Top 4 RFAs the Philadelphia Flyers could snag in 2023

Philadelphia Flyers (Photo by Chris Tanouye/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)
Philadelphia Flyers (Photo by Chris Tanouye/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images) /

We’re in January, but it’s never too soon to look at the offseason. And when your season has gone the way the Flyers has, it’s ok to start prepping for the future. Restricted free agents  (RFAs) are a tricky proposition. In order to acquire a player, the Flyers would have to make an offer to sign a player.

The player has to agree to the terms and the current team that the player is on has 10 days to match the offer. If the team matches, he resigned from his original team under the new deal. If the team doesn’t, he becomes the property of the new team, although compensation is given to the first team depending on how good of a player he is and how much money was offered. If you are interested, I have a breakdown of it here.

It’s an interesting way to poach players from another team, but it does come with risk. Sometimes, you can end up humiliated in the process; most recently the Carolina Hurricanes stole Kasperi Kotkaniemi from the Montreal Canadiens after they attempted to steal Sebastian Aho. It lead to a fair bit of trolling on behalf of the Canes which has led to an interesting rivalry between the two teams.

In short, few teams do it. Flyers have tried to twice: Chris Gratton, who they acquired and then traded back a year later, and Shea Weber who they did not get. Gratton didn’t pan out too well as a Flyer, but a lot of that was due to unreal expectations placed on him by then-GM Bobby Clarke. Weber…dang….he would’ve looked great in orange and black.

It’s a risky proposition, but sometimes you may find someone you really, really like and can make a contribution now. It could be worth it.

Here are four RFAs the Flyers could and should look at in June; provided that they can clear up some salary cap space first.

Philadelphia Flyers RFA Target: Alexander Debrincat

Debrincat is currently second on the Senators in points with 33 behind Brady Tkachuk. He is one of the young forwards in the NHL. The 26-year-old was a star in Chicago before being traded to Ottawa for salary cap relief.

Ottawa may be a team on the rise, but let’s be honest…it’s Ottawa. As soon as they start getting better, they sell off players. Plus, the team is still looking for new ownership. Do you think Debrincat would want to stay there?

He is a former 40-goal scorer. He may be older than most of the other available RFAs, but he is a seasoned vet who knows how to find the back of the net. He could form a very formidable pair with Travis Konecny on the front line. If you want a scoring threat, here is one. With a lot of the young players we have on this team, he could easily become an instant game-changer.

Philadelphia Flyers RFA Target: Jesper Bratt

What’s better than signing a young, long-term sniper to a long-term deal? Stealing one from a divisional rival. Bratt is playing on New Jersey’s second line with Tomas Tatar and Nico Hischier and is currently second on the team with total points (31). He is part of the Devils’ youth movement. They can’t keep everyone. Someone is gonna get paid and someone is gonna get left out. This is a perfect chance to strike.

He is on pace to have a career-high in points, possibly topping last year’s 73. He has trended better and better every season.  He’ll be 25 in the offseason and would fit in nicely with some of our younger forwards.

But what I love best about a move like this is that it puts the Devils in a funky situation. They may be forced to overpay him and possibly lose another player if the Flyers offer him a big contract. That would hamper their salary cap and possibly hurt them in fixing other holes in their lineup. But if they let him go, that is a major weapon that A) they will have to replace and B) just surrendered to a divisional foe. Either way, it’s a win-win for Philly.

Philadelphia Flyers RFA Target: Gabe Vilardi

He is currently leading the Los Angeles Kings with 15 goals. The 23-year-old is finally showing off his talents. Whereas the other players listed above have been good for a few years, this is one kid who is starting to come into his own. He could be a player that can click with Owen Tippett or Joel Farabee and create a solid second line.

Likewise, he would probably come cheaper. He has already tied his career best in points and set a career-high in goals in just 37 games this season. He is young and will be ready to explode onto the scene. But because he hasn’t hit it big yet, he could be a player that the Flyers could snag for a smaller deal…or at least drive up the price for the Kings to keep him.

Philadelphia Flyers RFA Target: Timo Meier

Meier is probably the top player in this class. His 20 goals are tied for 10th best in the league. He has scored over 20 goals a year every year; with the exception of the COVID-shortened year when he had just 12 goals.

He is not a great defensive forward, so he may not fit coach John Tortorella’s system. But there is no doubt about his abilities. He can shoot and he can score. Perhaps if he was paired up with a more defensive-minded forward, like Sean Couturier, he may flourish. He is making $6 million and can command a lot more. This is one player that the Flyers may have to do a trade and sign for if they were to go after him.