3 Flyers Free Agents Most Likely to Return in 2022-23

While players are bound to move on and be signed by other teams, there is always the chance that others feel like they have found a home and have enjoyed some of their best times in their career as a part of the team. Whether it’s on a struggling team or a Stanley Cup contender, players are likely to be re-signed after their contracts are finished.

The Philadelphia Flyers have a number of unrestricted free agents (UFA) that they will have to make a decision on by the time free agency hits in the summer. That means evaluating their play, judging what position they are in, and seeing where they could fit on their roster next season and beyond.

While I have already written about the five Flyers who probably won’t be back next season, we will take a look at the players most likely to return given what they’ve already brought to a team that doesn’t have many bright spots this season.

Related: 5 Flyers Who Probably Won’t Be Back Next Season

These three Flyers have exceeded expectations and stepped up this season and prior.

Justin Braun

A consistent second to third-pairing defenceman since joining the NHL, Justin Braun‘s first of three seasons with the Flyers went much better than expected after his final year in San Jose. His ice time dipped from his career average when initially joining the Flyers, but consistency and solid play has allowed him to increasingly play more.

Justin Braun Philadelphia Flyers Brock Nelson New York Islanders
Justin Braun, Philadelphia Flyers and Brock Nelson, New York Islanders (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

This year he has been key in filling in for Ryan Ellis on the top pairing, playing alongside Ivan Provorov. Braun is defensive-minded, and I believe he deserves more than $1.8 million per season for his services. The Flyers should be looking for a new top-four defenceman in the offseason, but if they can’t seem to satisfy their need, they shouldn’t be afraid to allow Braun to take a spot and be used as a shutdown option.

He averages over 1.6 blocked shots per game and about 1.31 hits per game. Every team needs a big defenceman who is hard to play against, and at 6-foot-2, 203 pounds, Braun fits that role perfectly. He plays the penalty kill as well, and if the Flyers decide not to bring back Rasmus Ristolainen after this season or even trade him at the trade deadline, Braun will have to step up even more.

Braun may be in line for a pay raise, but not by too much, especially if the Flyers have him in a third-pairing role. But either way, he fits the brand of hockey that the Flyers have been known for in the past and need to get back to, becoming a harder team to play against.

If the Flyers can re-sign Braun for two to three years, frontloading the contract a bit, that would be ideal for both parties and allow the contract to be completed before his play drops off.

Derick Brassard

Derick Brassard isn’t the player he once was, but the Flyers didn’t bring him in to be a top-six guy for them. They have lots of talent to fill their lines. Initially, he was supposed to fill a bottom-six role, but due to injuries and poor performances from other members of the team, Brassard has already played a number of games centering the second line.

He can play centre or wing, but the Flyers have more than enough wingers. Brassard’s success in the faceoff circle has gotten much better over the past few years, going 55.2 percent in 2019-20, 52.6 percent in 2020-21, and 50 percent this season so far.

Derick Brassard, Philadelphia Flyers
Derick Brassard, Philadelphia Flyers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Brassard is getting a bit older now, so a bottom-six role for another year or two would benefit both him and the team at around double what he is making this season. The Flyers have themselves a steal in his contract at $825k this season.

I think he would be best suited for either the third-line centre position or the wing on that line. It will depend on who else they sign and if the Flyers think Morgan Frost is better suited on the wing in the top-six or centering the third line. Brassard isn’t ahead of Sean Couturier or Kevin Hayes on the depth chart, so his ceiling on the team is the third line at best with a healthy squad.

Martin Jones

Despite the high goals-against average (GAA) that Martin Jones has posted, his save percentage (SV%) better represents how he has played for the Flyers this season. The team has given up a ton of quality chances against him and peppered him with shots, indicated by the 3.37 GAA and .908 SV%.

In most cases, any GAA north of 3.00 would correlate with a SV% below .900 and a horrible goals saved above average (GSAA), as we have seen from the past three seasons from Jones. Just a minus-1.4 GSAA this season through 10 games is much better than a combined minus-49.6 GSAA over the past three seasons.

Martin Jones, Philadelphia Flyers
Martin Jones, Philadelphia Flyers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

That is not the case this season, as he has held his own for the most part, and if the Flyers could cut down on chances high-danger shots against, the goaltenders would see their numbers get better in all regards (“So far, backup goalie Martin Jones giving the Flyers what they wanted in the nets; faces Caps on Sat.”, The Philadelphia Inquirer, 11/4/21).

The Flyers don’t have any goalie prospect readily available to fill the backup role on their team, so keeping a goaltender who still has the potential to play well is worth a shot if the team can play more solid defensive hockey in front of him.

Even if any of these players are dealt before the trade deadline this season, teams sometimes elect to bring back the player for the next season. If they get themselves back in the playoff hunt and Braun, Brassard, and Jones continue to play well, expect the Flyers to at least consider bringing them back over any other pending free agents.

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