Defense and left wing. Those are two of the most pressing needs on the Flyers and during the offseason, GM Ron Hextall should
focus on the latter.
The Flyers defensive corps was the team glaring weakness. There is no doubt about that but this year’s defensive market leaves much to be desired. There is not a single player who will be an instant fix on the blue line and because of a thin crop of able defensemen, prices for their services will skyrocket. How else would Andrew MacDonald‘s contract be explained?
The pool of left wingers, however, is more desirable. No, there are no franchise players to be had with the exception of Thomas Vanek, but there are above-average players who could give the Flyers some much needed depth on the left side of the ice.
Captain Claude Giroux is another reason the Flyers need to sign a competent left winger.
Giroux is the backbone of the offense. It was not by chance that once Giroux started to rack up points the Flyers started winning. Giroux serving as the foundation of the offense is not an issue at all. The problem is that Giroux is the Flyers offense. In the 30 games the captain did not register a point, the Flyers went 8-22, scoring 1.7 goals per game.
The incompetency of the offense to pick up the slack become even more evident in the playoffs. Ryan McDonagh and the Rangers defense smothered Giroux. The remaining lines sputtered and could barely muster a shot on goal. Jakub Voracek and Jason Akeson were arguably the Flyers best two forwards during the first-round series.
With the exception of Scott Hartnell, the Flyers do not have one competent left wing who could play top-six minutes. Michael Raffl was a servicable replacement, but he is not a long-term solution. Vincent Lecavalier….well let’s just say the experiment with him on the wing did not work out. Matt Read‘s name has been discussed as an internal solution but that leaves a gaping hole in the third line. Read and Sean Couturier have great chemistry and have shut down the best players in the game. Moving him to the first line could be detrimental. The Flyers also do not have any players in the minor leagues who could step up.
This is where Hextall could make a minor splash in free agency. Players like Jussi Jokinen, Milan Michalek and Mike Cammalleri are set to become free agents. Any one of them will sure up the Flyers need for a top-six forward. Hextall could also explore trading options. David Perron could be acquired for the right price as well.
The Flyers are not legitimate contenders yet for the Stanley Cup. There are players Hextall will need to move and acquire via trade, free agency or the draft to turn the Flyers into one of the best teams in the league. Waiting goes against everything the Flyers have done for years but “win-now” mode has not worked. Champions are built piece by piece. This offseason, the Flyers can add one small piece to the frame.