In a summer when the unrestricted free agent market is fairly barren, the restricted free agent market is where the superstars are hiding. In today’s NHL offer sheets are fairly uncommon, unless of course you’re the Hurricanes or Canadiens tossing them around like petty school children. But trading for the rights of players without contracts is a relatively regular occurrence during the offseason, and it may be the best way for teams to cash in on potential star talent during an otherwise boring summer.
Number 10: Jesper Bratt
One of the best under-the-radar young players in the league is soon-to-be 24-year-old forward Jesper Bratt. He posted 26 goals and 73 points during the 2021-22 season. His name has surprisingly popped up on the trade rumor mill over the last week or so, and if the Devils would actually deal him, the Flyers should be interested. Unlike most of the random middle-six wingers on the current roster, Bratt would actually bring some offensive talent to the table and could emerge as a top guy to carry the team for the foreseeable future.
Number 9: Noah Dobson
Noah Dobson had a phenomenal season with the Islanders in 2021-22 where he recorded 13 goals and 51 points in 80 games, with 22 of those points coming on the man advantage. The Islanders have over $12 million in cap space this summer with a vast majority of their team already locked up, so trading 22-year-old Dobson probably is a pipe dream, but an offensively gifted right-handed defenseman is pretty high on the priority list for the Flyers. If negotiations go south, Chuck Fletcher needs to throw his hat in the Noah Dobson ring.
Number 8: Kevin Fiala
Now 26, Kevin Fiala has slowly but surely established himself as a top star, cementing that idea with a 33-goal, 85-point showing in 2021-22. Thanks to the cap hell the Wild have worked themselves into, they may have no choice but to trade Fiala. While any team should approach with caution, considering he rode shotgun with Kirill Kaprizov to, by far, the best season of his career, but 85 points for an offensively-starved team like the Flyers could be enticing for the right price.
Number 7: Kirby Dach
Kirby Dach, the 2019 third overall pick, has found his name in the rumor mill as the Blackhawks are prepared to sell off their entire roster for the right price. At just 21 years old, he has 152 games under his belt with 19 goals and 52 points in the process. A broken wrist sustained at the 2021 World Juniors has hampered his development, but there’s still plenty of potential there, provided the Blackhawks would be willing to real his rights at a reasonable price.
Number 6: Jesse Puljujarvi
14 goals and 36 points may be a career best for 24-year-old former fourth overall pick Jesse Puljujarvi, but it comes across as disappointing for a player in the Oilers’ impressive top six. Though there’s much more to his game than the scoring. He plays a proficient all-around game though admittedly can be bone-headed in the offensive zone. He’d be a risk if the Oilers asked for a king’s ransom in return, but as a cheap pickup and relatively cheap contract, he’d be a decent pair of hands for the middle six.
Number 5: Andrew Mangiapane
The Flames are going to have a busy summer retaining all of their stars, and if they manage to wrangle Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk, 26-year-old forward Andrew Mangiapane may be the cap casualty Calgary has to part with. He scored 35 goals and 55 points in 2021-22, but far new career bests in both categories. He is slightly older at 26 years old, but he continues to improve every season and there’s a good chance the best is yet to come for Mangiapane.
Number: 4: Pierre-Luc Dubois
Now that the Flyers have hired John Tortorella, pursuing Winnipeg Jets’ 24-year-old center Pierre-Luc Dubois may be less feasible considering they don’t exactly have a strong history together. Though in the seemingly endless pursuit of the Flyers hunting down a top center, if negotiations fall through with the Jets, the Flyers are going to at least check in on the 60-point center. Good luck convincing Dubois to actually sign, however.
Number 3: Brock Boeser
Brock Boeser has seemingly been on the trade rumor mill for years now, but as he has finally made it to the end of his current contract, the potential of dealing the 25-year-old’s rights is more likely. Vancouver’s cap situation isn’t great and that alone could force a trade. Historically Boeser has more success than most wingers in the Flyers’ roster, but he may not be that elite-level, game changing producer Philly craves. At this point finding upgrades to current players on the roster is just as important as hitting a home run.
Number 2: Patrik Laine
All eyes will be on Columbus and their negotiations with star forward Patrik Laine, who re-found his game in 2021-22, posting 26 goals and 56 points in 56 games. The Blue Jackets have notoriously struggled to retain their top-end talent, and Laine is still looking to find his right fit in the NHL, so it seems just as likely he’s on the move as it does he sticks around for at least another season. Reuniting Laine with Tortorella may not be the best chance for success for either party, but considering how innocuous the Flyers’ offense is, if Laine becomes available via trade, they may have to seriously consider it.
Number 1: Matthew Tkachuk
On the laundry list of things the Flames have to attend to this summer, re-signing 24-year-old Matthew Tkachuk highlights their priorities. There’s a good chance he asks for an obscene amount of money, that he is quite frankly worth. In the off chance Calgary deems his price to be too high and would rather keep pieces like Gaudreau and Mangiapane, the return they could ask for Tkachuk in a trade would be astronomical, but for a player that is as prototypical a Flyer as they come, overpaying in a trade could be well worth it for someone as well rounded as Tkachuk.
Best of the Rest-
Rumor has it Hurricanes defenseman Ethan Bear has already been given permission to seek a trade. He ended up playing further down the Carolina depth chart than he did with the Edmonton Oilers for the few seasons he was there, so it may be best for both parties to move on. The Flyers could really use a solid depth option on the right side and Bear has experience playing big minutes during his days as a Oiler. Could be a perfect relatively cheap option as an insurance move in case Ryan Ellis isn’t good to go.
One of the many pieces the Chicago Blackhawks may be willing to part with this summer is 25-year-old center Dylan Strome, who finally found his footing in the NHL during the back half of the 2021-22 season after failing to live up to his third overall pick status in 2015. For a team like the Flyers that are looking for a solid third line center on the cheap, Strome could be a decent fit in the role.
Even though Oloffson is on the older side at 27 years old, he still qualifies as a restricted free agent. He was played well on a bad Buffalo club, reaching the 20-goal mark for the second time in his career during 2021-22. He has also found success on the powerplay over the last few seasons, with 25 of his last 81 points coming on the man advantage. The Flyers really don’t need another middle-six winger, but if he can bring his powerplay skills to Philly, carving out a roster spot on an otherwise completely stale PP unit could be what sets him apart from the rest of the crowd.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: nhl.com