Top 3 unrestricted free agents at each position the Flyers should consider this offseason
This summer, Chuck Fletcher will embark on the most important offseason as GM of the Philadelphia Flyers. Fletcher had constantly stated that he thinks this team can be competitive next year, ultimately putting hope in our hearts that this team won’t be in a lottery position again next season.
Fletcher appeared on ESPN and mentioned the same and has even reiterated it during his exit interviews, stating he’s looking to have another 2019-2020 offseason when he brought in Hayes, Braun, Niskanen, and Pitlick.
Personally, I wanted a rebuild with increased roles/playing time for the younger players to see what we actually have in these kids. Since that seems like it’s not happening, Fletcher is going to have to have a Bill Zito type offseason if he wants to see the orange and black back in the postseason.
Flyers Cap Space
As of now, Fletcher only has $5,118,560 in cap space with Joel Farabee ($5.0) and Sean Couturier ($7.75) both getting pay bumps next season with their contract extension kicking in. Morgan Frost (10.2c), Zack MacEwen, Owen Tippett, and Wade Allison are all notable RFA’s this summer that Chuck still has yet to sign.
It’s safe to say that the Flyers don’t have a lot of cap to play around with (as of now), but I fully expect Chuck to make several notable moves to get space. Whether that’s finding a way to send JVR to the moon without eating some of that disgusting salary, shipping Konecny or Sanhiem, or even looking at trading Oskar Lindblom’s $3.0 million cap hit remains to be seen.
In my opinion, it’s not really a matter of if Fletcher makes some big moves, it’s just a matter of who and when. Regardless of what he decides to do from here on out and at the NHL draft (July 7th), here are my three UFA’s at each position Fletcher should at least take a look at this summer.
Johnny Gaudreau: ($6.75) – (28) – 40G-75A-115P in 82GP
If Chuck finds a way to get some cap space and Johnny Hockey actually hits the UFA market, I’ll be shocked if the Flyers aren’t in on him.
Gaudreau is coming off the best season of his career scoring 115P in 82 games (tied for 2nd in the NHL). He’s due for a big contract this summer and I don’t really blame you if you’re a little weary about handing him $9-10 million after a career year. After all, it’s something the Flyers do a lot. Handing a guy massive money after having success somewhere else seems to be a thing all Philly sports franchises do as a collective.
At the same time, the Flyers need high-end skill (another thing Chuck has constantly mentioned) and Johnny Gaudreau is just that.
Gaudreau would automatically be on the 1st line on Couturier’s wing with one of Atkinson or Konecny (if not traded), and would quickly help a power play that has been genuinely depressing to watch the last handful of seasons.
Fillip Forsberg: ($6.0) – (27) – 42G-42A-84P in 69GP
Another big name that might hit the UFA market this offseason if Nashville doesn’t sign him to an extension. Forsberg, like Gaudreau, is also coming off a career year, scoring 42G-42A in 69 games with the Predators.
He only makes $6.0 million dollars right now and is certainly due for a pay raise this summer. Again, Chuck is going to have to get extremely creative for the Flyers to even be in these conversations but signing someone who has hit 60+ points four times in his career would be sweet.
Not to add the fact that Forsberg would be a fan favorite here very quickly with the way he plays hockey. A big, strong 6’1 200-pound winger who’s still only 27 and can snipe the puck with the best of them? Sign us up.
Andreas Athanasiou: ($2.7) – (27) – 11G-6A-17P in 28GP
I’m going to step away from the big FA’s right now and talk about someone we should eye up if spending Gaudreau/Forsberg money is out of the picture.
Andreas Athanasiou is a player that I’ve wanted in the Flyer’s bottom-six ever since his days with Detriot. A 6’2 190-pound player that can absolutely fly on the ice would infuse our bottom-six with the much-needed speed it’s been severely lacking.
I’m always turning around and complaining about how our bottom six looks like it’s skating in quicksand at times, so adding Andreas, who can score as well (17P in 28GP while dealing with injuries this year) would be a solid pick up by Chuck.
I don’t see the Flyers spending big money at C with Couturier and Hayes as the 1-2 punch right now. Could they go out and spend a little money on 3C if they aren’t comfortable with Morgan Frost being their 3C on opening night, absolutely.
Ideally, they’ll steer away from the Kadri’s of the world. Kadri is a good player but he’s another guy that’s going to be looking to cash in this summer and I’m not sure the Flyers are going to want to have that much money wrapped up in the C position.
Vincent Trocheck: ($4.75) – (28) – 21G-30A-51P in 81GP
I have always liked Trocheck from back in the day when he was with FLA. His best season came with them in 2017-2018 where he scored 31G-44A-75P in 82 games.
He’s not the biggest guy in the world, only standing at 5’10 183 pounds, but he plays bigger than he looks. Trocheck is a shifty, feisty player that would look really good in our bottom six.
He makes $4.75 million right now and had 10P in 14 playoff games this year for the Hurricanes so the price tag might be a little expensive for a 3C for the Flyers. Still, it’s worth checking up on.
Nick Paul: ($1.35) – (27) – 16A-16A-32P in 80GP
These next two players are what I’m thinking for the 4C position next season. Nick Paul was traded this season from the Ottawa Senators to the Tampa Bay Lightning for a 2024 fourth-round pick and F Mathieu Joseph.
Paul came up extremely clutch for the Lightning in Game 7 against TOR, potting two goals to help Tampa continue the Maple Leaf’s streak of not being able to win a playoff series.
Paul only makes $1.35 right now and with the way Tampa is always able to recycle bottom-six players and find gems, they might not be that worried about losing him. I could see them trying to get him to sign an extension but if he doesn’t, Chuck should call Paul’s agent.
Marcus Johansson: ($1.5) – (31) – 9G-20A-29P in 69GP
If the Flyers are looking to add a cheap veteran 4C that can actually put up points, I would really like for them to look at Johansson.
Johansson has been around since 2010-2011 and put up 29P in 69GP for the Kraken and Capitals this season. He’s not what he used to be, but he can still contribute to a team in a fourth-line role and look good doing it.
RW is another position I don’t really see the Flyers looking to spend big at with Atkinson, Konecny, Tippett, Allison, MacEwen (RFA), and Brink already in the organization. I don’t see the Flyers being in on any of the big names like Perron, Kessel, and Rakell. Still, they could look to upgrade that bottom-six if they move on with guys like Lindblom and MacEwen.
Reilly Smith: ($5.0) – (31) – 16G-22A-38P in 56GP
Smith has always been a player I’ve looked at and wished he was on the Flyers. His production from 2013 to 2020 was extremely impressive. He scored 50+ points five times in that span with his lowest scoring season being in 2015-2016 (15G-22A).
He’s not going to command the $5.0 he makes now so checking in on him wouldn’t be the worst idea in the world.
Vladislav Namestnikov: ($2.0) – (29) – 16G-14A-30P in 75GP
Namestnikov only makes $2.0 million and can play C, LW, or RW so he’d be a guy the Flyers could use anywhere in the bottom six. He scored 16G-14A in 75 games with the Red Wings and Stars this season.
Again, I don’t really see the Flyers addressing the RW position this summer with the depth they already have there. Add in the fact that they have other issues at C, LW, and D, and the possibility of them adding to RW decreases even more.
Tyler Pitlick: ($1.75) – (30) – 1G-4A-5P in 39GP
Chuck Fletcher traded Ryan Hartman for Tyler Pitlick back in 2019-2020 in that off-season he’s looking to replicate this summer. Pitlick spent the beginning of the season with CGY and was traded to MTL.
Fletcher could look to add Pitlick if he lets a guy like MacEwen (RFA) walk since he let Pitlick walk a couple of years ago, looking for NAK to replace his production and energy in the lineup.
He wouldn’t cost much and I really wouldn’t mind him on the 4th line or extra.
As of now, the defensive pairings look like this:
Ivan Provorov – Ryan Ellis
Travis Sanhiem – Rasmus Ristolainen
Cam York – (FA or trade)
Nick Seeler / Egor Zamula
Depending on what Fletcher decides to do with the defense, my opinion will obviously be different but as of now, they need to find a nice veteran partner to accommodate Cam York on that third-pairing.
Nikita Zadorov: ($3.75) – (27) – 4G-18A-22P in 74GP
The Flames have a lot to do this offseason. Andrew Mangiapane (RFA), Matthew Tkachuk (RFA), Johnny Gaudreau (UFA), Calle Jarnkrok (UFA), Oliver Kylington (RFA), Erik Gudbranson (UFA), Michael Stone (UFA) and of course, Nikita Zadorov are all players they need to sign to extensions.
If Zadorov lands in free agency, I would absolutely love him for Cam York. Zadorov is a big (6’6), mean defenseman that can play the right side as a left-handed player. York’s ability to hit the breakout man to exit the zone along with how much he likes to step up in the play would be a good fit for Zadorov, who is a more defensive kind of defenseman.
Even though he likes to hit and stay at home, he’s still capable on the offensive side. Zadorov scored 4G-18A-22P in 74 games this season for the Flames.
Josh Manson: ($4.1) – (30) – 6G-10A-16P in 67GP
Manson was one of the prized defensemen that were available during the trade deadline and ended up getting shipped to the Colorado Avalanche for a 2nd-round pick in 2023 and defensive prospect Drew Helleson.
With Colorado sweeping the Oilers last night, Manson is currently headed to the Stanley Cup Final to go up against the winner of the TB/NYR series. Manson has 2G-4A-6P in 14 playoff games and is due for a pay raise this summer.
Whether that’s with Colorado or another team remains to be seen, but I would like Chuck to at least inquire about him even though he might be a little too expensive for what we’re looking for.
Justin Schultz: ($4.0) – (31) – 4G-19A-23P in 74GP
Schultz is a right-handed defenseman best known for his days with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He has spent the last two years with the Washington Capitals, putting up the most points he’s scored since 2017-2018.
Schultz makes $4.0 million right now and I don’t really see him trying to cash in this summer. Hopefully, Fletcher can swoop him and try and sign him for under $4.0. He’d be a really solid right-handed veteran defenseman to put on the third pair with Cam York.
Mandatory Credit: (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press via AP)