By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
With the first few days of free agency now over, it’s more than likely the Philadelphia Flyers will remain fairly quiet the rest of the summer. Between the expansion draft, entry draft, and the free agency period, the Flyers roster will look very different rolling into the 2017-18 season. I’ll go back to the beginning of the summer and grade all of the Flyers offseason moves, thus far.
Vegas takes Bellemare – A+
The Golden Knights didn’t exactly have a huge amount of talent to pick from in Philly. Even still, for some reason they selected Pierre-Edouard Bellemare. This was the best possible outcome for the Flyers, especially since the team did not re-sign Chris VandeVelde. Essentially there will be a brand new fourth line in Philadelphia next season, and it’s the official start of the youth movement for the Flyers.
Nolan Patrick at Number 2 – A+
In case you havent heard, the Flyers drafted Nolan Patrick second overall. The Devils skipped over Patrick in favor of Nico Hischier, a move that only time will tell if it was the right call. Patrick is exactly the type of player the Flyers needed — a big body second line center. It’s not a lock that he makes the team out of camp, but it is likely. While there may be growing pains out of the gate, long-term, this is a huge win for the Flyers.
The rest of the draft – B-
This was a very interesting draft for the Flyers. At the end of the draft, they walked away with three prospects all projected to go in the first round, and a possible diamond in the rough with Matthew Strome. Most of these guys won’t be NHL ready for the forseeable future, so it will be a few years until the full success rate is truly known, but for now it seems Hextall made the best of a weaker draft class.
Trading Brayden Schenn – C+
Its been over a week now and I’m still going back and forth over the trade. At the end of the day, you cannot argue with two first-round picks. However, those picks only matter if they are used properly. Morgan Frost, arguably, wasnt the best player available for the Flyers at 27, but he does fill a hole in the Flyers prospect pool. Jori Lehtera’s glory days might be behind him, but I don’t think fans are giving him enough credit. Next season will begin to determine who won the trade, as the Blues seem to have big plans for Schenn, while Lehtera has a golden opportunity to take a bigger role in Philadelphia. For now, this move will have to be a draw.
Re-signing Jordan Weal – A
After multiple reports that Weal was going to test the free agent waters, including rumors he would go to his hometown Vancouver, he returned to Philadelphia on a two-year deal that pays him $1.75 million per season. It’s a great deal for the Flyers, and a good deal for Weal to prove himself. With multiple rookies scheduled to start the season with the Flyers, its unknown if he will take his role back on the top line or not. Either way the Flyers managed to keep a young player with scoring potential, something they desperately need, especially since they traded Schenn.
Free Agency – B
July 1st came and went and all the Flyers have to show for it is goaltender Brian Elliott. As far as Mason replacement options go, Elliott was a leading candidate, After a shaky season in Calgary, where he admitted he had trouble adjusting to a new team after years in St. Louis, it doesn’t exactly instill confidence that he may not be able to play behind a defense that is less than perfect like in St. Louis. Flyers also re-signed Mike Vecchione for two years, though he will probably start the season with the Phantoms.
Overall – B-
The Flyers took Nolan Patrick, found a new goalie, and lost Bellemare and Vandevelde. Yet they failed to address their lack of scoring directly, and lost one of their top power play producers in Schenn. With the youth movement in full swing, the Flyers are going into the 2017-18 season with multiple rookies and the vast majority of the roster will be under the age of 30.
Some say next season will be another rough year with another top-10 pick, but that may not be the case. The Flyers barely missed the playoffs in 2016-17, and with an improved forward and defense core, they should be able to improve their record. The main concern will be the goaltending. In reality, a Michal Neuvirth/Elliott pair has the potential to be a dominate force, but after both had a down year, the trust just isn’t there.
Young players will ultimately have growing pains and make mistakes, and that’s what this season hinges on. It’s a longshot, but if all the rookies learn and adapt as quick as Ivan Provorov did, this could be a great season.
Overall, it was a positive offseason. Hextall is dead set on building from within and followed through with that by keeping spots open for guys like Oskar Lindblom and Weal. No matter what happens, for the first time in years, the Flyers will be able to roll four complete lines. Besides Andrew MacDonald, the defense will roll three solid pairs. The goaltending has the potential to be a dangerous duo. I feel very confident that the Flyers will be a much improved team in 2017-18, even with Dave Hakstol at the helm.
photo credit- (Patrick) mytoba.com Bruce Fedyck (Elliott) fansided.com Jeff Curry