Flyers Stand Pat While Eastern Arms Race Begins

MONTREAL, QUEBEC - JULY 08: The Philadelphia Flyers management attend the 2022 NHL Draft at the Bell Centre on July 08, 2022 in Montreal, Quebec. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
MONTREAL, QUEBEC - JULY 08: The Philadelphia Flyers management attend the 2022 NHL Draft at the Bell Centre on July 08, 2022 in Montreal, Quebec. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

Flyers fans have been standing by anxiously looking at their phones for updates that perhaps they have signed Johnny Gaudreau. If not him, than perhaps some other high end free agent. So far, that hasn’t happened yet. But many of the other teams in the Eastern Conference have gone all in on day one of the free agency season. Let’s see what everyone else has been doing and how that affects Philadelphia.

New York Rangers: The team shored up its goalie situation by signing veteran netminder Jaroslav Halak to be Igor Shesterkin’s backup. Louis Domingue was also added to be the third stringer.  The Rangers also signed Vincent Trocheck away from the Carolina Hurricanes. The Trocheck signing could be one of the players that puts this team over the tops. Halak is a solid goalie who will do wonders for this team.

Pittsburgh Penguins: The team made their moves before the deadline, locking up Kris Letang and Evgeni Malkin. They also added two-time Stanley Cup Champion Jan Rutta from Tampa Bay.

Carolina Hurricanes. You’d think they’d be down after trading Tony DeAngelo to Philly and losing Trocheck to the Rangers. Nope. They signed forward Ondrej Kase, traded “future considerations” to Vegas for Max Pacioretty and Dylan Coghlan, and traded for Brett Burns from the Sharks for depth pieces and picks. Somehow, their GM was able to navigate everything today by acquiring players while giving up very little.

Columbus Blue Jackets: The Jackets made the biggest surprise of the day by somehow snagging Johnny Gaudreau. Up until last evening, they spent the day signing their two first round draft picks and have been working to keep Patrik Laine in house. They also signed defender Erik Gudbranson. If they can sign Laine to a long term deal, the pairing of Laine and Gaudreau could haunt the Flyers for years to come.

Washington Capitals: They’ve made a trade to acquire Connor Brown. The Caps also have new goalies, signing Charlie Lindgren and Darcy Kuemper. They have also re-signed Marcus Johansson.

New Jersey Devils and New York Islanders: I’ve placed these two teams together as it is pretty much the same story for both teams. The teams seemed to be the top two in the Johnny Gaudreau sweepstakes. Each team has been busy trying to clear cap space as well as driving up the price for Johnny G. Now that he is signed by CBJ, they will use the assets that they have to snag other free agents that are available. Devils signed Brendan Smith to shore up their back end. The Isles are now scrambling for Plan B, whatever that may be.

Boston Bruins: They helped the Devils by trading for Pavel Zacha. They sent Erik Haula in return. They signed a bunch of depth pieces, including: Dan Renouf,  A.J. Greer, and Vinni Lettieri. More importantly, they are working on bringing back David Krejci which will help keep Patrice Bergeron in house too.

Ottawa Senators: Boy have they been busy.  They traded away Matt Murray and Connor Brown. They traded for Alex DeBrincat. They signed Claude Giroux and Cam Talbot. This is a team that is gunning for the playoffs and trying to move ahead in the division.

Buffalo Sabres: They signed defender Ilya Lyubushkin and goalie Eric Comrie while re-signing Viktor Olofsson. It’s not enough to help this team get out of the doldrums, but it is a start.

Detroit Red Wings: The Wings have definitely lost a step since joining the Eastern Conference. But they made some moves that could help them out. They signed forwards Dominik Kubalik,  Andrew Copp, and David Perron as well as defenseman Ben Chiarot and Olli Maatta.

Florida Panthers: Because of their salary cap struggles, they lost out on Giroux. Their big move was in signing the Staal brothers, Eric and Marc. They’ve also signed former Senator Colin White and former Flyers Nick Cousins and Alex Lyon.

Tampa Bay Lightning: The Stanley Cup runner ups have signed Mikhail Sergachev, Anthony Cirelli, and Erik Cernak to eight year extensions. They signed depth defender Haydn Fleury. They also signed Ian Cole away from the Carolina Hurricanes. They traded away defender Ryan McDonagh to help free up cap space for some depth pieces, including former Flyer Philippe Myers, who fell out of favor in Nashville. Not sure how this team is able to keep loading up talent every year, but Chuck Fletcher should take notes.

Montreal Canadiens: The Habs have been quiet so far, signing their draft picks, signing depth pieces, and keeping their RFAs in house. But to be fair, they made most of their noise during the draft swinging trades for draft picks. They might not be good this upcoming year, but they won’t be bad for long.

Toronto Maple Leafs: Nicolas Aube-Kubel’s reward for dropping the Stanley Cup during the photo shoot was to find a new home in Toronto. The Leafs also signed Adam Gaudette, Ilya Samsonov,  Denis Malgin, and traded for Matt Murray.


So, where does all leave the Flyers? Well, not sure. In a statement today, Fletcher said that the Flyers were “never in on Gaudreau”. Maybe this is the truth or maybe it is a Jedi mind trick. If it is a trick, playing cool could help out and make the team seem less desperate in moving players with heavy cap spaces. If it is the truth, maybe they have someone else in mind that they are keeping a lid on.

Either way, it is disconcerting. The Rangers have loaded up. Despite the odds, the Canes are moving assets around and should still be a very strong team to contend with. The Senators, while not in our division, are beasting up ready to make a move. Boston and Pittsburgh and keeping their stars in house.

Tampa is making moves that will make them competitive through 2030. Columbus has now made themselves to be a lot stronger and a team to watch. The Devils and Isles are worth keeping an eye on as they look to make other moves.

We cannot afford to stand by and watch. I’ve seen too many years with Ron Hextall and Fletcher as GM saying “we’re happy with what we have” while our divisional rivals get stronger. The Metro Division is the toughest in the league. The Eastern Conference is the strongest of the two. The Flyers can’t be content with doing “just enough” to be a first round out in the playoffs.  If Fletcher is not careful, his tenure as GM could be on the clock.

So far, they’ve signed Justin Braun and Nicolas Deslauriers, but that can’t be enough to put this team into contention. More is needed. If it is not going to be Gaudreau, they need to find someone to make a trade with and acquire someone or sign another top tier forward. Nazem Kadri is still available as are Ondrej Palat, Dylan Strome, or Nino Niederreiter. A move could be made for an RFA like Laine, Matthew Tkachuk, or Martin Necas.