Should Flyers Sign Pending Free Agent Shayne Gostisbehere?

Apr 13, 2023; Sunrise, Florida, USA; Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere (41) shoots the puck during the first period against the Florida Panthers at FLA Live Arena. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 13, 2023; Sunrise, Florida, USA; Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere (41) shoots the puck during the first period against the Florida Panthers at FLA Live Arena. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports /

It wasn’t all that long ago that the Flyers had a young defender that took the city by storm. Shayne Gostisbehere, a third round pick in 2012, had a fantastic rookie season in 2015-16. He scored 17 goals in addition to 29 assists. He finished second in the Calder Trophy award to Artemi Panarin, but just ahead of Connor McDavid (go figure!).  Affectionately dubbed Ghost Bear, he became the youngest recipient of the Barry Ashbee Trophy for best defender at the age of 22.

After his rookie season, he had a rather up and down career in Philadelphia. He signed a a six-year, $27 million contract in June 2017, after his second full season. However, he dealt with a rash of knee injuries during his tenure. Despite pairing well with Ivan Provorov, he was sometimes moved around with other defenders, such as Robert Hagg.

His style of play didn’t always jive with former head coach Alain Vigneault either, who even placed Gostisbehere on waivers. And while he could put up impressive numbers offensively, it came at the cost of his defense as well.

As the Flyers ran into some financial troubles, general manager Chuck Fletcher traded him away to Arizona for…well….nothing. “Future considerations” that have yet to be considered. While some fans were glad to see him gone because of his sometimes frustrating style of play, the lack of return on him also angered many.

In a few weeks, he will become a free agent. He is currently the property of the Carolina Hurricanes after they acquired him at the trade deadline. It is unclear whether or not the Canes will re-sign him, but a lot of that will depend on if they win the Stanley Cup and if players, like Brent Burns, retire.

So, if he is a free agent, should the Flyers look into re-signing him? Should he come back to Philly where he spent the first seven years of his career? After all, the defense is a mess and he could be an improvement over some of the guys we got…right? There are a bunch of things to consider before making a decision.

First of all, there is going to be the cost factor. Gostisbehere is going to be one of the better blueliners up for grabs in free agency, along with Matt Dumba, John Klingberg, Erik Johnson, and Dmitri Orlov. Much like bullpen arms in baseball, your team can never have too many quality defenders. But Gostisbehere will probably cost more than the Flyers can afford. This team is already stretched thin when it comes to salary cap space. It might not be prudent to spend money on him at this point.

Secondly, if he comes in, someone else is going to have to go. If so, who? Rasmus Ristolainen, who plays a lot like Gostisbehere, actually had a nice rebound of a season. Tony DeAngelo, who is an offensive playmaker like Gostisbehere, has run into problems with John Tortorella because of his inability (or unwillingness) to change his playing style to fit the new coach’s system. If Gostisbehere had issues with AV, it is certain he’ll have some with Torts.

Now, if the Flyers could move DeAngelo’s contract, or one of the other higher priced defenders (Travis Sanheim, Provorov), then bringing in Gostisbehere makes more sense. He would be affordable, could slide into a veteran mentor role for players like Cam York and Ronnie Attard, and bring some offensive pop back to the Flyers. That is, once again, if he can fit into the “defense first” system that Tortorella has in play. And if Ristolainen can change and adapt to the system this year, it is possible that Gostisbehere could too.

However, the Flyers biggest needs are up front. They could really use a top center and a good sniper on the wings. Granted, having Sean Couturier back next year, and perhaps Cam Atkinson, will help greatly. But if the Flyers are going to spend money and invest in a player, it could and should be on a forward that can help put up big numbers and help improve the quality of play in our young stars.

Likewise, the Flyers have a young defensive core going on here. Gostisbehere just turned 30. That would make him the oldest defender on the team. Nick Seeler is 29, Ristolainen is 28, DeAngelo is 27, Provorov and Sanheim are 26, and York is 22. The rest of the Flyers potential defensive starters for 2023-24 are under 25 as well. This is a group that the Flyers are bringing up together. Would adding Gostisbehere help that group out or hinder their development?

I’d love to have Gostisbehere back in Philly. I think there is a big part of him that would love a reunion too. However, I just don’t see that happening. It would take a lot of things to fall into place first and the Flyers have a lot of other pressing needs that they need to fix first before they spend a lot of money on a veteran defender. And if they do go all out on a veteran defender, I’d rather it be a shut down, stay at home defender or an offensive juggernaut, like Erik Karlsson rather than having three of the same player making the same mistakes (Gostisbehere, Ristolainen, DeAngelo).