Looking at the Flyers Upcoming Free Agents

Philadelphia Flyers v Florida Panthers
Philadelphia Flyers v Florida Panthers / Joel Auerbach/GettyImages

As the season is winding down, we can take a quick look at what players the Flyers have that will be up for a new contract at the end of this year. Some might be worth retaining while others are probably best being shown the door out of here.

The Flyers have four unrestricted free agents on the roster and four restricted free agents. We will look at these eight players and see what could happen to them. The Flyers have other players at the AHL level whose contracts could be renewed, either as an RFA or UFA, but we won't get into those at this point.

The UFA's

Marc Staal: Staal has played in about half of the games this season. That was pretty much the plan. He's probably done a lot of work behind the scenes to help the younger blueliners improve their game. In that role, he's almost been like an assistant coach. He signed here as a free agent last year knowing what his role would be and has fully embraced it.

He just turned 37. If he wants to return for one more season and play for his $1.1 million to serve as a player-mentor to the young guys, I'd at least consider it. Most likely, he'll retire. However, if he wants a one-year reunion, I'd be willing to go for it. I believe he has done a lot to help steady younger guys like Cam York and Egor Zamula into their full-time roles.

Denis Gurianov: The former first-rounder was a salary dump given to Philly. He's played in just three games. He's averaged about 12 minutes in those games. While he's 26, he's about five years removed from when he scored 20 goals for Dallas. He's scored one all season in 17 games. I don't see him being back here next season.

It's not that Gurianov has been bad. It's that he's been, well, nothing really to speak of. He's a guy who should be at the peak of his career. Unless he can unlock the promise he was reputed to have or if he can show himself to be a solid fourth liner, he's gone. Even then, the Flyers have too many young wingers waiting to make their mark on the NHL to make it worth keeping him around beyond this season.

Erik Johnson: Johnson came over from Buffalo for a fourth-round pick to give the team some veteran depth going into the playoffs. He hasn't been amazing or a liability. If he's one of those guys who works hard, he could earn the respect of John Tortorella and be back next year. Most likely, he'll be just a rental player for this season.

Johnson has been playing well enough. It depends on what the team decides to do with players like Rasmus Ristolainen, who's been hurt most of this season. With the team most likely relying on giving Jamie Drysdale another shot next season, Johnson is probably on his way out. There's just not going to be room for him and there are a lot of up-and-coming defenders waiting below.

Felix Sandstrom: Sandstrom has been put into a tough spot this year. He's been pushed down to fourth on the goalie depth chart. However, due to Carter Hart's absence and the ineffectiveness of Cal Petersen, Sandstrom has been brought up to be Sam Ersson's backup after struggling this year in Allentown.

Sandstrom has started in two games, going 1-1. He has also appeared in relief in two other games. He's been a trooper in how he's handled all of this. He struggled a great deal last year and his play for the Phantoms has not been encouraging. However, after this season's conclusion, he and the team will probably part ways. It's for the best for both parties. He may need another shot somewhere else or back in Sweden.

The RFAs

Bobby Brink: Brink has had an interesting season as a rookie. He started hot, lost some confidence in himself, got demoted, and got hot again. Upon being called up, he has been a contributor again. He's shown a lot of heart and grit. There is no way he's not being re-signed. Most likely, he'll be extended for a few years. He's one to lock up and do it soon.

Brink will turn 23 this offseason. He is still very young and has shown growth this year. More importantly, he has a lot of toughness. Tortorella likes his work ethic. That alone will keep him around. He's played on all three top lines and is showing himself to be fairly versatile.

Egor Zamula: The young defender is quietly putting together a good season. He posted points in each of his first three games this year. He hasn't been much of a defensive liability. For a guy who started the season as a "bubble guy" to make the team, he's shown he deserves to be here. The Flyers will most definitely re-sign him. He could be a fixture on this team for quite a while if he keeps improving his skill set.

Zamula has shown he has a lot of upside. With other young guys, like York and Emil Andrae, he has helped to establish that he belongs in the NHL. Andrae struggled after a brief stint in Philly to start the year. Zamula, however, has shown a lot of growth. He has found his scoring touch, scoring five goals with 13 assists in 57 games. After appearing in a few games here and there over the last three seasons, he's finally made it.

Adam Ginning: Ginning has come up due to injuries to the defensive corps. He's handled himself pretty well so far. There's no reason to suggest the Flyers won't re-sign him in the offseason. He is a good depth signing and, if he improves, could be part of this team's future.

Ginning may or may not make the team next year. The 24-year-old will have to compete for a spot next year. The starters for this team already appear to be locked up, barring a trade. Andrae, Helge Grans, and Ronnie Attard are waiting for full-time roles. Still, Ginning is a former second-rounder who could be a starter or a good depth piece. He's worth keeping around.

Carter Hart: Then we come to the big elephant in the room. He's been injured a lot off and on. He's been a star. Then he looks like he's completely lost there on the ice. The fact that the Flyers haven't engaged with him in an extension before this season is very telling.

And all of this isn't even taking into consideration his legal issues. Even if he is found to be "not guilty", would the Flyers want to have someone with these allegations tainting him? The rise of Sam Ersson and the number of rising goaltending prospects in the pipeline make Hart expendable. The team could sign a veteran to back-up Ersson or roll the dice on a young prospect next season. But let's face the facts: Hart's time in Philadelphia is over.