The Philadelphia Flyers have improvements that need to be made throughout the roster based upon the lack of success the franchise had in 2020-21. Philadelphia struggled on defense and goaltending throughout the season, as the orange and black finished last in the NHL in team defense with 3.52 goals allowed per game. The Flyers need better play from starting goaltender Carter Hart, as he had a volatile season. Hart struggled this year and the play of the team’s defensemen affected his play. The club does not have much flexibility on the roster to make many big additions in free agency unless general manager Chuck Fletcher gets creative in moving some players that have high salaries.
The Flyers are likely to add players that improve the team defense and the penalty killing. Acquiring players via trade is an option but some of the players that are free agents can also provide an upgrade for Philadelphia. Here are some free agents the Flyers should consider signing this offseason.
1. Dougie Hamilton
Dougie Hamilton is one of the premier free agents this offseason and would provide an immediate upgrade for Philadelphia on defense. He is a right-shot defenseman and would be a good pairing with Ivan Provorov, who struggled this season after the retirement of Matt Niskanen. After Provorov’s underwhelming season, there is concern as to whether he can be a No. 1 defenseman, as he was more effective when he was paired with the experienced Niskanen. Hamilton would be the franchise player on defense for the Flyers if he is acquired this summer, as he makes contributions to all areas of the game.
Signing Hamilton would be complex for the Flyers, as the team does not have much financial flexibility and will likely re-sign restricted free agent goaltender Carter Hart to a new contract. The Carolina Hurricanes have allowed Hamilton to speak with other franchises about a long-term contract, and a sign-and-trade is an option that will be explored if Carolina decides to acquire prospects and draft picks in a trade involving the defenseman. Hamilton will likely command a contract similar to Alex Pietrangelo, who departed the St. Louis Blues for the Vegas Golden Knights after the 2019-20 season. Pietrangelo signed a contract with Vegas for seven years with an average annual value (AAV) of $8.8 million.
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Fletcher will need to get creative with the roster if he would like to sign Hamilton this offseason due to the high AAV the defenseman will command on a new contract. Fletcher may not want to sign a top free agent such as Hamilton whose salary would be one of the highest on the team. The Flyers already have several players with high cap numbers, such as Claude Giroux, Jakob Voracek, Kevin Hayes, Ivan Provorov and Shayne Gostisbehere. Based upon the Flyers’ current cap situation, Fletcher could look elsewhere, to a more affordable option or two to improve the defense.
2. Zach Hyman
Zach Hyman, a left wing currently playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs, is reportedly seeking a new contract worth at least $5.5 to $6 million per year for six years in free agency. Toronto already has several players signed to long-term contracts, such as Auston Matthews, John Tavares, Mitchell Marner, William Nylander and Jake Muzzin, and will have difficulty signing a player to a long-term deal at the AAV Hyman is reportedly seeking.
Hyman is a player whose energy and flexibility to play throughout various line combinations could be an asset to Philadelphia as he has the ability to be a good two-way forward. Hyman will likely earn less money each year if he re-signs with the Maple Leafs this offseason, and the forward may prefer to remain with his hometown team, as he may want to be a part of breaking the championship drought for the franchise. Hyman finished with 15 goals and 18 assists this year and had two 20-goal seasons prior to the shortened 2020-21 season. Convincing Hyman to leave Toronto for the orange and black may be difficult, but Hyman’s versatility would be helpful for Philadelphia.
3. Blake Coleman
Blake Coleman is a player who is known for his ability on the penalty kill, which is what the Flyers need, given their disastrous performance in that department this season. Coleman, like Hyman, will bring versatility to a franchise and can put up decent offensive numbers as he had scored 20 goals previously in multiple seasons. His consistent play in the offensive and defensive zones is the primary reason the Flyers should consider signing Coleman during the offseason.
Coleman was acquired by the Tampa Bay Lightning from the New Jersey Devils before the 2020 trade deadline and provided immediate benefits to the Bolts due to his solid play as a defensive forward and his contributions on offense. Coleman provided depth and was a solid addition to a franchise that was a playoff contender, and went on to win the Stanley Cup. Coleman may already have at least one other franchise interested in signing him this offseason, so the forward will have his share of offers. Coleman would add depth to Philadelphia’s roster, particularly on the third or fourth line, which did not have much production this season. The forward had a $1.8 million cap hit this year and the Flyers could find a way to sign Coleman to a multi-year contract and afford him under their cap situation.
The Flyers are typically in the mix and are frequently rumored as one of the popular landing spots for premier free agents. If Fletcher chooses to not sign a big name in free agency such as Hamilton or Gabriel Landeskog, then the general manager would likely consider signing players who are more affordable. The offseason is an important one for Fletcher and the Philadelphia Flyers franchise, with the goal being to return to the postseason in 2021-22.
Matt covers the Philadelphia Flyers and the Pittsburgh Penguins for The Hockey Writers. Matt’s priority is to contribute exceptional content about the Flyers and Penguins for THW and its readers. Matt writes for The Globe newspaper at Salt Lake Community College. To see more of Matt’s writing, visit his portfolio. For interview requests, follow Matt on Twitter that appears at the end of articles for THW.