Sign Dougie Hamilton? Trade for Seth Jones? Bring in some grit to the forward core? Blow up the core? Stand pat? These are all options that have been floated around this team since it became obvious they were out of playoff contention. This is a huge off-season for Chuck Fletcher and the Philadelphia Flyers, who need to decide what they want this team to look like.
We as the fans need to know before games begin later this year to kick off the 2021-22 season, what is the Flyers identity? Before COVID shut the NHL season down in March 2020, the Flyers had a clear idea of what the team was. They were outstanding defensively, out-worked teams in the corners, along the boards, and wore teams down with their forecheck. It seemed like all of that disappeared from their game plan this past season.
The lack of practice has been talked about and is a legitimate excuse, because their coach is an extremely detail-oriented individual. It’s impossible to drive home those details when practices can’t be held on a regular basis. With that said, no one is in the mood for excuses anymore. We’ve had a decades worth of excuses albeit not with this exact team, but the sentiment remains.
The best teams in the NHL know what they are. Colorado and Tampa are going to beat you to death with high end skill and speed, Carolina has an incredible defense unit and plays a hard forechecking style that gives teams fits, the Islanders ... have Barry Trotz. The Flyers need to decide this off-season what they want to be, and their free agent moves/possible trades will dictate that.
Sign Hamilton/trade for Jones?
Dougie Hamilton is one of the best defensemen to hit the open market in a long while, and would undoubtedly provide the Flyers a formidable top pair punch of himself and Ivan Provorov. This past season wasn’t a great one for Provorov, but we’ve seen when he has a consistently good partner, he shows up in a big way.
Hamilton isn’t going to be Chris Pronger though, and no fan should expect such. He’s not that kind of player, and he is probably (definitely) going to frustrate some fans. He’s got the puck a lot which means he’ll turn it over, but he’s been one of the best blueliners in the game over the past few seasons. His Corsi has been above average with a positive relative every year of his career, but especially great over the past five years.
If the fancies don’t impress you, in his last two seasons he has 82 points in 102 games. Not only are the regular season numbers impressive, but in the playoffs he’s shown up as well.
12-13 playoffs: 7 GP, 3 A
13-14 : 12 GP, 2 G, 5 A
16-17: 4 GP, 1 A
18-19: 15 GP, 3 G, 4 A
19-20: 5 GP, 1 G, 1 A
He has never gone a playoff series without at least one point, and this postseason currently has four points in seven games.
As for the other big name free agent defenseman, Seth Jones would almost certainly be the cheaper alternative, but would his skill level be adequate enough for the blueline? Our very own Brad broke down Jones’ game last week, and although there are things to like about his game, there are some clear drawbacks. Of course, Jones’ cap hit is $5.4 million next season, his final of the six year extension he received from Columbus back in 2016.
Hamilton meanwhile, is going to demand $8 million+ most likely. Who knows what Jones will demand when he’s a free agent after next season, but if the Flyers were to trade for him, you have a greater chance of getting him on some kind of hometown discount. There’s no guarantee, but it’s a possibility.
Of course there’s always the idea that the Flyers could trade for Hamilton’s negotiating rights prior to him hitting the open market, and they could get his price down that way. It would be a pretty big risk, with no guarantee they get a deal done. But this is the same front office that played that exact strategy with Kevin Hayes in the 2019 offseason.
Jones has struggled the past two seasons but despite this has still been a positive relative Corsi player for the Blue Jackets. That team seems to be in total disarray, after their goaltending (as expected) could not steal them a playoff spot again. After amassing 145 points in 228 games from 2017-2019, the right-handed blueliner has scored just 58 in his last 112. That’s a points-per-game decrease of 0.64 to 0.52. The question is, which Jones would we be getting? And is that a risk Chuck Fletcher will take.
Add some grit?
Now, this doesn’t mean add face punchers. We are long past the need for players who all they can do is fight, but this team is in some serious need of energy players. Way too often this past season, we saw the team fall behind by even just a goal, and it looked over immediately. There are many different reasons for that more important than grit, but it doesn’t mean it’s meaningless. Tyler Pitlick is by no means the reason the Flyers were good last year, but you knew every damn time he hit the ice he was gonna be a force to be reckoned with on the forecheck and that mentality seemed to be infectious.
Those are more of the players the Flyers could use. Players who still have enough skill to get by, but most importantly make the opposing team’s life miserable. The Flyers didn’t scare anyone this year, they don’t have the insane skill/speed combination of a team like the Avs, so unless they’re going to blow it up and go in that direction, do what won you games in 2019-20.
Players like Zayde Wisdom who possess skill and grit should be on the team come October or whenever this upcoming season begins. Give me a young and exciting bottom six that is not only going to play hard and gritty, but have enough skill to put the puck in the back of the net. And if they don’t go the kids route, find some cheap veterans who can do the same job. We don’t need more Dale Weise signings (thx Ron), but an influx of hard-nosed players would be a welcome sight.
Blow it up?
This is a tough one, and probably the least likely, but the Flyers could decide to make a huge change. Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek are the two highest paid players on the team, and have been the two biggest pieces of the core over the last decade. Trading one of, or both of these guys would be a huge decision, but one has to wonder how much the Flyers really have left in them. Giroux is due a new contract at the end of next season, and who knows what that could look like. Sean Couturier will also be a free agent that offseason, so if the Flyers decide to move on from Giroux, the time would be probably be now, or at the deadline next season if the team experiences similar results. Just typing that sentence made me cringe, and it’s infuriating how the team has wasted such an all-world talent like Giroux.
Now as for Voracek, trading him and him alone could net you a return that could still keep this team fully in playoff contention. They won’t get a huge haul, with his heavy cap hit and three years remaining on his deal. Voracek has drawn the ire of fans and media for years now, due to his passive style and lack of defensive contributions. But the point remains, Voracek has been third in team scoring the past three seasons, with a second place in 2017-18. His production won’t be easy to replace, but with players like Joel Farabee breaking out last season, and Wade Allison showing some promise, it makes Voracek possibly more expendable.
Travis Konecny has also been thrown in trade scenarios, despite being the team’s leading scorer just one year ago. But a disappointing showing in the playoffs, and a mediocre season this year has soured some of the fanbase to the 24-year-old winger. Konecny is on the books at $5.5 million over the next four seasons, so there isn’t the issue Voracek’s deal possesses in terms of possibly eating salary to move him. The above point about Farabee and Allison works here as well, but with Konecny being so young, you’d like to hang onto a guy like this.
There are of course other areas the Flyers can go this offseason, like trading for one of Nashville’s coveted defensemen instead of the big fish in Jones and Hamilton. They could of course stand pat and run virtually the same group, taking last season with a grain of salt due to the extenuating circumstances surrounding it. Of course they also need to find a backup goalie, but that’s obvious. Brian Elliott was a good soldier for this team, but the team needs far more stability to backup Carter Hart. So with all of this said, what do you think the Flyers need to do this offseason?
Stats via hockey-reference
What is the Flyers most pressing offseason need?
This poll is closed
Sign Hamilton/trade for Jones
Blow up core
Other (leave what you would do in comments)