The Philadelphia Flyers’ roster is stuck between generations. They’re still trying to find their way after Claude Giroux’s departure while some of their top prospects continue to develop. While there aren’t many positions in the system that are overflowing with talent, their depth at right wing is an exception to that rule.
There was a rather long entry in the Brotherly Puck State of the Union before the 2022-23 season started about the logjam at right wing. It was a problem that ultimately never materialized due to Cam Atkinson missing the entire season with an injury and subsequent surgery as well as Tyson Foerster spending the campaign with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms in the name of development. While that bullet was temporarily avoided, it is going to bubble up once again for the 2023-24 season if no substantial changes are made during the 2023 offseason.
Currently, they’ve got Travis Konecny, Cam Atkinson, Owen Tippett, Wade Allison, Tyson Foerster, Bobby Brink and Joel Farabee who will all battle for the potential to slot in at right wing next season. That’s seven players playing a game of on-ice musical chairs to squeeze into just four open positions. Even of Farabee remains mainly on the left wing, that still leaves a bit of a mess the Flyers are going to have to address.
It breaks down into the two grizzled veterans in Konecny and Atkinson, the young guys with experience in Tippett and Allison, and two top prospects in Foerster and Brink. It’ll be up to the front office and coaching staff to decide exactly what direction they choose to take the team next season and who ultimately get the top four right wing spots.
We’ve recently looked into the possibility of trading Travis Konecny as not only is he their best trade chip to potentially fix a hole elsewhere in the lineup, but do they deal their top scorer after the best season of his career? It’s all about whether or not they believe this is the real version of Konecny that can be replicated for the next few years of his contract, or whether they look back on the previous seven seasons of his career and realize this season is an anomaly and look to cash out high on his personal-best year.
On a recent episode of Brotherly Pod, the discussion of potentially buying out Cam Atkinson during the 2023 offseason popped up. Rumors were swirling earlier in the season of a potential buyout of Kevin Hayes, but the numbers were so ugly that it was inconceivable the Flyers would even entertain going down that path, but a potential Atkinson buyout is much more palpable in both the near and distant future.
Atkinson has two years remaining on his current contract at a $5.8 million cap hit. In the graphic below, courtesy of CapFriendly’s buyout calculator, the Flyers would save over $3.5 million for the next two seasons and only be in the hook for $1.7 million for two additional seasons. That $3.5 million in savings would be a welcome sight this summer as the team is going to need every available dollar to upgrade the roster and hopefully by 2025 the league-wide salary cap actually increases enough where $1.7 is a negligible number.
There has been a positive of the Flyers dealing with some injuries and demotions this season and that’s the two players left on the roster have had an opportunity to shine and prove their value to the team moving forward. Owen Tippett and Wade Allison have both played very well with Tippett mainly in the top six and Allison patrolling the bottom six. They were able to establish themselves and make it difficult for the team to easily discard them if Atkinson were to show up healthy or someone get recalled from the Phantoms.
Speaking of the Phantoms, the Flyers have opted to let Foerster marinate in the AHL all season long after he missed a majority of last season after undergoing shoulder surgery. He has played well in Lehigh as he gets his bearing for the professional level. As of this writing he’s currently tied for the team lead in goals with 17 and has 33 points in 47 games.
Bobby Brink has also returned from on an offseason hip surgery and has played very well in his small sample size with the Phantoms racking up 14 points in 16 games since his early-January debut. He had four assists in 10 NHL games to close out the 2021-22 season as well.
Removing Atkinson and Konecny via buyout and trade respectively not only opens up $9 million in cap to spend on a free agent and gives the Flyers a solid trade chip, but it opens the door for the youth to claim all four right wing spots.
Rolling with Tippett, Foerster, Brink and Allison as the start four at right wing is not only flaunting their youth but it makes sense in terms of depth as well. Tippett, Foerster and Brink should be able to handle any of the top three spots and Allison has proven capable to hold down the fourth line this season. It does lack a bit of veteran presence to default to if someone can’t hold their spot, but if they add talent down the middle or on the left, it will more than make up for it on the right.
The Flyers are going to have to figure things out at right wing during the offseason, with the fates of Travis Konecny and Cam Atkinson two of the bigger storylines going into the summer. They’ve got more than enough fire power to naturally replace them, with three of the four remaining bodies 23 year old or younger. It may lead to a bit of a learning curve from the kids, but it also sets the position up for sustained success for years to come, and the Flyers having anything resembling a sturdy, locked down position on the roster should be considered a big victory these days when nothing ever seems constant with this franchise.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: nhl.com / mbcsports.com