After all of that, Jordan Weal is sticking around.
The struggle to crack the Flyers lineup. The exposure in the NHL Expansion Draft. The lengthy flirtation with free agency throughout the month of June. In the end, there must not have been much out there for Weal, since he’ll be coming back to the Flyers on a two-year deal, originally per TSN’s Darren Dreger.
It’s signed before free agency even technically opens on Saturday at 12 p.m. ET. According to TSN’s Pierre LeBrun, it’s worth $1.75 million per year, which is quite reasonable given the interest in him from many teams.
Reports had as many as a dozen teams, including his hometown Vancouver Canucks, interested in the former AHL playoff MVP. Just a day ago in a radio interview, Dave Hakstol said he hoped Weal would return.
“No bones about it, I hope Jordan is back with us,” Hakstol said. “I think he can be a big part of where we go in the near future and the long future here. Really impressed with him as a worker, as a guy that’s hungry to get better and push and improve himself every day. Most importantly on game nights he’s a guy who goes out and gets the job done. He competes hard, he finds a way to impact and affect the game, and those are guys that you have to have on every spot on your lineup.”
Weal will have the best chance of his career to really make a season-long impact on an NHL squad. His 23 games with the Flyers last year, at the end of the regular season in a top-line role after a February call-up, were the only real prolonged opportunity he’s been able to earn at hockey’s top level. To his credit, he performed in that limited time, scoring eight goals and adding four assists — many of which were important, impactful points in games.
Will he be able to build on that, or was it just a short ~20 game run that won’t be replicated? That’s the big question with Weal. Some of it may depend on where he gets placed in the Flyers lineup, and on his own luck. He scored on over 16 percent of shots last year, which is probably not happening again and will result in some regression in his scoring numbers. If he plays on the third or fourth line, that could impact his production as well. But as it’s shaping up currently, the Flyers could actually have four lines with scoring touch next season, and even if he’s a bottom-six player, he’ll have the opportunity to make an offensive impact.
It will be a crowded locker room in training camp this fall as now 16 forwards have the potential to make the Flyers opening night roster. Weal will have every opportunity to regain the top-six role he held at the end of the 2016-17 season, but will have fresh competition from kids like No. 2 overall draft pick Nolan Patrick and the top forward in the Swedish league a year ago, Oskar Lindblom.