The Philadelphia Flyers did something very interesting during the 2022 offseason- nothing. They hired a new head coach in John Tortorella but refused to make any significant roster upgrades after promising an “aggressive retool” before the summer began. Even though it can be argued taking a year off to assess the state of the franchise was the right move for a team so far off the rails like the Flyers have been the last few years, the on-ice product has been far more promising than they expected and fans can’t help but focus on the hindsight of the past offseason.
There are now renewed hopes for a playoff run for the Flyers after winning 10 of their last 14 and sitting less than double digits away from snagging the second wild card spot. Of their 28 total defeats, 11 have come via one-goal games. It makes you wonder whether things would be different for the Flyers this season if the front office didn’t back away from adding talent during the 2022 offseason.
Johnny Gaudreau was the big fish the Flyers were tied to leading up to free agency because of his South Jersey roots, and Chuck Fletcher stunned everyone when he refused to pursue the 29-year-old forward who was coming off a 115-point season with the Calgary Flames. He instead signed with the Columbus Blue Jackets, who have been ravaged by injuries this season. Nevertheless, Gaudreau has posted 13 goals and 44 points in 46 games, which would be third in goals and second in points on the Flyers currently.
His seven-year, $68 million contract is ultimately what kept the Flyers away, considering they didn’t have the free cap in the short or long term to sign him without making substantial roster moves elsewhere. They just couldn’t manipulate the cap easy enough for his signing to make sense, but they didn’t have to find their new star via the free agent pool.
Alex DeBrincat, the 24-year-old winger was traded out of Chicago during the 2022 offseason having already hit the 40-goal plateau twice in his career, could’ve been another option.
There were rumors of the king’s ransom the Blackhawks were looking for in return, but they ended up settling on a trade with the Ottawa Senators for a 2022 first round pick (7th overall), a 2022 second round pick (39th overall) and a 2024 third round pick. While that may seem like a steep asking price, the Flyers gave up a similar package (2022 4th, 2023 3rd, 2024 2nd) for Tony DeAngelo the following day, and punted the ball in drafting Cutter Gauthier fifth overall.
The Flyers opting to keep the hopes and dreams alive that one day Gauthier becomes half as good as DeBrincat is right now. Was it worth the gamble in the long run? Time will tell, but for a team desperate for a high-end offensive player, it is a major gamble to pass up on young proven talent in favor of prospects. DeBrincat has 15 goals and 39 points in 44 games with the Senators.
There were other players available weren’t quite so high risk, and one of them slipped right away right under the Flyers’ nose.
Dylan Strome, the 25-year-old former third overall pick who was bought out by the Blackhawks despite having a career year in 2021-22, would’ve been a great fit for the Flyers, as a young, up-and-coming center with a high ceiling was atop their wish list.
Instead, he signed a one-year deal with the Capitals where he currently has 11 goals and 35 points in 48 games and is serving as their top center. It’s arguably the most frustrating miss of the offseason as they instead opted to sign depth winger Nic Deslauriers when they already had Zack MacEwen on the roster who serves more or less the same purpose.
The 2022 offseason brewed quite a bit of controversy, and hindsight really hasn’t done the Flyers any favors. The addition of John Tortorella did enough to right the ship that it killed off any hopes of a tank they had.
Though that’s just the Flyers’ way. Too good to fail, no where near good enough to succeed.
One or two of those key additions and the Flyers could’ve very well been a playoff team this season. But they’re just too under equipped to make a serious postseason run this year because of Fletcher’s hesitancy.Unfortunately, they can’t rewind time for the general manager to find some scrotal strength and make a run at Gaudreau, but it paints an even more interesting picture for 2023, where things are looking to, on the surface, be very similar to where they stood in 2022. Do they learn their lesson and pursue a big fish or two this coming summer? I guess we’ll wait and see whether or not the franchise learned their lesson.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: nhl.com