This is the newest file in THN.com’s continuing breakdowns of the off-season moves of the NHL’s teams. Today, we’re looking at the Philadelphia Flyers.
2021-22 Record: 25-46-11
Finish In The Metropolitan Division: 8th
Salary Cap Space Available (As Per CapFriendly.com): $0 ($98,107 over salary cap ceiling)
Restricted Free Agents: Zack MacEwen, F; Owen Tippett, F
Unrestricted Free Agents: Keith Yandle, D
What The Flyers Have: A new head coach in John Tortorella; a talented, if notorious new blueliner in Tony DeAngelo; a returning veteran D-man in Justin Braun; a handful of talented young players, including forwards Owen Tippett, Joel Farabee, Travis Konecky and Morgan Frost, and defensemen Ivan Provorov and Cam York; above-average veteran forwards in Cam Atkinson, James van Riemsdyk, Kevin Hayes and Sean Couturier, and experienced blueliners in Ryan Ellis and Travis Sanheim
What The Flyers Need: Elite-level help at all positions; salary cap space; a bounce-back season from starting goalie Carter Hart; better luck on the health front; more depth on the bottom-six group of forwards, and the final defensive pairing; a clear path ahead, whether that be as a full-rebuild team, or a retooling-on-the-fly group
What’s Realistic For The Flyers Next Season: For the second consecutive season, the Flyers were one of the biggest disappointments in the entire NHL. GM Chuck Fletcher publicly proclaimed his belief his roster could be a playoff team, but the results proved that to be painfully untrue. The Flyers turned out to be the second-worst organization in the Eastern Conference last season, and the fourth-worst in the league; even the expansion Seattle Kraken had two more wins than Philly did.
Certainly, some of that can be chalked up to the Flyers’ misfortune health-wise. Winger James van Riemsdyk was the sole Philadelphia player to appear in all 82 games, and key components Sean Couturier, Ryan Ellis, Kevin Hayes, Joel Farabee and Scott Laughton all were sidelined for significant stretches of time. The team should be more fortunate this season, but that isn’t necessarily going to lead to more victories, let alone a playoff berth.
Indeed, even with veteran head coach John Tortorella taking over behind the bench, the Flyers are going to be extremely hard-pressed to vault over the New Jersey Devils, Columbus Blue Jackets and New York Islanders to challenge the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins for one of the bottom two post-season spots in the Metropolitan Division. To even dream of such a turnaround, they’re going to need Herculean efforts from starting goalie Carter Hart, and a relatively shallow defense corps, and a massive boost in goals-for; Philly’s offensive total of 211 goals-scored was second only to the dismal Arizona Coyotes (207) for the worst total in the NHL. When you’re in the same league as the Coyotes in any metric and spend at or close to the salary cap ceiling, something structurally is wrong with your lineup.
It’s been a curious off-season for Fletcher, who signed controversial blueliner Tony DeAngelo to a two-year, $10-million contract. DeAngelo will help on offense, but projecting him to move the needle in terms of wins and losses is a stretch. And that signing put Philly over the cap ceiling, with restricted free agent forwards Owen Tippett and Zack MacEwen needing new deals. Fletcher will have to be creative to get them locked up, and some part of the roster will have to take an additional hit for that to happen.
In sum, it’s likely to be another long season for Flyers fans. If any team needed a full-on teardown and complete rebuild, it’s Philadelphia. Another year at the bottom of the Metro standings is possible; if that happens, Fletcher should have the reins of power removed from his hands. There’s simply not enough “there” there for Philly, and a new coach can’t mask the numerous roster holes that exist here.