Predicting the 2023-24 Flyers Opening Night Roster

The 2022-23 Philadelphia Flyers’ season was expected to be a struggle. They were going to take their foot off the gas for a season to let new head coach John Tortorella instill his system in a young, very raw roster. While the organization has so far stuck to those plans, there are plenty of weaknesses being exposed in their ongoing renovation. Theoretically, the front office will take the finding from the season and go into the offseason guns a-blazing to address the major holes on the roster. While it’s up for debate whether Chuck Fletcher has the stomach to do what’s necessary in real life, the outline should be pretty clear moving forward.

Rolling with the assumption everyone under contract is healthy and ready to go on opening night in 2023, which is a major question in and of itself, here’s what the roster could look like to start the season.

Joel Farabee – Dylan Larkin – David Pastrnak

Adding high end talent is the name of the game, and there are few better ways to do it than snagging both Dylan Larkin and David Pastrnak in free agency. Larkin would provide the legitimate top center the team has lacked in the absence of Sean Couturier, and Pastrnak’s otherworldly offensive ability would be a welcome addition to a team that has been anemic in the goal scoring category for way too long. It would also be the first time they properly insulated 23-year-old forward Joel Farabee as well, theoretically pushing his game to the next level.

Noah Cates – Cutter Gauthier – Timo Meier

What better way to welcome fifth overall pick Cutter Gauthier to the NHL than giving him a top winger to play with as well as a play-driving workhorse like Noah Cates. Meier has experience on either wing, giving them flexibility if or when Tyson Foerster takes the next step in his development. Provided Gauthier makes a near flawless transition to the NHL, this has the potential to be a sneaky good second line at both ends of the ice.

Scott Laughton – Elliot Desnoyers – Tyson Foerster

So far, Desnoyers and Foerster have been attached at the hip in Lehigh Valley, spending time together at both five-on-five and on the same powerplay unit. That’s probably done for a reason and they may as well keep them together during their NHL transition. A line that should be more than solid in their own zone as well as possessing some potential serious offensive upside led by (potential future captain) Scott Laughton could be a good way for both youngsters to get their feet wet at the NHL level.

Nic Deslauriers – Sean Couturier – Wade Allison

Given Sean Couturier’s career seems to be hanging in the balance right now after a second back surgery in the same calendar year, who knows if he’ll even be healthy to start next season. We’ll assume he’ll be available in some form, but without a guarantee, he’ll placehold a fourth line spot as we await further answers. Meanwhile, Nic Deslauriers has been a very good addition to the bottom-six, despite a dumb contract, and Wade Allison has also shown some signs of early promise this season as well, but may once again be the odd man out with the abundance of wingers.

Ivan Provorov – Tony DeAngelo

While the rumors of Provorov’s future are still up in the air, there doesn’t appear to be a trade on the horizon, so he’ll return to the top pair with Tony D, who will enter the last year of his current deal.

Travis Sanheim – Rasmus Ristolainen

The duo collectively signed for the rest of time are still stinkin’ up the joint on the second pair.

Egor Zamula – Ronnie Attard

Zamula is getting his feet wet in the NHL in 2022-23, and Attard is doing well in the AHL. They could very well be the third pair for the foreseeable future with much of the top four above them locked in long term.

Carter Hart

Carter Hart isn’t going anywhere, though he’ll be entering the last year of his current contract in 2023-24.

Felix Sandstrom

It’s possible Sam Ersson snags the backup role, but until that actually happens, Sandstrom is the number two goaltender on the roster.

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Notable losses– Kevin Hayes, Owen Tippett, Travis Konecny, Cam Atkinson

Hayes- If the Flyers truly want to overhaul their center depth, Hayes and his $7.1 million cap hit for three more season are going to have to be dealt with. He does have a modified no-trade clause, which boils down to a 12-team no trade list. He’s been on a point-per-game pace so far in 2022-23, but whether he has a positive or negative trade value by season’s end will be an interesting development. Either way, with both Larkin in tow and the kids picking up the slack in the middle-six, Hayes becomes the odd man out down the middle, and clearing his $7.1 million cap hit, however painful it may be, is the biggest domino to fall this summer.

Tippett- Tippett has one year left at $1.5 million, which isn’t make or break money, but if he isn’t standing above the crowd this season, it’s extra money that can be better utilized. With an abundance of wingers, both new additions and young up-and-comers, there just isn’t a carved out spot for the 24-year-old. He should be relatively easy to part with in a trade, even if it’s just for a random mid-round pick.

Konecny- Travis Konecny is (so far) in the middle of a career renaissance during 2022-23, and his future on the team is among the toughest decisions to be made. Since they re-signed Travis Sanheim, they don’t really have any players to ship out at the trade deadline for extra picks in the upcoming 2023 draft they claim to like so much, so selling high on Teeks, however unpopular that is to the fans, may actually be the right move. He has a $5.5 million cap hit for the next two seasons, which isn’t necessarily a crippling number, but thanks to Chuck Fletcher’s incompetence when it comes to handing out contracts, Konecny’s is one of the few that could be moveable during the 2023 offseason.

Atkinson- Cam is the latest Flyer to fall into the injury abyss with no real explanation or return date as of this writing. Provided he returns at some point during the season, clearing the remaining two years of his $5.8 million cap hit should be crucial. At 33 years old, the biggest asset he brought to the table was his relationship with Tortorella, which they’re currently navigating without anyway. With Ryan Ellis already retired and Coututier’s future murky, the Flyers just can’t carry three players in LTIR for years and years to come, so they’re going to have to ditch someone in the desert this offseason to create a bit of breathing room financially for all the other retirement home patients on the roster and Atkinson’s deal is the easiest to swallow of the three.

Notable additions– Dylan Larkin, David Pastrnak, Timo Meier

Larkin- The Flyers desperately need a legitimate top center and if Larkin makes it to free agency, there is no expense the Flyers should spare to sign him. He’ll turn 27 in July and he’s got 153 goals and 371 points in 514 NHL contests. He’ll be far and away the best center to hit the market and plenty of teams will have interest in signing the Michigan native. He’ll undoubtedly get max term at seven years and a cap hit close to $10 millon. It’s huge gamble, especially for a team that has so many internal long contracts already, but it’s the price the Flyers are going to have to pay in order to address a position they’ve willingly ignored for years.

Pastrnak- The biggest takeaway from the Flyers’ 2022-23 campaign is the lack of offensive talent, and Pastrnak, who will turn 27 in the spring, will be the best bang for their buck, especially when it comes to age. Other similar options like Patrick Kane and Vladimir Tarasenko are well into their 30s. Much like Larkin, Pasrtnak isn’t going to come cheap. He will also more than likely clock in at a seven-year, $10 million AAV, but with 248 goals and 523 points in 521 NHL games, that is exactly the kind of consistent, explosive offense the Flyers are begging for.

Meier- The 26-year-old forward will be a restricted free agent at the end of the season, meaning he could be a huge trade chip for the San Jose Sharks ahead of the 2023 draft. He’s currently making $6 million a season and is coming off a 35-goal, 76-point season. Considering the excess of potential riches the Flyers possess when it comes to potential trades, it’s very possible they could craft a package without giving up their 2023 first round pick. Say, one of their 2024 first round picks, defenseman Cam York, goalie Felix Sandstrom and the rights to Morgan Frost? Does that get the deal done? Potentially. And they still have extra pieces to add if need be. It puts some extra assets the Flyers have to good use, and actually secures a top talent under team control, versus Larkin and Pastrnak, who are both exposed to the wild west of NHL free agency.

Likeliness-

there’s two takeaways early in the 2022-23 season, its that this team lacks any serious offensive talent and has piss poor center depth. Addressing those should be the priority moving forward. The entire point of the season is to see who can hang and who isn’t cut out to wear the orange and black. Theoretically, the Flyers should be willing to part ways with players who don’t fit and not be afraid to add some serious talent next summer to give the team a proper jump start into a competitive era.

The Flyers have all members of their defense under contract, or at least under team control as restricted free agents in the case of Egor Zamula and Ronnie Attard, as well as both of their goaltenders and a bulk of their forwards. If anything it will be about shedding salary to make moves rather than worrying about re-signing their own players.

The Flyers current center depth is pitiful and is going to need a serious overhaul, especially without knowing the exact fate of Sean Couturier just yet. Luckily, the reinforcements from within are likely to make their NHL debuts in rookies Cutter Gauthier and Elliot Desnoyers, so it should ease the burden down the middle a bit provided both are ready and capable of hanging in the NHL. Utilizing two young players on entry-level deals will make the Larkin contract much easier to handle in the short term until the salary cap rises.

Adding two top wingers may seem like overkill given the abundance of bodies currently within the organization, but it doesn’t appear as though any of the current crop of players is going to develop into real superstars, though that could change as the season goes on. Tyson Foerster is probably their best bet, but considering he hasn’t played in the NHL as of this writing, who knows what he ultimately becomes yet.

Adding Pasrtnak and Meier not only brings their individual elite games to the table, but they can enhance the play of the other forwards as well. Gauthier, Foerster, Cates and Farabee lining up alongside megastars will significantly increase their chances of playing better than it would throwing them out on the ice with almost no NHL-caliber talent and struggling through the early parts of their careers. It’s a path the Flyers have opted to take in 2022-23 and the results so far have been less than desirable, so hopefully the front office will learn their lesson and not be so tight with their pocketbooks next summer.

Working the cap-

Even with three big money additions, the cap works out provided they clear the necessary vets on the roster. There is even enough to carry a 13th forward and potentially a seventh defenseman as well as accounting for Oskar Lindblom’s $666,667 buyout. With this set to be the last year of the flat cap era, and the ceiling expected to rise tremendously over the next three seasons, it may be a tight fit right now, but these bigger money deals will become easier to swallow as time goes on.

Provided the Flyers clean their hands of Atkinson, Hayes, Konecny and Tippett, that clears a hair over $20 million, which by itself takes care of Larkin and Pastrnak, who clock in at $10 million a piece.

Utilizing the entry-level deals of Foerster, Gauthier and Desnoyers, as well as the cheap pending restricted free agents like Cates, Zamula and Attard overall save a significant amount of money off the Flyers’ bottom line.

The Flyers have $22.3 million invested in the forwards before making any additions, with Larkin, Pastrnak and Meier collectively adding $28.5 million, bringing their total to $50.8 million. The defense and goaltending are already locked up and undergoing no major changes so their $29.75 million stays stable.

This also isn’t taking into consideration a potential rise in the salary cap. The original prediction was another $1 million increase, which is the number utilized for their purpose of this piece, but there are rumors it could rise as much as $4.5 million, which would bring the salary cap up to $87 million if all goes well, creating even more breathing room for teams across the league, and especially the Flyers, who love to spend every dollar at their disposal.

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By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)

photo credit: espn.com

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