The Flyers are in a precarious position heading into the offseason. As a team in need of significant changes while working with limited cap space, producing trades, handling free agency, and running the expansion draft in a way that will regain the confidence of the less than magnanimous fanbase won’t be easy. The aforementioned salary squeeze will make adding multiple no-brainer plugs for the gaps on this roster nearly impossible, so Chucky Two-Trades would be wise to pursue players that are underrated by the rest of the league. Whether that be to simply restructure the team’s salary or to provide cheap depth that’ll free up room to add a star is up to him.
With that in mind, below are some low-key options for the Flyers to acquire; all of them carry risk, but tantalizing rewards to be reaped as well. Much like going to a flea market, it’s all a bit of a crapshoot. You could find a fully functional karaoke machine for $4 or an easily refurbished vintage guitar on the cheap, but you could also buy spontaneously combusting speakers or a copy of Pokémon Emerald that’s hacked and can’t save your game. At the very least, the conversation surrounding the addition of these players is engaging, and in a long offseason for Flyers fans that’s something worth writing about. Let’s dive in.
If the Flyers would like to take a risk on an aging (but solid) player whose skills might dwindle in the near future, Tanev is worthy of consideration. By Evolving Hockey’s RAPM, Tanev had the best season by xGA/60 among all skaters at even strength and ranked second in CA/60 at evens. Tanev’s 2020-21 was actually the fourth best season by defensive xGAR ever, behind years from Jonas Brodin, Nick Hjalmarsson, and Marc-Eduard Vlasic. Tanev has historically been an excellent suppressor of offense, as shown by his career isolates via HockeyViz.com.
There are some problems behind the idea of acquiring Tanev, namely that he might not be available. While the Flames are reportedly looking to make some serious changes after another mediocre year, Tanev had an excellent season, was signed by Brad Treliving just a year ago, and had encouraging chemistry with one of the team’s younger cornerstones in Noah Hanifin. Tanev is also an older player at 31 who’s never been palatable as an offering for the role of No. 1 defender at any point in his recent career, so he doesn’t plug that gap.
When it comes to the veteran defender being a possible bargain piece for Philly to acquire, the boon comes almost entirely from the tantalizing potential of his contract’s AAV. Should Tanev pan out, he’d be a concrete second pair player who could add some structure to the Flyers’ floundering penalty kill. At just $4.5 million AAV, that’s pretty great, but the aforementioned concerns about how he’ll age are warranted.
Tanev has always been a defender reliant upon his ability to read the game, so the physical decline age brings could pose less of a problem for him; still, for a player who’s slow in a league trending towards speed, you could easily see a future where the Flyers are stuck with a Justin Braun clone who’s getting paid more money. Throw in a partial no-movement clause (10 team) and the tangled web of this transaction gets even messier.
If Tanev pans out, he’d be a great addition to this team with a right handed shot. Whether he’s available and worth taking a chance on is another story. Food for thought.
Even after the emergence of Sean Couturier over the past few years and the signing of Kevin Hayes, the Flyers lack depth down the middle. The current options to fill in at 3C are less than ideal, with a blend of unknown commodities (Nolan Patrick, Morgan Frost) and less than ideal stopgaps (Scott Laughton, Kevin Hayes with Giroux back at center). It would behoove Chuck Fletcher to bolster the depth of his forward corps, and it wouldn’t hurt to add some new leadership and defensive prowess to support the young players on the team either. Enter Stanley Cup champion and former New Jersey Devil Blake Coleman, who will be hitting unrestricted free agency at the conclusion of this season.
According to Evolving Hockey’s contract projections (which have typically been fairly accurate), Coleman is predicted to garner a contract of around $4.7 million AAV over four years. For a player of his caliber, that’s not too steep, and there’s a chance that the price could be even lower given the salary situation around the league (for reference, Craig Smith was projected to earn slightly upwards of $4.4 million AAV over 3 years prior to signing with Boston). This is an affordable piece for the Flyers to add if they offload a few contracts (let’s say Shayne Gostisbehere and James van Riemsdyk) with a bit of room remaining to go after a top pair defender.
Coleman appears to be a good fit for what the current front office likes in their centers: defensively responsible, strong on the puck, well rounded and well liked. He’s 29 years old, but his game appears to be one that will age well thanks to his outstanding play off the puck and knack for dictating the pace of every shift. In his time in New Jersey on some awful teams, the adaptable pivot moved up and down the lineup while producing excellent underlying numbers and respectable point totals as a top six asset. If the Flyers want to solidify their depth scoring rather than relying on one of their young pieces to step up, Coleman isn’t an awful option.
Reilly is an interesting, potentially unattainable commodity whose rights might be worth trading a very late draft selection for. The 27-year-old lefty defenseman had a career year in Ottawa before being dealt to Boston at the trade deadline, racking up points at a reasonable clip while posting sterling analytical results. For a team lacking dynamic ability from the blue line, Reilly might prove an affordable solution; the Flyers are looking to add a bit of stability to their defense along with more offensive punch, so he fits. Reilly will be 28 at the start of free agency and will be an unrestricted free agent unless Boston decides to extend him.
Projected to command a three year, $3.8 million AAV contract, the veteran defenseman could provide surplus value if he replicates his results from this year and the year prior. The question is, is he capable of doing so? Reilly has never approached a season of this magnitude in his relatively lengthy NHL career (270 total games played). There’s reason for confidence in him after he produced great results in a less-than-great environment with Ottawa, who were 21st in the league in 5-on-5 xGF%, but it’s always a risk to bring in someone who’s ostensibly a one year wonder on a deal that’s paying around what Scott Laughton is getting.
The biggest remaining question with Reilly is whether or not he’ll even make it to free agency after a brief but outstanding tenure with the Bruins. Boston has plenty of cap space, but will have to make some tough decisions about veterans David Krejčí, Jaroslav Halák, and Tuukka Rask along with paying Brandon Carlo and Nick Ritchie. The feeling is that the Bruins like Reilly enough to attempt to extend his contract, but with all of the different pieces in play a deal might not materialize between the two sides. If the Flyers want to ensure that they can get their man, a low value asset would likely be enough to pry Reilly’s UFA rights away.
When looking at depth forwards who could improve the team on the cheap, Tanner “All-Star” Jeannot might be a player worth taking a risk on. The well built 24-year-old winger played well in Nashville in a limited role, posting excellent analytical results and passing the eye test with flying colors. In addition to being a tenacious forechecker, Jeannot has produced too; he led the AHL in goal scoring prior to being called up to the big leagues. It also doesn’t hurt that he can fight and crush players into the boards with wonderful consistency using his 6’2”, 208 lb. frame. The Predators’ newly christened fan favorite will be an RFA heading into the offseason, but he’s a player who could easily be acquired or offer sheeted to Philly’s benefit.
Jeannot would fit well as a possible replacement for Nicolas Aube-Kubel after his disastrous 2020-21 season. He can penalty kill, bring the boom, and propel the fourth line against tough competition alongside hopeful cogs like Tanner Laczynski. Unfortunately, he’s a bit of a long shot because NHL GMs are lame and terrified of offer sheeting anybody. Whomp whomp.
The Flyers are seeking potential scoring talent and impact players for a bargain price, and Alexander Wennberg fits that bill perfectly. The 26-year-old center had some fantastic years in Columbus a while back, but his trajectory steeply declined following a career high 59 point season. Since then, Wennberg has been a solid supplementary scoring presence with acceptable underlying impact for a 3C. If you’re intrigued by him, it’s because you think somebody will be able to reawaken the potent hockey IQ and playmaking ability that made his 2016-17 season such a dynamic year.
There’s an element of risk here in the contract, to be sure; Evolving Hockey projects the Swedish center to earn a shade under $5 million AAV over five years. That’s quite the chunk of change for a player who’s only scored at a second line pace once or twice in his career, but Wennberg is young and could potentially boost the overall punch of the Flyers’ depth. Coming off of a year where he scored at around a 40 point, 20 goal pace, this would be a leap of faith that would probably garner some raised eyebrows around the hockey world. Still, Wennberg has speed and skill, two traits this team needs more of. He’d pair well with Travis Konecny or Scott Laughton and would provide further injury insurance down the middle. Is he worth that contract on this team? Probably not, but he’s certainly an interesting player to have a conversation about.
The Flyers are in desperate need of a viable 1B to what will hopefully be Carter Hart’s 1A. When looking at the backup options across the league, Ullmark stands out as a UFA who combines relative youth, palatable cost, and mild success into an enticing profile. Ranked 39th in GSAx league-wide while playing on an abysmal Buffalo team, Ullmark’s career has been remarkably solid given his surroundings. The biggest question when looking at his fit is how much he’ll cost and whether he’ll actually provide surplus value over the long term of his career. Many teams who have seen playoff success did so via cost controlled goaltending providing them a boost, so this is an important decision.
The other sticking point here is whether Ullmark will refuse to sign with the Flyers or become an issue due to wanting an outright starting role on a team. After playing in shoddy tandems and eventually asserting himself as a starter in hockey’s most miserable market, it wouldn’t be outlandish to suggest that a high-end backup like Ullmark wouldn’t want to come to a team where he’d be the GM’s second option while surrounded by the harsh fans of Philadelphia. It’s a possible fit, but entirely dependent upon the demands of the player.
These are all players who aren’t getting talked about enough, so be sure to fix that in the comments below. Any feedback is also appreciated.
All advanced metrics used in this article are via Evolving-Hockey.com