The Philadelphia Flyers‘ losing streak has now hit 11 games, and they’ve dropped to last place in the Metropolitan Division. It would take a massive turnaround for them to climb back into the playoff race in such a tough division. That said, there are decisions to be made moving forward, including what to do with their free agents.
Should the organization sell off their upcoming unrestricted free agents (UFA) before the deadline for assets? If the Flyers decide to break it down and rebuild, management will need to decide who to keep as cornerstones of the future.
Related: Flyers: 3 Trade Destinations for Rasmus Ristolainen
Some players will be important pieces of the future and should still be around and producing when the team is competitive again while also mentoring the young players who will be key to a successful and quick turnaround. Here are five Flyers who should lead the rebuild.
Sean Couturier is signed until 2029-30, the longest contract on the Flyers’ books. His age may become a factor, but for now, he is one of the best two-way players in the game. He won a Selke Trophy in 2019-20, finished second two seasons before that, and he’s received votes in nine of his 10 NHL seasons.
Successful teams usually have a great two-way player who can shut down the opposition’s top scores while being able to provide offense; they can also be used on the penalty kill to create that extra threat. Ryan O’Reilly of the St. Louis Blues, Aleksander Barkov of the Florida Panthers, Anze Kopitar of the Los Angeles Kings, Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks, and Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand on the Boston Bruins have been in the Selke Trophy conversation, and all but Barkov have led their teams to a Stanley Cup, even if they are not all as effective as they once were.
Keeping Couturier to lock down one of the top lines, the team’s other lines will be able to get an easier matchup and worry more about providing offense. He continues to be defensively responsible while hitting the scoresheet. He is a future captain and will provide the young Flyers with the leadership they need as they adjust to the NHL game.
Ivan Provorov might be having another down season, but he is still a great young defenceman who can eat minutes and provide solid play. The Flyers will have to find him a partner who boosts him up like Matt Niskanen did before he unexpectedly retired. Ryan Ellis was supposed to be that for Provorov, but we have yet to get a good look at that pairing because of Ellis’ injuries.
As this season has proven, health is key to consistent success, and the Flyers can count on Provorov to stay healthy, as he’s only missed three games in his career, and those were this month due to COVID. Before that, he had played nearly five and a half full seasons, averaging over 24 minutes a night, blocking 1.91 shots per game, and making 1.35 hits per game.
Most expect he will figure things out and get back to scoring goals, playing great all over the ice, and being part of the solution.
Joel Farabee just signed a six-year contract extension worth $5 million AAV (average annual value), which might turn out to be a very good contract for the Flyers. We’ve seen a huge jump in performance in his overall game from his rookie year to his second season, and now in his third season, he hasn’t lost a step, scoring despite not seeing time on the power play.
Farabee’s ice time is increasing each season, and he could become a legitimate 30-goal scorer. At just age 21, he hasn’t hit his prime yet, and when he does, he will be a key piece in a Flyers’ rebuild before he is due for his next contract. He has two-way potential and should be a fixture in the top-six for years to come.
The Flyers have been searching for their franchise goaltender for years. When they drafted Carter Hart in the second round in 2016, and he improved over the following two seasons in the Western Hockey League, they knew they had found their goalie of the future.
Hart had a very solid rookie season in the NHL when he got the call during 2018-19, posting a .917 save percentage (SV%). He started more games in his sophomore campaign and found consistency, with 25 of his 40 starts being considered quality starts – when a goaltender’s SV% is better than the average SV% for the season. A quality start of 60 percent is considered good, and Hart finished the season with 62.5 percent. His SV% dropped to .914, but that wasn’t worrisome considering he cut his goals-against average (GAA) from 2.83 to 2.42.
Despite a horrible season in 2020-21 when the Flyers really struggled, Hart has bounced back very nicely and is one of the bright spots in another down season for the team. Despite his 7-13-5 record, which has a lot to do with how the team plays in front of him, he has a SV% of .911 and a sub-3.00 GAA, an indication that Flyers can’t score goals to support their goalie.
Now that the Flyers have finally found a goaltender who is young and has shown he can perform at a high level, they have to stick with him and sign him long-term to help get out of a rebuild.
Despite not being a flashy player and not very physical for his size, Travis Sanheim had the best chance suppression numbers among Flyers defensemen last season. He has great speed and skating ability but needs to work on his ill-timed pinches and mistakes that leave his partner to defend against an odd-man rush.
The organization seems to be very high on him, and rightfully so, since they drafted him in the first round in 2014, he’s only 25 and approaching his prime and is on a good deal for one more season. It will be a priority to sign him this offseason, and he will be a strong veteran presence on the blue line when the team welcomes their talented young defenders.
The Flyers have a number of older players signed to multi-year deals, but with the injuries and inconsistency from players like Ellis, Kevin Hayes, Travis Konecny, and James van Riemsdyk, moving some or all of them could bode well for a rebuild or the retooling the team needs right now.