If there were a year where chaos was to reign supreme in the NHL during its offseason, this is the year. There are too many quality restricted free agents on the market for GM’s to just sit idly by and NOT do something about it. Brock Boeser, Brayden Point, Matthew Tkachuk, the list goes on.
Even though the NHL is considered somewhat of a “Gentlemen’s Club,” this seems to be the year that the claws come out and we figure out which GM is serious about improving his team, and that GM needs to be Chuck Fletcher.
Given the holes on the Flyers roster at this point in time, the RFA options seem to be much more appealing than what’s sitting on the UFA market. Sure, Kevin Hayes is intriguing. The Flyers have the inside track to sign Hayes after acquiring the center for a fifth round pick in this year’s draft, but Fletcher still needs to get the deal done. After a guy like Panarin, the free agent pool isn’t as deep as in recent years, so why not go after a younger, frankly, more talented forward, even if it involves compensation?
Three names come to mind that could improve the Flyers as soon as next season. Three names, three different positions. No, the Flyers won’t offer sheet all of them, but landing one of them could greatly increase their chances of doing what Paul Holmgren is setting out to do this next year, and that’s making a run in the playoffs.
3. Patrick Laine
Yes, Patrick Laine is a restricted free agent this year, and yes, he would be an immediate upgrade for the Flyers top six. Laine has the second most goals of any player in the NHL over the past three years, trailing only the “Great 8” Alexander Ovechkin. With 184 points in his first three seasons, Laine is destined to become an elite winger in the NHL for years to come, right?
Here’s where things get interesting. This past season, Laine played a full slate of games, but only put up 50 points. In the season prior, he played the same amount of games and put up 70 points. So why are we worried?
Winnipeg isn’t necessarily strapped for cash, but they also have to fill nearly half their professional roster with about $25 million. Laine will surely command somewhere in the realm of 7-9 million dollars per year, leaving Winnipeg with 22 of 50 roster spots to fill and 16-18 million dollars to do so. Impossible? No. Likely? Not exactly.
The Flyers have enough money, approximately $33.4 million, to play with this offseason, and could afford a cap hit like what Patrick Laine may command. Not to mention, Laine has been given the “goal scorer” tag, which inherently means that other aspects of his game fall behind the eightball.
Winnipeg may use that to their advantage, and start negotiations too low for Laine’s taste. If that happens, fully expect the Finnish forward to test the market, and milk it for whatever he can get.
2. Jacob Trouba
Same team, different position. It’s no secret that the Flyers need a guy that can plug into the top four on defense and play a substantial amount of minutes per night. Trouba is exactly the guy for the job.
Over the past three years, Trouba has logged well over 21 minutes per night each year, even reaching almost 25 minutes per night in 2016-2017. To top it all off, he put up 50 points this past season in 82 games.
If the Winnipeg Jets hope to re-sign the aforementioned Patrick Laine, Jacob Trouba may find himself without an offer from them and may be subject to an offer sheet, which Chuck Fletcher should extend to the young blueliner.
1. Mitch Marner
Arguably the biggest fish in the RFA pond, Mitch Marner of the Toronto Maple Leafs would be the ideal addition to the Flyers if Fletcher decides to go the offer sheet route.
There’s always the chance that Toronto could match even the most outrageous offer sheet, but it would take some Matrix-like maneuvering by Toronto GM Kyle Dubas in regards to his cap situation.
Marner’s production speaks for itself. He posted 61 points as a rookie, 69 as a sophomore, and just put up a 94 point season. Marner is the real deal, and Chuck Fletcher should be chomping at the bit right now.
Marner would likely slot into the top line on the RW, opposite of Claude Giroux on the left. Giroux, Couturier, and Marner on a top line, together? Yes, please! Kevin Hayes (maybe), Jake Voracek, and Travis Konecny rounding out the top-six? Oh boy…
It would take a lot for the Flyers to acquire his services. If the offer is slightly over $10.5 million, Philadelphia would owe their next four first round picks to Toronto. A steep price, but the payoff could potentially be a devastating top 6 for years to come. Will Chuck Fletcher extend an offer sheet to Marner? Maybe not, but whether he should or not has fans all around Philadelphia gushing at the prospect.
There are plenty of other names to rummage through when it comes to RFA’s this offseason, but three of them fit into this category better than any other three that come to mind.
Let’s get it done, Chuck.
Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports