The only constant in life is change. This adage becomes a constant theme in pro hockey as front offices have become less patient with long term rebuilding projects. Many teams around the league find themselves in a stage of transition as the front office struggles to fit the right pieces in place for success. The Philadelphia Flyers offseason presents another example of a team in this stage of constant change.
Long-standing presences like Wayne Simmonds, Ron Hextall, Dave Hakstol are all gone. The hockey operations staff has been replaced with Alain Vigneault taking the helm as coach, and Chuck Fletcher joining the team as the new general manager. With those pieces in place, The Flyers now look towards the free agency period to build their foundation for years to come.
The Philadelphia Flyers offseason starts with cap space galore. They have $33,410,834 to play with. Though it may be alluring to use this space to bolster the roster with new players, the Flyers first must take care of their own pending free agents. Philadelphia’s pending restricted free agent class is some of the Flyers most important young talents including Ryan Hartman, Scott Laughton, Travis Konecny, Travis Sanheim, and, most importantly, Ivan Provorov.
The Flyers should look to retain each of these talents, but the first priority must be figuring out Provorov’s contract. The defenseman is a stalwart on the Flyers blueline, placing 6th in the league in time on ice with 25:07 minutes per game during the 2018-19 NHL season. Despite his workhorse ability, the 2018-19 season was a disappointment for the young blueliner. Provorov entered the season as one of the brightest young defensemen in the league but was unable to capitalize on the foundation he built in his first two seasons.
Provorov saw his production dip to the lowest numbers of his young career with just 26 points. Despite this dip in production, the future is still bright for the young Russian. He has all the tools to succeed as a premier two-way defenseman in the NHL and is still just 22 years old.
Based on his promise, the most likely scenario for Provorov’s contract is a short term bridge deal that ends before he can enter unrestricted free agency. This would allow the Flyers to maintain control and leverage in future negotiations. The defenseman would also be betting on himself and would see a significant raise on his next contract.
Philadelphia Flyers Offseason Wishlist
The Philadelphia Flyers have a bevy of talent to re-sign in free agency, but they also have enough space that they will be able to tinker with the roster. There are a couple of areas the team could improve in but should not be considered necessities.
Down the Middle
When the Flyers drafted Nolan Patrick at 2nd overall in the 2017 entry draft, they expected they had drafted their top center of the future. The potential has not yet translated to production for Patrick. It’s not time to give up on Patrick, but the Flyers could look to strengthen their core of centers in free agency.
The most likely target for Philadelphia is Kevin Hayes. Hayes is a coveted free agent that finished last year with the Winnipeg Jets. The center would bolster the Flyers depth down the middle while Patrick develops, and fits in as a possession driving forward.
Past Hayes, the free agent market for centers is a bit thin for the second line role. Other options could include Ryan Dzingel or Anders Lee. However, even these guys are both mainly wingers and would likely expect to play the wing.
Getting Stronger in Net
For the first time in what seems like ages, the Flyers are solid in net with the emergence of young star Carter Hart. Though they’ve found their starter of the future, Philadelphia still needs a capable backup or “1B” goaltender. Last year saw teams like the Boston Bruins, Dallas Stars, and New York Islanders achieve success with a two-goaltender system. Veteran goalie Ryan Miller has also proved invaluable to the development of the Anaheim Ducks young goaltender, John Gibson.
The Flyers should look to replicate this relationship and sign a cheap veteran goaltender. Once again, the market is not very big. Cam Talbot could be a project, however, maybe they look at Curtis McElhinney if he doesn’t sign with the Carolina Hurricanes.
The Philadelphia Flyers offseason presents an opportunity for the team to build their foundation for the future. Their pending RFAs are all important young players that are key for future success. Keeping defenseman Ivan Provorov in Philadelphia is a must-do for the team.
Past retaining their own talent, the large amount of cap space will allow the Flyers to make key additions in areas of need this offseason. Look for the Flyers to be a big-time player in the free agency period that begins July 1st.