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Should the Flyers be targeting Tyler Ennis?

You can’t just sign big names, right?

NHL: Toronto Maple Leafs at Dallas Stars Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

So you’ve run out of cap space. Well, not you personally. Your hockey team has. The Flyers have. You know what I me—what’s that? Okay yeah we’ll get to the point.

We hit the start of the off-season with what looked like close to more cap space than the Flyers would be able fill if they tried, and it looks like we were wrong about that last part. In trading for Matt Niskanen and Justin Braun, retaining a portion of Radko Gudas’s salary, and signing Kevin Hayes to a bit more than we thought they would, the Flyers have eaten up a good chunk of that available space, and with just over $15 million left in projected cap space, they still have a handful of RFAs left to sign, so that space is dwindling fast.

Which means things are about to get interesting. Because we’re still staring down that pretty gaping hole at third line right wing, and not a whole lot of money available to throw at a player to slot in there. So, what’s a team to do?

Let’s take a quick look at what another cap strapped team we know of has done. And, I know, I know, not to be That Guy and bring everything back around to what the Toronto Maple Leafs are up to, but here they do prove a relevant example.

So last summer, with a host of Big Contracts on the books, and a handful of young players left to get signed, they had to get a little creative with finding some depth forwards to fill in their lineup. They were smart about it, and once they swung for the fences and brought in their big free agent addition in John Tavares, they were able to fill in their bottom six with young players still on their entry level deals (Frederik Gauthier, hello) or cheap free agents on a one-year “show me” type of deals (Tyler Ennis, hello). They didn’t make any panic trades, or throw too much money at a player expected to play in a role above his talent level, they just made a couple of smaller, quieter moves, and they paid off.

These players, the prospects still on ELCs or cheap bridge type deals (such as in the case of Trevor Moore, who was brought up from the Marlies midseason), or show me contracts, present as some of the biggest market inefficiencies, the easiest and smartest ways to get cheap talent and improve your roster. All without breaking the bank.

But back to our point. How do we bring this back around to the Flyers, then? Can they follow this same type of model? The short answer is yes, and they should.

They could bring up a kid from the Phantoms, almost certainly. They have a right winger in Nicolas Aube-Kubel who, assuming he has a good training camp, all but presents as NHL ready. Or they could give Mikhail Vorobyev another shot, they could park him on the fourth line as the center, and this would let Scott Laughton move up to the wing on the third line. They do have some options already in the system.

Or they could look around at free agents. Because, as we said, while teams are throwing boatloads of money at the bigger name players, there are good depth players floating around out there who can still bring some value and production, and just need a team to take a chance on them. They could go out and get their own Tyler Ennis.

Or, they could just get Tyler Ennis.

Ah, yes. We’ve arrived at my true agenda. I’m not pretending there’s any smoke here, I don’t know if the team is interested, this is just my hope. I want the Flyers to bring in Tyler Ennis. But this isn’t just me pulling names out of a hat or wanting to steal all of the stealable things from the Leafs. There may well be a fit here.

2018-19 On-Ice Stats

GP G P1 P CF% xGF xGF%
GP G P1 P CF% xGF xGF%
51 12 17 18 47.97 14.81 50.77

All told, Ennis had himself a pretty solid season last year with the Leafs. He missed some time in the middle of the season with a broken ankle, and then a game here and there to a healthy scratching down the stretch because Mike Babcock seemed to want to keep his fourth liners rotating through the last month or so of the regular season, but around all of that, he looked solid. 12 goals out of a depth forward is nothing to scoff at, and while the shot attempt numbers aren’t stellar, we are seeing that the Leafs tended to out-chance their opponents when Ennis was on the ice at 5-on-5.

And the piece we really want to hone in on are those high danger chances created. It’s odd to see a player with double the number of goals as he has assists and still see that the team, is generally speaking, producing a good number of chances while he’s on the ice. This could, in part, speak to his linemates’ shooting talent, and this certainly wouldn’t be a problem in Philadelphia. It’s easy to envision a scenario in which Ennis would be parked on that third line alongside Nolan Patrick and one of Oskar Lindblom and James van Riemsdyk, all of whom have shown a penchant for getting themselves to the front of the net and hunting for scoring chances, and an aptitude for closing on them once they materialize. Which means we can get goals like this happening for the Flyers, instead of against them.

And, let’s be honest. I need 100 percent more of that in my life.

But back to the point, let’s wrap this up. Ennis took a show me contract last season in Toronto and showed that he does indeed still have gas in the tank, but even with a nice bounce back season, he likely isn’t going to command a massive raise. The Flyers could reasonably sign him to something just below a Michael Raffl-esque salary (somewhere between $1 million and $1.5 million in AAV) and it would still leave them with between $13.5 and 14 million to get their four RFAs signed. The Flyers are able to inject a bit of extra speed and skill into their lineup, and they don’t have to break the bank or ship off other useful pieces to do it.

And like I said, there hasn’t been talk about this actually being a reality. If we really want to try to galaxy brain this, we could note that Chuck Fletcher did trade for Ennis when he was in Minnesota (and then it was Paul Fenton who bought him out), so there’s some familiarity there, and maybe Fletcher still has some faith in him, and sees that he may fit better with what we have in Philadelphia than what they had built in Minnesota. But it’s all just conjecture. We’re doing the thing we do every off-season—armchair GMing our team and looking for fits in not often talked about places and hoping our team does the thing that will make each of us, specifically, happy. And that’s what we have here. A potential good fit that would make me happy.

Fletcher, make it happen, pal.

All stats via Capfriendly and Corsica.Hockey

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