Might Nichushkin or Cole fit the Flyers in 2022-2023?

Hurricanes' Ian Cole
Carolina Hurricanes celebrate an overtime goal by Ian Cole against the New York Rangers in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup second-round playoff series in Raleigh, N.C., Wednesday, May 18, 2022. (AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker)

Up against the cap, the Philadelphia Flyers roster will look different in 2022-2023. Whether the farm system produces or Chuck Fletcher goes shopping, valuable names circulate in free agency.

Currently, the Flyers have ~$5.11mil of cap space available. That includes a penalty on player bonuses after finishing 28th in the NHL. They house an expensive roster that bottomed out in 2021-2022.

Fletcher will address glaring team needs in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft and free agency. After the fifth overall selection happens, the Flyers will prioritize their free agency strategy. If Juraj Slafkovský slips to Philadelphia, the search for a stabilizing RD begins. If the Flyers select David Jiříček, the search for a goal-scoring LW makes sense. There is no room for error this offseason.

Who could Fletcher afford?

At the moment, there are a few effective but affordable names. They might not be the most appetizing names for a city thirsty for a superstar, but they certainly cannot be ignored in the NHL. As cap space fluctuates with the inevitable trades, so will the free agency candidates. Currently, these two pique interest:

Valeri Nichushkin; LW/RW

A free agent with a scoring touch, Nichushkin might be within reach. He broke out this season, so the Philadelphia Flyers will have to make a satisfying offer. Considered the most improved forward, Nichushkin is learning how to utilize his big frame. At 6’4″ and 210lbs, he must be on a shortlist if he tests the market.

The biggest obstacle the Flyers face this offseason is the state of the franchise. Why would a player, happy with their current franchise, come to Philadelphia?

He is a top-six forward on an elite NHL team. The Colorado Avalanche had him on a 2yr/$5mil contract; a bargain. Nichushkin becomes the proverbial “eggs in one basket,” costing the Flyers most of their available cap space.

It is critical to move James van Riemsdyk to create more cap room.

Bidding for Nichushkin would start at around $4.75mil/AAV. The Avalanche holds Nichushkin close. Colorado will have around ~$26.48mil to extend their pending free agents. They’ll likely prioritize Nichushkin. There will be cap casualties; if Nichushkin is one, Fletcher needs to be ready.

Ian Cole; LD/RD

Availability is the best ability. Defensively, that was the case in 2021-2022. A defenseman who can play both sides of the ice is a commodity. Will Ryan Ellis be ready for the 2022-2023 season? If not, the Philadelphia Flyers will ice Nick Seeler.

Cole sharply improved with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2021-2022, following an ugly stint with the Minnesota Wild the season before. He would complement Cam York on the bottom pair. More importantly, he could flex with Ivan Provorov if Ellis isn’t ready. Easing Ellis back into the lineup is an intelligent tactic.

He agreed to a 1yr/$2.9mil with the Hurricanes. Consider his usage exact to Justin Braun, but hopefully in the role designed for him. Next season, Cole will be 34-years-old and could help on a one-year contract.

Fletcher could strengthen the defense on a bargain. Cole makes sense at around ~$2.25mil.

(AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker)