Flyers Free Agency Frenzy: Recapping an opening day rollercoaster

NHL: FEB 25 Panthers at Coyotes
GLENDALE, AZ – FEBRUARY 25: Florida Panthers defenseman Keith Yandle (3) looks on before the NHL hockey game between the Florida Panthers and the Arizona Coyotes on February 25, 2020 at Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire)

Lately, the Flyers haven’t really done much on the first day of free agency. Whether cap-strapped or gun-shy, they were never in an ideal position to make a splash on day one. Wednesday came and went and those days appear to be over. While the Flyers didn’t make a giant splash, they made more than a few moderate splashes and addressed some needs while pulling off a surprise or two.

Addressing their situation in net was paramount. They did just that. Adding another quality veteran defenseman wasn’t exactly necessary, but it would help round out the blueline. That happened as well. They needed help up front with their forward depth, specifically their bottom six. That need has been addressed as well. Fletcher signed exactly what he needed and now the Flyers roster is rounding out.

Flyers Free Agent Signings

Keith Yandle (D) – 1yr/$900k

This one broke Tuesday night before the official signing period.

On the surface, it’s a little perplexing. After acquiring Ryan Ellis and Rasmus Ristolainen and betting on Travis Sanheim re-signing, the blueline was all-but set. Looking a little further into this move, it makes sense on multiple levels.

Yandle comes to the Flyers a 15 year veteran. Primarily an offensive defenseman, he’s played with Kevin Hayes and under Alain Vigneault. He knows AV’s game, is a savvy veteran, and adds value to the blueline that now lacks Shayne Gostisbehere‘s offensive edge. On top of that, he’s a leader. He’s worn the “A” for every team he’s played for.

Yandle can make an impact on many different levels. He has plenty of experience on the powerplay. Plugging him in and giving Ivan Provorov a rest could keep Provy fresh for the bigger minutes towards the end of the game. Playing him on the third pair with Justin Braun keeps that righty/lefty dynamic alive while balancing out with an offensive defenseman and a more stay-at-home presence as well. Most importantly, it has a big impact on Cam York. Yandle coming to the Flyers not only gives York more time to develop down in Lehigh Valley, Yandle gives York a fantastic mentor to craft his game around his teachings.

Martin Jones (G) – 1yr/$2mil

Backup goalie was the most important position to address this offseason. Brian Elliott just wasn’t going to cut it anymore, so the Flyers needed a durable, capable backup to Carter Hart. They went out and got former San Jose Shark Martin Jones for a year.

Jones’ career in San Jose has seen it’s fair share of ups and downs. His first three seasons saw him post a .915 save percentage with a 102-68-16 record. His past three seasons saw him post a .896 save percentage in three consecutive seasons with a record of 68-53-11. Blame bad San Jose teams, bad defense in front of him, he was less than stellar over the past three seasons.

While other names were more attractive, Jones does make sense. Given the situation surrounding Carter Hart, it makes sense to bring in a goalie that understands his role. Hart will be the number one goalie in Philadelphia, there’s no bones about it. Bringing in someone who understands they’re the number two option makes a ton of sense. Jones is just that. He’s proven he can handle the lion’s share when needed, but can play as a serviceable backup when asked as well.

Nate Thompson (C) – 1yr/$800k

Surprise! Nate Thompson is back for another go-around with the Philadelphia Flyers. The soon-to-be 37 year old returns to the Flyers after playing last season with the Winnipeg Jets and posting five points in 44 games. Depending on who you ask, this is a bone-headed decision by Chuck Fletcher. Ask any reasonable individual, and it makes plenty of sense.

Thompson isn’t being brought in to replace anyone or block any young players from making the roster, so put down the kool-aid and relax. Thompson is being brought in to hold down the fort on the fourth line, and that’s a solid get. Anybody who says otherwise clearly doesn’t understand the man’s skillset.

There’s one logical way to look at this signing. With Thompson in the fold, you’re either paying a guy $800k a year to play fourth line center, kill some penalties, and be a solid locker room guy, or you’re paying him to do all of that except play fourth line center and sit in the press box. Either way, it’s a one year deal so let’s not get carried away with the vitriol folks.

AHL-Level Signings

Nick Seeler (D), Cooper Zech (D), Gerald Mayhew (RW), Adam Clendening (D), Ryan Fitzgerald (C)

The Phantoms lost four defensemen to free agency Wednesday, so they filled three of those spots with external options. Nick Seeler was a Chuck Fletcher selection in the fifth round of the 2011 NHL draft. He’s seen some time with the Wild, but most of his time was spent in Iowa with their same-named AHL affiliate.

Cooper Zech split time last season between the Providence Bruins of the AHL and HK Nitra in the Slovakian hockey league. He’s more of an offensive-minded defenseman according to his numbers. He isn’t the biggest player on the team, but could add some value to the blueline up in Lehigh Valley.

Gerald Mayhew is a solid veteran making his way over from Chuck Fletcher’s old stomping grounds. A majority of his playing career has been spent in the AHL with the Iowa Wild. He has 17 NHL games to his name, but posted 61 points in 49 games during the 2019/20 AHL season.

Adam Clendening is another veteran for the Phantoms blueline. He’s likely an injury call-up in case the Flyers are pressed into making a few moves due to injuries. He has plenty of professional experience, playing 90 NHL games and 370 AHL games over the course of his career. He’s a solid two-way defenseman who can play both sides of the puck.

Ryan Fitzgerald played well enough last season to earn another contract with the Flyers organization. He signed last offseason after playing three seasons with the Providence Bruins. He posted 21 points in 28 games with the Phantoms.

Photo by Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire