There was some actual hockey news regarding the Philadelphia Flyers late last week when it was reported that they intend to sign SHL free agent Linus Sandin. Sandin, a 23-year-old forward from Sweden, reportedly chose the Flyers over other teams that expressed interest in him.
Signing Sandin will give the Flyers even more depth at the forward position, which has been one of their biggest strengths this season.
The Flyers have used 22 forwards this season, all playing in at least four games for the club. 21 of those 22 forwards recorded a point (German Rubtsov was the lone exception, though he did only play 6:48 per game), with 12 forwards recording 15 or more points this season. That’s some pretty good depth up front.
Among the forwards that have played this season, many of them are expected back for next season in one way or another. Add Sandin to the list, and it’s going to be an incredibly competitive training camp for the bottom-six forwards.
Let’s first take a look at the Flyers forwards under contract for the 2020-21 season, then see where Sandin may fit in.
No-doubt NHLers: Claude Giroux, Jake Voracek, Kevin Hayes, James van Riemsdyk, Travis Konecny, Sean Couturier, Scott Laughton, Michael Raffl
This group will undoubtedly make up two-thirds of the Flyers’ forward corps, barring any injuries or transactions. They are all under contract through at least the ‘20-21 season, with the first six being under contract for beyond that as well.
Laughton and Raffl are the only two players in this group that may risk losing ice time due to the addition of Sandin.
Top prospects: Joel Farabee, Morgan Frost
Both Farabee and Frost competed for a roster spot in the most recent training camp, and they should have a leg up on the competition for next season.
Farabee has been with the Flyers for the large majority of the 2019-20 season, playing in 52 of the team’s 69 games. He has seen time on the second line and should be in the top-nine (or six) for the foreseeable future.
The same can be said for Frost, but to a lesser extent. He has needed more time to fine tune his game at the professional level. However, he has shown that he can play in the NHL and will be one of the frontrunners for a roster spot in training camp.
With those two groups alone, 10 of the 12 forward spots should be filled. That leaves just two (or maybe three) openings for the rest of the forwards.
Restricted free agents: Nicolas Aube-Kubel, Oskar Lindblom, Nolan Patrick
Aube-Kubel has been one of the most pleasant surprises in the bottom six for the Flyers this season and he should have a handle on that role next season as well.
Lindblom and Patrick are more complicated due to each of their personal issues. Neither of them can be penciled in as of yet, leaving their hockey futures in more of a “to be determined” category.
Unrestricted free agents: Derek Grant, Tyler Pitlick, Nate Thompson
This is where it gets interesting. Grant and Thompson, both added at the trade deadline, appear to be on the outside looking in for next season. They would’ve had to prove themselves in the rest of the season for the Flyers to consider re-signing them given their young forwards in the AHL, and Sandin makes it that much more difficult.
Thompson will almost certainly be a free agent, while Grant (one goal, four assists in seven games) has shown more to potentially be worth a one-year contract. However, he is 30 years old and still has an uphill battle given the Flyers’ forward depth.
The one name in this trio that has proven himself is Pitlick. Playing on a one-year, $1 million deal, he has proven himself to be a valuable fourth liner that has played third line minutes at times. But with 10 players in the first two groups and then Aube-Kubel, Pitlick may prefer to sign with a team where he has a better chance at guaranteed minutes.
Other prospects/AHLers: Wade Allison, Connor Bunnaman, David Kase, Tanner Laczynski, German Rubtsov, Carsen Twarynski
These forwards (four that played in NHL this year, two NCAA signings) are just six of the many other prospects that the Flyers have in their system that are expected to be NHL-ready in the next few years.
With the top 10 players and Aube-Kubel, the Flyers already have a pretty good group of forwards penciled in for next season.
Sandin falls in below the RFAs, probably on a similar plane to the UFAs. If Pitlick is re-signed, he and Sandin will likely be in competition for a roster spot as a bottom-six winger.
Here’s a way-too-early projection of the Flyers’ forward lines if Sandin makes the roster and Pitlick hits free agency:
Giroux - Couturier - Voracek
Farabee - Hayes - Konecny
van Riemsdyk - Frost - Aube-Kubel
Laughton - Raffl - Sandin
The bottom-six forwards are mostly interchangeable, and you could very well see Konecny back on the top line come next season. If they re-sign Pitlick as well, it just gives them another option in the bottom six. Either way, the Flyers are in a position to have four strong forward lines.
Sandin scored 19 goals and added 17 assists for 36 points in 51 games with HV71 in the SHL this season. Craig dug into Sandin’s numbers a bit more on Friday, and he should be able to become an effective bottom-six forward for the Flyers.
On his 19 goals, it appears that he brings nice set of hands and strong net-front presence. He gets to the dirty areas and has a shot that can beat a goalie.
Overall, the Flyers going after Sandin increases their forward depth and there will be more competition – which is always a good thing – for roster spots going into next season. We’ve seen how important depth is this season with the Flyers, and having a guy like Sandin in the fold will only be beneficial for the Orange and Black.