Flyers Should Use Flames’ Cap Issues to Target Gaudreau or Tkachuk

The Philadelphia Flyers’ offseason is going to be an interesting one. They have several big and lengthy contracts on the books for at least three more seasons. Some may be difficult to move, while others the team won’t be willing to move at all. They have some work to do moving multiple players around to be able to be aggressive in free agency and bring in a real game-breaker or skilled forward who can be impactful.

The Calgary Flames are a team to watch as they continue to play very well, led by their top line. Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk’s contracts are up after this season, and Tkachuk is a restricted free agent (RFA).

Flames Will Have Trouble Keeping Both Gaudreau & Tkachuk

The better the Flames’ stars play, the more money they will demand. Gaudreau is third in the league in scoring and has shattered his career-highs in assists (72), points (111), and plus/minus (plus-61) while also setting a career-best in goals (39).

He is only being paid $6.75 million this season in his final year of the six-year, $40.5 million contract signed after his entry-level deal expired. He is in store for at least a $4 million increase and could easily get more than $11 million given his career year. He is in his prime at age 28 and will likely be looking for a seven to eight-year deal to take him to his mid-30s.

Johnny Gaudreau Calgary Flames
Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary Flames (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Gaudreau could still offer the Flames a hometown discount since everything has been taken care of behind closed doors up to this point. Calgary general manager Brad Treliving spoke on After Hours after a recent win and said this about Gaudreau: “We’re going to do everything we possibly can to have him be back here and be a Flame for a long, long time.”

Not only do the Flames have to worry about signing Gaudreau, but that line also wouldn’t be the same without one of the best aggravators in the NHL in Tkachuk. He, too, has set career-highs in goals (40), assists (61), points (101), power-play goals (12), and power-play points (29) this season. He won’t be easy to sign either, especially considering the Tkachuks have been known to hold out until they get exactly what they want in a deal.

The Flames have more leeway with Tkachuk because he is a RFA, but it doesn’t mean a deal is going to be easy to execute. If the organization is “going to move heaven and earth, and do everything we possibly can to get Johnny back here,” where does that leave Tkachuk if there isn’t enough cap space to get a deal done?

Calgary also has to worry about pending free agents Andrew Mangiapane, Oliver Kylington, and Nikita Zadorov, and two of the three are due for raises. It will be a tough task for the Flames to get everyone signed and under the cap without having to sacrifice someone (from “Treliving tries to improve Flames without disrupting chemistry ahead of trade deadline,” Calgary Sun, 3/14/22).

With the Flyers looking to make noise in the offseason, they could set themselves up nicely to extend an offer sheet to Tkachuk or propose a better offer to Gaudreau. Acquiring one of them would change the course of the Flyers’ future, making them competitive right away. It helps that both Gaudreau and Tkachuk are American, and Philadelphia is one of the most desirable landing spots in free agency.

Who the Flyers Could Move Out to Free Up Cap Space

The two contracts that stand out belong to Travis Sanheim and James van Riemsdyk. They will both be entering their final year next season, and Sanheim makes $4.675 million while van Riemsdyk makes $7 million. Meanwhile, Cam York has burst onto the scene and solidified his spot on the roster for 2022-23. That leaves the Flyers with five defencemen who can play top-four minutes.

If they were going to sacrifice one to use the money elsewhere, it would likely be Sanheim. With one year remaining on his deal and lots of interest around the league due to his strong play in 2021-22, the Flyers would not only be able to move him, but they should also receive a nice return.

Travis Sanheim Philadelphia Flyers
Travis Sanheim, Philadelphia Flyers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

At forward, there are different ways the Flyers could handle van Riemsdyk. They could keep him around for one final season, but that would force them to miss out on any potential high-class free agents this summer. Buying him out won’t save enough money, while they would have to pay a decent price to have a non-contender take on his contract in full for the final season. If neither Gaudreau nor Tkachuk is available, and they free up room elsewhere, it may be better for the team, in the long run, to let van Riemsdyk’s contract play out.

Related: Flyers Shouldn’t Part Ways With van Riemsdyk Before 2022-23 Season

Owen Tippett and Morgan Frost need new contracts but won’t be too costly, considering they are likely to sign bridge deals at a lower average annual value (AAV). The Flyers will need to also add a backup goaltender, as Martin Jones and Felix Sandstrom are both UFAs (unrestricted free agents). Bringing them back is an option but will eat up money.

Opportunity for Flyers to Bounce Back

The Flyers’ season has been over for a while now, and they have been able to get a ton of prospects into the lineup and set themselves up nicely for next season. Some older depth players will be on their way out while the young players will fight for spots, and a healthy squad will see Sean Couturier back, centering the top line.

If the Flyers can manage to secure Gaudreau or Tkachuk, they will automatically lock up a spot beside Couturier, and the former Selke Trophy-winner will again have help creating offense. The impact in the defensive zone end shouldn’t be overlooked either, as Gaudreau and Tkachuk are first and third in the league in plus/minus.

Matthew Tkachuk Calgary Flames
Matthew Tkachuk, Calgary Flames (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Gaudreau would become the elite skilled player that the Flyers are lacking and elevate his linemates. Tkachuk would add a big physical element to the team, produce offense, be an agitator, and draw penalties. He has drawn 27 penalties this season, while Gaudreau has drawn 20. This added advantage would prove helpful the presence of either one would assist in pulling the team’s last-place power play from the depths of the league.

The Flyers should have their sights set on a big free agent because next season is an important one for the direction of the team. The Flyers should hope to see the Flames go all the way and have their top players price themselves out of Calgary.

Sign up for our regular 'Flyers Newsletter' for all the latest.