The Flyers have ten players that will be free agents this summer. To start, let’s take a look at those who will become unrestricted free agents at the season’s end.
The Flyers have five players that will become unrestricted free agents whenever the season comes to an end. The free agency period hits on July 1st, but it’s possible it could be pushed back due to the league’s hiatus. That is just speculation of course.
Nonetheless, the Flyers will have a few decisions to make.
Nate Thompson is at the end of a one-year contract that paid him a modest $1M this season. Acquired at the trade deadline, it’s likely he won’t be back next season. The team spent just a fifth-rounder on him. Thompson was acquired to add depth and a veteran presence to the Flyers’ bottom-six.
Before suffering a knee sprain, Thompson appeared in seven games with the team. He registered just one point. He was solid in the faceoff dot with a 53.7 percentage. That was good for third on the team. But there was nothing that truly stood out enough to make the Flyers want to bring him back.
With plenty of other young players currently on the roster and looking to come up, Thompson should be an easy bet to head to free agency. The value of experience just doesn’t carry over in this case.
Speaking of another player that was acquired at the trade deadline, Derek Grant has a better case to be a part of the team past this season. This has been his best overall season in the NHL. Between his time with the Ducks and Flyers, Grant has a career-high 25 points and 15 goals. Five of those points have come in seven games.
He’s also been a valuable asset to the team’s penalty kill. Grant had three shorthanded goals coming in and helped set up a goal once he came to Philly. His vision is also a key part of his skill set.
Grant will likely be due a raise after this season. That shouldn’t be hard as he was only making 700K this season. A bump up to around $1M is likely where he would fall. That already covers the salary Thompson was making this season.
It becomes an interesting case for Tyler Pitlick. It could likely be between him and Grant. Thanks to a 250K signing bonus, Pitlick was on the books for $1M. The goal total for Pitlick has continued to decline since his best season back in 2017-18. That year he posted 14 goals and 13 assists in 80 games.
In 63 games this season, he has eight goals and 12 assists. That’s not to say he has been a negative player. He became a key player in the team’s bottom-six, bringing stability to a position the team had trouble finding before.
But would the team want to pay him the same or possibly more money when they may have a replacement for him in Grant? Pitlick doesn’t have much of a case to ask for more money just because he added that stability. If he asks for more money, it’s not a guarantee the team would be willing to give it to him.
Justin Braun was among one of the steadiest presences you could find. He wasn’t a flashy player, nor did you expect him to be. He was there to back up his teammates when needed. And he was a tough guy to battle against when on the ice.
Braun was averaging about three minutes less in ice time than he had with the Sharks. At 33-years-old, it’s evident that he is beginning to lose a step, though. While he typically hasn’t looked out of place on the ice, his role probably wouldn’t be much going forward.
Unless Braun took a drastic cut in pay to be the team’s 6th/7th defensemen, this will be his only season with the team. But that doesn’t mean the Flyers were wrong in bringing him here in the first place. His presence and leadership was key.
It was a risky decision to bring back Brian Elliott. He had dealt with plenty of injuries in the past and didn’t exactly have a sparkling resume with the team. But for $2M, Elliott has done enough to prove the Flyers made a good decision in bringing him back to sit behind Carter Hart.
And when the team needed him to step up, he was able to deliver. When Hart went out at the end of January, Elliott was tasked to keep the ship moving in the right direction. And he did, going 5-2 and grabbing a pair of shutouts. His consistent play and ability to stay healthy all season have helped.
The Flyers don’t seem to have a goaltender who is ready to jump into the NHL just yet. Kirill Ustimenko has looked good in a limited sample size in the AHL but likely needs more time. So the Flyers could bring Elliott back on another cheap deal if he would be up for it. The numbers are slightly down from last season, but he’s been solid more often than not.
Notable Minor League Free Agent
Out of the eight minor league free agents the Flyers have, the team only has one unrestricted that could potentially make a case for himself.
Alex Lyon is in an interesting situation. He has had his chances at the NHL level before, typically due to injuries. The numbers haven’t exactly been promising for the most part. He was impressive against the Avalanche this season where he picked up the win, making 28 saves.
After trading away J.F. Berube, the plan was to get Kirill Ustimenko adjusted to the AHL. The Flyers could bring back Lyon to mentor him as it doesn’t appear that Felix Sandstrom is ready. He did post a shutout in his only AHL appearance, though.
If the choice was between just him and Elliott to be the Flyers’ backup next season, it’s hard to believe Lyon would be the pick. The team could give him another season in the AHL as Sandstrom further develops in the ECHL. It all depends on how the team themselves feel about Sandstrom’s developments. It’s hard seeing Lyon as more than just an injury replacement for the Flyers at this point.