The Philadelphia Flyers really missed the mark in free agency, bringing in only Nic Deslauriers and Justin Braun without addressing any of their real needs. They added toughness in Deslauriers when the team already has Zack MacEwen and brought in a fourth right-defenseman when there isn’t room for one.
The aggressive retool didn’t go as planned. Management should have made a splash, and now that the free agency rush has more or less passed, the Flyers don’t have much to show for it. They missed out on some key names that would have made a difference and addressed some of the major concerns the team has faced the past couple of seasons. Here’s a look at the three biggest misses.
General manager Chuck Fletcher really dropped the ball by not moving the last season of James van Riemsdyk‘s contract. Sure, it would have cost a first-round pick, likely in 2023, but it would have been well worth the cost of that pick to sign Johnny Gaudreau. There were indications that Gaudreau wanted to play in Philadelphia, but he was never given an offer by the Flyers.
Gaudreau was the perfect high-end talent that would have benefited the team for years to come, and those types of franchise players don’t come around very often. There aren’t any on the team right now, and 115 points is a lot to pass on offering a contract.
Gaudreau was part of the top line in the NHL last season and is excellent at five-on-five. The Flyers struggled greatly with offense and injuries last season, so imagine adding a player who hasn’t missed a game in over four seasons, who scored 40 goals, tied for second in the league in scoring, ranked fourth in Hart Trophy voting, and finished first in plus/minus in the league. If Gaudreau had been signed, there’s no question the Flyers would be back in Cup contention. He not only would have been able to produce points, but he would have elevated the play of those around him. Now, there are big question marks regarding the health of the top players on the team and no real solution to the problem to produce offense.
The Flyers didn’t solve their goaltending issue in free agency, either. All they did was sign Troy Grosenick to be a third/fourth goaltender in the system. The team seemed to have their backup goaltender in Ivan Fedotov before he was picked up by law enforcement at the end of June and sent to a remote military base in Russia. That is unfortunate, but management had two-plus weeks to think about a possible replacement for next season.
There weren’t a ton of options, but there were more backup/1B options available than starters. The Flyers didn’t need a starter as they have Carter Hart, who is fully capable and ready to have another solid season; this time behind a better-coached team with John Tortorella. A reclamation project, the Toronto Maple Leafs jumped on Ilya Samsonov and signed him for dirt cheap.
Samsonov had been the man in Washington alongside Vitek Vanecek, even as the Capitals continued to choose him over Vanecek until they suddenly moved on from both. Samsonov’s numbers have gone down in each of his three seasons in the league, but he is just 25 years old and has proven he can play very well at times. In a backup or a 1B role, he would be able to get his game back on track and thrive, maybe even becoming a good surprise for the Flyers. Instead, they are still without a backup goaltender who is experienced or NHL caliber.
Elliotte Friedman mentioned the night before free agency that the Flyers were interested in Dylan Strome. As a second-tier player behind a big name like Gaudreau, Strome would have been able to add some much-needed scoring to the lineup. The Capitals ended up signing him for one year at $3.6 million, just a bit more than what Oskar Lindblom was making.
Strome has played with elite talent throughout his career, from junior to the NHL. The former third-overall pick scored 22 goals and 48 points in 69 games last season while being able to play center or on the wing. Even if the Flyers signed him for only 2022-23, this coming season could determine the direction of the franchise. The Flyers added no offense, and Strome would have added a good amount at five-on-five and on the power play for cheap to allow the team to remain under the cap.
There are more names the Flyers could have signed as secondary options to help with their offense, but they failed miserably in free agency. Next season may be a tough one if injuries start to pile up and the offense stays dry.