The free agency class this year isn’t the deepest we’ve ever seen. However, the crown jewel is one heck of a stone on the crown of whoever he ends up with. John Tavares is set to hit the open market, and is expected to garner a ridiculous amount of interest from teams all over the league. Realistically speaking, the Flyers may have a shot to secure one of the premier players in the NHL, but given the current state of the Flyers, it’s nothing but a pipe dream.
Don’t get me wrong, Tavares would be a dream signing for the Flyers. That’s exactly what it is, however. A dream. John Tavares presents a luxury the Flyers may be able to afford financially, but cannot afford at the risk of stunting the growth of the players already on the team.
Signing John Tavares would create a top line that could almost give the Legion of Doom a run for their money. Claude Giroux, John Tavares, and Jakub Voracek, or Travis Konecny, however you want to look at it. However, what happens to incumbent first-line center Sean Couturier? He gets bumped back down to the third line.
Why the third? Because Nolan Patrick is just too good to waste away on the third line. He showed glimpses of the player many believed he could be this past year, and he, simply put, is just too good for a third line center role. Sean Couturier is much the same. After the season he had (31 goals, 45 assists for 76 points), he is just scraping his potential on this team. Bringing in John Tavares not only stunts his growth, but Patrick’s as well.
Considering the amount of money he would command on the free agent market, you could say that he is affordable for the Flyers. Likely to command 9-10 million dollars, or even more depending on the bidding war which is sure to ensue, the Flyers have upwards of 20 million to spend this year, so they could easily fit him under their cap. However, with Ivan Provorov and Travis Konecny entering the last year of their entry-level deals, they are sure to be a main priority this offseason.
Provorov is the future of this team’s blue line, so he will likely be paid fittingly. Provorov will likely receive a long term deal worth somewhere in the range of 6-8 million dollars. Travis Konecny will likely receive a smaller deal, in length and cost, somewhere around 4-5 million. So right there, you have 10-13 million dollars spent already out of 22. Imagine signing Tavares for 10 million dollars. You thought the Flyers were cap-strapped under Paul Holmgren, that’s three longer term contracts (more than likely), in one offseason.
You can expect Ron Hextall to take care of his own before he goes out and starts scouring the free agency market. There’s no way he doesn’t lock up, at the very least, Provorov, and very likely he will try and lock up Konecny to a Gostisbehere-like deal (6 years, 27 million) or maybe shorter term.
What this all boils down to is what the Flyers need right now. They’re not as far off from being a serious contender as many may suggest. The Flyers are a key piece or two away from making a legitimate run at the Stanley Cup. John Tavares would slot into a position that the Flyers already have accounted for. What the Flyers need is a third line center, not a top line center. There are more reasonable and realistic options out there to fill that glaring hole.
First off, Hextall has not ruled out the return of Valtteri Filppula (sigh). Let’s pretend that doesn’t happen. You have Riley Nash and Branden Tanev who will be hitting the market, two young skaters who can play center, and would come at a much cheaper rate than Tavares. With rumors flying around of him being bough out by the Bruins, you also may have the chance to sign David Backes. Backes would fit the mold of a seasoned veteran that the kids on the bottom six can learn from, especially if they’re willing to be gritty and fight for every inch they can get. Those three, four if you include Filppula, could help the Flyers’ bottom six out more than signing John Tavares would.
Lastly, look at some of the teams that do have the cap room, and would be much more appealing than the Flyers, to a guy from Mississauga, Ontario, Canada. You have Vancouver with around 28 million dollars to spend, Winnipeg, a ready-made contender, with around 24 million to spend. San Jose has been competitive and Joe Thornton has already said he will take a pay cut to bring in more talent, and they have around 23 million dollars in space this offseason.
All that aside, you have the Toronto Maple Leafs, ripe with young talent, and only 17 miles from where John Tavares grew up, sitting there with approximately 29 million dollars to spend. The New York Islanders will be very reluctant to let him walk, especially to another eastern conference team, but the appeal of playing as close to home as he can may be more appealing than an extra million dollars or so. At this point, the appeal of playing for the Flyers just won’t be enough to lure Tavares away from the prospect of playing close to home.
It’s nice to think that the Flyers are in the position they are, that we can sit here and discuss the possibility of them being able to sign the cream of the crop in the free agent pool. Fans aren’t used to this kind of luxury, having this type of money to spend during the offseason. Signing John Tavares would be an absolutely incredible possibility, but at the moment, there are bigger fish to fry for the Flyers, and there are bigger fish waiting out there, waiting for their chance to lure John Tavares onto their hooks.