Free agency is an interesting time in the NHL offseason. It is when players look cash-in on years of hard work and finally reel in that big paycheck. However, it is a tricky time for General Managers as they are paying players based on what they have already done and not what they can accomplish in the future. As a result, free agency turns into a lot of overpaying and overcommitting which has led to more failures than successes.
The Philadelphia Flyers are set to have an abundance of cap space for the first time in a while this summer. With most likely more than $20 million to play with, Ron Hextall could be an active participant in the wheelings and dealings this summer. The team could use some improvements to their bottom-six (more specifically a third line center), defense, and goaltending (shocker).
However, the free-agent market only provides a few reliable options for Philadelphia to explore. Some belong to the “swing for the fences” categories as they are some of the league’s elite talent, while others are more realistic options. Unfortunately, this class of free-agents falls off quite abruptly, in regards to quality, and Hextall cannot get caught overpaying for an aging player that will prevent the youth in this organization from blooming.
Instead of relying on free-agents, it is more appropriate for the Flyers to explore the trade market for improvements to the roster or search within the team’s pool of prospects. Still, there are a few players the Flyers should at least “kick the tires” on when July 1st arrives.
First, let’s take a look at the big fish.
John Tavares, Center
2017-18 Cap Hit: $5,500,000
If he decides to hit the market, Tavares will hands-down be the cream of the crop, in regards to the 2018 free agent class. He is an elite talent that will be courted by close to every team in the National Hockey League. The actuality of him signing with Philadelphia might be slim, but that does not take away from the fact that the Flyers must do all that is in their power to sign him.
John Carlson, Defenseman
2017-18 Cap Hit: $3,996,667
Similar to Tavares, Carlson also fits into that “not likely” category for the Flyers. He would certainly be a major upgrade to Philadelphia’s blueline, but Ron Hextall probably isn’t interested dedicating that much money and term to a position where their prospect pool is quite rich.
Evander Kane, Left Wing
2017-18 Cap Hit: $5,250,000
Kane is the last of the big names that the Flyers should at least kick the tires on. He is talented, tough, and only 26-years-old. Putting the attitude and off-ice stuff to the side, Kane would be an incredibly valuable addition to Philadelphia’s roster.
Now let’s have a look at some more realistic options.
Riley Nash, Center
2017-18 Cap Hit: $900,000
Nash would be a perfect option for the third-line center position. He had a strong season for the Boston Bruins and was an effective member of the team’s penalty-kill. He also contributed offensively, with 15 points and 26 assists. Unfortunately for Philadelphia, a career-year should boost the number of suitors for Nash, leading to him becoming too costly.
Michael Grabner, Right Wing
2017-18 Cap Hit: $1,650,000
Grabner would be a perfect fit on the third-line for Philadelphia. He would provide an upgrade on the penalty-kill and is equipped with speed that constantly makes him a breakaway threat. Grabner’s struggle to get going once traded to New Jersey should keep his price tag at a reasonable place.
Mike Green, Defenseman
2017-18 Cap Hit: $6,000,000
Green would be a good option for the Flyers to pursue only if other factors come into play. The team would have to be able to move one of their current veteran defenseman, such as Radko Gudas. Additionally, they would have to believe that some of the younger defensemen are not quite ready for the NHL. Green shouldn’t demand a ton money and could be a decent stop-gap on the blueline if need be.
Okay, so what about goaltending?
You will notice that there are no goalies on this list. Why is that you might ask? The answer is simple. There is absolutely no free agent goalie the Flyers should go after this summer. They could certainly use an upgrade at the position, especially with Carter Hart not quite ready to join the Flyers. However, the team will have to pursue other avenues to obtain a netminder.