Five Players the Flyers Need to Move On From

Mar 23, 2023; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov (9) controls the puck against the Minnesota Wild in overtime at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 23, 2023; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov (9) controls the puck against the Minnesota Wild in overtime at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports /

The Flyers have had a crazy up and down season this year. At times they’d look really good and then they would go through stretches where they couldn’t purchase a goal or do anything to stop one from being scored.

This team has quite a few holes and it will take a long time for them to rebuild to where they should be. As such, it will really be a while before they can contend. At the same time, John Tortorella has been looking at players while in the management box the last few weeks, with new general manager Daniel Briere. The idea being that this team needs to evaluate their guys moving forward.

With that in mind, here are five guys the Flyers need to cut ties with via a trade or outright release. I’ve eliminated the free agents (James van Riemsdyk, Justin Braun, and Brendan Lemieux) for obvious reasons. The only way they are coming back is if they are asked back…and to be honest, I can only see Lemieux possibly being offered a contract. JVR and Braun are both gone. (unless JVR comes back on a $3 million deal) The following players are listed in alphabetical order.

Kieffer Bellows

Bellows was picked up on the waiver wire earlier in the year. It was expected and hoped that the former first round pick would show off the talents that helped him become a highly sought after prospect. That didn’t happen.

For a long time he bounced back and forth between being benched, being waived, and being demoted to Lehigh Valley. He didn’t perform in the AHL either. It kind of made you wonder why he was still attached to this team when he wasn’t producing.

And look, I get it. If I was Chuck Fletcher, I would’ve made the move too. It was a low-risk, high-reward pickup. Sometimes people need a change of scenery. Patrick Sharp flourished after being traded to Chicago. Perhaps Tanner Laczynski will do better somewhere where he can be better appreciated by his coach.

But Bellows hasn’t worked out here. He’s just 24, but I think he’s shown all he has. In 27 games, he scored just three goals. I would make no effort to re-sign him.

Tony DeAngelo

When the Flyers traded for Tony DeAngelo, I was super excited. I live in NC and watch the Hurricanes from time to time (don’t worry, my heart still belongs to Philly). He came in as a replacement for the departed Dougie Hamilton, an offensively minded defender who went to the Devils in free agency (another guy I thought would’ve been great in Philly).

After years of controversy, he had a great year in Carolina and they traded him to the Flyers. (fun fact, they replaced him with Brent Burns and haven’t lost a step). And offensively, he played well here. His 11 goals are the second most in his career. His 42 points are down from last season, but are still the third highest in his career.

This year, he led the Flyers with 19 power play points and was the top point getter amongst the team’s defenders. His 42 points ranked him 27th in the NHL amongst blueliners, but let’s be honest…nobody was touching Erik Karlsson’s 101 points. (Another fun fact…Hamilton was 4th with 74 points and Burns was 12th with 61.)

But after setting a career high of +30 last year, he set a career low, and led the Flyers, with a -27. Offense isn’t the only part of his game. John Tortorella has stated in the past:

"“We want to try to help him. We feel he needs to get better defensively, without taking away any of the great offensive ability he has. The defensive liability is something we have to work on.”"

And for some reason, that hasn’t happened. He was scratched in December and then for the final two weeks of the season. This looks like it is heading for a divorce. And DeAngelo has just one year left on his contract. And while he is talented, he doesn’t seem to be willing, or is downright unable, to make the changes that Tortorella wants him to make. It might be time to move on from him.

Kevin Hayes

Kevin Hayes is a popular guy amongst his teammates, with the fans (at least before this year).  He’s had struggles over the last few years with injuries, COVID, and the death of hie brother. Last year, he was the Flyers nominee, and a finalist, for the Masterton Award.

When the Flyers hired Tortorella, there was no reason to suspect that this would’ve ended up badly. Torts love gritty, hard-nosed guys and Hayes is the epitome of one. Then he was benched for a period with Travis Konecny as a way to get them going. Konecny rose to the occasion and had the best year of his career. Hayes went the other way.

In December, he was benched again. He disagreed with the move as, at the time, he was the Flyers’ top scorer. He went on a tear following the benching and was named an All-Star. And then after the All-Star game, he went into a funk where he didn’t score for two months. While he led the Flyers in assists (36) and was second in points (54…just one point away from tying a career high), he seemed to disappear.

He went from a front line starter to relegated on the third line. His attitude is not consistent with his performance. While he and Torts claim there is no animosity between them, there is something there. Supposedly the Blue Jackets were kicking the tires on him around the deadline. It’s possible other teams may want to check in on him also.

If Briere can get some picks, prospects, vets, or some combination for him, he should do it. It will be hard because of his price tag. But I feel that this situation will continue to deteriorate for the team and for him. It’s best to cut ties before it becomes ugly. I like Hayes, but I think it is time for everyone to move on.

Ivan Provorov

Ivan Provorov was the recipient of this year’s Barry Ashbee Award for best defender for the Flyers. This was mainly due to….uh….hmmmmm….because somebody had to win it. I myself would’ve said Nick Seeler or Rasmus Ristolainen (who really turned his season around). It wasn’t going to be DeAngelo and Travis Sanheim had kind of a sketchy season. Cam York and Justin Braun didn’t play enough to earn it…so, Provy, you win the award! Yeah.

He was the only defender to play all 82 games. Tortorella seems to like his grit and effort. However, the two disagree on his offensive capabilities. Provorov sees himself in the mold of a Hamilton or DeAngelo. He’s not. He’s better when he is sitting back as a shutdown defender. And even then, he isn’t an elite one.

Provorov’s six goals this year are tied for the lowest of his career. His -17 is only mildly better than his career worst -20 set last year. His skills are not improving. He is not as good as he thinks he is. And with a crop of young defenders coming up, someone has to go. It might be possible to trade him this year while other teams still think that the 26 year old has some value. I said the same thing last year and I stand by it.

Felix Sandstrom

Backup goalies are one of those things that you don’t realize how valuable they are until you have one in net; either when they are just giving the starter a much needed day off or because said starter is hurt. The Flyers have two backups: Sam Ersson and Felix Sandstrom. And they definitely help us to remember how great Carter Hart is.

Ersson has shown the most upside. Sandstrom has struggled more this year. Now, how much of that is Sandstrom’s fault is up for debate as the whole Flyers team kind of sucked this year. Sandstrom is also 26 while Ersson is 23 and Hart is 24. I feel he is the odd man out. The Flyers can keep Ersson up at the NHL level and restock the Phantoms with a goalie. Likewise, there can always be another goaltender they can sign on the side. But I feel that Sandstrom’s time needs to be done.

Honorable Mentions: Tanner Laczynski and Travis Sanheim

Laczynski can use a fresh start somewhere and it is clear that Tortorella doesn’t seem to really want him around. Sanheim (see Provorov above since much of the same can go for him)