The Flyers have similar needs to last year this offseason. In fact, they have the same needs this offseason as the last.
Despite the similarities, the main difference as the Flyers approach free agency this season is the shift in attitude. After the Flyers’ success during the end of the 2019-20 season in the Toronto bubble (for lack of a better term, we can consider winning a playoff series a success), the team and front office staff had every right to feel confident with the group at hand, and thus, major moves were not a focus that offseason. However, a disappointing 2020-21 campaign exposed the flaws in the Flyers’ handling of their key weaknesses, and the optimism present a year ago no longer exists as boisterously.
For the last two offseasons, the Flyers have had three main needs:
- A top four defenseman
- A third line center
- A goaltender to back up Carter Hart
Before the 2020-21 season, the Flyers attempted to address one of these areas in free agency, trying to find a top four defenseman in signing Erik Gustafsson to a one year, three million dollar AAV contract. Of course, we all know how that ended.
Internally, the return of Nolan Patrick seemingly solved the 3C question. However, after scoring only 9 points in 52 games this past season, it is fair to say that the plan of having Patrick at 3C turned out sub-optimally.
Lastly, the Flyers decided to stick with Brian Elliott as the back-up goaltender. While Elliott played decently in 2020-21, with Carter Hart’s issues in net, the Flyers needed a back-up goaltender who could handle more playing time as a failsafe. Unfortunately, in his age 35 season, Elliott simply wasn’t equipped to do so any more. He is a great back-up goaltender, but at his age, he wears down with too much playing time and not enough rest, as is natural.
We can look back on those decisions the Flyers made, which with perspective were poor choices, and of course, look forward to what the Flyers could and should do.
In terms of acquiring a top-four defenseman, the names appearing most frequently are Seth Jones and Dougie Hamilton. With Hamilton, the Hurricanes have been allowing him to speak with other teams, and it appears likely he won’t return to Carolina. However, the Flyers would need to put in a pretty substantial offer. For Jones, the Flyers could more easily manage his cap hit, but his form is more inconsistent, and if they are particularly looking for a parter for Ivan Provorov, a two-way defender makes sense stylistically, and Jones is not that guy.
At center, the Flyers have some internal options such as Morgan Frost, but if they do aim to sign a depth center in free agency, there are some good options set to hit the market. Just to name a few, Erik Haula, Sean Kuraly, Derick Brassard, and Alex Wennberg all are set to become UFAs with 2020-21 cap hits under $2.5 million.
The Flyers could also take a different direction and try to sign or trade for a bigger name player. Buffalo have been heavily rumored to be trading Jack Eichel, and though the names on the free agency class are less stellar (Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, David Krejci) they would still improve the Flyers, though of course they would have to maneuver through cap issues.
Finally, for goaltenders, there are a couple interesting names are free agents who could serve as back-ups for Carter Hart (if the Flyers don’t promote somebody instead, but that doesn’t appear to be a good idea). Jaroslav Halak, David Rittich, and Carter Hutton are all currently set to be on the market. Imagine a double Carter tandem!
With all this being said, which do you think is the most important area the Flyers need to address? I’m very interested to hear your responses in this poll, and in the comments.
Flyers greatest offseason need?
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