Now that the offseason is upon us, Chuck Fletcher and the Philadelphia Flyers have to start delivering on what is expected to be an aggressive retooling. With teams still in the playoffs, I don’t expect a ton of trades to be going on, but the Nick Seeler signing kicked things off.
The 2022 NHL Entry Draft will be the first big stop of the offseason for the Flyers and opens the opportunity for change. But as seasons switch over, the Flyers are going to be parting ways with some veterans they thought would help them out in the short run. The 2021-22 season didn’t go as planned partly because of the lack of production from the following, so the Flyers will create space and go in search of some new players to fill their spots.
As part of the retool, the Flyers are looking to get younger. That starts with Keith Yandle. There is next to no chance he is returning to the team next season after how the end of season went. The Flyers kept him in the lineup until he broke the consecutive games played record, but then pulled him from the lineup 11 games short of 1,000. This wasn’t a very classy move considering the team wasn’t playing for anything at that point and it definitely caused a rift between him and the organization as current and former players alike say it was a disrespectful move and sends the wrong message of loyalty.
Some say it was the right decision because of how bad of a season Yandle was having. I can’t agree with the lack of production from the 35-year-old, but there were other ways of going about it. The Flyers had just signed Ronnie Attard after his college career had ended and needed to get him into the lineup. But with late-season injuries to some defencemen, players like Seeler and Kevin Connauton stayed in the lineup more than Yandle when they could have just dressed seven defencemen or have him play 10 minutes a night.
Yandle’s season didn’t help the Flyers’ case, but he also wasn’t put in the best position to succeed. He often played with seventh defencemen, fringe NHLers, or young players not accustomed to the NHL yet. He was supposed to have Justin Braun as a partner to take point on the defensive side of the pairing. Instead, Braun was elevated the entire season and there was a carousel of defence beside Yandle. He finished the season with one goal and 19 points, 11 of which were on the power play, so he was contributing a bit to what he was mainly brought in to do. But the stat that stood out was his plus/minus. He ended the season a minus-47, 10 worse than the next closest player in the NHL. But as I mentioned, there were other factors involved in the less-than-optimal season.
The Flyers missed an opportunity to trade their backup goaltender Martin Jones at the trade deadline. But to be fair, not many goaltenders moved around this season as the price was likely too high. Reports were that the Edmonton Oilers were interested well before the trade deadline in an attempt to stop the bleeding, but he wasn’t their first choice and the asking price was too high (from ‘Oilers Have Inquired About Martin Jones, Not Team’s First Choice’, NHL Trade Talk, Jan. 25, 2022).
Carter Hart, the Flyers’ starting goaltender, proved he can be counted on moving forward and with Jones being a free agent, they will likely part ways with him. The Flyers have three young goaltenders that will be vying for a spot on the roster next season with or without an offseason addition of another goaltender. Felix Sandstrom got time at the end of the season with the big club, while Ivan Fedotov and Kirill Ustimenko will be pushing for a backup role as well. I could see the Flyers considering bringing Jones back if he had a great season, but a mediocre season with little to no help from the skaters shouldn’t sell them on him. Plus why pay more money when they have the chance to get better production from a home-grown talent in one of their up and coming netminders?
Nate Thompson is also a veteran at the very end of his career who the Flyers will most likely not offer a contract and bring back for the 2022-23 season. He is 37 years old and was signed to a one-year, $800,000 deal and the Flyers were the fourth different team in four seasons for Thompson.
He had the least productive season of his career and missed a great deal of time from the end of November to the start of April (from ‘Flyers’ Nate Thompson: Undergoes surgery’, CBS Sports, Nov. 30, 2022). At a time when the Flyers were desperately trying to turn things around and break their cold streaks, Thompson was on the sidelines. He was needed as a depth centre when the Flyers’ centremen started dropping and couldn’t provide that.
The Flyers are trying to get younger and have plenty of talent to do so. Their prospect pool for centremen isn’t very deep, but there will be plenty of players that are an upgrade to Thompson in free agency if they so choose to go that route and bring in a little more experience. Sign a depth centre to a one-year deal hoping he turns out better than Thompson. If the Flyers are out of the race by the time the trade deadline comes around, maybe they’ll be able to get a return for him.
The Flyers are better off getting younger and getting new faces on the team that haven’t experienced the collapse that happened in 2021-22.
Rob Couch is a THW freelance writer covering mainly the Edmonton Oilers and Philadelphia Flyers. He covers everything you need to know about fantasy hockey. He will also keep you up to date with NHL Stats News, trade talks, and daily betting guides.
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