The potential route the Philadelphia Flyers take during the 2023 offseason has led to dreams of grandeur while simultaneously expectations of failure. But before the front office explores exterior fixes to a jacked up roster, they first have to clean up their in-house commitments in the form of restricted free agents. There may not be an abundance of noteworthy RFA’s on the roster this year, but the few that linger pose very intriguing options when it comes to contract extensions as key young players that have already carved out a niche but don’t have the experience or leverage for a big contract extension.
Cam York was finally let out the of the doghouse in early December and has once again established himself as a top defenseman for the Flyers. If he suits up for every remaining game, he’ll have 88 NHL contests under his belt by season’s end. York is a prime example of trying to lock a player up as long term as possible to as low a cap hit as possible to extend the lifespan of his value while simultaneously giving him a deal he’s accept.
Mikey Anderson just signed an eight-year, $33 million ($4.1 million aav) contract. While York has 70 NHL games under his belt and Anderson has 170, getting a player under a respectable AAV contract for a long time could be more beneficial than a cheap bridge for a year or two followed by a six, seven, eight or even nine million extension a couple years down the line.
Does York accept a similar deal? That’s up for debate, but it’s been awhile since the Flyers had a true value contract on the books and if York remains their top defenseman for the foreseeable future, he should be a target to get under contract for as long and cheap as possible.
Prediction- Three years, $1.5 million AAV
For most of the season, it sure didn’t feel like the Flyers would end up giving Morgan Frost another chance, but thanks to the team’s complete lack of center depth, they’ve had no choice but to rely on Frost as a top-six center and he’s started to provide results worthy enough of earning another look. He’s more than likely still not an everyday top guy, but with Sean Couturier’s health still in limbo and the unknown fact of who or if they pursue a free agent center could mean they’ve got no choice but to bring Frost back again.
Prediction- two years, $1.2 million AAV
Noah Cates has really come around during his rookie season and is already playing massive shutdown minutes and has earned the respect of head coach John Tortorella. As a collegiate player who just turned 24, his entry-level deal expires already despite being in the league for just about a calendar year. There’s no doubt the Flyers re-sign him, but his cap hit could be interesting. It probably won’t be anything crazy, but it may be higher than originally expected as his role became relatively substantial as the season progressed.
Prediction- three years, $1.4 million AAV
Zack MacEwen seemed poised to be dangled and shipped out at the trade deadline before a broken jaw sidelined him just weeks prior to the big day. His role on the team became a bit murky this season when the Flyers signed Nic Deslauriers to a four-year contract, so it’s possible MacEwen won’t return next year, but the fact that he’s still an every night player during the 2022-23 campaign could indicate that they still have interest in keeping him around, despite the overarching redundancy in the lineup.
Prediction- two years, $950,000 AAV
There are a handful of remaining restricted free agents throughout the organization, but either are unlikely to be re-signed or don’t have the track record to demand any kind of substantial contract at the moment.
Bellows was claimed on waivers earlier in the season and has been a fourth liner, 13th forward and AHL tweener since. He’s currently making $1.2 million with a $1.2 million qualifying offer as well, so for the cash strapped Flyers, there’s a good chance they don’t give him a new contract.
Lycksell burst onto the scene during his rookie season in North America as a point-per-game forward with the Phantoms. The 2017 sixth round pick has far exceed expectations this year, but considering he has yet to lock down a full-time NHL spot and only one professional season to his name, an AAV over $1 million is unlikely.
Jackson Cates is a pretty nondescript forward who more than likely is nothing more than an AHL level center who’s good for a short-term plug at the NHL level. Considering his brother is a rising star on the main roster there’s a good chance the Flyers extend Jackson for a couple more seasons at a sub-one million cap hit.
Attard is their top RHD prospect at the moment but has yet to make the jump to the NHL. Considering he only had one full season on an entry-level deal after signing upon completion of his collegiate career, the Flyers should have no problem re-signing him to a similar $880,000 deal for another year or two.
Zamula is still their top left-handed defense prospect and will hopefully start to see more NHL ice time in the near future. But with just 23 NHL contests to his name so far in his career, he won’t be demanding big money this season. Chances are he signs a two or three year extension as he continues to develop with the goal of locking down a main roster spot out of camp next season.
Wylie has seemingly really fallen out of favor lately as a relatively low ceiling right-handed defenseman. Given the makeup of the defense heading into next season at both the NHL and AHL level is unknown, he may land a one year extension as a short term fallback option.
Nobody really knows what’s going on with Fedotov. He was promptly abducted by the Russian military after signing his entry-level deal with the Flyers last summer to serve his mandatory army duty. Theoretically, he’ll have served his one year and now 26 years old, he’d not required to serve more. Though it feels unlikely that he’s just allowed to walk away like nothing ever happened. Unless the Flyers have some inside info that he’ll never come over, they’ll probably at least qualify him to keep his rights for future use just in case, but don’t expect to see Fedotov in orange and black anytime soon.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: nhl.com