We are hours away from the NHL Free Agency period starting up. Daniel Briere, the general manager of the Philadelphia Flyers, has had a busy week with the NHL Draft and with trading away Kevin Hayes. He doesn’t have time to rest, however. July 1st starts the NHL Free Agency Period. Let’s take a sneak peek at what we can expect from the Flyers.
What’s the Salary Cap Situation?
As of right now, the Flyers have $10,372,905 in cap space. That’s 14th overall. It’s not great, it’s not bad. It is what it is. However, that doesn’t include Ryan Ellis on the long term injured list. If by some miracle he can play, his $6.25 million would come into play. However, that’s doesn’t seem to be likely. It is also possible that the Flyers could move Ellis to a team (Seattle, Arizona?) that needs to fill up on salary in order to meet the minimum threshold.
Flyers Free Agents: Coming or Going?
Unlike some other teams, like Boston, the Flyers don’t have a lot of free agents departing. As far as unrestricted free agents go, the Flyers have only James van Riemsdyk, Kieffer Bellows, and Brendan Lemieux. Bellows is not coming back after not being given a qualifying offer. Lemieux seemed to click in Philly after being traded and it is possible he could sign a one or two year deal on the cheap to stay. JVR is only coming back if he doesn’t get any offers. And even if he doesn’t get any offers, it would have to be a one-year “prove it deal” for maybe $3 million. However, John Tortorella seemed to appreciate him, so it is possible he could return, but I wouldn’t place any bets on it.
As for as remaining restricted free agents, the Flyers have just three left on their current roster: Noah Cates, Cam York, and Morgan Frost. All will be re-signed and all will receive some sort of boost in salary, which will further lower the cap money that is available.
There are also other players who are not on the current roster that need to be dealt with. Olle Lycksell, Jackson Cates, Max Willman, Ronnie Attard, and Tony Grosenick are all in need of a new contract. These contracts should all come pretty cheap for the team if they bring all of these players back.
After the team looks at all their current free agents and before they look at signing new players, they have to look ahead at their own guys. If they don’t do this, they will run into the same problems that the Bruins and Devils are facing in trying to keep their current players as well as deal with contract extensions.
Next year’s team free agent class is Carter Hart, Owen Tippett, Wade Allison, Tanner Laczynski, Nick Seeler, Sean Walker, Tony DeAngelo and Felix Sandstrom. That list also doesn’t include non-roster players such as Bobby Brink, Egor Zamula, Sam Ersson, and other prospects at the AHL level.
Trades, such as the one the Flyers are trying to make for DeAngelo, will take care of some of these players. Many of these players, like Hart and Tippett, look as if they are some of the major pieces of their future. They will have to make a decision on what to do with them. It’s likely they will be extended or traded sometime this summer or this upcoming season if they can’t reach a deal.
Realistically, What Will Happen?
The Flyers are most likely a few years away from being a true contender. Despite being bad this season, they weren’t that far away from the playoffs. This past year was a bizarre, streaky season and when the team was healthy, they could be pretty hot at times. However, being “close to making the playoffs” is not usually a selling point to attracting a top tier free agent; especially when you don’t have mountains of cash to attract them.
Realistically, count the Flyers out of players like Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, or Ryan O’Reilly. Those players would definitely help this team out, but are at that stage in their careers where they want to win now, not in a few years. Defensive players like Matt Dumba, Shayne Gostisbehere, Dmitri Orlov, or Oliver Ekman-Larsson might be good signings for a team that could use some veterans on the blue line; especially if Travis Sanheim and DeAngelo are also traded away. Philly would have more salary cap money to spend, but would a player of that caliber take a chance on the Flyers?
As far as forwards go, the Flyers are pretty much down to three types of players. The first is older players who don’t have much left to give but won’t hang up the skates. Players like Wayne Simmonds, Milan Lucic, Zach Parise, and Patric Hornqvist fit this bill here. They are shells of what they once were, but have a lot of experience to give to a team of young players.
The second category of available forwards are players who were hurt and need the “prove it deal” and could be moved at the trade deadline. JVR fits this category. Also here are players like Max Pacioretty and Tyler Bertuzzi, though Boston is reportedly trying to sign the latter, who have suffered the injury bug the last few years and still want to show they have value. These contracts should be smaller and more team friendly. However, the Flyers have enough injured guys (Ellis, Cam Atkinson, Sean Couturier) that we don’t know what will happen yet. We don’t need to keep relying on players that are pieced together with duck tape and staples. This is a reason the Flyers are trying to get younger.
Finally, there are the young guys who need a change of scenery. This is where players like Pius Suter, Ryan Donato, Nick Ritchie, Miles Wood, and Ryan Graves could be attractive to the Flyers. Some of these players could probably be signed to a 1-3 year deal for less than $5 million. If they become really good, they could be dealt at the deadline for picks or they could be extended as foundational pieces.
Now that the draft is over, the Flyers can work on their future. This offseason is just heating up and Briere will show us what he is made of. Remember, the Flyers can still add players via trades and attempts at snagging restricted free agents. Hopefully the deals made will help push the team forward.