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Potential Flyers Free Agent Targets: Depth Forwards

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Ron Hextall is going to go looking for depth in the free agent forward pool. What might he find floating there?

NHL: New Jersey Devils at Pittsburgh Penguins
Could Michael Grabner end up as a target of the Flyers this June?
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

During his season-ending press conference, Flyers GM Ron Hextall suggested the team would be active in trying to add depth this summer. He specifically said he’d like to upgrade at center, defense, and in goal, but the general feeling is that the Flyers would be looking at secondary free agents rather than going in aggressively after the big fish like John Tavares, John Carlson and James van Riemsdyk.

So, who does that leave? Using CapFriendly’s free agency page, let’s take a look a some possible names. I am leaving off names like Tavares, Paul Stastny, and others coming off larger contracts, as I don’t think Hextall is going to spend a lot on a single deal, and is more likely to add depth guys who can upgrade the bottom-6 and PK units.

Stats from NHL.com, Hockey-reference.com & capfriendly.com

Riley Nash
Center, Boston Bruins
Age: 28
2017-18 Cap Hit: $900,000
2017-18 Stats: 76 GP, 15 G, 26 A, 18 PIM

Nash had a good season for the Bruins in a bottom-6 role, and seems to be a popular suggested target. Nash was a key member of the Bruins’ PK. He had decent raw possession stats (51.7% CF, 52.9% FF) although his CF relative to his teammates was -2.0%. He did start 54.6 percent of his shifts in the defensive zone, which may be a contributing factor. He also has some really good teammates.

Coming off a career year, Nash may have several suitors and might be more costly than the Flyers want to commit to, with post-ELC contracts coming up for Travis Konecny and Ivan Provorov soon.

Derek Ryan
Center, Carolina Hurricanes
Age: 31
2017-18 Cap Hit: $1,425,000
2017-18 Stats: 80 GP, 15 G, 23 A, 28 PIM

Ryan is a journeyman who spent most of his 20’s playing in Europe. He didn’t make the NHL until age 29, but he’s put up back-to-back years of solid third-line level offensive production and possession numbers. Ryan’s played far less of a defensive role in Carolina than Nash in Boston, and that might limit the Flyers’ interest as they tend to slot guys into roles. Ryan saw very little PK use as well.

Jay Beagle
Center, Washington Capitals
Age: 32
2017-18 Cap Hit: $1,750,000
2017-18 Stats: 79 GP, 7 G, 15 A, 16 PIM

Beagle was a key part of the Capitals’ PK, playing more PK minutes per game than any other Washington forward. He also gets a radically hard DZ start % of 74.8%. Beagle is also a pretty big dude at 6’3” and 218 pounds, and is a good face-off guy. With the Flyers likely hanging on to Jori Lehtera, Beagle seems a bit redundant, and he also tends to get buried in terms of shots-against (though his heavy defensive role is likely a big contributing factor to that).

Michael Grabner
Wing, New Jersey Devils
Age: 30
2017-18 Cap Hit: $1,650,000
2017-18 Stats: 80 GP, 27 G, 9 A, 16 PIM

Grabner is a good penalty-killing winger who put up a good “Cy Young” scoring line. Most of his offense came with the Rangers, as Grabner struggled to find a fit in after a trade deadline deal with New Jersey (3 goals and 5 points in 21 games as a Devil). Grabner has the speed to be a breakaway candidate every time he’s on the ice and he was adept at scoring empty-net goals last season. Grabner could be an ideal third-line winger for the Flyers.

Antoine Roussel
Wing, Dallas Stars
Age: 28
2017-18 Cap Hit: $2,000,000
2017-18 Stats: 73 GP, 5 G, 12 A, 126 PIM

Roussel is a pest and distraction. He agitates and crosses the line from tough to dirty more often than I’d like. That said, he can be effective at drawing penalties and getting under the skin of opponents. He was used a bit on Dallas’ PK and had 4 straight years of double digit goals prior to this past season. Roussel also has posted good shot metrics the past two seasons and is an adequate two way winger.

Blake Comeau
Right Wing, Colorado Avalanche
Age: 32
2017-18 Cap Hit: $2,400,000
2017-18 Stats: 79 GP, 13G, 21 A, 34 PIM

Comeau has been a solid middle-six winger for a few years. While his raw shot metrics aren’t great, Comeau is usually a plus relative to his teammates. He’s been used in a more defensive role since coming to Colorado, and he brings decent size to the table. He was one of Colorado’s most-used PK forwards, which is a big reason why I added him to this list.

Kyle Brodziak
Center, St. Louis Blues
Age: 33
2017-18 Cap Hit: $950,000
2017-18 Stats: 81 GP, 10 G, 23 A, 33 PIM

Brodziak is another guy who was one of his team’s top PK guys last season and another one who saw a primarily defense-first role. Brodziak has size (6’2”, 210 pounds) and fits the mold of a Ron Hextall/Dave Hakstol veteran presence kind of player. Like Beagle, they may decide that retaining Lehtera makes Brodziak redundant, but given the team’s stated intent on upgrading the PK, he may well be a target. His shot metrics are the worst of the guys I’ve mentioned (only one CF% season above 50% in his career, and -5.1% CF relative to his teammates as a Blue).