Now neck deep in the dog days of the offseason, speculation is at the heart of every hockey fans mind. With less than two weeks until the 2018 Entry Draft and the entire league waiting for the flood gates to open on free agency, living room general managers from Sunrise to Edmonton are shouting their hot takes to the heavens about the next step each franchise should take in their pursuit of a Stanley Cup. The Philadelphia fan base is one of the most opinionated in the world and, as a result, is no stranger to this same scrutiny.
Since Ron Hextall took his place at the helm of the Flyers, patience has been the name of the game. Building through the draft rather than spending high in free agency is suddenly the “Flyers way” and, save for a few detractors, much of the fan base has accepted this school of thought with open arms. With the likes of Nolan Patrick, Travis Konecny and Ivan Provorov quickly inserting themselves into the heart of the team and many more grade-A prospects making their way up the pipeline, the future of this storied franchise is bright.
After a roller coaster year, one that the Orange and Black overachieved on many levels, many passionate fans are ready to make the jump from playoff hopefuls to legit Stanley Cup contender. A jam packed free agent market and promising first round has every team in the league feverishly looking for that missing piece. Some have more ground to make up than others and thinking that the Flyers could potentially solve their issues by adding one or two complimentary pieces isn’t as farfetched as it has been in recent years. Especially with the team in the best cap situation they’ve been in in a decade.
Here’s my take on some of the most popular opinions found across the Flyers twitterverse:
1. Sign a middle-tier offenseman to boost scoring
The risk-verse-reward factor is always at play when thinking about signing any player on the free agent market. Very few players are a “sure thing” and teams almost always overpay for any player found on the open market. This is especially true for players that are coming off of career years or those that have performed at a consistent but not astronomical level for a long period of time. Personally, I see these types of players as a quick fix that almost always result in regret a few years after their signing. Signing a player along the lines of James van Riemsdyk, Paul Stastny or Tomas Vanek would most likely give the team a boost next season, but for a franchise that plans on contending for years and years to come, being weighed down by a hefty veteran contract is never to be desired. Especially with players like Dale Weiss, Matt Read and Jori Lehtera coming off the books, replacing them with slightly more useful players won’t take this team to the next level.
Final Verdict: NO
2. Take a shot at Ilya Kovalchuk
Kovalchuk’s skill is undeniable. He wasn’t rewarded with that monster contract in New Jersey for nothing and anyone who thinks he won’t be at least a 20-goal scorer is kidding themselves. Leaving the Devils high and dry and showing his cards as a grade-A prima donna makes signing him an unnecessary risk though and his age (35) doesn’t help either. He’ll help someone this year, it just shouldn’t be the Orange and Black.
Final Verdict: NO
3. Give John Tavares the key to the city
Shooting for the moon was the Flyers way for as long as many fans can remember. Even with many of our veteran stars having fantastic years and the team already packed to the brim with centerman, under Paul Holmgren the Flyers brass almost certainly would’ve shot for the moon for Tavares. He’s a generational talent who was stuck on a mediocre team and wants to win a Stanley Cup. The Islanders aren’t even close to contending for a championship and a change of scenery is imminent for JT. The allure would most likely be there for him as well, the Flyers are stocked with talent and he’d be playing next to some of the best NHL vets and young guns in the league. As enticing as having Tavares fill out the Flyers top-6 would be, he’ll command a gigantic contract in both term and dollars and could potentially hinder the signings of the rising stars who have already earned a spot of the roster.
Final Verdict: Tempting, but NO
4. The holy grail, sign John Carlson
John Carlson has been an absolute stud for the Stanley Cup Champion Washington Capitals since he entered the league in 2010. He’s a defensive mastermind and puts up great point totals to boot. Carlson is the total package and would no doubt give the Flyers one of the most formidable defenses in the league. His inclusion on the roster would take some pressure off of Ivan Provorov and give Shayne Gostisbehere the ability to play his offensive style with a bit more freedom than he could this year. The only foreseeable problem in signing the 28-year-old D-man is his astronomical value on the free agent market right now. He’s coming off the best season of his career and played a pivotal roll in securing the Capitals their first Stanley Cup. Carlson will command absolute top dollar wherever he signs. The risk of losing one of the Flyers’ rising stars is one more fans shouldn’t be willing to take. Could they make the money work and elevate the roster to a whole new level in the process? Maybe. Is it worth finding out? In my opinion…
Final Verdict: NO, would I be mad about it if we did? Absolutely not. But, no.
5. Move up in the draft
The Flyers are in a great position this year heading into the Entry Draft. They hold both the 14th and 19th picks and could potentially pick up two great prospects in a stacked first round. One of the most popular opinions across the fanbase this year is that packaging both the team’s picks as well as a prospect (ie. Travis Sanheim) to move into the top 10 could be a great option. As enticing as adding two great prospects is (Joel Farabee and Bode Wilde is who I have them landing) moving up into a top spot and picking up someone along the lines of Brady Tkachuk could be too good to pass up. Depending on the cost, trading up could prove fruitful for the Orange and Black
Final Verdict: My trust in Hextall to only make a smart deal makes this a YES.
What should the Flyers do this draft/offseason? Draft where we are and let the young guns develop as a team? Package our 1st rounders and a prospect to move up? Pick up a complimentary piece like JVR or Stastny? Go big on Tavares/Carlson? Or something else entirely?
— Austin Mitchell (@ustincmitchell) June 11, 2018
FINAL Final Verdict:
Needless to say, I’m sort of in love with not being in cap purgatory right now. The Flyers have spent so much money in the wrong places over the last few years and to finally start seeing that money come off the books is a great feeling. It’s undeniable that the free agent market is stacked this year and many of the players on it could seriously help in the immediate future. But, is it too much to ask to wait until we pay our deserving young studs that have earned their right to grow together as a team? I don’t think so. Free agency will always be there. Elite talent doesn’t grow on trees but making sure the team’s business is handled before they commit to solving their on-ice issues with an outside source just seems like good team management to me. Moving up in the draft isn’t a must but, for the right price, it could greatly benefit the team. Call me boring. Maybe I trust Hextall’s process too much, but patience has done the Orange and Black a lot of good in recent years and if waiting a little bit longer to hoist the cup is the cost of ensuring that it’s a legitimate possibility, I’m willing to wait.
Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports