By Dan Silver (@dsilver88)
Flyers Forward Situation
So far this offseason, the Flyers have lost Pierre-Edouard Bellemare to expansion, Brayden Schenn and Nick Cousins to trades, and may be unable to re-sign unrestricted free agent (UFA) Jordan Weal.
Despite being only 25-years-old and under the regular 27-year-old threshold, Weal has UFA status due to the below rule:
Group 6 unrestricted free agents include “Any Player who is age 25 or older who has completed three (3) or more professional seasons, whose standard player contract has expired and: (i) in the case of a Player other than a goaltender, has played less than 80 NHL Games
Weal, who scored seven points in the Flyers final seven games of the season, would have needed to play 43 more NHL games this season to have been a restricted free agent (RFA). Ironically enough, that’s exactly how many games Weal played with the AHL’s Lehigh Valley Phantoms in 2016-17, putting up more than a point-per-game (47).
In 2017-18, the Flyers will likely be adding the soon-to-be 21-year-old Swedish forward Oskar Lindblom and the #2 overall pick Nolan Patrick to the top three lines. Both players have a ton of talent, and could help make up for the holes left by Schenn, Bellemare, and possibly Weal.
Even if Weal leaves, the Flyers still have enough forwards to roster formidable line combinations – for example the below would be possible
In my ideal universe, Travis Konecny plays his more natural right wing, but if we lose Weal, he may be forced to play the left again, like he did much of this past season.
Either way, the Flyers are going to be injecting youth into the lineup this coming season.
I think it may behoove them to bring in a skilled veteran who might be able to assist with the development of the kids, specifically a player who started his career with the Flyers nearly 20 years ago.
Back to the Future – Could Justin Williams Return to the Flyers?
In the 2000 NHL Draft, the Philadelphia Flyers selected forward Justin Williams with the 28th overall pick.
So far during his NHL 16-seasons, Williams has won three Stanley Cups (2006, ’12, ’14), one Conn Smythe (’14), and is tied for the most ever playoff Game 7 goals with seven – earning him the nickname, “Mr. Game 7.”
Of course, none of those accomplishments came with the Flyers.
Williams will be 36-years-old for the start of this coming NHL season, but he’s one of those players that has seemed to get better with age.
This past season, he scored 24 goals and added 24 assists for the Washington Capitals, averaging 15:29 of ice time per game. The 24 goals were his most since he scored 33 for the Carolina Hurricanes during the 2006-07 season.
More importantly insofar as the Flyers are concerned, 19 of Williams 24 goals last season were scored even strength – an area where the Flyers could definitely use some help.
From a leadership perspective, Williams would be a fantastic fit for the Flyers.
As someone who immediately played in the NHL as a 19-year-old, he would be the perfect person to help Nolan Patrick transition to the league.
How does a Lindblom-Patrick-Williams line sound?
Pretty good to me!
And as someone who has won three Stanley Cups, Williams would be a terrific locker-room presence for the entire team to learn from.
I daresay that Williams could even fill the alternate captain vacancy that Bellemare left.
It certainly seems that he would be a great fit for the Flyers, but do they have the money to make it work?
Flyers Salary Cap Situation – Room for Williams?
NHL teams are allowed to sign unrestricted free agents starting this coming Saturday, July 1.
If the Flyers were interested in bringing back Williams, do they have the money available to do it?
The simple answer is yes, they do.
But let’s look at the specifics.
Right now, if we assume that Lindblom, Patrick, and two young defensemen (likely from Robert Hagg, Sam Morin, Philippe Myers, and Travis Sanheim) make the team, the Flyers will have approximately $9 million to spend.
With the $9 million, they need to sign (or trade for) a goalie, and, especially if Weal doesn’t re-sign, they probably need to add a forward.
If you assume they’ll sign a goalie or acquire a goalie for approximately $4 million, which is reasonable considering the buyers market right now, there would be $5 million available for a forward.
Justin Williams’ most recent contract was a two-year deal with the Capitals worth $3.25 million annual-average-value (AAV).
If I’m Flyers General Manager Ron Hextall, I would be very tempted to offer Williams something like a two-year deal for $3.5 to $4 million AAV.
I’d put him on the right wing with Nolan Patrick and make him an alternate captain.
Sure seems like a marriage made in heaven, and maybe, just maybe, Justin Williams can win one more Stanley Cup – but this time with the team that drafted him.