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The Philadelphia Flyers will have to make some decisions on their own free agents

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Flyers facing some tough decisions with Travis Sanheim, Ivan Provorov and their back-up goalie situation.

Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

As we gear up for the start of free agency on July 1, the Flyers have likely already begun to evaluate their current squad and the direction it will want to take it going forward. The Flyers will have to decide both, which unrestricted free agents to retain and what kind of contracts it will be giving out to their restricted free agents. For a quick primer/refresher:

Restricted Free Agents (RFA):

“A player who is no longer considered to be entry-level, but does not qualify as an unrestricted free agent, becomes a restricted free agent when his contract expires. A player may only declare himself to be an unrestricted free agent if he is over the age of 27 or has played in the league for a minimum of 7 years.”

From there, the Flyers must make a contract offer to the pending RFA to retain that player’s rights. The qualifying offer is usually just for one year, which the player can accept or reject to become a RFA. When becoming a RFA, the player and team then negotiate, but the RFA is also subject to competing teams offer sheets (which the Flyers can match or accept draft picks in compensation). Another possible outcome if the player/team can’t negotiate/accept a one-year deal or larger contract is salary arbitration. The player/team’s case will then be heard by an arbitrator to determine a verdict on the player’s salary for the upcoming season. A player can only file for salary arbitration if they have been in the NHL for longer than 4 years (less if the player signed his first contract after the age of 20). This is all a bit simplified with further nuances, but this is the main gist.

Unrestricted Free Agents (UFA):

“Any player who is at least 27 years old or has at least seven years of service as an NHL player, and whose contract has expired, will become an unrestricted free agent. On July 1 of each year the free agency period begins, and unrestricted free agents are free to negotiate and sign contracts with any team.”

Group 6 Unrestricted Free Agents (UFA G6):

“Group 6 free agents (must be elected by the player): Players who have reached age 25, who have 3 accrued years of professional experience (that is, beyond junior or collegiate hockey), and whose contracts have expired, but have played less than: 80 NHL games played for forwards and defensemen or 28 NHL games played for goaltenders.”


Restricted Free Agents

Scott Laughton (C)
Age: 24
2018-19 Salary: $1,050,000
2018-19 Cap hit: $962,500
Can he file for salary arbitration? Yes

The Flyers will surely offer Laughton a contract because why wouldn’t they? He’s still young, a good penalty-killer and is coming off his best offensive season of his career. While the 12 goals and 32 points in 82 games might not seem impressive, this was mostly done in third-line minutes with a declining Wayne Simmonds and Michael Raffl. While his play-driving and possession ability took a bit of a hit this season, I’m not sure there is anyone else on the roster and organization suited for the fourth line center role more than Laughton is. I think the Flyers will continue to go year-to-year with Laughton until he becomes a UFA given the dearth of talent waiting in the lower-levels and farm.

Travis Konecny (LW/RW)
Age: 22
2018-19 Salary: $832,500
2018-19 Cap hit: $894,167
Can he file for salary arbitration? No

This one won’t be as tricky as perhaps Travis Sanheim or Ivan Provorov, but it will be interesting to see what number TK and the Flyers agree upon. Konecny already has two 24 goal seasons under his belt at age 22 and should only get better as he finds consistency in his game and line-mates. He has a chance to be a special player and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Flyers approach him with a long-term deal now, rather than wait until he is closer to unrestricted free agency. I’d wager that TK would rather go year-to-year (or perhaps a two year deal) and bank on his ability to get a better deal down the line.

Ivan Provorov (D)
Age: 22
2018-19 Salary: $832,500
2018-19 Cap hit: $894,167
Can he file for salary arbitration? No

This is a tough one. Brad explored if we might be overrating Provorov at this point in his career and he came to a pretty logical point, “Ivan Provorov is not a truly great player — yet.” I’d have to agree with him. I’d wager heavily that the two sides are nowhere close to a long-term deal, not to even mention a one-year offer. How do you reward a player who was mostly outstanding in his first two seasons in the league, but took a step back this year? Will he simply be an inconsistent presence? These are the tough questions that I’m glad we as fans don’t have to answer and can wait and see how the Flyers front office handles it.

Travis Sanheim (D)
Age: 23
2018-19 Salary: $832,500
2018-19 Cap hit: $863,333
Can he file for salary arbitration? No

You could argue Travis Sanheim was the Flyers best defenseman this season (in only his second year) and not get much criticism. He was also terribly mismanaged his rookie year by a bad coach. It’s another case of whether you lock him in now with a monster deal or go year-to-year for the next four years. I definitely think Sanheim could get some sort of two year bridge-deal as both a reward for his 2018-19 season, but also for the sake of the Flyers future cap considerations.

Ryan Hartman (LW/RW)
Age: 24
2018-19 Salary: $875,000
2018-19 Cap hit: $875,000
Can he file for salary arbitration? Yes

To be honest, I’m not sure what the Flyers do here for Hartman. Expect a modest raise, perhaps around the 1.5 million mark (doubling his salary) at maybe a 1-2 year deal. Hartman was underwhelming in his 19 game preview with the Flyers this season, but is a capable NHLer who provides some depth. I wouldn’t sign him to a long-term deal given you have players like Joel Farabee, Morgan Frost and Isaac Ratcliffe waiting in the wings to join the team over the next couple seasons.

Justin Bailey (RW)
Age: 23
2018-19 Salary: $715,000
2018-19 Cap hit: $715,000
Can he file for salary arbitration? Yes

Bailey claimed the role this season as the “spark plug” call-up for 11 games this season. The results weren’t what you’d hope for. Just one points (an assist) in those games and he only has eight points in his 52 game NHL career. In any case, Bailey is actually a really good AHLer and that will certainly entice to keep him around with the Phantoms for awhile longer. If you don’t remember, Bailey was traded for the outspoken Taylor Leier in January, a good AHLer in his own right.

Nicolas Aubé-Kubel (RW)
Age: 23
2018-19 Salary: $725,000
2018-19 Cap hit: $680,833
Can he file for salary arbitration? No

Aube-Kubel (or NAK as we call him around here) has been the “on the cusp” prospect darling since breaking out in 2017-18 with the Phantoms. Not only is he putting up points in the AHL, but he is driving play at a high-level. NAK is very good along the boards and plays a very “tough” game despite being under 6’. He didn’t really get a fair shake in his nine-game NHL debut this season with very limited minutes (thanks Hakstol), but actually looked good otherwise. The Flyers will likely want to see more and should have an excellent chance in training camp to make an impression in hopes of making the lineup. He’ll be back with the organization.

Jacob Graves (D)
Age: 24
2018-19 Salary: $842,500
2018-19 Cap hit: $750,833
Can he file for salary arbitration? Yes

“Who”, you are probably wondering? I had to double-check myself and rediscovered he was acquired (along with a 6th round pick) in a trade that sent Jordan Weal to Arizona. Weal was a frequent healthy scratched (undeserved, IMO) and was set to be a UFA. They got back Graves, who had only has mostly been playing in the ECHL the last two seasons. He finished out 2018-19 with the Reading Royals (Flyers ECHL affiliate) and had two goals in 13 games. Given the lack of defensive depth at the professional level with the Flyers, I’d imagine its a safe bet he’s brought back on a one-year deal.

Unrestricted Free Agents

Jori Lehterä (C)
Age: 31
2018-19 Salary: $5,000,000
2018-19 Cap hit: $4,700,000

The Flyers apparently wanted Lehtera back in the Brayden Schenn trade two years ago (along with two first round picks) and its gone about as bad as you could have expected. The sluggish forward has struggled in just about every aspect of the game and has been a liability to the team in all 89 games he has laced them up with the Orange and Black. The Flyers finally started healthy scratching him consistently this season and even sent him down to the Phantoms. Oh, and he was also charged in a Finnish cocaine bust. The Lehtera Era was the opposite of fun, but it is officially over.

Brian Elliott (G)
Age: 34
2018-19 Salary: $3,000,000
2018-19 Cap hit: $2,750,000

Let’s just say this right now; Brian Elliott is a good goalie when he is healthy. When was the last time he was healthy? That’s a great question. He played 43 games in 2017-18 while splitting time with Michal Neuvrith (and being hurt) and appeared in only 26 games this season battling numerous injuries. He isn’t exactly what you call reliable. You might scoff at the .908 SV% since joining the Flyers, but that is largely the byproduct of one of the worst penalty kills in the league over the last two seasons. At five-on-five even-strength, he was ranked 22nd (.932) and 38th (.919) in the league, respectively. With Carter Hart at the helm and the lower workload needed, would it be worth bringing Elliott in as the back-up? Hint: Yes

Michal Neuvirth (G)
Age: 31
2018-19 Salary: $2,500,000
2018-19 Cap hit: $2,500,000

One of the most infuriating things of former General Manger Ron Hextall’s reign was his evaluation and infatuation with Michal Neuvrith. The goaltender has never been able to stay healthy in his NHL career and was literally the worst goalie in the league in 2016-17...and Ron still signed him to a two-year deal. Flash forward two years later, he hasn’t stayed healthy and was bad when he played. I can say with confidence that Neuvy will not be back in a Flyers uniform next season.

Cam Talbot (G)
Age: 31
2018-19 Salary: $4,200,000
2018-19 Cap hit: $4,166,666

The Flyers needed a lot of goalies this past season if you didn’t know. Cam Talbot was acquired in a trade for another goalie, Anthony Stolarz. Calbot had some good seasons with the New York Rangers and Edmonton Oilers before falling back to earth the past two years. After putting up a .893 save percentage in 31 games with the Oilers, he served up an equally atrocious .881 in four games down the stretch for the Flyers. He’s a personal friend of Carter Hart, but I sincerely hope he is not considered for the back-up position for this upcoming season.

Mike McKenna (G)
Age: 36
2018-19 Salary: $700,000
2018-19 Cap hit: $700,000

Another goalie! He has had a long career as an average AHL goalie who got occasional call-ups throughout his career to the NHL (35 games). McKenna just hasn’t been good the last couple years and was awful in his 10 games with the Flyers this season. At the end of this AHL season, he officially announced his retirement from the game. Best of luck, Mike.

Corban Knight (C)
Age: 28
2018-19 Salary: $650,000
2018-19 Cap hit: $650,000

We saw a bit of Corban Knight this season with the Flyers, 23 games to be exact. He was mostly relegated to the fourth line where he ranged from average to much below that. Knight is a classic case of really good AHLer, but below-average NHLer. The influx of youngsters on the next Phantoms team is going to make the Flyers decision difficult in whether they can keep him, or if he will even want to come back if he is pushed further down the depth chart.

Philip Varone (C)
Age: 28
2018-19 Salary: $650,000
2018-19 Cap hit: $650,000

Did we really watch 47 games with Varone on the roster? I honestly didn’t think it was that much. For what it’s worth, I liked more what I saw from Varone than what I did from Corban Knight. That isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement though. You can mostly copy/paste much of the same information above to both here and below for Greg Carey. This roster crunch is going to be intense and players like Varone might feel they have a better chance at the NHL in another organization.

Greg Carey (LW)
Age: 29
2018-19 Salary: $650,000
2018-19 Cap hit: $650,000

Greg Carey, AHL power play wizard. Since joining the Phantoms he has scored 88 goals in 220 games. The Phantoms could certainly benefit from him coming back, but does Carey?

Byron Froese (C)
Age: 28
2018-19 Salary: $650,000
2018-19 Cap hit: $650,000

Froese was acquired in the Dale Weise/Christian Folin trade this winter. He scored seven goals and 14 points in 24 games this season for the Phantoms. He’s basically an AHL depth center at this point in his career and is likely further down the wish list of guys like Knight, Varone and Carey to bring back.

Group 6 Unrestricted Free Agents

Michael Vecchione (C)
Age: 26
2018-19 Salary: $900,000
2018-19 Cap hit: $900,000

I do think we see the Michael Vecchione Era end this summer. If you recall, Vecchione was a “heralded” undrafted free agent signing out of Union College a few years ago. He didn’t develop quite as the Flyers hoped and is so far down the depth chart. He’s still young, but I can’t imagine him wanting to stay in the organization if there are other better opportunities elsewhere.

Tyrell Goulbourne (LW)
Age: 25
2018-19 Salary: $715,000
2018-19 Cap hit: $715,000

He was a mistake to be drafted where he was (3rd round) and a mistake to have ever been called up given other options. Goulbourne provides no clear offensive skill to compliment his “spark plug” play-style. He does provide some decent penalty kill work and it wouldn’t shock me if the Flyers would look to retain his services for the upcoming season.

Cole Bardreau (C)
Age: 25
2018-19 Salary: $650,000
2018-19 Cap hit: $650,000

He’s a player the local beat writers tend to fall in love every training camp. He’s never really healthy enough to prove his workmanship attitude and play to warrant an NHL look despite parts of five seasons in the AHL. I don’t see the Flyers pursuing Bardreau’s services again this year, but crazier things have happened.