The Flyers have had a busy offseason. They’ve signed some depth pieces, selected some potentially great draft picks, and unloaded some dead weight from the team. While these moves aren’t going to catapult them to the top of the standings this year, they are looking further ahead to the future.
Speaking of that future, you have to examine the other teams in the Metropolitan Division to see where the Flyers fit in. Several of the teams in the division have made some major moves to get stronger. Other teams are just getting older and are primed for a fall. Looking at how the Flyers stand in comparison to the rest of their competition can give us an idea of how well the rebuild is coming along.
*The following list is based on how the Metropolitan Division finished last season*
The Canes have been the cream of the crop in the division. They have been a dominant, well balanced team and a strong contender for the Eastern Conference Champions since Rod Brind’Amour took over as head coach. They are also in grave danger of losing their title as best team in the Metro.
Last season, the team made it all the way to the Conference Finals for the second time in five years. Injuries took their toll on them as the playoffs went on. The biggest one was when scoring juggernaut Andrei Svechnikov tore his ACL just before the end of the season. He may be healthy enough for training camp, but we’ll see. Teuvo Teravainen broke his hand during the first round of the playoffs, but did return for their series against the Panthers.
This team is loaded with talent. Sebastian Aho and Martin Necas form a very strong offensive unit. They were reinforced this year when the Canes signed Michael Bunting. They also re-signed the heart and soul of their team, Jordan Staal, as well as re-upping their solid goaltending duo of Antti Raanta and Frederick Andersen.
Raanta and Andersen are not necessarily the best goalies in the league. However, they are dependable. It also helps when you have the NHL’s best defensive corps in front of you. Brent Burns shows no signs of aging as he scored 18 goals with 61 points. Jaccob Slavin, Brady Skjei, and Brent Pesce are three of the best defensive minded blueliners in the league. The Canes also added veteran defender Dmitri Orlov to this squad. It was already a formidable bunch, but adding Orlov will make it more so.
Carolina was in contention for Erik Karlsson most of the offseason. Those rumors took a big hit after the Canes signed former Flyers defenseman Tony DeAngelo. DeAngelo had great success in his lone season in Carolina. Will he listen to Brind’Amour after striking out with John Tortorella? Who knows at this point?
So with all of this that is positive, what’s the problem with the Hurricanes? Why could this team lose their position as top dog in the Metro? Carolina has nine unrestricted free agents and four RFAs looming next year. We aren’t talking about young prospects here. We’re talking about the core of this team: Necas, Skeji, Pesce, and Teravainen as well as former Flyer Brendan Lemieux. They just recently re-upped Aho for nine years.
Carolina currently has just under $900,000 freed up for the cap now that the DeAngelo deal is finalized, but that could change when Svechnikov is activated. Likewise, the cap is expected to rise next year. How much is yet to be determined, but it looks as if it could be more than this year’s raise of $1 million. Still, can Carolina keep everyone? They are a young team and everybody is going to want to be paid. I guess it depends on if players want money more than a chance to win the cup. This team is a legit contender if they can keep it together. They’ve survived losing good players like Dougie Hamilton, Jeff Skinner, and Vincent Trocheck in the past. How long can that continue? Are Carolina’s days numbered? As far as this season goes, they will probably capture the division. 2024-25….that’s a different story.
New Jersey Devils
The Devils were the surprise of the Metro last year. In one season they went from last place to within one point of the division title. Bolstered by a young squad and a trade deadline pickup of Timo Meier, the Devils are in prime position to take the division. They handled the Rangers in seven games in the first round of the playoffs last season, but got manhandled by the Canes in the second round.
The Devils have been quiet, losing Ryan Graves and Miles Wood to free agency. Most of the moves they’ve made have been depth signings. However, they re-signed Meier to an eight year contract. They also bolstered their offense by trading for Calgary forward Tyler Toffoli. Only two of their current forwards are over 30 (Toffoli and Ondrej Palat). A lot of how they performed in the postseason last year could be attributed to the relative youth and inexperience of this team.
Jack Hughes, Jesper Bratt, Nico Hischier, and Meier will form a foursome that is signed on for the next four years. That is a great core group of guys to build around. It’s a model that the Flyers could really use to follow in their rebuild. This team will once again challenge Carolina for the divisional title. They should also be a very competitive team for the rest of the 2020s. Barring a multitude of injuries, this team isn’t going away anytime soon.
New York Rangers
The Rangers have had a busy offseason. They slipped from second place to third and struggled this playoff season. In order to shake things up, they hired former Flyers coach Peter Laviolette to guide the team. It’s hoped that the Stanley Cup winning coach can finally bring the trophy back to Broadway.
They also have made a lot of signings. Nick Bonino and Erik Gustafsson highlight a free agent class that is expected to bolster this lineup while they lost only Niko Mikkola to the Panthers. Likewise, the Rangers signed depth pieces like Tyler Pitlick and Jonathan Quick as a backup to mighty goaltender Igor Shesterkin. This will help to fortify a powerful lineup already brimming with starts like Artemi Panarin, Jacob Trouba, Adam Fox, Vincent Trocheck, and Mika Zibanejad.
Shesterkin is the key to this team. He is one of the top five best goalies in the league. When Henrik Lundqvist retired, most thought that the Rangers would take a step back in net. Not at all. And there are some indications that Shesterkin could end up even better than the Hall of Famer. As long as he is in between the posts, the Rangers will have a chance to win.
This team can score, but they have struggled defensively. They still have over $2 million left in cap space in which they could sign a defender or someone else. Allegedly, Vladimir Tarasenko wanted to return to New York, but he ended up signing a one-year deal with the Ottawa Senators.
The Rangers are also aging. They don’t have a lot of time left as most of their forwards are on the wrong side of 30. Their window is rapidly closing as younger teams, like Carolina and New Jersey (and to a lesser extent Philadelphia) are exerting their influence on the division. If the Rangers don’t take the division and make a deep run in the playoffs, management will have to consider altering this team in the next year or two.