The Philadelphia Flyers will set out to rebuild their roster after missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs in three consecutive seasons. Newly appointed franchise governor Dan Hilferty and interim general manager (GM) Danny Brière will be among the decision-makers who face a critical offseason that will set the tone for the long-term future of the organization. The fate of key players like Carter Hart, Kevin Hayes, and Ivan Provorov hangs in the balance. Meanwhile, the Flyers still need to hire one of their primary decision-makers who will influence the offseason.
Addition by Subtraction- Offseason Trades
John Tortorella worked to establish a new standard for performance on and off the ice during his first season in Philadelphia. He evaluated players that might become part of the solution and players who won’t be part of the solution.
“Some of them (young players) have grown, and some of them haven’t. Some of the veteran guys haven’t That’ll be discussed. For me, the next step with this organization is: You don’t start adding players until you subtract them. I think there needs to be some subtraction,” Tortorella said on March 20.
James van Riemsdyk will leave in free agency. Brière will more than likely trade Kevin Hayes for late-round draft compensation. The rookie GM will need to determine the value of veterans Ivan Provorov, Travis Konecny, Scott Laughton, and Tony DeAngelo as the most important skaters on the team who can be used as trade chips. Travis Sanheim and Rasmus Ristolainen aren’t likely to move this offseason because of expensive long-term contracts.
Provorov is the likeliest to be involved in a major trade. It’s up to Brière to sell the appeal of a workhorse defenseman with a great competitive motor without allowing Provorov’s performance in the past three seasons to destroy his trade value entirely. Despite his struggles, the Russian blueliner has similarities to some of the top defensemen that have hit the trade market in recent seasons.
Laughton and Konecny have grown into important leadership roles. Tortorella praised both players consistently throughout the season, and the organization would like both of them back. However, they should not hold onto two players in the prime of their careers simply for the sake of building a culture if either one of them can bring back a more useful haul that can contribute to building a foundation of younger talent that better fits the organization’s timeline. Brière insisted during his introductory press conference in March that he will avoid a “fire sale,” and Laughton and Konecny look like two of the likeliest veterans to stay in Philadelphia.
DeAngelo wants to stay with the Flyers despite ending the season on rocky terms with Tortorella. It will be tough for Brière to find a trade partner to take on the final year of a $5 million contract for a defenseman who struggled in his own end in 2022-23 and failed to bring the Philadelphia power play out of the 32nd position in the NHL. Count on watching him play for his hometown for one more season.
Wade Allison failed to join the conversation as a young player the organization is excited about as a building block for the future. Good depth at right wing might makes him expendable if a minor trade opportunity comes along. Tortorella never showed legitimate confidence in Felix Sandström in 2022-23, and the backup goaltender should be on the table if there is any interest from other teams.
Carter Hart’s Future
Brière and the front office will have to make their biggest decision on the future of Hart. The 24-year-old goaltender is due for an expensive long-term deal as a restricted free agent after the 2023-24 season. The Flyers face a choice between paying him next summer or trading him now. It certainly wouldn’t be addition by subtraction, but they’re reportedly open to trade conversations as part of the long-term rebuild.
The Flyers understandably don’t want to let go of a promising young goaltender who was supposed to be the one to finally stop the revolving door that’s continued for over two decades between the pipes in Philadelphia. The thought of losing a player at the most important position in hockey entering the prime years of his career might not seem wise on the surface, but the organization has a major choice to make about its most valuable trade chip.
If Hart wants to remain in Philadelphia long term, they can invest in him with an expensive deal to keep him through his late 20s. The Flyers would lean on a starting goaltender as potentially their best player through the years of the rebuild that are unlikely to include any playoff appearances. They could also choose to use their most valuable chip differently with an attempt to flip Hart in a trade that could kickstart the rebuild. If a return package can correct the lack of top-end talent on the Philadelphia roster, the Flyers cannot ignore the possibility of moving their franchise goaltender.
President of Hockey Operations
The Flyers have slipped far out of the spotlight on the Philadelphia sports scene, and they’re at a crossroads right now. It’s almost a certainty that Brière will become the full-time GM. The new President of Hockey Operations hire will hope to create a new dynamic with Brière that is in line with the most successful NHL front offices like the Boston Bruins and the Colorado Avalanche.
Brière is a promising young executive who has been praised for his relationships with the players and an open mind to the use of hockey analytics. His experience as a player in the salary cap era appeals to a franchise that has had trouble for almost the entirety of its existence adjusting to innovations of the NHL. However, his experience in the front office is somewhat limited, and the new President will need to provide the right complement. Hilferty spoke about his vision of the ideal candidate for the President role.
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“What we need in a president is someone who really can play at that NHL level and support me as an alternate governor along with Valerie Camillo as an alternate governor, understand the role of the NHL. (The hire will be) well-known in NHL circles, maybe a former player, maybe not, but just has that pedigree,” he said.
The Flyers have leaned too heavily on senior advisors Bobby Clarke, Billy Barber, and Paul Holmgren at points during the last two decades. The three franchise Hall of Famers have had a hand in decisions contributing to the demise of a once-proud organization. As a former member of the Orange and Black, Brière has a relationship with his former GM Holmgren and other prominent alumni within the organization.
While experience and connections with the Flyers shouldn’t necessarily be looked at as a negative characteristic, Hilferty should look to turn a new page toward the future. Eric Lindros, Robert Esche, and Chris Pronger aren’t as likely to do that as other candidates without a history in Philadelphia. While Ray Shero is qualified for the position, Hilferty should ignore the lure of hiring the son of the famed coach of the Broad Street Bullies and focus strictly on the candidate’s long-term vision for the organization. The Flyers have proven more than perhaps any other professional sports franchise that it’s tough to move into a new era if you’re constantly longing for an old one.
Flyers Need Better Luck
The Flyers deserve the blame for their own problems. They’ve failed to maintain an iconic brand as one of the most prominent franchises in the NHL on their way to the lowest point in their 56-year existence. While Hilferty, Brière, Tortorella, and the rest of the organization need to learn from the mistakes of their predecessors, they also need better luck.
When the Flyers fired Chuck Fletcher, former franchise governor Dave Scott cited “significant challenges during his time as President and General Manager, including some that were outside of his control.” Global politics kept Ivan Fedotov from joining the Flyers. A cancer diagnosis ruined the growth of Oskar Lindblom. The Covid-19 pandemic halted the best momentum the Flyers had in almost a decade. The organization faced horrible injury luck. Factors outside Fletcher’s control made a terrible era of Flyers hockey look even worse.
Tortorella has spoken positively about the players regaining trust in the medical staff. Better injury luck and injury care should help the team get back on track. The Flyers can only hope in the same way as anyone that tragedy doesn’t strike again, and they can also hope for one lucky bounce to change the franchise.
Eric Lindros entered the 1991 NHL Entry Draft as the most anticipated prospect in league history. A trade arbitrator made a franchise-altering decision to award him to Philadelphia instead of the New York Rangers one year later. He quickly became the face of a sustained period of Stanley Cup contention. The rebuild has a 6.5% chance of going a whole lot easier if the opportunity to select Connor Bedard falls into the laps of the Flyers at the 2023 NHL Draft Lottery on May 8.