General manager Chuck Fletcher and the Philadelphia Flyers have a lot of work to do this offseason if they want one last chance to turn this team around and be competitive in an aging Metropolitan Division. With much to do, they will have to prioritize. Here’s a look at the Flyers’ four main needs this offseason and why each is important for next season.
1. Flyers Need a Top-6 Scoring Winger
Whether it’s on a short-term deal or long-term, the Flyers must inject more scoring into their lineup after Claude Giroux left, and the team finished 31st in goals scored this season. Some of that could be attributed to the injuries that piled up, but the season just kept spiraling downward with hardly any fight later on.
Looking at the organization’s depth chart, CapFriendly.com has Scott Laughton in the top six. It’s not a knock on him, but he’s not a top-six player on any team. He isn’t paid like one, and he doesn’t produce like one. He’s a third-line player and should remain that for the Flyers. Many of the young players in Philadelphia aren’t ready to take a top-six role either, so there’s a glaring hole with options to fill the need in free agency or through trade.
The most impactful player that has been linked to the Flyers is Johnny Gaudreau since he grew up close to Philadelphia. Even players like Filip Forsberg, Nazem Kadri, David Perron, and Ryan Strome should become available in free agency to take a stab at. As for trades, a few very intriguing names have been floating around in Alex DeBrincat, David Pastrnak, and even William Nylander since the Toronto Maple Leafs may decide they need a change to get over the hump.
2. Re-Sign Restricted Free Agents
The Flyers have several restricted free agents (RFA) in need of new contracts, but it won’t be difficult to get them signed. Where complications may come in is in regards to term. However, none of Morgan Frost, Owen Tippett, Isaac Ratcliffe, Wade Allison, or any other of their American Hockey League (AHL) players have proven very much in the NHL to warrant any big term or payday.
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This will help the Flyers in the short term since they will be able to ink these players to bridge deals at low AAVs (average annual value) and be able to make more significant moves around them. Any of these players could break out during their bridge deal and become impactful middle-six or top-six players, which would give the Flyers a good problem rather than the constant issue of so-called busts coming through or flaking out.
3. Flyers Need a Solid Backup or 1b Goaltender
It’s no certainty that the Flyers are going to re-sign Martin Jones after a solid season as the backup on a team that allowed a lot of chances against. But there may be better options instead as a 1b goaltender or a backup to Carter Hart.
Hart proved he can still play at a high level after a horrible 2020-21 season and was one of the bright spots that should give people hope for the future as long as he is in the crease. However, if the Flyers try to go out and bring in help from elsewhere, they find a lack of top-end goaltenders available and the cost/difficulty fighting over the few good options. Veterans like Marc-Andre Fleury and Braden Holtby could form a solid tandem with Hart, but after Darcy Kuemper and Jack Campbell, who require starter money and time, there’s Ville Husso.
If the Flyers can’t bring in Holtby, their best bet at a cheap price will be Jones, as the defensive structure of the team under John Tortorella could really help both goaltenders improve their numbers.
4. Decide What to Do With James van Riemsdyk
Deciding how to handle James van Riemsdyk’s last year of his contract should be the first priority, as management will likely have to move his money somewhere in order to acquire impactful talent. A buyout doesn’t seem logical as it would just extend his time on the books, but including him in a trade or sending him to a team with cap space and using a pick could be worth it if they have the opportunity to bring in a top player.
If the Flyers can’t make the necessary moves to bring an impactful player in, they might as well keep van Riemsdyk for the final year of his contract and try to get something at the deadline if they’re out of the playoff race (from “Philadelphia Flyers 2021-22 season review: James van Riemsdyk”, The Athletic, June 7, 2022).
What do you think is the biggest priority for the Flyers, and how should they go about their offseason to maximize success for next season? Let me know in the comments.