Interim GM Danny Briere has not strayed away from using the word rebuild when talking about his plan for the 2023 offseason. The question then becomes who is worth keeping around and who should get the boot. This piece will look at current roster players, along with prospects, for a piece that is much more immediate, I would direct you to this piece by Dan where he goes over who should be moved or kept this upcoming offseason.
Travis Konecny was without a doubt the best player outside the goal crease this year. The player that probably should’ve gone to the All-Star Game this year, Konecny was having another great season after a few down years since his breakout 2019-20 season until he got injured. Konecny is a damn good player and led the team in points while playing about 20 fewer games than number two, Kevin Hayes. The biggest problem with Konecny is the depth on the right wing. Besides him, Owen Tippett has stepped up as an important part of this team, Tyson Foerster has shown that he can keep up in the big league this year during his eight-game stint where he potted three goals and added four assists for seven points, Bobby Brink is showing flashes of great potential to help hold down the middle-six for years to come, and Wade Allison has won over a lot of fans, and Tortorella, with his gritty play, but needs to stay healthy. And while not a long-term solution, Cam Atkinson will probably be back next year and can provide that veteran leadership. Travis Konecny will probably have to move to the left wing, or possibly center to stay on this team, plus he can get a lot of assets. I doubt he stays for the next five years.
Former first-round pick and the seemingly top choice to be the best player on the team this year, Joel Farabee has had a bit of a setback. To be fair, he did just have neck surgery that we had only seen Jack Eichel get, and using Eichel as a point of reference, it’ll probably be until next season that we see him return to form. Joel gets some points for being the one young left-winger that is currently producing on the Flyers. When looking at Farabee, it’s pretty difficult to know what will become of him. He also doesn’t seem to be a huge fan of Torts which could be a problem, but that is yet to be seen if it’s him angry at Torts, or angry that it’s taken longer for him to get back. If he can adapt to Torts’s coaching and can make a comeback from neck surgery, it’s pretty hard to trade him away without getting back a huge haul. As of right now, the best option is to keep Joel.
Sean Couturier is an interesting one. For a time, he was seen as the next face of the franchise after Claude Giroux left and probably the top candidate for captaincy, but then injuries kept him out for pretty much two full seasons. It seems as though he is expected to play next season, but with the Flyers having a top-10 pick in this upcoming draft, the center depth could lead to Couturier being more expendable than he is now. Couturier is in the first year of his MASSIVE eight-year, $62 million contract ($7.75 million AAV). Couturier is 30 and hasn’t played 30+ games in a season since he was 28 during the 2020-21 season. Couturier probably isn’t on the team by 2028, especially if the Flyers get a center in this upcoming draft like Connor Bedard, Adam Fantilli, Leo Carlsson, or even Will Smith, especially with the Flyers having the plan of keeping Cutter Gauthier at center. Cooots could still be on the team if he can’t play anymore or no other team will take on his contract.
It’s hard to imagine Kevin Hayes being on the team for opening night 2023. There were already reports that Hayes got some interest during the trade deadline and probably is traded sometime this offseason. With guys like Morgan Frost and Noah Cates showing their ability to play middle-six center, Hayes doesn’t have much of a purpose on this team anymore, and even less when Cutter Gauthier joins the team.
Atkinson only has two more years left on his contract after this season. He is a player that Tortorella loves, which could mean he stays until the end of his contract. Yet with the clog on the right wing, his time on the Flyers will be at an end by the time his current contract ends after the 2024-25 season. I don’t think this would be much of a shock, especially considering he’s already 33 years old.
Wade Allison is a part of this clog on the right wing. Allison is another player loved by Torts, but injuries have been the downfall of his career. If he can stay healthy and Torts is the long-term bench boss, a spot in the bottom six would be Allison’s most likely home for years to come. Wade Allison most likely stays on the team for a long time and could be like a Barclay Goodrow-type player for the Flyers, if all goes right.
Foerster played in his first eight NHL games this season and showed glimpses of the potential Flyers fans saw in him. As I mentioned before, he had three goals and four assists for seven points. If he can build that into a great rookie season and progress as intended, he would most likely see himself battling with Konecny or Tippett for who will play right wing on the first line and who’ll be on the second line.
Laughton is the odds-on favorite to be the next captain for the Flyers, at least for a good amount of fans. He is the only player that wore a letter, sporting the “A” all season. Torts has already stated that the Flyers will not have a captain next year. This could mean that they are waiting to see who the Flyers pick in the first round this year or potentially in 2024. If the Flyers get Connor Bedard, he will probably follow in the footsteps of guys like Gabriel Landeskog, Sidney Crosby, and Connor McDavid in being given the “C” early in his career. If Laughton is given the “C” then his time on the Flyers is most likely extended a lot longer. His position on the left wing also helps. Laughton can definitely hold down the third-line, left-wing position. The only other left-winger in the system is Joel Farabee. Cutter Gauthier could also get moved back to wing if Morgan Frost carves out a good job at becoming the 2C and the Flyers draft a great center in this draft or the next couple of drafts, which is very possible. Laughton’s time with the Flyers probably survives the next five years if he is given the “C”. Without that, it’s hard to justify keeping a 34-year-old that could be outplayed by younger players.
Zayde Wisdom is a wildcard. Having been a fifth-round pick, Widsom’s ceiling wasn’t seen as very high, but he has shown some potential at the AHL level. He started off well as an 18-year-old in the AHL, but his subsequent seasons haven’t been exactly the best. There is still that potential that the 20-year-old can turn into a good third-line center, especially considering in five years’ time, Scott Laughton will be 34 years old and Laughton has also been playing on the left side. With Laughton being the biggest competitor for that long-term 3C spot, Zayde has every reason and opportunity to take that spot. Zayde most likely stays if he can show improvement this next season and can show the potential to hold down the 3C spot.
Desnoyers is a good, young left winger that has all the opportunity to take a slot at a depleted left side. With only Joel Farabee looking to be the only solidified LW on the team for years to come, Desnoyers can take the hype he’s getting, deservedly so, and show, as early as next season, that he can be a viable left-side option for the Flyers. Everything indicates that he will take that opportunity and run. Even though he was held pointless in his four games with the big club, he has had a fantastic rookie year in the AHL with 40 points in 60 games so far. Unless Desnoyers completely does a 180 on his development, expect him to be a vital part of the Flyers for years to come.
The Flyers’ first top-five pick since Nolan Patrick was selected second in 2017; Cutter Gauthier has shown pretty much exactly what fans were expecting in his first season at Boston College. The belief was that he’d sign with the Flyers after the end of his freshman year, but he ultimately decided to stay at BC for one more year. With the Flyers being as bad as they are, that is probably the best step for him. Cutter is going to have his whole path attended to and is the guy, right now, that the Flyers will be building this offense around. Cutter is in the process of transitioning to center but is still a natural left-winger. The Flyers, of course, want him to succeed at center, but will accommodate him and especially will if the Flyers get a great, natural center in this year’s draft. Gauthier will be along for the ride for a long time and is a centerpiece of this offense.
Morgan Frost needed a good season to keep him in favor with the organization, and he has done that this year. After years of hype and somewhat disappointing seasons in the NHL, Frost has broken out and is producing and playing like a competent 2C. Getting 43 points in 76 games, Frost has all but solidified himself as a viable option for the second-line center for years to come as he is only 24. Frost should be a good option as the B option behind either Cutter or another center that may be taken in the upcoming draft.
Owen Tippett has been one of the few bright spots this season and looks to be part of the future of the right side. Tippett was acquired in the Giroux trade and has paid dividends for the Flyers since then. Tippett is top-five in scoring this season and had a breakout year, much like fellow 2017 draft pick Morgan Frost. Tippett is expected to be the top-end right-winger to stay on the team between him and Konecny, especially since Konecny seems to have more value and can bring back more assets while being older. Tippett is about two years younger and seems to be the option to be at the top of the right-wing clog that is coming up. Tippett will most likely be here for the time being.
Bobby Brink is another one of those right-wingers that will be looking for an NHL role, and will probably get one in the middle six. Though he missed a good chunk this year due to injury, he has come back strong with 23 points in 36 games in the AHL. He also played pretty well in 10 games last year with the Flyers after Denver won the National Title with four points and some good-looking play. Brink has made a strong case for him to make the opening night lineup next season and for years beyond.
After trading away the first-round pick in the 2021 draft to Buffalo, Chuck picked Samu in the second round. The drafting during Fletcher’s tenure was one of the highlights, especially early-round picks, but this pick has not stood the test of time like Cam York, Bobby Brink, and Tyson Foerster. With the clog up on the right side, Samu seems to have no spot and seems to have little to no value, so he most likely stays in Europe for the rest of his career, or tries and waits out his contract somewhere else.
Tanner Laczynski would probably be a solid 4th line center going forward and would be able to hold down that position, but a fourth-line player is someone you necessarily need to hold onto during a rebuild and can easily be acquired via free agency or trade when your team is ready to make a run in the playoffs. If Tanner can hold down the 4C role and doesn’t have any cap issues, there could be a case for him to stay with the Flyers and serve as that centerpiece of the bottom line, it would be just like the Flyers to hold onto him because of his ability to be a solid fourth liner that makes me believe he’ll stick around.
Provorov has been a reliable defenseman in terms of availability. He has only ever missed three games, which he missed last year with Covid, and regularly plays heavy minutes. Provorov was once seen as the stalwart of the blue line, but now that tune has changed with quite a few in the fanbase and possibly even the front office. Provorov has had a couple bad seasons in a row and news coming out that he probably isn’t the best locker room personality and his refusal to participate in wearing pride jerseys has made some wonder if his time is up with the Flyers. The emergence of Cam York also doesn’t help, as the left side is clogged up with Provorov, Sanheim, York, and Zamula. The latter two are seen as the future of the left side of this defense corp. Provorov’s name came up in rumors around January 2021 as a piece in a trade the Flyers could make to get Patrik Laine. Provorov still has good value as he is a guy you can depend on to play in every game through hell and high water and still has two years left on a reasonable contract after this season. That provides another team with a solid LHD on a short contract that doesn’t cap strap them either. Look for Provorov to be traded this summer if the Flyers can’t move Sanheim.
Sanheim is the other side of this coin. Both he and Provorov are being paid big boy dollars and you can’t bury either in the AHL, but you can’t stop York and Zamula from getting their time in Philly. Sanheim was a perfect candidate to trade this season. A defenseman that is starting to reach his peak age, 27, who has shown some great potential and was on a one-year deal worth only a couple million. Then Chuck extended him eight years for over six million per year. With his play not taking the jump that many were expecting, this contract already looks bad, and he isn’t even on it yet. It’ll be hard to move Sanheim right now, but maybe in four years’ time, he’ll be able to be moved. Especially with the emergence of York and Zamula, that will create pressure on the Flyers to get rid of him for whatever they can and allow the two younger guys to take the reins of the defense corp, on the left side.
Cam York looks to be the future of the Flyers’ blueline. Cam York has already been heralded as the Flyers’ best defenseman this year, and it’s hard to argue with that. He doesn’t have the gaudy offensive numbers of most other top defensemen in the league, but this is only his second season playing more than three games. He’s starting to get more and more ice time and will only get better. He is both offensively dangerous and defensively sound when he needs to be. He is what we thought Shayne Gostisbehere, Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim, and others would be.
Ristolainen was acquired during the summer of 2021 when the Flyers traded away their first-round pick in 2021, along with their 2023 2nd and Robert Hägg. Since then, Ristolainen has been a polarizing figure, many were already loathing him due to his analytics, and some were ready for him to bring some physicality. Risto did play a part in plenty of the Flyers’ best pairings these past couple of seasons, including with Sanheim. It came as a shock when Chuck Fletcher extended Ristolainen during the 2022 trade deadline, instead of trading the then-pending UFA. With Ellis’s career done and Tony DeAngelo looking like a victim of Torts’s “addition by subtraction”, the depth on the right side is shallow. Ristolainen probably stays for a couple seasons as the Flyers will try and bolster that right side.
A surprising addition to the Flyers during the second day of the 2022 NHL Draft, Tony DeAngelo has been a polarizing figure among the Flyers fanbase, and the hockey community at large. His on-ice play has been back and forth. On one hand, he is leading the defense in points this season. On the other hand, more help in the defensive zone was needed and he did not help with that. His biggest contribution is being right-handed. He could be what Ryan Ellis was expected to be and has failed and succeeded at that. Tony has been spending time on the third pairing this season and has been largely a disappointment. Rumors are that Tony will be dealt in the summer, if not, then I don’t see him getting a new contract with the Flyers. Tony was scratched for the last six games of the season and coach John Tortorella did not have the best words when talking about that, seeming to imply Tony will probably not be on the team for the 2023-24 season.
Attard has only played two games this season for the Flyers, but was solid for the Phantoms this whole year and will be a big piece for them in their playoff push. Ronnie Attard is the top right-handed defensive prospect and is expected to be a part of the team for years to come. His play is great for the Flyers and in his first 17 games for the club, he has looked like a sound player who will develop into a good top-4 defenseman on this squad. He could fight for a regular spot as early as next season, and if he keeps his progression going as it has been, he will be on the Flyers for a long time.
Zamula has seemed to be on the brink of getting a permanent spot on the big club, but it seems like the log jam on the left side has kept him from that top-6 spot. With the likely trade of one of Provorov or Sanheim, that leaves the door open for Zamula to slide into the top-6 for a more permanent role. Zamula looks to be a good defenseman for the 2nd or 3rd pairing for years to come on the left side. Zamula will probably still be here unless he keeps getting shafted out of a spot and decides to go elsewhere for the opportunity.
Andrae just came over from Sweden after the SHL season ended and has only played seven games in the AHL, but has six points. Andrae looks to have a bright future, but with one of Sanheim and Provorov along with York and Zamula in the mix, he’s going to have to force his way onto the left side for a permanent position. His future with the team is very up-in-the-air.
Samson is an interesting prospect to look at. He is a right-handed defenseman that has NHL potential. Drafted in the sixth round of the 2021 NHL Draft, Samson will be turning pro next year as he turns 20 in August. The Flyers’ lack of depth at RHD preps Samson for the opportunity to potentially be an in-house solution to the 3RHD slot that is open. There’s a lot of speculation here as he has yet to play in a pro game, but with the Flyers’ lacking of RHDs and his most recent season with the Prince George Cougars where he went a point-per-game, there will be eyes on him and to see where he can play and if he will be like Ronnie Attard and provide some assistance on the right side without having to look to outside sources for help there.
It was since the late 80s with Ron Hextall that Flyers fans have had a good young goalie to fawn over. Hart was the darling of the team pretty much ever since he was drafted in 2016. He had a good rookie season, and then an up-and-down sophomore year before two bad years, albeit on awful teams, before having another good year this season. Hart will be 25 in August and has been a force in the crease. Though, there is a lot of talk about trading him, but is that the best thing to do? Felix Sandström has shown that he really probably tops out as an average backup in the NHL, but Samuel Ersson creates some intrigue around the future of the crease. Ersson has played very well in his stints with the Flyers this season and has created some competition. Ivan Fedotov should also be kept in mind, though he is still locked away in the gulag for an unknown amount of time. With all these options, Hart seems like the best bet to stay and it should be hard for the Flyers to move him, as he’ll be getting into his prime as the rebuild ends, assuming things goes relatively smoothly.
Like I said above, Sandström probably tops out as an average backup, maybe a good backup. Having Sandström as a backup means that the Flyers will have a young tandem that can stay together for a while no matter if Hart is the long-term option, Samuel Ersson, Ivan Fedotov, or even another option. Sandström’s worth is more likely to be in his own head and if he thinks he might be able to go somewhere else and prove to be a starter then he’s probably gone this summer, otherwise, he probably stays as the rock in the #2 position.
The other side of the coin in the great Flyers goalie debate of 2023 is Samuel Ersson. Ersson was highly regarded when he came over to North America in 2019 but then fell off many people’s radar after injuries and poor play had him spend a lot of his time in Reading, tending twine in the ECHL. Then, he got called up for a handful of games and impressed a lot of people to the point that some were completely ready to trade Hart for Ersson. The big question is if that small sample size is indicative of how he can be, or if it’s another young goalie making the best of his shot at sticking with the big club. Goalies are weird, we’ve seen the rise and fall of Andrew “Hamburgalur” Hammond and Jordan Binnington go from one of the most promising goalies to just an average starter, borderline backup within years or even months. I hate leaving this so open-ended, but the goalies really are all dependent upon who shows the most these next couple of seasons, and most likely one of Hart or Ersson is traded by the beginning of the 2025-26 season. There is also the possibility that Ersson bodes better in a backup role and he stays as Hart’s backup in a young tandem that can stay for several years.
The biggest question mark is Ivan Fedotov. This time last year, all the talk was about getting Fedotov to North America and having him battle it out with Hart for the starting role, and even some fans already penciling him in as the goalie of the future. He was signed and for a brief moment, there was the joy that there was, finally, a goalie battle between two good, young goalies. Then that South Park meme of the banker saying “Aaaaaaand it’s gone” happened and Fedotov was detained by the Russian Army and banished to the Arctic Circle. The Flyers should definitely keep his rights, as he could come over at some point and either be the goalie of the future or grab some good assets from another team needing him.
Ultimately, these next three to five years will probably be filled with a lot of movement and there are tons of factors that come into play like players drafted, unexpected trades, and even unexpected free agents that want to come here.
By Noah Caplan (@Phlyers24)
Photo credit: Getty Images