The Philadelphia Flyers could shake up their roster this offseason for multiple reasons. General manager Chuck Fletcher noted that the franchise needs to be improved in many areas before the 2021-22 season begins. Fletcher needs to get clever if he wants financial flexibility. The team consists of players that have made up the core for years. Philadelphia’s struggles from the current season have raised concerns about the team’s makeup.
The inconsistency that has plagued Philadelphia is proof the franchise needs to consider moving players that have resided as a member of the orange and black for a number of years. Since the 2012-13 season, the Flyers have advanced to the postseason four times. They only advanced once past the first round of the playoffs in the four times it has qualified over the past nine seasons. The lack of postseason victories is the primary reason why Fletcher should consider building the team around a different core of players. This offseason is a chance for the general manager to shed the team of expensive salaries in order to sign restricted free agents to long-term contracts. Fletcher could also use salary cap relief to sign a free agent that would provide an upgrade to a position on the team.
Shayne Gostisbehere was envisioned as the Flyers’ franchise defenseman when he was drafted in the third round of the 2012 NHL Draft. However, he has missed time in his career due to injuries and being benched. Gostisbehere had a volatile 2020-21 season which included being placed on waivers. He was suspended two games for boarding Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Mark Friedman toward the end of the regular season.
The 28-year-old defenseman has two years remaining on his contract, which will have a cap hit of $4.5 million each season. Philadelphia has a substantial financial investment in defenseman Ivan Provorov who will be earning $6.75 million each year until the 2025-26 season. If Fletcher wants to sign a premier player in free agency this offseason, such as defenseman Dougie Hamilton, the Flyers general manager will need to get creative with the roster during the offseason. Trading players who have underwhelmed in order to shed salary is a primary option for Fletcher.
Gostisbehere had been benched previously by former Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol. Gostisbehere’s lapses on defense, his injury history and having been a healthy scratch in multiple seasons are sufficient reasons for Flyers management to move on from the defenseman this offseason.
James van Riemsdyk
James van Riemsdyk is coming off of a season in which he tied for the team lead in total points and was one of two players to play in all 56 games during the regular season. However, his offensive contributions were sporadic. Van Riemsdyk had multiple games throughout the year where he was shutout in goals and assists. He, like the rest of the offense, went through multiple cold streaks, which forced head coach Alain Vigneault to change the line combinations and give younger players a chance to prove themselves at the pro level.
Van Riemsdyk found the most success playing on a line with Joel Farabee and Sean Couturier. He has developed a reputation for being a streaky player as well, which makes it difficult to determine at what periods during the season when he will be productive and unreliable. Van Riemsdyk was the most productive player on the power play for Philadelphia from a goal-scoring perspective. He finished with 10 power-play goals.
Van Riemsdyk will be an unrestricted free agent before the 2023-24 season. He earned $7 million during the 2020-21 season and is scheduled to earn the same amount of money in the next two seasons. Van Riemsdyk is one of the core players on the Flyers who Fletcher may consider replacing due to his lack of consistency.
Jakub Voracek is a controversial name to include on this list, but he is another player who has a hefty contract and is over the age of 30. Voracek is coming off a season in which he led the Flyers with 34 assists. He has been a player that will create chances for other players to score goals given the amount of assists he has accumulated throughout his career. He is one of the longest-tenured players on the roster, having been acquired via trade from the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2011 as a part of a multi-player deal that included Philadelphia parting ways with Jeff Carter.
Voracek is a leader on the team and a seasoned veteran who has earned his spot as a core member of the Flyers. Since he was acquired, the Flyers have not had much success in the postseason, winning two playoff series. They have not qualified for the postseason in five of the 10 seasons in which Voracek has been a member.
Moving on from Voracek may prove to be complicated for Fletcher to do, given his age and contract. Voracek will be 32 when the 2021-22 season begins. He will continue to earn $8.25 million for the next three seasons. If Fletcher was to trade Voracek, it would send a message to the fan base that the team is beginning to gradually move on from the core of players that have been a part of the orange and black for years.
The upcoming offseason is significant in determining the future of the Flyers. The franchise is at a crossroads in determining whether it should proceed or move on from the current core of players. The primary factor in why management will begin to look elsewhere is because of the lack of postseason success that the Flyers have had for eight of the last nine seasons. The improvement that is needed on defense, goaltending, and special teams should be a priority for Fletcher this offseason. If the Flyers organization places an emphasis on getting better in those areas, the team will have brighter days ahead.