Overview of the 2021 Philadelphia Flyers offseason
As a short and hectic offseason approaches, Last Word on Hockey takes a look at how teams will handle the reality of a fixed salary cap. In terms of building a franchise, the offseason is the most crucial time of year for front offices. However, due to COVID-19, the near-term future of its operation has seen drastic changes. This series attempts to examine the choices that teams may have to make. We will operate from worst to best. Today’s article focuses on the Philadelphia Flyers offseason.
Introducing the Philadelphia Flyers offseason
Free agents on standby
The 2020-21 season did not go as planned for the Philadelphia Flyers. After a run in the second round last year, the team failed to even qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs. As a result, the Flyers out of season should be active as they attempt to sort out the defensive issues that have dragged them down. But before GM Chuck Fletcher can focus on bringing in new players, he needs to deal with the Flyers’ internal free agents.
Compared to other teams, the Flyers actually don’t have a lot of free agents. Samuel Morin, Brian Elliott and Alex Lyon are not restricted. Even more important are the squad’s restricted free agents, many of whom are young and up-and-coming. Starting goaltender Carter Hart falls into that category, along with Travis Sanheim, Nolan Patrick and Carsen Twarynski.
Outlook for the salary cap
The Flyers will have a decent amount of ceiling space due to the small size of their free agent pool. CapFriendly predicted a cap of around $ 69 million, leaving the team $ 12 million to work on. This should be more than enough to sign their internal free agents. However, if the Flyers are looking to test the defenseman market, they might need to rack up some extra space through the expansion draft or trades during the offseason.
Main likely departures
It’s far from certain, but among the Flyers’ free agents, Nolan Patrick is the most likely to be moved. He has had an extremely eventful season, recording just nine points in 52 games and a plus-minus -30 to start. While the team is willing to give him more time, it looks like Patrick don’t want to be in philly more. What if he’s really done with the Flyers and the team does not moving it, they could easily end up with a disgruntled and uncooperative player on their hands. At this point, letting him through the offseason – whether as part of a trade or waiver of rights – may be the best option.
Major re-signatures likely
Re-signing Carter Hart should be the easiest decision Chuck Fletcher makes during the offseason. Yes, his .877 save percentage and 3.67 goals-against average were among the worst in the league. But Hart’s season has been a lot tougher than it should have been due to a number of factors: fragile defense, mental fatigue and injuries. It was the first season he had recorded below a .910 save percentage. If anything, that should indicate that its underwhelming performance was more of an anomaly than the norm. Coupled with the fact that Hart is still incredibly young and the Flyers don’t have better net options, he should be a no-brainer to bring back.
In a previous article, we built a detailed projection of Hart’s contract. If we base our estimate on that, his hat trick would likely end at around $ 2.8 million (comparable to young New Jersey Devils goaltender MacKenzie Blackwood’s last contract). That would take the Flyers to around $ 9.2 million in cap space.
Another Flyer who will almost certainly be back next season is Travis Sanheim. While no one in defense has been excellent this year, Sanheim has been relatively stable in the second pairing. He averaged 22 minutes per game, behind only Provorov among Flyers defensemen. At a time when the team are trying to strengthen the blue line, it would be foolish not to re-sign someone they rely on so much. Evolving-Hockey plans a two-year, $ 4.25 million per year contract for Sanheim, leaving the Flyers with cap space of around $ 4.95 million.
At some point, the Flyers will have to leave Brian Elliott. He is 36 and has just had the worst season of his career, statistically. However, now might not be a good time to let Elliott walk. Much of his struggles this season has come from being forced to take on an increased workload due to Hart’s regression. Elliott is a backup goaltender and is most effective when given a limited number of starts. Assuming Hart bounces back next season, Elliott could reprise his typical role – and, hopefully, with an improved defensive body ahead of him.
In addition, it is important to consider the free agent market for goaltenders. There are very few reliable and experienced goalies with contracts under $ 1.5 million from Elliott. And among those few, it is likely that most will gain in value as free agents and end up costing more than him. For now, the best bet may be to sign Elliott for another year. Considering his performance this season and his age, his hat trick is more likely to decrease than increase. If we assume that, at most, Elliott is extended for one year at $ 1.5 million, that brings the Flyers’ ceiling space to around $ 3.45 million.
Alex Lyon has yet to prove he is a reliable NHL-level goalie. Still, it would be an attractive option to sign. Lyon won’t be taking up the replacement position anytime soon, but he’s a decent third goalkeeper to have in situations where one of the top two is unable to play. Plus, as he fluctuated between the AHL and the NHL throughout his career, the Flyers could sign him to at low price. Lyon’s contract would likely not have a cap greater than $ 750,000, resulting in a remaining cap space of $ 2.7 million.
Morin is another player who has been in and out of the Flyers roster. At six-foot-six, he’s a great defenseman who can bring courage and physique to the lower duo – qualities that the best defensemen on the team don’t necessarily have. Plus, the Flyers should be able to sign him for a minimum. If Morin wins $ 750,000, the Flyers will have $ 1.95 million left in cap space.
Like Morin and Lyon, Twarynski hasn’t quite broken into the NHL yet. However, if the Flyers continue to struggle with their forward lines, he could find himself called up for a few more games next season. Given that he mainly plays in the AHL, his value will likely decrease from his entry-level contract. Again estimating a cap of $ 750,000, the Flyers should have around $ 1.2 million to spare.
Potential free agent additions
The Flyers need a top defenseman to team up with Ivan Provorov. Since their experiences with internal options this season have not worked, they will have to look outside the organization. The team could acquire someone through an exchange, but they could also test the free agent market.
Ideally, the Flyers would hang on somehow Dougie Hamilton, the Carolina Hurricanes’ first right-back. However, it’s unlikely that Philly can actually have it. He has a cap of $ 5.75 million, which the Flyers couldn’t agree to unless they manage to move a player with a big contract. In addition, a large number of teams – many of whom have more room than the Flyers – will court him. Some other free agents like Tyson Barrie and Alec Martinez would not meet the needs of the squad as well as Hamilton, but would be easier to acquire. Seth Jones is also a name on the Philadelphia Flyers offseason wishlist.
Overall, the Philadelphia Flyers offseason will be active. Chuck Fletcher will need to carefully balance his priorities as he manages the squad’s free agents while looking for outside players to complete the roster. If the Flyers sail sensibly in the offseason, they should be able to build a solid foundation for the success of the season ahead.
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