By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
July 1, 2018, the start of the NHL free agency. After yet another lackluster season for the Flyers, its time to retool and start the chase all over again. Ron Hextall has a decent chunk of cap space to work with for the first time during his tenure as Flyers GM, and it just so happens to coincide with one of the best free agency markets in recent memory.
(In trying to keep this list as realistic as possible, there will be no restricted free agents mentioned)
Number 5- Jonathan Bernier
It’s possible that the franchise has had enough of Michal Neuvirth’s constant injuries and could look for a different short-term backup to Brian Elliott. Bernier’s numbers closely mirror those of Neuvirth’s, but he has a much better track record than Nuevy when it comes to injuries, which is all that really matters. With Carter Hart on the horizon its important that the Flyers don’t lock themselves into anyone else long-term, so while he’s not the flashiest option he could be exactly what they need.
Number 4- Calvin De Haan
He won’t dazzle with his offense, but he is solid in his own zone. He excels in blocking shots and is a quality puck-mover, which could be exactly what the Flyers need depending on who makes the roster next season. His main downfall emerges in his recent shoulder injury which forced him to miss all but 33 games of the 2017-18 season, so most teams will probably tread carefully in terms of a big contract for De Haan.
Number 3- Tyler Bozak
Maybe the most likely on this list, Bozak is a potential cheap fix that could jumpstart the Flyers struggling penalty kill. Now 32, he has taken a lesser role with the Leafs thanks to the emergence of players like Matthews and Nylander. But he can still be the go-to guy when needed. He has played on both the Leafs powerplay and penalty kill. The icing on the cake is that he is great at shootouts, going 20 for 46 in his career. He can still put up a 40+ point season, which is exactly what the Flyers bottom-six needs.
Number 2- James Van Reimsdyk
Remember him? Chances are you probably do and this summer is his chance to reunite with the organization that drafted him. JVR has fallen in and out of favor during his time in Toronto and could seek a team that might use him with more regularity. With the Flyers middle six failing to score with any kind of consistency, JVR could add a much-needed scoring presence on the third line. Van Reimsdyk turned 29 in early May and will be looking for the last major contract of his career. That could be the major turn off for the Flyers, as there are many teams that would pay a high price for a 30+ goal, 50+ point player.
Number 1- Paul Stastny
While Bozak might be the cheaper option, if the Flyers would want a little more high-end, all around player, Stastny is their guy. Stastny played a key role for both the Blues and Jets penalty kill this season. There’s not a huge difference between Stastny and Bozak in terms of point production, but in terms of controlling the game, Stastny is the much better option. “Pauly Walnuts” will turn 33 right after Christmas, so the Flyers will need to err on the side of caution not to sign him to a long-term deal as they run the risk of him regressing during that deal.
Michael Grabner- Another option for the Flyers depth at forward could be Grabner. while he has never been the flashiest scorer, he is coming off of consecutive 25+ goal seasons, which would be a welcome sight to the Flyers bottom six. Grabner is a terrific 5-on-5 scorer and a solid addition to the penalty kill, two thing the Flyers desperately need.
John Tavares– This could be nothing more than a fantasy given it is guaranteed some team is going to offer him big money, but c’mon, it’s John Tavares. Signing JT would also cause a logjam at center as Couturier and Patrick have the top two spots locked in and Morgan Frost is on the way. If he’s willing to switch to the wing like Giroux did this season, though, signing him could drastically change the nature of this team.
Carter Hutton– Hutton is one of the better goaltending options hitting the market, but given his solid numbers, he could be a more expensive, longer term option that wouldn’t fit the current plans of the Flyers goaltending situation.
photo credit: fanadiens.com