With the 2021-22 season coming to a close, next year is in the minds of many fans of the Flyers. One major question mark is what the defense will look like. Provorov has fallen out of favor with a lot of the fanbase, and Sanheim is playing well again. Youngsters are starting to infiltrate the top-six in the organization in Cam York and possibly Ronnie Attard. On top of this, the return of Ryan Ellis is highly anticipated. So, what could the defense look like next year?
This option is to do nothing but let Nick Seeler, Keith Yandle, and Kevin Connautonn walk. If this is all the Flyers do and Chuck wants to see what his top six can do then a possible opening night roster could have a D-core looking like this, assuming everything goes right this offseason and there are no injuries:
If Provorov finds his footing again, and he seems to be getting somewhat back to the Provorov we know later this season, and Sanheim continues his strong play with Ristolainen, along with York continuing his development then we could have a strong left side. On the right side, a healthy Ellis is a big win for the Flyers. Risto continuing his steady play with Sanheim would be a plus as well, and Attard could be a solid replacement for Braun on the bottom pair, although he has only played a handful of NHL games as of the time of writing. Probably my biggest gripe with this is the third pair being so young and both being more offensive-minded defensemen.
This option is trading Ivan Provorov. Provorov was once heralded as the Flyers’ next number one defenseman and a possible Norris Trophy candidate. Lately, he has fallen out of favor with Flyers fans, but maybe he’s highly sought after by other NHL GMs. With Sanheim’s play this season getting better coinciding with his partnering with Ristolainen, this could lead to York getting trust from the Flyers’ front office to get those top-line minutes with Ryan Ellis, especially with his potential. This could lead to Zamula getting a permanent spot in the top 6 or getting a veteran to play left side with Attard. This could lead to an opening night roster looking like:
An alternative to option 2 is that the Flyers trade Travis Sanheim. After a couple seasons with poor play, he seems to have gotten his footing back in the NHL. Sanheim is due for a new contract after next season and is a UFA. This could be a more intriguing option as his value is a lot higher now than it was at the beginning of the season and Sanheim will most likely get a raise after next season, which could be a problem with the cap most likely not rising until the following season. This would result in a D lineup just like the previous one, but York replacing Sanheim and not Provorov which would look like:
This one is the option for Attard not being seen as NHL ready quite yet. The left side could be the same as the first option, but they could go after a third pairing RD, but the fact of the matter is that it’s a lot harder to get an RHD than an LHD. The big RHD UFAs won’t sign since we probably won’t have the money and have Ellis and Ristolainen as our top two RHD, that would leave a field consisting of guys like Nick Leddy, Anton Stralman, Collin Miller, Justin Schultz, and Connor Murphy. That would make a lineup look like this:
This could also be a weird offseason that sees one of Provorov or Sanheim be traded and maybe Attard isn’t viewed as NHL ready quite yet and we get a lineup that has 2 question marks on the bottom pair. This could result in a lineup on opening night of:
The one thing that seems most likely is that the top four will consist of some mix of Provorov, Sanheim, Ellis, York, and Ristolainen. Of course, we don’t know exactly what will happen this offseason so anything can really happen.
As for a seventh defenseman, Sam Morin could be the odd man out if he’s able to play next season. Zamula probably isn’t just left to sit in the press box, nor is Attard likely to that fate. Zamula and Attard will most likely play in the NHL on the bottom pair or play minutes in the AHL. Other seventh D-men options could be pretty much any fringe NHL defenseman.
By Noah Caplan (@Phlyers24)