With free agency about a week and a half way (man, this is gonna be a weird offseason, isn’t it?), we’ll be looking at the Flyers’ most notable unrestricted free agents, whether it makes sense for the Flyers to bring him back, and how much it’ll cost them to do so if they do. Last week, we took a look at the situation with defenseman Justin Braun; today, we talk about the Flyers’ most prominent UFA forward, Tyler Pitlick.
How’d he do for the Flyers this year?
Not bad! The Flyers acquired Pitlick for Ryan Hartman in a move that looked at first like a slight cost-cutting measure of sorts, as Pitlick’s $1 million contract was slightly smaller than the deal Hartman would eventually end up signing. Pitlick missed most of training camp with a wrist injury and got out to a bit of a slow start, but quickly turned into a very useful part of the Flyers’ bottom-6, and even found himself occasionally slotting up higher in the lineup as need be. He slowly worked his way into a bigger role as the season went on, due to a combination of necessity (i.e. injuries) and merit (i.e. he played well).
Pitlick ended the regular season with 20 points (eight goals, 12 assists) in 63 games, despite rarely playing more than 14-ish minutes a night and being used around the lineup without a ton of stability in terms of linemates. His on-ice play-driving numbers were basically even, which, for the role he was in, was fine.
What kind of role did he play in?
Courtesy of Hockeyviz’s player card for Tyler Pitlick, you can sort of see Pitlick’s progression as the season went on, as he hovered around 10 minutes a game early in the season but picked up some more time (including on the penalty kill) as the season went on.
And that captures what he was pretty well: effective bottom-6 forward who was a third-pairing penalty-killer (and one who did a pretty good job in that role as well).
Is he easy to replace? Do the Flyers have someone that can clearly do his job?
“Easy” may be stretching it. If the Flyers had an obvious replacement for Pitlick, we probably wouldn’t be writing this. Nonetheless, both the NHL-level forward ranks and the prospect ranks are pretty crowded. If you don’t count any of their unrestricted free agent forwards or Nolan Patrick, the Flyers have 11 roster forwards under contract who played meaningful time for the Flyers this past season. And that does not count the aforementioned Patrick, or Morgan Frost, or any of the Flyers’ other quality forward prospects who appear to be pretty close to the NHL if not just there.
The questions that faces the Flyers here, then, are pretty straightforward. One, do they think that Pitlick is meaningfully better, and will provide more value, than guys like Frost, Connor Bunnaman, Carsen Twarynski, or even new guys like Linus Sandin, Tanner Laczynski, and Wade Allison? And two, are they sure enough about that that they’d be willing to give Pitlick the money they’ll need to in order to keep him, giving him a contract that could potentially block some of those other guys?
Truthfully, right now Pitlick probably is better than most of those guys, other than possibly Frost, who figures to play a different role in the lineup than the one Pitlick played last year (though Frost being in the lineup would push down others who would then be competing with Pitlick for a spot). But is that drop-off big enough to scare the Flyers into a multi-year financial commitment to a guy that, ideally, will be replaced by one of those other guys sooner rather than later?
It’s not a slam-dunk decision either way. The last time the Flyers had a personnel decision that was really comparable to this, they gave Michael Raffl a two-year, $3.2 million extension. Raffl had been around the team for six seasons at the time they gave him that deal. Are they willing to give Pitlick something similar? Or ... more than that?
Can they afford to bring him back?
This probably depends on how much Tyler Pitlick likes Philadelphia.
Evolving-Hockey’s contract projections have the most likely contract length for Pitlick at three years, and at a three-year deal they have his most likely cap hit at about $2.35 million per year. To be blunt: it would be a mistake for the Flyers to give Tyler Pitlick what would basically be a three-year, $7 million deal. With the depth mentioned above, it would just not be a financially prudent decision to give that kind of a contract to a guy who, in the best-case scenario, is a third/fourth-line tweener.
Now, if that kind of market doesn’t really materialize for Pitlick? Maybe then it’ll make some sense to check back in with him. The same projections have Pitlick collecting $1.52 million per year on a two-year deal, and $1.18 million if he were to have to settle for a one-year deal. If either of those options end up on the table for the Flyers, I think they’d take it, and at that kind of financial commitment you have to think they’d be more willing to accept him potentially getting replaced down the road by a prospect.
What’s one lyric from The Clash’s 1981 hit ‘Should I Stay Or Should I Go` that accurately describes his situation?
If you don’t want me, set me free (Si no me quieres, librarme)
Alright, that one maybe isn’t perfect. Because I do think the Flyers would, all else equal, like to have Tyler Pitlick back. But with the sheer volume of potential bottom-six prospect forwards that the Flyers have, it just seems hard to believe they’d block one of those spots off for Pitlick unless the money was just a steal. Pitlick performed admirably in his year with the Flyers, and hopefully he got himself a bit of money in the process. But if he’s set himself up for a reward from the market, the Flyers probably are not in position to give him that reward.
Of these choices, what’s the biggest contract you’d be willing to give Tyler Pitlick to return to the Flyers?
This poll is closed
3 years @ $2.35M AAV
2 years @ $1.52M AAV
1 year @ $1.18M
None of those. More like Bye-ler Pitlick.