Philadelphia Flyers: An early look at next season’s free agents

Carter Hart, Philadelphia Flyers (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Carter Hart, Philadelphia Flyers (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

Carter Hart highlights an important list of Philadelphia Flyers free agents next summer.

With the current season still in limbo, it is extremely early to take a look at what the Flyers will have to deal with next season. But, it will include a hefty list of free agents the team will have to re-sign. And there are some big names on the list.

Carter Hart is the biggest name the team will have to sign. Hart will be coming off of his entry-level deal and is almost certainly in line for a big raise. Other names on the list will include Travis Sanheim, Scott Laughton and Michael Raffl. The latter two are big parts of the team’s depth while the former is transforming into one of the Flyers’ best defensemen.

Samuel Morin will be one of the more interesting names next summer. He has spent the season rehabbing from an ACL injury and will hopefully come into the season fully healthy. The question will be on where he plays. It will almost certainly be with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. But will there come a time where the Flyers cut ties with the 2013 first-round pick?

Going back to Hart, he is likely the first free agent the Flyers should take care of. There is no doubt that he is a part of this team’s long-term future. He struggled on the road this season but put up fantastic numbers at home. Altogether, he performed well for the majority of the season. And it looked like he was beginning to figure out the road woes before the season was suspended.

There are a few questions on what the team could do. Would they prefer to lock him up before the next season begins? Or should they take a wait and see approach to see how he performs in his third season?

That all depends on if they believe Hart will regress at all in the next season. He hasn’t shown signs that he would. He posted a much-improved goals-against-average in 12 more games. The save percentage was down, but not by much. It’s his play on the road that could force the team to wait to see how Hart does next year.

It was a strange year as 20 of Hart’s 24 wins came on home ice. He only grabbed four wins on the road in 15 starts. It could have just been bad luck as there were times the team as a whole struggled on the road. But Hart has shown to prevail and shake off bad performances.

His entry-level deal paid him a different amount every season, but his cap hit sat a bit under $731K. It seems fair to say that Hart’s next contract will get him far over the $1M mark. The exact number will almost certainly depend on his play next season. That is if the team does decide to wait. And they may have to with rumors that the cap may not go up as expected.

Sanheim is another important player the team will have to sign. He took tremendous strides this season and is emerging as one of the team’s best defensemen. Barring a serious regression, he is also a part of the Flyers’ core moving forward. He will be finishing a contract that paid him $3.25M during the last two seasons. That was a hefty raise from his entry-level contract.

He could force the team to pay him even more money. He may also help the Flyers make some other decisions elsewhere. If he remains on the team going into next season, Shayne Gostisbehere would still have three years remaining on his contract. Sanheim’s emergence could have the team looking for a trade partner for Gostisbehere. He has had his name in rumors before, but a down season and injury has hurt his worth.

For Laughton and Raffl, the Seattle expansion draft could end up having a lot to do with their contracts. They are likely some of the candidates who could be exposed in that draft. Both have become valuable parts of the team’s bottom six. And it is usually evident when they are not in the lineup. The Flyers are certain to lose a much better player this time around than they did when Vegas entered the league.

Neither is currently on a high-paying deal and isn’t likely to warrant much more than their current contracts. Laughton did have a career-high 13 goals while Raffl registered 20 points for the fifth time out of seven seasons. Both players dealt with injuries this season as well. It shouldn’t take much to get both of them signed. But again, the cap situation could pose a problem in the future.

It is hard to truly predict contracts right now as we don’t know what the cap will look like next offseason. The current state of affairs doesn’t bode well for what it could look like going into this offseason, whenever that is. If it remains flat, or worse, trends downward, it could leave the Flyers with even more decisions.

There is a long time before the Flyers have to worry about any of these free agents. The most important thing right now is figuring out if it is possible to play out the current season. But, these decisions will come sooner rather than later, especially when it comes to their potential franchise goaltender.