Worst Case Scenarios for the Flyers’ 2023 Offseason

It feels like the last few offseasons for the Philadelphia Flyers have been filed under the “critical” category, and year after year the team swings and misses big time which sets up a regular season of disappointment and a postseason on a beach in Maui because they weren’t good enough to actually qualify for the playoffs.

With the Flyers taking their foot off the pedal slightly in 2022-23 in favor of a “stabilization” year, that goal seems to have more or less been met already. Most of the younger players on the roster have stepped up and, while maybe not hitting their overall ceiling, have topped out on the current version of the roster and a few veterans have had renaissance seasons. Through all that, the team is still on pace to miss the playoffs for the third consecutive year for the first time since 1992.

The slight improvements should signal to the front office that it’s time to go big game hunting during the summer and properly insulate this team and actually get out of the pit they’ve been spinning their tires in for years now. While there are opportunities for the luck to break in their favor in terms of free agency, trade rumors and various in-house options, the Flyers could just as easily refuse to take any steps forward and shut down any avenue for improvement, leaving the team stuck in the murky middle.

So what’s the worse case scenario for the 2023 Philadelphia Flyers’ offseason?

Chuck Fletcher Stays

First and foremost, the worst case scenario for the Flyers heading into the offseason is Chuck Fletcher remains at the helm.

After he survived the third ten-game losing streak in the last calendar year in early December, it became clear that there’s no actual pressure on him to get fired during the season. That being said, the team is still on pace to miss the playoffs for the third consecutive season for the first time in over 30 years and his indecision during the 2022 offseason is a big reason for that. The next opportunity for him to finally get canned would be right after the season ends in mid-April to give the organization two months to gather themselves and formulate a plan for the draft in late June. At this point, it sure feels like Fletcher is a cockroach, likely to survive a nuclear fallout before he gets fired, but if the organization wants to save their own ass before entering an offseason where things could easily go wrong, getting rid of Fletcher would be the smart play.

If Fletcher remains employed the indecision that he’s become known for stays. Fletcher at his absolute best has been relatively mediocre and with the caliber of moves that need to happen this summer, the faith that he is the man to accomplish those goals is almost nonexistent. If he doesn’t get fired when the regular season comes to a close, the offseason is over before it even begins.

Free Agents Don’t Hit the Market

The 2023 free agent market has the potential for being one of the deepest markets in recent history. But when that much star potential is coming toward the end of their contracts, there’s always a chance they re-sign with their current clubs and thus limiting the talent that actually makes it all the way to free agency.

Dylan Larkin and David Pastrnak are the two most prized potential free agents and should both be on the Flyers’ radar if they indeed make it that far. But there’s also a fairly high chance both re-sign with their respective clubs and don’t even hit free agency to begin with. With Bo Horvat already off the table, Dylan Larkin opting to stay in Detroit really ruins the hope of the Flyers adding a legitimate center upgrade, and while there should still be some names available in the scoring winger category, most are past their primes or just not at the same level as Pastrnak.

If the free agent market doesn’t materialize as hoped, do the Flyers throw boatloads of cash at a lesser player that isn’t worth it? Or do they just sit on their hands in comfortable stagnation and not do anything to begin with? They don’t control their own fate on this one, but it will be a massive determining factor when it comes to how the summer plays out.

Trades… or Lack Thereof

Before the Flyers even consider free agency, they’ll have to clear a substantial bulk of money off their own books, and after last summer where Fletcher refused to do so to accommodate Johnny Gaudreau, the precedent of impasse is already in place.

Kevin Hayes and his $7.1 million AAV for the next three seasons will be priority number one when it comes to clearing cap. He’s in the middle of a career year and sitting at just shy of a point-per-game pace, yet that $7.1 is an unsavory number that a vast majority of teams can’t eat in whole, especially at the trade deadline. The key is to retain as little cap as possible in the deal, which makes finding a partner even harder than it already was. It’s a situation that mirrors the James Van Riemsdyk standoff last summer, and considering Fletcher couldn’t navigate a deal then, how can he do it now with Hayes who has a lot more term left than JVR did?

The two other potential trade chips are Travis Konecny and Ivan Provorov, who may not be straight cap dumps like Hayes, but their combined $12.2 million cap hit can be better dispersed throughout the lineup.

Those two provide the best shot of the organization making serious additions to the roster via trade at positions that need more help than right wing or left-handed defenseman. Do the Flyers shop them? Do they scope out a deal that makes the main roster better?

If they do indeed dangle them and deem they can’t find proper value for either Konecny or Provorov, they’ll more than likely just run it back and shut down yet another potential avenue for improvement.


Ah, the injury bug. Something that has impacted the Flyers hard over the last few seasons, and something the organization has made ten times worse thanks to their seemingly incompetent handling of certain players. With the exception of Ryan Ellis, whose career is more than likely over, everyone is expected to be back at full health entering the 2023-24 season; that includes Sean Couturier and Cam Atkinson, who have both been M.I.A. all season long.

Couturier underwent his second back surgery in September after failing to recover from a first surgery early last year. He’s still projected to return before the end of the 2022-23 campaign, but considering the Flyers are not in a playoff race, there doesn’t appear to be any reason to rush him back to play a dozen meaningless games at season’s end.

Atkinson underwent surgery neck surgery right before Christmas with specifics of his injury and surgery kept relatively vague. He attempted to make a comeback early in the season, even skating with the team a couple times during practice but suffered a setback and opted for surgery.

While both may get a clean bill of health and clearance to play, what condition with either be in next season?

If Coututier doesn’t play before the end of this season, it’ll be almost two full calendar years since he last suited up on December 18, 2021. How many players take two years off recovering from multiple back surgeries and just magically pick back up as not just an everyday NHLer but a top six forward?

If Sean Couturier looks like a 90-year-old man on skates upon his return from two back surgeries it’s a massive blow to their already shallow center depth. Atkinson will turn 34 in June and after seeing the kind of hit-or-miss play Joel Farabee is producing this season making his own return from neck surgery, there may not be much to expect from Atkinson next year.

Fletcher has pulled the “internal additions” card in the past when it came to championing players coming back from injury rather than make actual outside additions and it’s bit them every year. Do they rely on Couturier defying all the odds or do they realize this is the year when the injury excuses no longer fly and it’s up to them to counteract them with an actual plan?


The Flyers need to have a big summer. Plain and simple. But there are many factors both within and out of their control that will ultimately decide how their luck breaks after the dust settles later in the summer. If you noticed, the recurring theme when it boils down to trust and direction of the franchise is that Chuck Fletcher’s past mistakes have poisoned any potential trust he had left. With the 2023 offseason mirroring the 2022 offseason so closely, Fletcher’s miserable failings are a bad dream than just can’t be shaken away right now when looking towards the future. They’ve set themselves up for ultimate desperation. So many things need to go right for the offseason to be considered a real success, but given Chuck Fletcher’s recent track record of stale, disappointing and baffling moves (or lack thereof) certainly don’t paint the best picture of hope and optimism that this is the summer things greatly improve for a franchise in peril.

By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)

photo credit: nhl.com


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