Philadelphia Flyers Offseason Primer

Philadelphia flyers offseason
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As the NHL moves ahead with its Return to Play plan, Last Word on Hockey is taking a look towards the offseason. In terms of building a franchise, the offseason is the most crucial time of the year for front offices. However, due to COVID-19, the short-term future of how this operates has seen sweeping changes. How teams respond to a multitude of changes this fall remains to be seen. This series attempts to examine what choices teams may have to make.

The second batch of Offseason Primers will feature Metropolitan Division squads. Today’s edition delves into the possibilities surrounding the Philadelphia Flyers offseason.

NHL free agent frenzy

Philadelphia Flyers Offseason Primer

Pending Free Agents

While the Philadelphia Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher doesn’t have any huge names to deal with this offseason, there are still a plethora of depth players on expiring deals. Some will stay and some will go, obviously, but expect the Flyers to focus mostly on their young core of restricted free agents. Their plate of arbitration-eligible RFAs consists of Robert Hagg and Nicolas Aube-Kubel, while non-arbitration-eligible ones include Nolan PatrickPhilippe MyersMikhail Vorobyov, and Nathan Noel.

The Flyers’ unrestricted free agents are Justin BraunBrian ElliottNate ThompsonTyler PitlickDerek GrantChris StewartAndy WelinskiAlex Lyon, and Kurtis GabrielReece Willcox is a Group Six UFA.

Salary Cap Outlook

While the team doesn’t have a lot of talent to re-sign, Philly also doesn’t have a lot of cap space. The Philadelphia Flyers have just $8.98 million to maneuver with this offseason, according to the team’s CapFriendly page. It’s a tight, yet manageable number for Fletcher to deal with.

Likely Departures

Justin Braun

While he was never known for his offensive game, Braun simply just isn’t the player he once was. He tallied 19 points in his first year in Philly, a slight uptick from 2018-19’s total of 16. However, his usage took a nosedive as well. He played under 20 minutes a night for the first time since 2012-13.

The warning signs started with Braun in 2018-19 with the San Jose Sharks. He dropped from 33 points in 2017-18 down to 16, despite similar usage. At age 33 now, the former seventh-round pick still provided a solid year of service in Philly. However, the defenceman is obviously in decline, and it would hurt the Flyers organization to tie cap space up in a declining asset.

Tyler Pitlick

While Pitlick actually had one of the better seasons of his career in 2019-20, he’ll likely be a cap casualty. Posting only his second 20-plus-point season, Pitlick scored eight goals and 12 assists in a Philly uniform this year. He filled in well on their third and fourth lines but didn’t necessarily stand out.

Taking that into account, combined with the admirable performance of Nicolas Aube-Kubel this past year, Pitlick is likely a goner. He’ll definitely find another home in the NHL this summer, but it won’t be with Philly. Aube-Kubel provided the team with similar production rates but is younger and cheaper. Internal replacement is the name of the game for contending teams, and Philly has this luxury.

Likely Re-Signings

Robert Hagg

Hagg is one of the few players left on the Philadelphia roster that still exemplifies the ‘Broad Street Bullies’ moniker. A hulking Swedish d-man (remember Kjell Samuelsson?), he’s honestly not suited for anything more than a third-pairing role. He only played in 49 games this season after a full 82 in 2018-19, suggesting that his role with the team is being diminished. While that may be true, he’s still an RFA, and it’s unlikely the Flyers would trade his rights. He also provides a physical edge to the team and a boost in the locker room that inspires the team to put up a fight.

However, the Flyers likely don’t give him anything more than a one-year deal. His actual advanced metrics are concerning, and if the team decides that his poor possession stats outweigh his physicality, they may opt to let him go. For one year, Evolving-Hockey’s contract projection tool (subscription required) suggests a $2.2 million cap hit. It brings the Flyers down to $6.78 million in space, still a satisfactory number.

Brian Elliott

Every contender needs a backup goalie who can at least give you a chance to win every night. And while Elliott isn’t the .930+ save percentage goalie he was with the St. Louis Blues, he’s still a perfectly capable backup at the NHL level.

His numbers have been down, but over three seasons now in Philly he’s amassed a solid enough record of 50-29-12. He’ll likely come cheap and there seems to be a good relationship budding between him and youngster Carter Hart in goal. Elliott likely won’t command a raise on his $2M deal, so we’ll use a one-year $2 million extension for purposes of this calculation. It leaves Philly with $4.78 million in cap space.

Philippe Myers

Once an undrafted junior standout, Myers has carved out an NHL niche with Philadelphia. Getting top-four usage along with other youngsters like Ivan Provorov and Travis Sanheim, Myers showed he could hang this year. He posted 16 points in 50 games, which are perfectly satisfactory totals for a 23-year-old defenceman. Along with some decent possession metrics, he factors in as a depth piece longer-term for the Flyers.

They’ll certainly want to keep him around, but they’ll do so affordably. Evolving-Hockey suggests a bridge two-year deal worth $1.51 million a season. Philadelphia would have $3.27 million in cap space remaining.

Derek Grant

Over his seven-year NHL career, Grant has played for seven different teams. To some hockey fans who are less familiar with depth names, that might bring up a number of questions. Is he not good in the locker room? Has he really been that expendable?

Long story short, mostly yes. For the majority of the beginning of his career, he was a prototypical AHL guy who could serviceably play on an NHL fourth line if needed. He was cheap and effective in a pinch, something that any team would love to have but not for very long. It explains the bouncing around.

Yet in 2017-18 and now again this season, Grant’s made himself known as a full-time NHL force. Traded to Philly at the deadline from the Anaheim Ducks, he netted five points in seven games. Across the entire season? 15 goals, 25 points in 56 games. He’s become one of the premier fourth-line centres in the league, and Philly won’t take that lightly. Evolving-Hockey projects a one-year deal at $1.28 million, still in the Flyers’ wheelhouse. The team would have just $1.99 million left in space to maneuver.

Potential Free Agent Additions

While their team would be mostly filled out, Philadelphia would still have a bit of cash left over to acquire some additional, affordable depth.

One name that they could look at acquiring in free agency is Matt Martin, currently of the New York Islanders. He’s a quintessential, capable fourth-liner. He’d also bring back some of that ‘Broad Street Bullies’ edge referenced earlier.

If they wanted to add on defence instead, they could look at acquiring Nathan Beaulieu. While he’s been a disappointment in some people’s eyes, he’s still a completely capable third-pairing defenceman that would slot in well replacing Braun.

Check out the other Offseason Primers for the Metropolitan Division:

Carolina HurricanesColumbus Blue JacketsNew Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals

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