdyk gets the Shayne Gostisbehere treatment and dumped for nothing to clear the last year of his $7 million contract off the books. Lindblom becomes a cap causality as they simply can’t spend $3 million on a depth winger, and Frost’s restricted free agent status means they can deal his rights as a throw-in in a bigger trade.
Konency and Sanheim represent your two biggest trade chips. The guys that will highlight any blockbuster deals made. A healthy Kevin Hayes should pique some interests around the league as well, though at a $7.1 cap hit it probably won’t be for any kind of worthwhile haul.
Notable additions- Johnny Gaudreau, Alex Debrincat, Dylan Strome, Dylan Larkin, Josh Manson
Larkin- Assuming the Red Wings are still dangling Larkin, the Flyers need to be all in on the 25-year-old. If Detroit is looking to stay on the young side, but inject some players that are already staples in the NHL, the Flyers should have no problem crafting a deal to their liking. In this scenario, the trade would be Larkin for Travis Sanheim, Travis Konecny and Morgan Frost. They get a top left-handed defenseman, a decent NHL winger, and a NHL-caliber center prospect that better fits the timeline of the rebuilding-but-not-quite-ready-Red Wings than he would in Philadelphia.
Debrincat/Strome- While a trade with Detroit would be aimed at winning now, a deal with Chicago can be crafted aiming at building the future. The Flyers give up their 2022 first round pick, which will undoubtedly be in the top 10. Oskar Lindblom would need to be thrown in to help the money work. From there, it’s about draining the prospect pool. Samu Tuomaala and Elliot Desnoyers come to mind, a 2024 first round pick can be thrown in as well. If they want more, the Flyers have to meet their requests. There really isn’t any prospect in the system worth hanging on to that hinders them from landing a 40-goal scorer.
The Flyers should snag Dylan Strome’s rights in this deal as well. Strome, a former third overall pick in 2015, has struggled at the NHL level for the six and a half years of his career, but has exploded for 17 goals and 36 points since the calendar flipped to 2022. As an RFA, it comes down to what his next contract will look like, and whether or not his production carries over to next season. The Flyers would take on that risk in search of a real solution at 3C.
Ditching Hayes- Kevin Hayes still has value, especially to a team looking for center depth. His hometown Boston Bruins may need a bit of help down the middle, a team he’d probably waive his no-trade clause for. Charge them a 2022 second round pick and a 2023 third round pick to eat the remainder of his cap and call it a day.
Ditching JVR- That second and third rounder you just got from trading Hayes, use them to package with JVR to Arizona. Clearing over $14 million through two trades in which all they lose is two 30-year-olds on ugly contracts and some draft picks that weren’t theirs to begin with sounds like a good deal.
Gaudreau in FA- If Calgary lets Gaudreau get to free agency, there’s no doubt the Flyers will do their due diligence on the South Jersey native. Coming off a 100-point season means his next contract won’t be cheap, but given the moves elsewhere in the lineup, offering him $9 million a season is within the realm of possibility.
Manson in FA- Manson getting shipped off to Colorado from Anaheim at the trade deadline more than likely means he’ll get to the free agent market in the offseason, and the Flyers should be all over this guy. Not only does he play prototypical Flyers hockey, he can play up and down the defense, making him an ideal addition in case Ryan Ellis is unable to play.
Is this fantasy? Obviously. Is it also not only within the realm of possibility but also the caliber of moves the Flyers need to make in order to ice a serious roster next season? Yes. Since Dave Scott has made it clear that the Flyers are not rebuilding, they simply can spare no expense to make gigantic trades. They can’t be afraid to trade any draft picks, prospects or main roster players. As highlighted by the Larkin and DeBrincat deals, they’ve got about two blockbuster trades worth of legitimate pieces, even though it just about completely drains the entire development system of assets.
Luckily for the Flyers, they have pieces like Wade Allison, Tanner Laczynski, Egor Zamula and Cam York at their disposal to use to fill holes cheaply, but still solidly.
Clearing cap from the current roster is the name of the game first and foremost. It’s the biggest advantage to finding major trades in the first place. Then, as laid out above, if done well enough, they will have enough cap space to land a big fish like Johnny Gaudreau and even a worthwhile depth right-handed defenseman.
Working the cap–
Believe it or not, this roster is totally cap compliant. Every cap hit is rounded up to the nearest hundred thousand if their contract has an uneven dollar amount. The NHL salary cap will be $82.5 million. There’s even $3.4 million left over to carry an extra player or two.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: espn.com