10 key questions about the Flyers' offseason, revisited

Now that the offseason is in its very most dead of dead zones, let's take a look at the questions we asked before it began, and see if any of them remain unanswered.

Back in April, days after the Flyers' season ended, we wrote about the 10 biggest questions facing the Flyers this offseason. From Brayden Schenn's contract to an R.J. Umberger buyout to the draft to free agency, there's a lot to wonder as we ask how Ron Hextall plans to get this group from the fringe of the playoffs to the next level.

Fast forward to today, with the draft the draft, free agency, and arbitration all behind us. How many of those questions have been answered? Most of them! So let's check up on our ten questions, see which ones have been answered, and what we're still waiting on when it comes to the ones that haven't been.


10. What do the Flyers pay Brayden Schenn?

What we said then:

Brayden Schenn had the best season of his career in 2015-16, with 26 goals and 59 points fueled largely by an extremely impressive second half of the season ... as a restricted free agent he's due for a nice raise. What money can the Flyers get him for? And for how long? Could they reach or get close to arbitration? This figures to be Ron Hextall's biggest contract of the offseason.

Where we stand now: The Flyers and Schenn waited until almost literally the last minute leading up to arbitration before agreeing to a four-year, $20.5 million deal on Monday the 24th. While it's not a contract that everyone is going to love, it's a reasonable one for a player with Schenn's resume, and the length will keep him in Philadelphia for almost the entirety of his prime without locking him up into his decline. Sounds good.

Question answered? Yeah!

9. How do the Flyers handle their other free agents?

What we said then:

Radko Gudas, coming off of a surprisingly very solid first year in Philadelphia, is a restricted free agent and should be back with a slight bump in pay. Meanwhile, decisions will have to be made on the likes of Brandon Manning, Sam Gagner, and Ryan White, all guys who had good and bad stretches this season.

Where we stand now: Gudas received a four year commitment from the Flyers just before free agency began. Manning is also back, on a two-year deal. The team's two noteworthy UFA forwards won't be in orange and black next year, though -- White signed a one-year deal with Arizona, and Gagner apparently agreed to a deal with the Blue Jackets this past weekend.

Question answered? It is.

8. Are any changes coming to the forward group?

What we said then:

You wonder if Ron Hextall will be looking to make some deals, or if the team may be willing to cycle some of those [forwards] at the bottom of the lineup out for new blood next year. Because it seems unlikely that the Flyers will trot out almost the exact same forward lineup that they had this past year, doesn't it? Not after a season where they were 22nd in the league in goals scored and after a playoff series where they scored six goals, right?

Where we stand now: Hextall essentially cycled White out and put Dale Weise in his spot. Weise received a bit of a hefty commitment for a player who is probably not more than a high-end fourth liner, but he's certainly an upgrade. Veteran forward Boyd Gordon also signed on, though it's unclear exactly what role he'll play (if he's on the NHL team at all).

Question answered? Looks like it.

7. Which prospects are earmarked for an NHL spot next season?

What we said then:

The big decisions we'll spend all summer hearing about will be the ones regarding defenseman Ivan Provorov and forward Travis Konecny, both of whom must either spend next season at the NHL level or back with their respective junior teams. But even at the AHL level, there will be plenty of guys knocking on the door. Travis Sanheim and Samuel Morin will be looking to insert themselves into the picture in a very Gostisbeherean fashion on the blue line. And up front, Taylor Leier could be a guy who slots in as a bottom-six player right out of camp, while Nicolas Aube-Kubel is a guy we'll be watching throughout the year. There are more names we could put here. At this point in time, though, the real question is this: which of these guys does the organization think will be in the NHL next year, and how does that affect their actions elsewhere?

Where we stand now: It's tough for us to really know at this point, but we can make some guesses. The team didn't add any unquestioned top-4 defensemen or top-9 forwards via free agency or trade, which you can interpret in one of three ways. The first is that they're content with the lineup they have and didn't think it was worth the cost (in trade pieces or money) of adding big pieces. The second is that they didn't feel they had the room to add any more pieces. The third, and most fun? They're anticipating one or more of their young talents to force their way onto the roster.

Charlie talked a bit about what Hextall is going to have to see and believe in order to think that any of these prospects are NHL-ready. And yes, Hextall has received praise in his two years here for erring on the side of patience and caution when it comes to these players. But if nothing else, you get the sense that the team is hoping for one or two of these guys to prove that they're ready, don't you? There was no real marquee move this summer on a capped-out team that was the seventh-best team in the East last year. Seeing a 19- or 20-year old phenom on the ice come opening night would go a long way towards energizing this fanbase.

Question answered? It is not. And it really won't be until close to opening night. But we can make some guesses in the meantime.

6. Will the Flyers be able to clear up more salary and/or roster space?

What we said then:

Much like he did last offseason and in-season last year, Ron Hextall will almost certainly try and shed some dollars off the team's cap at some point this summer ... There aren't as many deals that will be particularly onerous to work with as there have been in years past, but there's work that can be done here.

Where we stand now: Status quo, mostly. R.J. Umberger's buyout and Vincent Lecavalier's retirement gave the team a bit over $5 million in extra cap room, most of which went towards Schenn's new contract. But there's been no other noteworthy cap-clearing move and we're a month removed from the start of free agency, so chances are nothing of note is going to happen on this front.

Question answered? Probably.

5. How do the Flyers approach free agency with actual cap room?

What we said then:

... the Flyers will have more cap space come July 1 than they have at any point in the Ron Hextall era. Hextall has spoken about how he generally doesn't seem to like giving out big contracts in early July, and his actions (he's routinely been very quiet in early July) have held firm to that, but the truth is that due to cap constraints in the past he's rarely ever even had a chance to do so. It'll be interesting to see if that changes now that he has some operating room, and if he's got a medium- or even high-profile target on the market in mind.

Where we stand now: Truthfully, the Flyers didn't end up having that much more cap room than they usually do -- with all of their summer moves accounted for, they currently sit just less than $1 million under the $73 million salary cap for 2016-17. But they had enough to sign Weise, who received the most lucrative contract Hextall has given an unrestricted free agent in his time as Flyers general manager. (That's maybe overselling Weise's four-year, $9.4 million deal just a bit.)

With a number of existing salaries coming off the books next summer, it'll be interesting to revisit this question then. If the Flyers are able to take a step forward this year, then it may make sense for them to chase names in free agency. We'll see.

Question answered? Never really had a chance to answer this one, sadly.

4. Are any changes made to the coaching staff?

What we said then:

After a year in which the Flyers' power play and penalty kill were both very up and down before both putting together a dreadful showing in the playoffs, Joey Mullen and Ian Laperriere are guys who seem to be picking up some heat around the fanbase and in the media. Will that last?

Where we stand now: Hextall confirmed in June that the coaching staff would not change next year. May be a surprise to some, may not be. But one has to think that the special teams -- the penalty kill in particular -- will need to improve next year if we don't want to be asking this same question come next spring/summer.

Question answered? Yep!

3. What do the Flyers do in the draft?

What we said then:

... the team should be in position to get a good player, and Hextall's drafting over the past two years should make us optimistic ... after three straight years of taking a defenseman with their first pick, would they be willing to do that again if they thought the fit (and talent) was right? Or will they lean towards taking a forward no matter what?

Where we stand now: The Flyers did indeed draft a forward (though it wasn't as though they passed up on a glut of uber-talented defensemen to do so), trading down a few spots and getting the guy they wanted all along (so they say, at least) in center German Rubtsov. They then drafted several more forwards, as seven of the team's 10 draft picks were forwards. They also brought in the draft's top-ranked goalie in Carter Hart, as well as two offensive defensemen from the Swedish under-20 league. It's not a draft class with the same "wow" factor that last year's did, when the team grabbed Ivan Provorov at No. 7 and then watched lottery-level talent Travis Konecny fall to them in the 20s. But it looks like a pretty solid draft class, one that gives the team many more potential future pieces in its forward ranks.

Question answered? Sure is!

2. Do the Flyers make any big decisions regarding their goaltenders?

What we said then:

It's fair to ask if the postseason changed any minds about the long-term goalie picture in the front office, which surely saw Mason as the unquestioned No. 1 as recently as two weeks ago (and, long-term, may still). Mason and Neuvirth will likely both be back next year, which is good news for the Flyers on the ice, but could one of them possibly be dangled as trade bait in the right deal? Or, with both due to be free agents next offseason, could one of them be given a new deal before the year even starts?

Where we stand now: The thinning market of goalie demand -- coupled with the fact that Hextall never really showed that much interest in dealing either of his goalies -- has ensured that no irresistible offer came in for either Steve Mason or Michal Neuvirth. Similarly, there's been no rumblings whatsoever regarding an extension for either of them, which makes sense given the fact that the team has pretty much said that it plans to let the two compete with one another this year.

The expansion draft rules will also complicate this picture a little bit -- without getting too far into the details here, those rules make it very likely that one of the two will have to receive a contract extension before the draft comes around unless the Flyers make another move in net. With all of the uncertainty that would come with making any kind of move, it seems assured that Mason and Neuvirth will both be around come October, fighting for the starting job.

Question answered? Have to think so, yes.

1. Do we see the team really attempt to take a step forward?

What we said then:

For the first time since Hextall took over, the fanbase is actually heading into an offseason expecting the team to come out a contender on the other side. It's an exciting time for this team, and who knows if Hextall will try to make a big splash to really help kick things into high gear.

Where we stand now: It's been a pretty quiet offseason. The Flyers took care of their returning players that they needed to and only made one real notable move to bring in a new guy, insofar as you can call bringing in Dale Weise a notable move. For all intents and purposes, this looks like the same team that left the ice against Washington on April 24. As mentioned above, only the addition of one or two prospects may change things.

Is that OK? That's the big question we face here. In all likelihood, the Flyers will be on the playoff bubble again next year. If the team misses out on the playoffs, a year after making a surprise run to the postseason and moving the fanbase's long-term expectations up even higher, is that going to be viewed as a setback? Will Ron Hextall, who's been nearly flawless to most fans in his time as a general manager so far, start feeling a little more heat? Everyone recognizes that there's a plan in motion, but no one wants to see stalled progress.

The way the Flyers' offseason has gone suggests that they're OK taking that chance. And honestly, with the way the Flyers played in the second half of last year and with the young reinforcements that may be coming in, standing pat isn't the worst move they could have made. It may have even been the best move they could have made, given the space they had/didn't have. They're making another bet on the roster that just made a run to the postseason, and that's fine. But it'll be interesting to see what happens if next year doesn't go according to plan.

Question answered? Yep. Let's hope it works out.