Flyers Have Several Key Restricted Free Agents to Sign. How much Cap Space Will Be Left?
The sign says ”Welcome to Salary Cap Hell.” It seems the Flyers left only yesterday! After years of scraping together enough space to sign the likes of Dale Weise, Chris VandeVelde and Boyd Gordon, I thought former general manager Ron Hextall had finally freed us from that awful reality once and for all. Not so much.
With one refurbished JVR (Hextall), a gently worn Hayes, an antique Niskanen, and an AMac buyout, Chuck Fletcher has us back in hell.
To be fair, we are not in hell, more like at the gates of hell. This is not the “no cap space for the next three seasons” we came to enjoy under Holmgren, but 2021 is not a year of great flexibility. To be fair to Fletcher, JVR is not his doing. Hayes has been worth every dollar, and I think he will continue to be for the length of the contract. Niskanen is vastly overpaid for what he brings, especially when you tack a million dollars of a Radko Gudas contract on top, but he has allowed Provorov to become a lead dog defenseman.
The Andrew MacDonald buyout allowed us to bring in Grant and Thompson, the wisdom of which is debatable. Seeing Andrew MacDonald on capfriendly.com is disheartening.
The Flyers enter free agency with 8.9 million dollars to spend without taking into account contracts for unrestricted free agents Elliott, Braun, Pitlick, Grant and Thompson. The list of needs is not large, but there are some areas that can’t be ignored, like a backup goalie. The financial reality is at least some of the UFAs will not be back due to the cap. Much of the UFA picture will depend on how the Flyers sort out their restricted free agents.
Philippe Myers, RD, 23, $678,889
Myers ended up paired with Sanheim on the second pair and had a good but uneven season. To be honest I expected to see more of the good and less of the bad. It is hard to remember what Myers looked like at the beginning of the season, but the Islanders series is still fresh and typifies Myers’ growth and need for improvement.
Myers was picked on relentlessly by the Islanders, and on several occasions, it led to turnovers that led to goals. Other times Myers just made poor plays, the Islanders’ first goal in game four was a perfect example. But Myers scored big goals and played tough minutes and acquitted himself well in his first playoff run. Overall it was a net positive for the young blueliner.
I don’t yet have a feel on how much faith management has in Myers. It was a mistake not to try to lock up Sanheim for many years and I expect Chuck Fletcher to make the same mistake with Myers, though the cap situation plays a role in what can be done. I look for a three-year deal somewhere around 2.75 million a season.
Robert Hagg, LD, 25, $1,150,000
Robert Hagg had a solid season for the Flyers. There is a vocal contingent of the fan base that hate Hagg and are beyond reason, but there was a lot to like about the Swedish defender. Hagg was paired primarily with Justin Braun, on the bottom pair. He played a defensive game, dislodging pucks from the opponents, blocking shots, and standing up for teammates when warranted. He also collected 13 points, one more than Shayne Gostisbehere.
Love him or hate him, or just looking at him objectively, players like Hagg are a requirement in a salary cap environment. Hagg will never be a superstar, but he will give a strong effort and do all he can to keep the puck out of his own net.
I have no idea how Fletcher feels about Hagg, and I do not have much trust in his judgement. Hagg will want around $2,000,000 a season, for two or three years, enough to make him comfortable until he becomes a UFA and land a contract similar to the one Justin Braun just finished.
Nicolas Aube-Kubel, RW, 24 $700,000
NAK broke into the line-up this season scoring 7 goals in the regular season and two more in the playoff. He brought an intensity and physical style to the forecheck which had been missing. More than that Aube-Kubel showed some offensive flashes that indicate the former second round pick might have some potential as a middle six forward.
It seems that the coaches like Aube-Kubel, but I am not sure he has done enough to warrant a long-term deal. This will be the “show me” contract, similar to the one Hagg is finished up. I would guess a two year 1.25-million-dollar deal would be appropriate.
Nolan Patrick, C, 21, $925,000
Nolan Patrick scored 30 points each of his first two years with the Flyers. In year three he scored zero points, the same number of games he played. Patrick was fighting a migraine disorder all of last season (and maybe longer) and it cost him the season. Another stroke of bad luck for the former second pick overall.
This is the most interesting situation for the pending RFAs on the team. While I urged Fletcher to give Lindblom a 5 year 2.5 million contract the day he was ill ads humane gesture, to ease any financial concerns he may have had, Patrick is different. In Lindblom’s case I liked what I saw on the ice. I am not sold on Patrick. .
Patrick’s high draft status and health makes finding a value difficult. Nico Hischier is signed for over $7,000,000 a year. Cale Makar and Elias Pettersson will have contracts expiring next year ad will be in line for big deals. It can be argued that Patrick has not played on the same level as his three draft mates. It is extremely difficult to make a comparison.
Would you feel comfortable giving Patrick a $5,000,000 a year for five years? Not me, not based on his play and not with medical his condition. I look at this and think a two year show me deal for $ 1.75 million a year is the lowest risk option. If Patrick is out all of next season, it is not cap crippling. It gives him enough money so he will comfortable for life, even if he does not take another shift in the league.
The other school of thought would be to offer him a deal similar to Sean Couturier, something along the lines of a 5-year deal at 3.0 million a season. Barring some trades or a long-term injury, this kind of signing maxes out the salary cap for this season, meaning any roster help would be coming from inside the organization.
With many prospects coming of age it seems a sounds strategy. However, based on the Thompson and Grant trades, general manager Fletcher does not seem like he would be comfortable being “locked in” for the season before the first game was played.
Fletcher has his work cut out for him this off season, getting the roster set is just the beginning, there is a farm system that has been depleted and an expansion draft to consider. Decisions made this summer on restricted free agents will impact the franchise for years to come.