A Way Too Early Look at 2023 NHL Free Agency

Every Flyers fan is eager for big change after yet another massively disappointing season, though the team stares into an empty abyss looking for answers during the 2022 offseason. The free agent market is about as deep as a kiddie pool, and so far the trade market has yet to seem overly enticing either. Rather than throw a Hail Mary to a player that may not deserve big money or a long-term contract this summer, why not just wait until 2023 when things seem much better?Asking the Flyers to patiently wait and spin their tires in the muck they’re currently stuck in for one more season won’t be fun, but it may be worth it.

Obviously, not everyone will make it to free agency next season, but the potential pool of unsigned players is relatively deep.

Center

Ryan O’Reilly

St. Louis Blues’ captian Ryan O’Reilly is about as close to photographic point replication as you can get. He constantly hovers around 20-25 goals and 55-65 points while being one of the top two-way forwards in the game today. Now 31, he may be closing in on the end of his prime years, but considering the Flyers love themselves an older, two-way center, if he makes it to free agency next summer, fully expect Philly to be a rumored destination.

Dylan Larkin

When talking about the most underrated players in the league today, Red Wings’ center Dylan Larkin is pretty high on that list. He’ll turn 27 soon after the 2023 free agent market opens, which is quite a bit older than the rest of the Red Wings core. With a team full of young, up-and-coming stars that will need to be paid sooner or later, can they afford to keep their captain around? Time will tell, but if they end up moving on from him, the Flyers, who are in desperate need of an offensively dynamic center, should be first in line for his services.

Nathan MacKinnon

If there’s one guy on the entire list that will almost assuredly re-sign, it’s MacKinnon. The Avs do have quite a bit of money coming off the books during the next two seasons, but it’s also safe to assume MacKinnon will look for a healthy pay rise from his current $6.3 cap hit. He’ll turn 28 shortly before the start of the 2023-24 season. It’s a cool thought to have, but maybe it’s best to not pencil MacKinnon into the Flyers’ starting lineup just yet.

JT Miller

JT Miller quietly put up a 99-point season in 2021-22 and has been one of the more under-the-radar players in the league for quite some time now. His output next season will go a long way to determine what kind of cap dollar he will command, but he’d be a sneaky good addition down the middle, especially if a team doesn’t have to break the bank to get him, like some other more commercially successful players.

Bo Horvat

Another Vancouver center may hit the market in 27-year-old (28 at the time of 2023 free agency) Canucks captain Bo Horvat, who just keeps getting better. He posted 31 goals during 2021-22, which was a new career high, and broke the 50-point plateau for the fourth time in his career. With the Canucks in a very similar sticky situation to the Flyers, there’s a chance they could go in a different direction, ultimately moving on from Horvat.

Sean Monahan

Sean Monahan isn’t quite the player he once was, but for a team in as desperate need for center depth as the Flyers, maybe considering signing him isn’t off the table. He underwent hip surgery late in the 2021-22 season, so how he rebounds during the 2022-23 season will ultimately determine what kind of value he has during the 2023 offseason. When he was at his peak he was regularly scoring 30 goals and 60 points.

Wingers

Patrick Kane

One of the greatest players of our generation is about to become a free agent in the summer of 2022. After signing a gargantuan eight-year, $84 million contract in 2014 with the Blackhawks, he delivered the city three Stanley Cups total and now that that chapter of their history is coming to an end, he may be on the move to capitalize on the last few years of his career. He’s still posting close to 100 points every season and has so far seems immune to the hands of time. He won’t be cheap, but righting the wrong from the 2007 draft may finally be in the cards for the Flyers.

David Pastrnak

As the Bruins’ future remains in limbo heading into the 2022 offseason, all eyes are on their star forward and his expiring contract in 2023. With 240 goals and 504 points in 510 NHL games, his incredible offensive production would be a massive get for any team. Considering he’s one of the biggest Flyers-killers in the league today, having him on the team instead of against them would pay for itself.

Jonathan Huberdeau

Huberdeau has 613 points in 671 NHL games, all spent with the Florida Panthers. He’s coming off a 30-goal, 115 point season in 2021-22 and will need a new contract in 2023. There’s no way the Panthers are eager to let him walk, but their cap situation in the near future isn’t pretty. They’ll probably do whatever it takes to re-sign him, but if not, he’ll be a huge ticket item during free agency.

Max Pacioretty

Even though Patches may be on the move during the 2022 offseason as Vegas attempts to clear some cap space, his current contract ends in 2023. He turns 34 in November and, when healthy, can still produce around a point-per-game clip. He’s only played two full seasons in the last eight years, but for the most part is still pays in three-fourths of the games on the schedule. He’d be a risk all things considered, but if the deal is cheap enough, he could easily be worth the gamble.

Timo Meier

The 2015 ninth overall pick has quietly been red hot in San Jose this season, racking up 35 goals and 76 points in 77 games. It was new personal highs in both categories and the second time he’s hit the 30-goal mark in his career. At just 26 years old, there’s a good chance the best has yet to come for Meier, and considering how messy San Jose’s cap situation is, they may have no choice but to move on from him next summer.

Vladimir Tarasenko

It seemed like a sure thing that Tarasenko would leave St. Louis either at the Seattle expansion draft or during the 2021 offseason, there were even rumors the Flyers kicked tires on the 30-year-old. A series of shoulder surgeries scared off any buyers, but considering he put up 34 goals and 82 points in 77 games during the 2021-22 campaign, he put to bed any rumors of his early demise. He’s got one year left on his current deal with a $7.5 million cap hit.

Tyler Bertuzzi

Bertuzzi has always been a player that isn’t afraid to put his money where his mouth is, and his on-ice production speaks for itself. He recorded 30 goals and 62 points in 68 games during the 2021-22 season. He’ll turn 28 late in the 2022-23 campaign, setting himself up nicely for a big contract, either from the Red Wings or the hordes of teams that will enter a bidding war for his talent.

Defense

Matt Dumba

If Matt Dumba makes it to free agency next summer and Chuck Fletcher is still general manager, expect there to be a good shot at a reunion between the two. Dumba will turn 29 shortly after 2023 free agency opens and is a right-handed defenseman, something the Flyers could really use, especially as Ryan Ellis’ health comes into clearer focus next season.

Damon Severson

Severson’s name popped up during the 2022 trade deadline, and while he ultimately stayed put in New Jersey, it calls into question juts how committed the Devils are to keeping him around. He was a big part of the penalty kill for the Devils, an era the Flyers really struggled for much of the past decade, and as a RHD, could be a much needed addition to the Flyers if he makes it to free agency. He’ll be 28 at the time 2023 free agency opens.

Dmitri Orlov

Orlov will turn 30 juts days after the 2023 free agency market opens. He has spent his entire 12 year career with the Capitals organization, and posted a career year points wise during 2021-22 with 12 goals and 35 points. The age may scare teams off, but he’s a solid pair of hands that you’ll know exactly what to expect from every night. The Flyers have had success in the past bringing in a veteran defenseman from the Capitals.

Erik Johnson

At 35 years old, Colorado defenseman Erik Johnson isn’t quite the minute muncher he once was, but if he’s looking to drag out his NHL career beyond next season, he could be a valuable piece as the veteran depth defenseman on a team of relatively young players.

Shayne Gostisbehere

A reunion between Ghost and the Flyers seems unlikely, but if the Flyers continue to struggle on the powerplay, maybe the organization tries to mend some bridges. Gostisbehere registered 14 goals and 51 points during his first season with the Coyotes, his best offensive output since the 2017-18 season. He’ll be 30 years old in 2023.

Goaltending

Jonathan Quick

Quick has turned back the clock during the 2021-22 season posting a respectable 2.59 goals against average and .910 save percentage. He’ll turn 37 early in 2023 and may not have much skid left on the tires, but could serve as a respectable backup for a team in need of one.

Frederik Andersen

Andersen has been lights out since his arrival to Carolina last season with a dazzling 2.17 goals against average and .922 save percentage. If he posts similar numbers next season for Carolina, expect the then-33-year-old to make a decent raise from his current $4.5 million cap hit.

Alex Nedeljkovic

Nedeljkovic’s shiny 1.90 GAA and .932 SV% during the 2020-21 season in Carolina didn’t get replicated during this season’s stint with the still rebuilding Red Wings, but at just 26 years old, there’s plenty of time left to get back to those numbers.

Mackenzie Blackwood

In the ultimate twist of fate, wouldn’t it be fun to watch Mackenzie Blackwood backup Carter Hart? The battle between Hart and Blackwood arose from the respective hype they each had upon entering the league, and the rival fanbases made it a competition. So far, Hart has had the upper hand in the battle, mainly thanks to repeated injuires that have limited Blackwood to just 130 games in the last four seasons. Is it unlikely? Yes. Is it some kind of poetic justice? Also yes.

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By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)

photo credit: nhl.com

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