Throughout their history, the Philadelphia Flyers have been known to go after the most expensive free agents. Whether it was a player like Jeremy Roenick in the pre-cap era or Vincent Lecavalier in more recent times, these signings rarely had the grand effect that the team was expecting.
Last summer, the Flyers did not make a splash in free agency. However, it is hard to tell whether this was because of the fact that they did not like any available free agents or because they were up against the salary cap.
In terms of the salary cap, they are in a similar position this summer. However, General Manager Ron Hextall has made it clear that at least one of the teams defensemen will be moved and the Flyers are also in a position to buy out one of RJ Umberger or the aforementioned Lecavalier. In any case, the Flyers could conceivably create enough cap space to take a chance on at least one big name free agent.
The 2015 Free Agent class is fairly weak. There are few, if any, players in this free agency class that can be inserted into the top of the lineup (i.e. top six forwards and top pairing defensemen). Therefore, those players who are considered to be at the top of the class will surely be overpaid.
The Flyers lineup has a few obvious needs. Below I have listed three players who have been suggested free agent targets to address such needs. Ultimately, the Flyers should once again steer clear of the free agent frenzy.
2014-2015 Stats: 65GP – 22G, 10A – 32P
Previous Contract: 2 years – $2.7M ($1.35M AAV)
Expected New Contract: Multi-year deal with an AAV of at least $4 million. My guess is that he will sign for between 4-6 years for $4.5 million per year.
Matt Beleskey had a career year in 2014-2015. Beleskey is the only left winger on the free agent market who is both under 30 years of age and who scored over 20 goals last season. Therefore, he will be the most highly sought after UFA left winger.
However, paying too much for Beleskey is a mistake. Although he put up top-six numbers this past season, it was only the second time in his career in which he scored more than 10 goals. He also had a 15.2% shooting percentage. His career average is 9.9%, therefore, he will likely regress to his career norm over the next few seasons.
Although Beleskey put up decent possession numbers in 2014-2015, it must be remembered that he spent a decent chunk of the season skating with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. The fact that he has been a negative possession player in every season prior to 2014-2015 should give teams even more reason to exercise caution.
Beleskey may be a decent third line player who can substitute in the upper half of the line-up when necessary. However, do not let his one 20 goal season fool you, he is not worth the contract that he will likely receive this summer.
Position: Defense (right)
2014-2015 Stats: 72 GP – 10G, 35A -45P
Previous Contract: 3 years – $18.25M ($6.083M AAV)
Expected New Contract: Multi-year deal with an AAV of at least $5 million. My guess is 5 year, $30 million is what he will end up with.
Mike Green is the only defenseman to score 30 goals in the post-lockout era. He is also the only defenseman in the post-lockout era to post back-too-back 70 point seasons. Therefore, he will get paid handsomely this summer.
Although he is no longer the offensive dynamo that he once was, Green was still one of the top 20 defensemen last season in points. He is also right-handed, which will certainly help his stock in free agency.
However, there are multiple reasons why I would be reluctant to sign Mike Green this summer. First, his performance has been hurt by injuries. He has not played in a full season since 2007-2008, and has missed 139 games over the past seven seasons (nearly 20 games per season).
Another factor to consider is his reduced role in Washington. His ice time has decreased over the last three seasons as the Capitals have passed those minutes onto younger players. Green averaged less than 20 minutes per game last season for the first time since his first full year in the NHL.
If the Flyers signed Green, they would expect him to be one of their top defensemen. However, Green has shown that he is no longer suited to play top pairing minutes. Unfortunately for Green, he seems to be on his way to becoming a bottom pair, power play specialist who will be paid like a top four defenseman. The Flyers already have far too many overpaid defensemen.
2014-2015 Stats: 36-14-4, .929 SV%, 2.07 GAA
Previous Contract: 1 year – $800,000
Expected New Contract: Multi-year contract worth at least $3 million per year. My guess is that Dubnyk gets 4 years and a total of $14-16 million.
Like Beleskey, Devan Dubnyk is coming off of a career season. Prior to the 2014-2015 season, Dubnyk had played in 192 NHL games and had a career save percentage of .909. After an amazing run with the Minnesota Wild, Dubnyk rose his stock for free agency and helped his career save percentage jump to .914.
However, when looking at goalies, it is always wise to look at their whole career. Sure, it is possible for a goalie to turn around his career (Flyers fans should know this better than anyone, see Steve Mason), but it is very rare.
Yes, the Flyers need a back-up goalie. Given his size and athleticism, Dubnyk seems like a wonderful option to back up Mason, especially after Mason struggled with some injuries this past season.
However, after his fantastic run with the Wild, Dubnyk will likely be looking for a starting role. This is good news for the Flyers. Dubnyk has not shown anything to make me believe that he truly is a new goaltender. For example, he carried a .908 save percentage in the playoffs this past season, only slightly below his previous career norm.
Like Beleskey, regression will hit Dubnyk hard next season. And for that reason, the Flyers should maximize what little money they have by pursuing other needs.
Once again the Flyers may be saved by their lack of cap space. However, if they do gain some financial flexibility, they need to spend that money wisely. For each player listed above, his best days are behind him. The Flyers should focus on players who still have more to offer.