After looking at the RFA’s the Flyers could target last week, I thought it might be time to see what the offseason stage could be like for the Flyers. Again, it is just January, but seeing where the Flyers could go this spring could determine who they re-sign, who they trade, and what other internal decisions need to be made. Chuck Fletcher had backed himself into a corner, but he may be able to find some ways out of it if he is clever.
Flyers: Salary Cap
The biggest issue is what the salary cap is going to be this upcoming year. Projections forecast it to be around $83.5 million. That’s only an increase of $1 million. It could also hurt teams like the Boston Bruins who, like the Flyers, are strapped for cash. It also means that they could end up losing out on re-signing David Pastrnak. And if there is anyone Fletcher could move Heaven and Earth to snag him, I’m all for it.
But this isn’t about what free agents the Flyers could potentially look at. This is to give an idea of what they are going to be facing in the near future. As is, they’d only have a little bit of wiggle room unless the salary cap goes higher. The Flyers will have some names, and their contracts, potentially coming off the books.
The Flyers have only five unrestricted free agents. We’ll take a look at them individually. At the same time, there is a chance that some of these could be moved at the trading deadline.
James van Riemsdyk
He’s 33 and will be 34 this spring. His production is down. He’s been injured. He will most likely be a trade candidate. Allegedly, he’s already on the trade block now.
More importantly, his bloated $7 million-a-year contract will be up in June. That’s money the Flyers can allocate to a top-level free agent, sign a few mid-tier players, or resign younger stars. However, if JVR would consider coming back on a team-friendly deal that is more in the neighborhood of $3-$3.5 million, I’d take him back. That’s about what he’s worth nowadays anyway.
Most likely, he’s done as a Flyer and hopefully, we can a good return on him. But for about half of what he is making, it wouldn’t be bad for him to return for a 1-2 year deal.
With the rise of Cam York and with Egor Zamula waiting to come up, Braun doesn’t have much of a role now. His $1 million contract to come back wasn’t bad. But his time on this team is up. The Flyers won’t get much for him this time around. And at the end of the season, don’t expect him to come back for a third stint. It could be that he retires, as he will soon be 36. Some teams may sign him to be that veteran guy teams sometimes need; as when the Flyers re-signed him this offseason.
Brown hasn’t played much this year as he’s been sidelined with injuries. He does have one goal and three assists so far on the fourth line. Again, a team looking for a grinder to fill out their fourth line for a playoff run may kick the tires on him. He may garner us a low-level draft pick. He makes $750,000 a year and will be 31 this season.
I wouldn’t be averse to re-signing him, as he comes cheap and he brings a veteran presence to that fourth line. Unless there is someone in Lehigh Valley who can fill his spot, I could see him sticking around. He seems to be the kind of guy that Coach John Tortorella likes this have on the team.
Max Willman, Louis Belpedio, and Troy Grosenick
Willman has played nine games this season and hasn’t registered any points. Belpedio was an offseason signing meant to give the defense some depth if everyone got hurt. Grosenick is basically the Flyers’ 5th goalie option. I really can’t see any of these guys sticking around.
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Many teams have lots of restricted free agents (RFAs). Unless they are cut, they remain the property of the team. Sometimes the team will extend them to a long-term deal or keep them, basically, on their previous contract.
However, you have to be careful with RFA’s. Another team can snag them. The process is complicated and you can read about it here. It could cost you some draft picks. Some teams will do it as a way to drive up the price of a contract in order to screw another team out of their salary cap options.
What players do the Flyers have that could be stolen? What RFA’s are worth hanging onto? The first four candidates are players that other teams could possibly make a run on. Again, it’s unlikely, but these are young players who hope to be in the Flyers’ future. The rest, again, we’ll look at individually.
If I’m Fletcher, I want to lock him up now before he becomes too expensive. Cates is a fifth-round pick who has been playing well on the upper two lines. He is 23 years old and may not have hit his ceiling yet. He looks as if he is a young version of Scott Laughton; but one that is eager to learn and improve every aspect of his game. He is flourishing under Coach Tortorella. And right now, he is costing the team $925,000.
Another team could easily see those things too and try to snag him. Maybe not with an outlandish deal, but one closer to the $3 million mark. It might be best for the Flyers to strike first and give him an extension. Something that won’t break the bank, but shows that he is worth investing in.
The 2017 first-rounder that also brought us Cates and Nolan Patrick is having a career year, setting highs in goals and points. He is streaky, but he has these moments when he busts out; like his four-point performance in the victory over the Coyotes.
Frost is making $800,00; even less than Cates. Part of that is his untapped promise so far. But, as with Cates, some teams could see value in him. It might be wise, again, to sign him to a deal that is for the benefit of the team and extend him.
York is the most likely player to get snagged by another team. In the 13 games he’s played since being called up, he has one goal and seven assists. He has made a major difference on this team; especially in the power play.
Young, good defenders are very valuable in this league; especially ones that can contribute on offense. York is earning $880,833. There are quite a few teams out there that could offer him a big contract and try to take him away from us. It would be wise to extend him, even for the short term with the promise of a bigger payday later to prevent this from happening.
He is another young defender waiting. He’s played in 11 games this year as, basically, the team’s eighth defender. He has two assists and looks as if he could play with someone like York on Travis Sanheim. He’ll be 23 in the spring and could be an attractive option for another team. Even if he is not picked up by someone else, he will definitely be resigned by Philly.
He’s been a fixture on the fourth line. He is one point away from tying his career high and has tied his career high in goals with three. The Flyers plucked him off the waiver wires last year and he has been a stable player for them. He is definitely worth re-signing as he has helped to make the Flyer’s fourth line fairly formidable.
Like MacEwen, he was a waiver wire pickup. The former first-rounder has shuttled back and forth between Lehigh Valley and Philly a few times. He has played in 13 games and has yet to have a point. He doesn’t really show that he belongs. Fletcher signed him thinking all he needed was a change of scenery from the Islanders. After all, he was a first-rounder. He is someone that should be let walk and not resigned at the end of this year.
He’s in a Russian prison camp. His contract is up. He is not going to be resigned. It’s a shame. It looks like he had promised to be a strong backup. But with the emergence of Samuel Ersson, he will not be resigned and will probably never make it to North America.
Cates is the older brother of Noah. He’s appeared a few times for the Flyers. In Lehigh Valley, he has scored six goals with five assists. If anything, he’s worth keeping around to keep Noah happy.
Ratcliffe scored 11 goals for the Phantoms last year, but just two this year. In 10 games last season, he scored one goal for Philly as a late-season call-up. He has not been promoted yet this year. It wouldn’t hurt to resign him, but it wouldn’t be a high priority for me either.
He’s in his first season in Philly and Lehigh Valley this year after playing for years in Sweden. He’s scored six goals with 16 assists in 21 games for the Phantoms but remains pointless for the Flyers. Still, he shows some promise and should be resigned.
He is struggling this year with the Phantoms and the ECHL’s Reading Royals. I can’t see the Flyers re-signing him.
Attard was a call-up last year and scored two goals and four points in 15 games as a late-season call-up. He is behind Zamula on the depth chart but shows some promise. The Flyers will most likely resign him.
The Flyers own his rights, but he has scored just seven goals in 108 games over three seasons with the Phantoms. Maybe he is a career minor leaguer. I’d be surprised if he sticks around.
Hogberg is a young defensive-type defender. He’s not going to light up the scoreboard like York, Zamula, or even Attard. Still, he is 24 and could be worth holding onto.
Flyers: Long-Term Injured Reserve
The Flyers have three players who fit this bill: Sean Couturier, Ryan Ellis, and Cam Atkinson. Together, they represent just shy of $20 million in salary cap ($19.875) or almost a quarter of the salary cap. Ellis is the only one on LTIR, so his salary doesn’t count against Philly this year. Coots and Cam are on the regular IR in case a miracle happens.
Still, if we come back to June and they are not healthy and decide to hang it up, that’s $20 million to play with. That could help this team out a lot to lock up young stars and maybe sign a top-level free agent. (Hello Mr. Pastrnak…this is Chuck Fletcher of the Philadelphia Flyers….).
However, that is up to the Flyers’ management and these injured stars. Can they continue to play? Will they, or another player, be bought out? Will anyone be traded? We’ll see. June is a long way off and many things can happen.