Monday afternoon, news came down that the Flyers had qualified seven of their restricted free agents. Danick Martel, Tyrell Goulbourne, and Reece Willcox all qualified at $715,000, Robert Hagg at $874,125, and Taylor Leier at $846,886.
The most obvious of the qualifying offers came with Alex Lyon being tendered at $918,831. With Lyon potentially being groomed for an NHL backup spot, he comes as a cheaper option, and more reliable, than the current backup to Brian Elliott, Michal Neuvirth.
The most curious of the qualifying offers came in the form of a $761,250 offer to Anthony Stolarz. After missing all of the 2017-18 season after his second significant knee surgery, Stolarz appears to be on his way back to Lehigh Valley, or so it seems.
When a player is qualified, that basically means that the qualifying team retains the players’ services for the coming year, unless another team signs that player to an offer sheet. Surely, Flyers fans remember the summer of Shea Weber? If another team were to sign a player to an offer sheet, and the qualifying team refuses to meet the terms of the sheet, the qualifying team receives compensation in the form of draft picks.
Now that the terms have been described, let’s visit the scenarios that can play out now that Lyon and Stolarz have received their qualifying offers.
Alex Lyon’s situation is a bit more obvious than that of Anthony Stolarz. Lyon is coming off of the heels of a great postseason with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. With his midseason callup as well, Lyon’s stock is pretty high heading into restricted free agency. Hextall was smart to lock him up with a qualifying offer.
Surely the plan would be to lock up Lyon for a few more years, and shore up the crease in Lehigh Valley, or even Philadelphia. With a contract similar to the qualifying offer, Lyon could either be one of the most handsomely paid goalies in the AHL, or the biggest bargain backup in the NHL.
Obviously if Hextall wants Lyon in the NHL, he would have to make a few moves. Petr Mrazek is out of the picture after not being qualified. If Hextall were to move Michal Neuvirth between now and the start of the regular season, Lyon could find himself in a more permanent role with the Flyers.
Lyon’s NHL future hinges on what the Flyers do with struggling backup Michal Neuvirth, but if Neuvirth goes on the move, expect Lyon, or maybe Carter Hart, to replace him up with the Flyers.
Anthony Stolarz’ situation could go one of two ways. With the inclusion of Carter Hart at the AHL level, Stolarz could end up being the odd man out. Qualifying him was the right move regardless, because in this situation, the Flyers would get some sort of compensation for him if another team wants to take a chance on the young netminder.
If Carter Hart wows the Flyers in training camp, and surpasses both Lyon and Stolarz in the pecking order, Stolarz could end up either being the backup, or part of a timeshare with Alex Lyon down in Lehigh Valley.
Coming off the aforementioned surgery, it’s hard to envision Stolarz being given the keys to the kingdom right off the bat. That, paired with the emergence of Alex Lyon, creates a tough situation for the AHL vet. Stolarz’ rehab stint with the ECHL Reading Royals went somewhat as planned, and with a full offseason to rehab his knee, Stolarz may well be ready to roll come the 2018-19 season opener. If not, and another team bites on an offer sheet for him, the Flyers get a return that they didn’t necessarily expect. It’s a win-win situation for the Flyers.
Extending qualifying offers may be part of a bigger plan, including dealing Neuvirth to make room for Lyon and Stolarz. It could be a strategic ploy by Hextall to solidify some sort of return if Stolarz gets signed to an offer sheet. Chances are the Flyers will match an offer sheet for Lyon and retain his services. If the deal isn’t right on a Stolarz offer sheet, we may see the end of his tenure with the orange and black.
Mandatory Credit: Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports