It feels like a cliche to say that the 2023 NHL offseason is a critical one for the Philadelphia Flyers, but there is a fork in the road and the organization is going to have to pick a direction. Over the last few summers, Chuck Fletcher and the Flyers have been a bit of a mixed bag. From questionable movement during the 2021 offseason to even more questionable inactivity during in 2022, anything is possible heading into the 2023 summer.
Number 5: Signing Patrick Kane
If the Flyers choose to add talent this offseason, there’s the expectation that Chuck Fletcher is bound to screw it up. Patrick Kane may have the most name value of all the expected free agent this season, but the 34-year-old is long past his prime. Signing veteran once upon a time stars is more of a Paul Holmgren gimmick than Fletcher has proven, but after the continued scoring drought the Flyers have been in mixed with their total lack of star power, signing someone like Kane feels like a perfect cop out to sell to the fans rather than find pay up for a player at their peak. Is he leaving Chicago? Would he even consider signing with the Flyers? Who knows, but there’s an unshakable feeling that if Kane does indeed hit the open market, the Flyers are going to be interested suitors.
Number 4: Ivan Provorov Gets Traded
The trade rumor mill on Provorov seems to swing in wildly different directions based on nothing more than his play ranging from average to sub-par, so whether or not they actually pull the trigger on him is anything but certain. Moving him is a big risk from an on-ice perspective. He may not be a legitimate, unquestioned number one LHD, but he plays a critical, minute-munching role that nobody on the team has proven the ability to do as his replacement. Though it sure seems like his days in Philadelphia are numbered after various tension-filled moments over the last year or so. It’s a massive trade the Flyers are going to have to scope out carefully for the best possible return, but it’s a trade the will seemingly more than likely happen this summer.
Number 3: Cam Atkinson Buyout
The buyout conversation has popped up a couple different times throughout the season, first in the form of Kevin Hayes rumors, but his potential buyout made so little sense that there’s no way it could actually happen. Cam Atkinson, however, is a much more financially favorable option when it comes to getting rid of his contract. The 34-year-old has missed the entire season after a neck injury and subsequent surgery and still has two years left on his contract with a $5.8 million cap hit. Given the congestion at right wing which features some of the organization’s current best players in Travis Konecny and Owen Tippett as well as top prospects Bobby Brink and Tyson Foerster, Atkinson may be the odd man out, and at this point in his career, he deserves so much better than what the Flyers could offer. It may the best mutual decision to walk away at this point.
Number 2: Travis Konecny Gets Traded
Seven years into his NHL career and Travis Konecny is finally having a “breakout” season with 27 goals and 54 points in 52 games. Seems like now more than ever they’d buckle down and keep him, right? Maybe not. With the organization hinting at a rebuild, it’d make sense to part ways with the few players on the roster with positive trade value, and TK highlights that list. Though he’s a fan favorite with a slight bit of talent, so they may be compelled to keep his just the same. If they’re serious about a rebuild, there’s no reason he should stick around, and quite frankly, if they want to be competitive, he should be shopped for a top center and let the abundance of depth at right wing fill his spot. The pros and cons swing heavily in the favor of trading him, but does the franchise have the guts to pull the trigger?
Number 1: Chuck Fletcher Gets Fired
After Chuck Fletcher 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.
The Flyers Actually Sign a Top Free Agent
Despite the stereotype that the Flyers are always in the hunt for or signing free agents, it’s been a long time since the team actually walked away from free agency with the big fish in the pond. Kevin Hayes in 20219 and James Van Riemsdyk in 2018 are the only kind of relevant recent examples, with their last major one before that coming in 2013 with Vinny Lecavalier, and even that is a stretch when it comes to a “top” free agent. The 2023 free agent pool has been drained after most of the worthwhile talent re-signed with their clubs, but there’s still a few notable players out there. As noted above, Kane is the remaining player with the most name value, but doesn’t necessarily make a ton of sense for the Flyers outside of that. Is this the year that they actually return to throw their hat in the free agent ring? It may not be the best thing, but given how desperate the team is for talent, there could be a couple… interesting… decisions made during the offseason.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: nhl.com