State of the Union – Philadelphia Flyers

By Dan Silver (@dsilver88)

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2016-17 Overview – Disappointment, the Sublime Provorov, and Concerns about Hakstol

The 2016-17 Philadelphia Flyers season did not go as planned. For the third time in the last five seasons, the team did not make the Stanley Cup playoffs. To put that into perspective, during the 16 seasons from 1995 through 2012, the Flyers only missed the playoffs once. That was in 2007 when they had the worst record in the league but lost the draft lottery and had to settle for drafting James van Riemsdyk with the second overall pick. The first pick, of course, was Patrick Kane, who has won three Stanley Cups, a Conn Smythe playoff MVP, and the Hart Trophy as the league’s MVP. Oh, and he also scored the Stanley Cup winning goal on the Flyers home ice in 2010.

Enough about that, though, as Flyerdom is already wallowing in enough negativity.

Much brighter days appear to be on the horizon, and it all traces back to the summer of 2013. A year after winning a Stanley Cup with the Kings as their assistant GM, Ron Hextall was named GM of the Flyers. While fans knew him as a fiery and often undisciplined competitor during his 11 years between the Flyers pipes. the former goaltender has proven to be just the opposite in a management role.

Throughout his four years at the helm of the franchise, Hextall has stockpiled draft picks, preached patience with the team’s ever-growing abundance of prospects, avoided trading any young assets for trade deadline rentals, and for the most part, hasn’t signed players to any burdensome contracts.

Hextall’s biggest move to date was taking a chance with the hiring of Dave Hakstol as head coach in 2015. With winning percentages above .600 every year during his 11-year tenure at North Dakota, Hakstol had a terrific college resume, despite never winning an NCAA title as the head coach. For what it’s worth, the Fighting Sioux won the title the year after he left. This could be construed as a positive (ie. the team mainly consisted of players he recruited) or a negative (ie. something in his coaching style kept them from winning the “big game”).

Hakstol’s first season as head coach went much better than his second. In 2015-16, the Flyers surprised some by making the playoffs, aided by the electrifying play of rookie defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere and the stellar goaltending from Steve Mason and Michal Neuvirth.

With the additions of highly touted rookies Ivan Provorov and Travis Konecny as the only substantive changes to this year’s version of the Flyers, fans were expecting to see growth from the team.

Unfortunately, for the most part, the 2016-17 season only brought disappointment to the championship-starved Flyers fan-base.

There were a few positives – the biggest by far being Provorov. Playing in all 82 games, the 20yo Russian rearguard led the team in ice-time, averaging 22 minutes-per-game, and was named the Flyers top defenseman at the end of the season. The poise, vision, skating, durability, and overall hockey acumen that he brings to the table is incredible, and he reminds this writer of a young Nicklas Lidstrom. He will be the Flyers #1 defenseman and a perennial Norris Trophy candidate as the league’s best dman for years to come.

Aside from Provorov, bright spots for the Flyers included Wayne Simmonds terrific play all season long, Jordan Weal’s late season emergence as a creative scoring threat, and the way that Radko Gudas was able to play effective defensive and physical hockey without any of the disciplinary lapses that he’s shown in past seasons and this preseason.

The negatives are almost too voluminous to list. Mason and Neuvirth both had disastrous seasons in net. Captain Claude Giroux, possibly hampered by offseason hip surgery, had far and away his worst full season as a pro. Michael del Zotto, who the team was counting on to continue his stellar play from last year, had a horrible first half and only got it together for the final few months of the season. Jake Voracek, despite leading the team with 61 points, didn’t look like the explosive skater and playmaker that he’s been in the past. Gostisbehere didn’t seem to get his confidence untracked until the last few months of the season. We could go on and on regarding individual players.

And the biggest negative of them all this season was the manner in which Hakstol coached the team.

He constantly shuffled the roster from game-to-game, also changing the line combinations at an exponential rate. This adversely impacted the team by not allowing them to develop much cohesion or chemistry.

His goaltender usage was mind boggling, starting the season off with Neuvirth, and then playing each guy for long stretches at a time. Mason had two 7-game starting streaks, two 9-game starting streaks, and a stretch where he started 12/13 games. Neuvirth had a 5-game starting streak and then a stretch where he started 9/10 games. This resulted in both guys being injured and tired at times, and was far from the optimal way to utilize a proven effective goaltending tandem.

Perhaps most outrageous for Flyers fans were the multiple times that Hakstol scratched Gostisbehere and Konecny from the lineup. Presumably used as a “teaching tool” so that his young offensive stars  would cut back on costly turnovers, by scratching them multiple times he seemed only to hurt their confidence and also hurt the team, which had enough trouble scoring goals in the first place.

Compounding this situation was Hakstol’s over-reliance on defensive-first players like Chris VandeVelde and Pierre Edouard-Bellemare. The duo combined for 10 goals and 13 assists between them, and were often out in the late stages of tied games – mind boggling to fans. Bellemare played in all 82 games and VandeVelde played in the first 81 before being scratched in lieu of younger players in the final game.

While Hextall has been openly supportive of Hakstol, even naming him as an assistant coach for Canada’s team in the upcoming World Championships, there can be no doubt that next season is a pivotal one for the coach. With another influx of young and talented rookies on the way, if the Flyers miss the playoffs again, Hakstol’s job will certainly be in jeopardy.

Without further ado, let’s jump into what this offseason might look like for the Philadelphia Flyers.

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Salary Cap Situation – Approx $16 Million Available Going into Offseason

As it currently stands, the Flyers have $59.9 million committed to next season’s cap, which is expected to grow to from this year’s $73 million to approximately $75.5 million.

Here is the breakdown:

Flyers Forwards Under Contract (11)

  • Claude Giroux (2022 UFA)
  • Jakub Voracek (2024 UFA)
  • Brayden Schenn (2020 UFA)
  • Valteri Filppula (2018 UFA)
  • Sean Couturier (2022 UFA)
  • Wayne Simmonds (2019 UFA)
  • Matt Read (2018 UFA)
  • Dale Weise (2020 UFA)
  • Michael Raffl (2019 UFA)
  • Pierre Edouard-Bellemare (2019 UFA)
  • Travis Konency (2019 RFA)

Flyers Defensemen Under Contract (4)

  • Andrew MacDonald (2020 UFA)
  • Radko Gudas (2020 UFA)
  • Brandon Manning (2018 UFA)
  • Ivan Provorov (2019 RFA)

Flyers Goaltender Under Contract

  • Michal Neuvirth (2019 UFA)

Flyers Buyouts on Ledger

  • RJ Umberger ($1.5 million through 2018)

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Expansion Draft – Who Will the Flyers Protect/Lose?

With the Vegas Golden Knights coming into the league, every team is in jeopardy of losing a quality NHL player this offseason. Teams are allowed to protect a maximum of seven forwards, three defensemen, and one goalie. Teams must submit their protected lists by June 17, with the draft occurring June 18 – 20. Vegas must select one player from every NHL team.

Quite honestly, the Flyers are in a better position for the expansion draft then most NHL teams. Players like Provorov and Konecny are exempt because of their limited professional experience (all 1st and 2nd year pros are exempt), and beyond their top five forwards, top two defensemen, and goalie prospect Anthony Stolarz, there really aren’t any players whose loss would be that drastic for the team.

Here’s who I predict the Flyers will protect, keeping in mind that players with a Non-Movement Clause (NMC) in their contracts must be protected.

Projected Flyers Protected Players

  • Forwards – Giroux (NMC), Filppula (NMC), Voracek, Schenn, Couturier, Simmonds, Weal
  • Defensemen – Gudas, Gostisbehere, Manning
  • Goaltender – Stolarz

The only real decisions of any consequence that the Flyers have to make for the expansion draft are the 7th forward, the 3rd defenseman, and the goalie.

The first six forwards are obvious, which leaves one protected spot among Matt Read, Dale Weise, Michael Raffl, Scott Laughton, Nick Cousins, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, and Jordan Weal.  Among those players, the one who showed the most upside during the past season was clearly Weal. A former AHL playoff MVP, the 25yo diminutive center came up in February and scored 12 points in 23 games, demonstrating shiftiness and creativity that carried the Flyers offensively on a few nights. He’s an unrestricted free agent based on the lack of games he’s played the past few seasons, but the guess here is that the Flyers will sign and protect him before the expansion draft.

Gudas and Gostisbehere are the only two top defensemen the Flyers have to protect, and the 3rd spot will come down to Andrew MacDonald and Brandon Manning. The reality is that if Vegas wanted to take MacDonald and his horrendously burdensome contract of $5 million/year through 2020, I’m guessing that Hextall would drive the 29yo dman to the City of Sin himself. So just on the oft chance that Vegas GM George McPhee accidentally hits the “accept” button on drafting AMac, I’m guessing the Flyers will leave him exposed and protect Manning.

Between the pipes is where it starts to get a bit interesting vis a vis the expansion draft. Stolarz, a towering 6’6″ goalie taken by the Flyers in the 2nd round of the 2012 draft, is one of a slew of promising Flyers netminder prospects. (Shameless plug, you can read more about them, and the other top Flyers prospects in my article here). He was terrific last season but struggled some this year. Either way, with Vegas having to select three goalies in the expansion draft, one would think a young goalie like Stolarz would be mighty tempting.

Perplexing to some Flyers fans, the team signed Neuvirth to a 2-year extension towards the end of the season. My take on that is twofold. First, every NHL team must expose one goaltender who is already under contract for the 2017-18 season. With both Mason and Neuvirth on expiring contracts, if the Flyers wanted to protect Stolarz, they had to either acquire a goalie under contract for next season or do exactly what they did, re-sign one of their own.

Additionally, McPhee was the Washington Capitals GM from 1997-2014 and originally drafted Neuvirth in the 2nd round in 2006. The Czech goalie had a few successful seasons in Washington, and it would not be a surprise if Vegas selected Neuvirth in the expansion draft. Either way, it’s likely that the Flyers extended Neuvirth’s contract so that they could protect Stolarz in the expansion draft.

Projected Vegas Pick from the Flyers – Michal Neuvirth

I believe the theory that Neuvirth will be reunited with McPhee in Vegas as one of the three goaltenders they select. If this does not occur, expect Vegas to take either Matt Read or Michael Raffl as a good depth forward on a reasonable contract.

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Restricted Free Agents – Ghost, Young Goalies, and Unproven Forwards

The Flyers have eight restricted free agents (RFAs), and really only one that will cost them significant money. Here are my predictions…

  • Shayne Gostisbehere (23yo) – Ghost is the only Flyers RFA who figures to see a significant raise. A fixture on the team’s #1 powerplay unit, he possesses the best slapshot on the team and has a game changing offensive skillset. However, he can be a defensive liability at times, to the point where, as mentioned previously, he was a healthy scratch a handful of times this season. The key decision regarding Ghost’s new contract will be the length. At the end of the 2019-20 season, he will be 27yo and eligible to be an unrestricted free agent (UFA). Given the Flyers abundance of top young defensemen, my gut instinct is that they’re not going to want to tie up significant long-term money in a player who might not be among their top 4 dmen in two years. Honestly, the negotiations on this one have a chance to get nasty – and he is not eligible for arbitration. I think the Flyers may end up paying a premium on a 2-year deal so that Ghost will still be an RFA when his next contract is up. Prediction2 years, $4.33 million annual average value (AAV)
  • Anthony Stolarz (23yo) – Stolarz had a down year, which ended with a serious lower-body injury and a projected 3-4 month recovery period. That being said, he’s the most advanced of all the Flyers goaltending prospects. It’s the belief here that the organization would like to see him step into a backup role with the Flyers next season. Prediction2 years, $1 million AAV
  • Alex Lyon (24yo)  – There’s a chance that a terrific showing in the AHL Playoffs with the Phantoms could move Lyon past Stolarz on the organizational depth chart, especially considering the latter’s significant late season injury. It should play out in training camp next season. Prediction2 years, $1 million AAV
  • Mike Vecchione (24yo) – A 2017 Hobey Baker finalist and co-leading scorer in all of NCAA Division I hockey, the Flyers signed Vecchione, Ghost’s former Union teammate, late in the season. The small yet stocky center played in two games for the Flyers, and didn’t do anything to stand out, good or bad. Ideally he will reward the Flyers confidence in him and slot as the team’s 4th line center next season. But he has to prove himself, so I see a 1-year deal. Prediction – 1 year, $1 million AAV
  • Nick Cousins (23yo) – Cousins played up and down the lineup this season with the Flyers, appearing on all four lines and putting up 16 points in 60 games. The Flyers figure to resign him, but he’s no guarantee to make the opening day roster. Prediction – 1 year, $1 million AAV
  • Scott Laughton (22yo) – The Flyers 1st round pick in 2012, Laughton has had stints with the Flyers four of the past five seasons. Drafted to be a Mike Richards-type two-way center, he has never been able to put it together, looking best during a stretch during the 2015-16 season where he played left wing on a line with Cousins. He spent almost all of this season with the Phantoms, and if he has a future with the Flyers, it’s probably as a 4th line player. He should be given a chance to compete with Vecchione and others for a Flyers roster spot in camp. Prediction – 1 year $1 million AAV
  • Taylor Leier, Cole Bardreau (23yo) – I’m going to lump these two players together. Even though Leier dressed in 10 games for the Flyers this past season, with the team’s glut of forwards, I can’t see either of these guys seeing a role with the team next season unless there are significant injuries. Both would be 4th line NHL players, at best. Most likely is both are resigned and play with the Phantoms all season. Prediction – 1 year, $800,000 AAV each

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Unrestricted Free Agents – Weal, Mason, and the rest

The Flyers have seven UFAs, but only a few of them could return. Let’s take a look!

  • Jordan Weal (25yo) – You have to feel weally good for Jordan Weal (sorry, I had to do it at least once to get it out of my system). The 2015 AHL playoff MVP, winning a title with the Manchester Monarchs, Weal finally got his chance to strut his stuff with a late season call-up to the Flyers. He was terrific, displaying incredible drive, shiftiness, and offensive creativity, racking up 12 points in 23 games. Even though he’s under 27yo, he’s a UFA due to a lack of NHL games in the past few seasons. Both Weal and the Flyers indicated a new deal is likely, and he should get a chance to compete for a top 3 line role for next season. Prediction – 1 year, $1.25 million AAV
  • Steve Mason (28yo) – Perhaps no Flyer has stirred more emotions from fans than Steve Mason. He’s looked like one of the best goalies in the league at times, and he’s looked very bad at times. Of the four full seasons he has been with the Flyers, this year was clearly his worst. He’s often been vocal in criticizing the team’s play after perceived bad performances in addition to pointed comments after this season about how the coach has mishandled how he plays the goalies. He’s never won a playoff series and it’s fair to question his mental toughness given the fact that he can’t seem to handle competition for the starting role. However, even though the team extended Neuvirth at the end of the season, I think there’s a chance that Neuvirth is taken in the expansion draft and Mason is resigned to mentor a young goalie. But given his uneven play and the fact that he doesn’t seem to see eye-to-eye with Hakstol, my gut instinct is that he won’t be back. Prediction – Won’t Resign
  • Chris VandeVelde (30yo) – A favorite whipping boy for Flyers fans, VandeVelde played for Hakstol at North Dakota and it seemed like no matter how little he contributed offensively to the lineup, he’d never be a healthy scratch. Undoubtedly Hakstol has a comfort level with VandeVelde on the ice, as displayed by his prominent penalty killing role and the fact that he saw a lot of ice time late in tie games or when the team was protecting the lead. It’s many fans’ worst nightmare that he will get resigned, but I just don’t see it happening. There are too many young forwards in the organization that I feel can fill a similar role. Prediction – Won’t Resign
  • Boyd Gordon, Roman Lyubimov, Nick Schultz, Michael del Zotto – I won’t waste our time discussing these four players, as it is very clear that none of them will be back for next season with the Flyers. Prediction – Won’t Resign

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Roster Additions – The Youth is Coming!

OK! We’ve finally gotten to the fun part of this article, and the reason why there is hope for the Flyers to make the playoffs next season and become a Stanley Cup contender within a few years. There are a lot of very talented young players that are likely to join the team next year, with more to follow the year after.

You can read about most of them in my article on the team’s top prospects.

The team will also need to acquire a goaltender through free agency or a trade. So let’s try to predict what new players will be in the Flyers opening day 2017-18 roster!

Possible Rookie Forward Additions

  • Oskar Lindblom (20yo) – Lindblom has had one of the best seasons for an under-21yo player in the history of the Swedish Hockey League, arguably the third best league in the world. This season with Brynas, he scored 22 goals and added 25 assists, finishing 3rd in the league with 47 points. The only two players in the league with more points than him were a 28-year-old and a 32-year-old. For reference sake, at the same age in the same league, Henrik Zetterberg scored 46 points, Peter Forsberg scored 44 points, Daniel Alfredsson scored 30 points, and Patric Hornqvist scored 30 points. He’s been terrific in the playoffs as well, leading Brynas to the finals, which are still under progress. He’s an excellent skater who has great vision, is terrific on the walls (rarely loses a board battle), and boasts great hands around the net. The Flyers have a glut of forwards under contract for next season, but my guess is that they find a spot for Lindblom on the 2nd or 3rd line and he is a top NHL rookie-of-the-year candidate. Prediction – Will be on Flyers opening day roster

Possible Free Agent Forward Additions

  • With the bevy of forwards (11) the Flyers have under contract for next season, in addition to Weal, Lindblom, Cousins, and Laughton likely in the mix, I think it’s very unlikely that the Flyers delve into the free agent market for a forward this offseason. The big names out there include T.J. Oshie, Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton, Alexander Radulov, and Justin Williams. Most of those guys will command big money and a long-term deal, and I don’t see any way that Hextall enters into a long deal with a top free agent. One of the reasons that he traded for Filppula was because he only had one year left on his contract, so that he can act as a bridge to when some of the young centers like German Rubtsov and Mikhail Vorobyov might be NHL ready. Williams is the only forward who I could see the Flyers going after. The 35yo forward might be interested in finishing his career where it started and helping to mentor some of the young guys. Prediction – Probably no one, maybe Justin Williams

Possible Rookie Defense Additions

  • Sam Morin (21yo) – A towering 6’6″ defensemen taken in the 1st round of the 2013 draft, Morin has deceptive speed for a big man. He’s spent two full seasons with the Phantoms, displaying sound defensive positioning and a real mean streak, including a few dominant victories in fights. He played one game with the Flyers this season and didn’t look out of place at all. He should provide the team with much needed additional size, strength, and tenacity on the blue line. Prediction – Will be on Flyers opening day roster
  • Robert Hagg (21yo) – Taken in the 2nd round of the 2013 draft, Hagg has been on a similar career trajectory as Morin. This was his 3rd full season with the Phantoms, and like Morin, he got called up to play a game with the Flyers. In that game, which was the final one of the season, he looked terrific, arguably more natural and confident than Morin did in his 1-game stint. While not flashy in any one area of his game, Hagg is a good all-around defenseman who also showed the ability to jump into the rush when needed. He could be a good 3rd pair NHL defenseman for a long time to come. Prediction – Will be on Flyers opening day roster
  • Travis Sanheim (21yo) – The Flyers 1st round pick in 2014, Sanheim had an extremely successful first full season of professional hockey, putting up 37 points in 76 games despite not playing on the first power play unit. Most of that success came in the 2nd half of the season, where he consistently looked like one of the best defensemen on the team. With terrific size at 6’4″, Sanheim is a great passer and an A+ skater who is reminiscent of Peter Forsberg when he’s in full flight with the puck on his stick. Sanheim made great strides in the defensive zone this season, and projects as a top pair NHL dman.  He has a higher upside than either Morin or Hagg, but with fewer AHL experience than either, he might start next season with the Phantoms before a possible midseason call-up. Prediction – Midseason Call-Up
  • Philippe Myers (20yo) – An undrafted free agent signed by the Flyers after the 2015 draft, Myers’ stock has skyrocketed to the point where most of the popular NHL prospect rankings have him in the Top 30 (TSN has him 10th, ESPN 18th, The Hockey News 29th). Still in the Canadian Junior system, he missed early parts of the season for Rouyn-Noranda with a concussion and was excellent when he came back. Perhaps most impressively, he was not only named to Canada’s World Junior Championship roster, but played on the top defense pairing with Ottawa Senators prospect Thomas Chabot. For point of comparison, while Sanheim and Morin also played on Canada’s WJC teams at age 19, both were on the 3rd defense pairs. When you watch Myers play, what stands out is how fluid he is in everything he does, especially for a big defenseman. He’s a very good skater with terrific hockey sense. He makes great passes, is extremely reliable in his own end, and can hold his own physically. Quite honestly, his overall game leaves very little to be desired. He’s suffered two concussions this season, but is back and healthy now, hoping to lead his team to another QMJHL championship. It’s likely that he starts next season with the Phantoms, but there’s an oft chance he is so good at camp next season the Flyers could start him in the NHL. Either way, he looks like the eventual right-handed partner for Ivan Provorov on the Flyers top defense pairing. Prediction – Midseason Call-Up or Opening Day 2018-19

Possible Free Agent Defense Additions

  • As you can probably guess from the section on the rookies, I think it is highly unlikely the Flyers sign any free agent defensemen. Hextall said as much in the end-of-season press conference. In the fairly implausible scenario where all the rookies look bad in camp, they’ll have to find a dman or two from the free agent scrap heap. Prediction – No one

Possible Rookie Goaltender Additions

  • Anthony Stolarz (23yo) – As discussed earlier, Stolarz is probably the most advanced goalie prospect in the Flyers system. However, the fact that he had an inconsistent season and also suffered a significant lower-body injury at the end of the year might put him behind Alex Lyon on the depth chart. The organization would undoubtedly like to see either Stolarz or Lyon open next season as the back-up for the Flyers. Assuming he recovers from his injury without any setbacks, my money is on Stolarz. Prediction – Will be on Flyers opening day roster
  • Alex Lyon (24yo) – Lyon, who put up video game insane statistics at Yale, was very good overall in his first professional season with the Phantoms, going 27-14 and getting the bulk of the starts. He might very well prove to ultimately be a better goalie than Stolarz. However, he’s most likely to open next season with the Phantoms. Prediction – Will be on Phantoms
  • Felix Sandstrom (20yo) – Sandstrom is my personal favorite of all the Flyers goalie prospects, even above the highly touted Carter Hart, who is likely to be named top goalie in the Canadian Juniors for the 2nd straight year. Unlike Hart, Sandstrom has spent the past two seasons playing against men in the Swedish Hockey League, on the same Brynas team as Lindblom. He also was named top goaltender at this year’s World Junior Championships, a tournament that included Hart and Capitals top prospect Ilya Samsonov. It’s likely that Sandstrom will come overseas next season and serve as the Phantoms back-up goaltender at the start of the season. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s on the Flyers roster by 2019. Prediction – Will be on Phantoms

Possible Free Agent Goaltender Additions

  • There are a number of possible free agent goaltenders that the Flyers could sign to serve as the starter for the next few seasons and a bridge to when the young prospects are ready for a starting gig. However, given how close to ready Stolarz and possibly Lyon are, it’s unlikely Hextall will want to sign anyone to a long-term contract. That probably rules out someone like Ben Bishop, who will likely be looking for a long-term deal worth big money. There are a number of options for the Flyers, including Mason, Peter Budaj, Brian Elliot, Jonathan Bernier, and Ryan Miller. The guy who might have the edge is Bernier, who was with the Kings the entire time that Hextall served as their assistant GM. The 28-year-old netminder has had a resurgence as the back-up with Anaheim this season, going 21-7-4 with a 2.50 GAA and a 0.915 save percentage. He was sensational for the Leafs in 2013-14, and then saw his play slip for a few seasons before regaining his mojo this year. He could be the perfect goalie to provide solid goaltending for the Flyers for a few years while the kids get ready to take over. Prediction – Jonathan Bernier signs 2-year deal for $4.5 million AAV.

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The AMac Conundrum

Andrew MacDonald deserves a section to himself. The Flyers acquired him from the Islanders towards the end of the 2014 season for a 2nd and 3rd round draft pick. And on April 15, 2014, in a day that will always live in infamy, for Flyers fans, he was given a 6-year, $5 million AAV contract by then-GM Paul Holmgren.

Since then, he has proven to be a mediocre-at-best NHL defenseman. After being demoted to the AHL for the majority of the 2015-16 season, he inexplicably served on the Flyers top defense pairing all of this season with Provorov.

In another infamous moment, at a Flyers Season Ticket Holder Forum this past February, Hakstol reportedly defended MacDonald vehemently and called him “a top 3 or 4 defenseman in the NHL.” Presumably he meant that MacDonald could serve as a 2nd-pair dman on most NHL teams, and not that he’s as good as Brent Burns, Erik Karlsson, or Drew Doughty, but still.

MacDonald has extremely limited offensive ability and is prone to mistakes in the defensive zone that often lead to scoring chances (for the other team).

The problem for the Flyers is that he has three years left on his contract, so if they bought him out this summer. they’d have him on their cap payroll for the next six years. Given the fact that the Flyers are probably not going to be a Cup contender next season, but could be 3-5 years down the road, it’s unlikely they’ll want to buy out MacDonald for short term cap relief at the expense of long-term financial viability.

If the rookie defensemen prove as talented as it appears, the likeliest scenario is that MacDonald is relegated to a lesser role next season, possibly a demotion to the Phantoms, and is bought out next summer.

However, if Hakstol actually believes what he said about him being a top 3 or 4 defenseman, all bets are off. Prediction – MacDonald is relegated to a lesser role and bought out next offseason

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Summary – I Present the 2017-18 Philadelphia Flyers!

Ok! If you’ve made it through the entire article, we are now at the point where all the decisions we’ve made now result in a projected 2017-18 Philadelphia Flyers Opening day roster.

Let’s take a look…

Forwards

  • Konecny-Giroux-Voracek
  • Weal-Filppula-Simmonds
  • Schenn-Couturier-Lindblom
  • Bellemare-Vecchione-Weise
  • Raffl-Read

Defensemen

  • Provorov-Gudas
  • Morin-Gostisbehere
  • Hagg-MacDonald
  • Manning

Goaltenders

  • Bernier
  • Stolarz

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2017-18 Salary Total – $72 Million – $3.5 Million Under the Cap and some Random Thoughts

The above Flyers roster, plus the remaining money from Umberger’s buyout, totals approximately $72 million, which would leave the team with approximately $3.5 million to spend at the start of the season. This would enable them to add someone at the trade deadline if Hextall feels they can contend for the Cup.

Random Thoughts

  • I won’t be surprised if Raffl, Read, and/or Manning are moved in the offseason given the number of young players in need of roster spots.
  • I firmly believe that Sanheim will be on the Flyers no later than midseason 2017-18, with Myers not that far behind.
  • If Lyon shines in the AHL playoffs and Stolarz stumbles in his recovery from injury, it’s certainly possible that Lyon starts as the Flyers back-up next season
  • The forward lines are a bit of a jumble, I have a feeling that Weise may end up in the top 3 lines but also think the team needs to find an offensive role for Lindblom, who could wind up as one of the best forwards on the team in short time
  • I don’t think the Flyers are likely to buy out anyone this offseason, but if they do, it will likely be Matt Read, who has one year left on his cap hit of $3.625 million. The team has so many forwards that he’s expendable, either via trade or buyout. But if they buy him out, they’ll be left with a $1.2 million carryover cap hit in 2018-19, which I think Hextall would like to avoid.

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Short-Term Flyers Outlook – 1-5 Years – Playoffs and Maybe a Cup

The Flyers ability to win a Stanley Cup within the next 5 years will depend largely on whether or not Giroux and Voracek can rebound from subpar seasons and once again become offensive threats at even strength. Giroux’s even strength numbers and metrics have fallen off a cliff the last three seasons, but at 29yo, there’s still hope that he can rebound. Alternatively, even if Giroux and Voracek don’t rebound, if Sanheim and Myers join Provorov as elite NHL defensemen, Morin and Hagg progress as expected, Lindblom and German Rubtsov become stud forwards, and one of the young goalies becomes a franchise stopper, that represents another path to the Cup.

Even if they don’t win a Cup within the next five years, with the influx of talented youth, each of the next number of years promises to be more exciting than the last, with multiple playoff appearances in the offing.

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Long-Term Flyers Outlook – 6-10 Years – Perennial Cup Contenders

Hextall has done such a great job of amassing draft picks (they have 12 in the upcoming draft) and developing young talent that the Flyers should eventually turn into perennial Cup contenders.

With currently rostered young forwards Konecny, Couturier, Schenn, and Weal, prospect forwards Lindblom, Rubtsov, Mikhail Vorobyov, Wade Allison, and Pascal Laberge, the young defense group of Provorov, Ghost, Sanheim, Myers, Morin, and Hagg, and young goalies Stolarz, Lyon, Sandstrom, Hart, and Madsen, the future is off-the-charts bright for this franchise.

Photo Credits – Getty Images, Sons of Penn, Philly.com, Broad Street Buzz, NHL.com, CSN Philly, USA Today, Fast Philly Sports

 

 

7 comments

  • A good, comprehensive overview. What are your thoughts on the possibility of signing Anders Nilsson as an inexpensive goalie option? He didn’t get into that many games but put up solid numbers on a poor Sabres team. I assume they would want to resign him, at least for the expansion draft, but if he is somehow available…

    • Thanks! I think Nilsson is very talented and has the potential to be a good starting goalie somewhere. However, my gut feeling is that Hextall wants someone more experienced to get the bulk of the starts and act as a mentor to the young kids. Nilsson has never played more than 26 games in a NHL season and I don’t think he’s exactly what Hextall is looking for.

  • So… they don’t sign Justin Williams and Raffl/Read remain on the roster because they signed Neuvy… if McPhee is that fond of Neuvy, then the Neuvy extension was an error. I personally cringe every time this team extends a mediocre player which, they often do. I sincerely hope the offseason is a bit more exciting than this.

    • With the amount of very talented young rookies on the way, signing mediocre players at this point is counterproductive. I’m guessing Hextall wishes he could have a redo on the Weise deal, even though I think he’ll be a lot better next season than he was this season.

  • Any chance the Flyers might deal for Marc-Andre Fluery? The Pens must move him or they’ll automatically lose Murray. Fluery’s no movement clause means he’ll get a say in where he goes, but at just 2 years left on his deal it would be a perfect bridge to Hart or another prospect.

    • Good points on the contract length remaining and Fleury is a decent option, but I have a feeling the Flyers will want to explore free agent options before doing something like that.

  • Pingback: Projecting the Flyers the Prospects | Site Title

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