Niskanen’s Departure Leaves a Void, and Options For Flyers
2020 just keeps getting stranger and stranger. Matt Niskanen’s retirement took a lot of people by surprise. It immediately created tumult on the Flyers roster and eliminated the certainty of a solid top defensive pair for next season and created a pressing need. On the bright side, the cap situation looks a lot better than it did a week ago.
After a down year in Washington, Niskanen was acquired for Radko Gudas, the Flyers retaining 30% of Gudas’ salary. It was looked upon as a cost dump by the Capitals. In the final analysis, the deal was a draw. The Caps escaped the cap for one last run at the cup, bringing in a cheap and serviceable right handed shot in Gudas. The Flyers got two years of a compliment for Ivan Provorov. Well, make that one year.
Niskanen was never really overwhelming or a standout with his play in 2020, but he was great for Provorov. Niskanen was able to manage risk and use good judgment that allowed Provorov take more chances. That kind of trust is worth a great deal, and it will be hard to replace, especailly from the pieces currently on the roster.
Niskanen’s departure has started a little bit of a chain reaction. Justin Braun, who I thought was destined for the Pacific Division, has been re-signed at an economical two-year 1.8 million AAV contract. Just $200,000 more a season than Robert Hagg. The Flyers were able to bring Brian Elliott back in a one-year pact at 1.5 million dollars. Looks like Carter Hart’s comments did not bring all that much leverage, as Elliott took a pay cut to come back. It looks like the Flyers will also get a chance to sign some of their UFAs if they so desire.
The Flyers also qualified it’s key restricted free agents. Nolan Patrick and Phil Myers will not be allowed to walk away for nothing. With Niskanen’s retirement the Flyers have over eight-million in cap space to play with in attempts to sign these players. But there is a catch, the Flyers are short a defensemen.
Mark Friedman, or Sam Morin, may have the first chance to step in, but the Flyers may now be more active in the free agent market. The Flyers will look at some of the top shelf toys that are on the market, but don’t get you hopes too high, we are in an expansion draft year, and are already in a situation where we will have to leave one quality defensemen exposed.
While Pietrangelo is probably not in the Flyers future, there are several players who might fit in nicely. Zach Bogosian is intriguing, especially if the Flyers feel that Friedman can grow into the job. Bogosian did a nice job for the Lightning during their cup run, and may be a nice Robin to Provorov’s Batman. The down side is that Bogosian has not reliably healthy over the last few years.
Troy Stetcher and Matt Benning some of the possibilities for the Flyers to vet. These players have their warts, but they are also players that should represent a small financial commitment. They are also players who should not be missed were they to be plucked from the roster by way of the expansion process.
In the wake of Niskanen’s departure, now is not the time to panic. To his credit, Fletcher has not. There may have been some pressure to overpay for Braun, but he resisted and was able to get a fair deal done. Expect the Flyers to be value shoppers for the remainder of free agency, but do expect them to shop.