The Philadelphia Flyers’ tumultuous 2021-22 regular season culminated with the NHL’s worst power-play (PP) percentage at 12.6%. The man advantage may improve slightly if their players are healthier; some important pieces missed significant time with injuries or were placed in COVID protocol. However, given general manager (GM) Chuck Fletcher’s preference for an aggressive retool this offseason, they will look to improve their weaknesses with the proper roster additions this summer.
Hiring John Tortorella as the head coach will improve the Flyers’ defensive play, but an enhanced power play will give them the chance to win more games. Fletcher will have the opportunity to make additions during free agency, and here are three players who would provide an upgrade for their power play next season.
Nazem Kadri experienced a breakout in points last season, including on the Colorado Avalanche’s PP. He finished third on the team with 29 power-play points (PPP) and led them with 59 assists. He did well playing with Gabriel Landeskog and Valeri Nichushkin, who is an unrestricted free agent (UFA) also. GM Joe Sakic will choose to let some of the pending free agents go elsewhere, and the 31-year-old may be one of them as he seeks to cash in on last season’s success.
Kadri is rumored to be a target for the Flyers based on his style of play, and he would be an upgrade on the PP if he can repeat last year’s performance. However, they will need to clear some cap space to facilitate a free agent signing of his caliber. With Joel Farabee’s availability during the first month of next season in question after undergoing disc replacement surgery, Fletcher will need to consider adding another experienced offensive threat to improve their depth.
The Flyers’ cap situation may put them at a disadvantage compared to teams like the Seattle Kraken, Arizona Coyotes, and Avalanche if they are also interested in signing Kadri. The Boston Bruins, who are also hindered by a lack of cap space, are another suitor as they seek to upgrade their center options this offseason. He will receive a contract offer from an organization looking to add center depth, and Fletcher should pursue him if he believes he can repeat last year’s offensive numbers.
The Salem County, New Jersey native is the top UFA available, coming off a season of 40 goals and 75 assists, including six goals and 19 assists on the man advantage for the Calgary Flames. He has contributed more assists than goals on the Flames’ PP throughout his career. The Flyers fanbase will be excited if the South Jersey native returns to play for the team nearest to his hometown, as he will excel playing with centers Sean Couturier and Kevin Hayes.
Gaudreau is a durable forward with consistent statistics in eight of his nine seasons in the NHL. He would elevate the Flyers’ power-play unit playing with Cam Atkinson or Farabee in addition to one of their top two centers in Couturier or Hayes. They could not sustain any momentum in the offensive zone during the man advantage as the opposition quickly halted their power-play chances.
Again, the Flyers’ lack of cap space will make this difficult, as he will seek a multi-year deal with an average annual value (AAV) of around $9 million (after coming off of a six-year deal with a $6.75 million AAV). He had a career year in 2021-22 and is open to remaining with the Flames. Given his talent, he would help improve the Flyers’ PP, but it will take roster maneuvering and a significant financial commitment for them to sign the top offensive player available in free agency.
Alex DeBrincat is rumored to be moved by the Chicago Blackhawks as soon as July 7, the opening night of the 2022 NHL Draft. They are seeking a high first-round pick to help with their rebuild. Fletcher believes roster-building through the draft is the best way to accumulate talent, but he also wants the Flyers to undergo an aggressive retool rather than rebuild of their own.
He said about trading the fifth overall pick: “If we’re going to trade the pick outright, it needs to be for a player in a certain age group. It would have to be a player that could help us win now but also win for several years. I don’t think we’re looking to bring in somebody in their late-20s or early 30s. Certainly I’m speaking to every team in the league, I know we say this every year, but it’s definitely true this year, trying to ascertain what the value of that pick is. If somebody has designs on it and makes the fair offer, we’ve got to consider everything.”
DeBrincat falls into that category, and Fletcher may consider trading the Flyers’ fifth-overall pick. He is a dynamic, durable 24-year-old winger that is capable of improving the Flyers’ PP. He is coming off a career-high in power-play goals (PPGs) and assists on the Blackhawks’ man advantage in his fifth NHL season. Even though he has benefitted from playing with an elite player like Patrick Kane during his career, the Farmington Hills, Michigan native brings many offensive skills of his own.
DeBrincat is coming off his best year offensively and is approaching the prime of his career. He has one year remaining on his current contract before he becomes a restricted free agent (RFA) next offseason. While Fletcher may choose to hold onto the Flyers’ high pick, the Blackhawks are seeking a trade for their talented forward, and there is no question he is an upgrade for a Philadelphia franchise looking to both accumulate young talent while remaining competitive in 2022-23.
The Flyers have many needs to address before opening night to be in the playoff mix next season. Adding a top player who can improve their power-play via trade or free agency will give them a better chance to win more games and give them a boost offensively. Being healthier overall in 2022-23 will benefit them even if Farabee may not be available to play at the start of the season. With Tortorella as the new head coach, they will be seeking to compete for the postseason, and adding Kadri, Gaudreau, or DeBrincat would make them an improved team on paper, even if Fletcher has much more to do this summer to put this team in a position to succeed.