The Flyers had one of the best cap situations going into this offseason. They had money to spend, and had plans of re-signing key RFA players and snagging some free agents. The notion, and eventual reality, that Chuck Fletcher and the Flyers were going to spend this offseason was not a surprise to anybody. However, after the addition of Justin Braun, Matt Niskanen, and Kevin Hayes, many fans were left in a state of confusion, bewildered with anger over the state the team was now left in after Fletcher’s shopping spree. The additions of Niskanen and Braun added $3,800,000 to the cap for next season (Braun), and $5,750,000 to the cap for the next two seasons (Niskanen). Kevin Hayes’ monster deal adds $7,142,857 to the cap for the foreseeable future, and Travis Sanheim was extended for $3,250,000 a season for two years. Along with other moves like the trade for Tyler Pitlick, this means that the Flyers will have just $14,967,421 in cap to sign Ivan Provorov, Travis Konecny, and Scott Laughton.
Due to this lack of extra space, this means that, as I mentioned in an earlier article, that the 3RW spot will more likely than not go to a prospect.
From what I have observed, there seems to be two main reasons why fans of this team are upset at the Chuck Fletcher’s moves. The first is that, as mentioned before, the Flyers had one of the best cap situations going into this offseason and now they are left with a poor cap outlook. Secondly, that the moves the Flyers made were either confusing or simply bad in the context of other clubs’ transactions. To address the second of these points, whether or not one believes these deals should have been done is a completely separate, and legitimate question from what I am attempting to answer in this article. Like many, I believe that either Braun and Niskanen could have been acquired for a more inexpensive cost, or that better defenseman could have been brought in for the price the Flyers paid. It’s also completely logical to fault the Flyers for jumping the market, regardless of whether or not Niskaken and Braun were “their guys” from the beginning.
However, despite these legitimate concerns, it doesn’t seem quite as fair to me to bash Fletcher for how he has handled the cap. We all knew that the Flyers were going to spend, so criticizing the Flyers for then spending seems hypocritical at best and shortsighted. As I said earlier, whether or not the likes of Niskanen and Braun will be good players and therefore justify the contract is a different story. I think it could go either way. Though, the deals don’t kill the Flyers. Braun is only under contract for this next coming year, and Niskanen for two. If they don’t work out, then the Flyers can simply be rid of them and move on. The far more important task this offseason is to pin down Travis Konecny and Ivan Provorov. Though they will be up against the cap ceiling, the Flyers have enough room to lock Provorov up to a long term deal and to bridge Konecny. These are contracts, like the Hayes deal, that hinge on the dollar value matching the value brought on ice. Whether that will happen is yet to be seen, but that is all it is at this point: an unknown.
If there was one complaint to be had on the handling of the cap, it would be with regards to the aforementioned Kevin Hayes contract. As has been said before, it is indeed an overpay. His contract is massive and the length and clauses involved will indeed limit the Flyers. Eventually, they will likely need to move on from a piece of the core (possibly Jake Voracek) if they want to have the ability to sign their young talent. Though, in free agency, players get paid over their value, and we all knew that the Flyers were desperately trying to fill the void at 2C. The fan base would be far more unhappy if the organization was still headed into the 2019-20 season with Nolan Patrick at 2C.
To summarize, while it is not ideal to have taken on the contracts of Niskanen and Braun given the rest of the Flyers’ moves, it is not an egregious act. The Flyers are banking on Braun being dogged by usage and poor defense partners, and that Niskanen was simply tired from the Captials’ long playoff run two years ago. If both play well, then the Flyers will almost certainly be a playoff team and we all want them to play better! If not, then they can ditch the pair with relative ease. If there is anything to be mad about, it would be the massive contract given out to a player we all wanted regardless.