2022 NHL Free Agency: Talking Flyers

Johnny Gaudreau
Calgary Flames left wing Johnny Gaudreau (13) carries the puck past Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Ondrej Palat (18) during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Jan. 11, 2018, in Tampa, Fla. Executives around the NHL expect plenty of movement before free agency opens Wednesday, July 13, 2022. Several top players including Gaudreau and Palat could still sign contracts prior to hitting the open market. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara, file)

Today, NHL players deciding to test the free-agent market became available for negotiations. The Philadelphia Flyers need something at every position. Cap strapped and pursuing an “aggressive retool,” Chuck Fletcher created a Rubik’s cube problem to solve, requiring more moves to acquire one player.

There are many engaging targets to pursue. During the 2022 NHL Entry Draft, the Flyers traded for Tony DeAngelo, making a defensive move.

This morning, PSN’s Anthony Mazziotti touched on these names circulating the rumor mill:

Johnny Gaudreau

The big one. Gaudreau wants to come to Philadelphia. If Fletcher doesn’t make the required moves to free cap space, the Flyers will lose out on a superstar who wants to be here. Additionally, that superstar will become a direct rival. Considering the “aggressive retool” mantra, Fletcher cannot become soft suddenly.

James van Riemsdyk needs relocation. If that means sending van Riemsdyk and a first-round pick to clear the space, Fletcher needs to without hesitation. The price is likely steeper, but Philadelphia is between a rock and a hard place. Gaudreau, slipping to another Metropolitan Division rival, ought to put Fletcher on a scorching hot seat.

According to Sam Carchidi, the Flyers remain stubborn in their unwillingness to trade a first-round selection and van Riemsdyk for cap space.

Patrick Kane

This morning, Frank Seravalli reported that numerous teams are inquiring about Kane. A trade for Kane is becoming less likely. The Chicago Blackhawks might consider dealing Kane before the 2023 NHL Trade Deadline.

It is hard to imagine Kane away from the Blackhawks. He wants to let the 2022-2023 regular season play out before considering movement. At a time, Philadelphia seemed interested in a failsafe plan for Kane if Gaudreau didn’t happen. He doesn’t fit what Fletcher stated he was looking for during the 2022 NHL Entry Draft.

Vladimir Tarasenko

The St. Louis Blues extended Robert Thomas to an eight-year extension for $8.125mil/AAV. Doug Armstrong made his decision. Tarasenko is low-hanging fruit, considering how long he’s tied to the Flyers. It doesn’t take critical thinking to understand the interest is still there.

Philadelphia needs a goal-scorer. The window is closing on Gaudreau at this rate. Tarasenko would be a consolation prize because of the fanfare surrounding Gaudreau. Of course, he would have to want out of the Blues organization due to his no-trade clause. St. Louis certainly seems prepared to move on from Tarasenko after the extension to Thomas.

Blake Wheeler

Of the names on the list, this one makes the least sense. Wheeler is in his mid-thirties, making the same amount of money Claude Giroux made with the Flyers for two more seasons. Everything about signing Wheeler recycles Philadelphia back to the same position they were in 2020-2021, but with less cap space.

Wheeler should look to a team who can make a playoff push. Harboring a older, expensive talent is the opposite of what the Flyers should strive to obtain.

Conor Garland

Of the players on this list, Garland is the second best option for Philadelphia if they strike out on Gaudreau. A valid point is that his trajectory, progression, skill set, and age matches the Flyers timeline. Garland would join a young forward lineup, ready to grow with prospects like Cutter Gauthier, Tyson Foerster, Owen Tippett, Noah Cates, and more.

Garland is under contract through 2025-2026 at $4.95/AAV. Affordable, Fletcher wouldn’t have to do too much to make a deal. Acquiring Garland would resemble a wise rebuild versus an “aggressive retool,” however. Fletcher sends mixed signals of what he is willing or unwilling to do. Garland helps stabilize Philadelphia’s forward depth for the future, but he doesn’t have the current “superstar” status.

(AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)