With the Flyers floundering through the 2018-19 season, it’s never too early to take a look ahead, right?
First thing is first, Gary Bettman has announced that the NHL salary cap is expected to rise to $83 million next season, which puts the Flyers in good position, yet again, to spend some dough. As of right now, the Flyers sit at $71.8 million. They also have 12 expiring contracts to deal with as well.
Jori Lehtera, Wayne Simmonds, Michael Raffl, Scott Laughton, Travis Konecny, Phil Varone, Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim, Christian Folin, Michal Neuvirth and Brian Elliott all have expiring contracts.
Take away what each of them are currently making, and that leaves the Flyers with a little over $23 million dollars more on top of the roughly $8 million they already have, putting them at a whopping $31 million to spend come free agency.
Here’s where we pump the brakes.
Out of those 12 skaters, the Flyers have a few that they need to re-sign. First and foremost, Ivan Provorov and Travis Konecny have expiring entry-level contracts, and both are due for a substantial raise. Talks between Provorov’s agent and the Flyers have cooled off during the season, but it’s possible to believe that he will fetch somewhere around $6 million this offseason. Travis Konecny won’t command as much, but will definitely be looking for something in the realm of $4-$5 million.
Travis Sanheim is another defenseman that is due for a pay bump, and it’s quite possible he could fetch about $3 million when he re-ups with the Flyers. One last re-signing that should happen is Scott Laughton. Laughton always finds a way to carve his niche in the lineup, and he’s cheap as well. If the Flyers can lock him up for $1-$2 million per, they could find a cost-effective 3rd or 4th line center that they can rely on.
After Provorov, Konecny, Sanheim and Laughton are re-upped, we look at the departures.
Michael Raffl is sure to get a better opportunity elsewhere seeing that the Flyers have an influx of youth coming up, so it makes sense that he ventures away from Philadelphia. Jori Lehtera is a no-brainer. Phil Varone may see another opportunity elsewhere, much like Michael Raffl, and he may take it, but the Flyers will be ok without him.
That leaves us to discuss the goaltenders. Michal Neuvirth’s departure is a long time coming, and fans will likely rejoice at the Flyers not deciding to extend an offer to him. His streakiness, underperformance, and most of all, his inability to stay healthy will likely spell the end of the Neuvy era in Philadelphia.
Brian Elliott, while more reliable than Neuvirth, finds himself staring down the same barrel. Elliott has seen limited action this year after re-aggravating his core muscle injury that spans back all the way to last year. With that being said, it opened the door for goalies Anthony Stolarz and Carter Hart to come into the NHL and show that they can be relied upon in Elliott and Neuvirth’s place. With that revelation, it seems that Elliott and Neuvy will be walking come this summer.
The Flyers look to have somewhere in the realm of $16 million to spend on essentially three players; one forward, one defenseman, and one goalie.
As far as forward goes, the free agency class this summer is ripe with talent. Tyler Seguin, Artemi Panarin, and Mark Stone highlight a potentially star-studded class of forwards who could be available to the highest bidder come July. Financially, the Flyers may not be able to land a top-tier forward, but there are definitely options as far as they are concerned.
Under Paul Holmgren, the Flyers are no stranger to the offer sheet, and Toronto could be ripe for the picking considering that Auston Matthews is due for a monster deal. Mitch Marner is an RFA at the end of the year, and Homer may decide to try and pry him away, signing him to an offer sheet that would prove difficult for Kyle Dubas and the Toronto Maple Leafs to match. It’s certainly on the table with Holmgren in Chuck Fletcher’s ear, but realistically, it may not be the easiest to fathom.
What is more likely to happen is Chuck Fletcher pursuing a guy like Jordan Eberle. Currently making $6 million per year, the Flyers could afford that kind of contract, but his point production this year, 9g 11a for 20 points, may suggest that he could be grabbed for less than his current deal. Eberle is fast, and a guy that could solidify a middle six that has seen its fair share of problems this past year.
The main problem the Flyers will likely face this off-season is finding a top-pairing defenseman to put with Ivan Provorov. The Flyers could strike gold with UFA Tyler Myers. Myers has 13 points this season for Buffalo and is making $5.5 million as well. He may see a pay increase as well, but even at that price, he could be an absolute steal. Pairing the left-handed shot Provorov with the right-handed shot Myers could be a top pairing that would excite Flyers fans for years to come, seeing as Myers is still only 29 years old.
Goaltender is a bit tricky. With spending around $12 for a forward and a defenseman, the Flyers are left with about $4 million to pay for a goaltender. However, the Flyers will likely look for a goalie looking to play 1B to Carter Hart’s 1A, seeing how he took over the crease back in December and has filled in better than most could imagine.
That leaves two realistic options. If the Edmonton Oilers are willing to let Mikko Koskinen walk come free agency, he would be a great option to pair with Hart moving forward. He is currently making $2.5 million, and will likely command around the $4 million mark the Flyers are capped at. It may take some wiggling, but Fletcher could make it work to solidify the net for the orange and black.
A cheaper, and about as reliable option could also be Ryan Miller. Miller’s deal with the Anaheim Ducks expires at the end of the year, and he has still been putting up solid numbers as a backup. Making $2 million per year on the Anaheim deal, he could likely command just the same if he decides to come back and not retire at the end of the year. On top of all of that, he could be a fascinating option for Carter Hart to learn from, seeing as he has achieved just about all a goaltender can achieve in his time as a professional goaltender.
The Flyers are in a decent spot moving forward. They have the young players who are just about ready to make the jump and contribute at the NHL level. They have players in place who are hungry and doing their part, even if this season’s ship is headed towards sinking. With a couple tweaks, Fletcher and company could bring the Flyers from the bottom of the eastern conference to potentially contending for a playoff spot as soon as next year.
Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports