What Should the Flyers Do Next?
It has been an uncharacteristically quiet offseason for the Flyers, as Ron Hextall found himself simply unable to shed the salary needed to make more moves. Instead, he focused on keeping the team’s most prized restricted free agents (or, in the case of Tye McGinn, trade him for a pick) and replenishing the newly relocated Lehigh Valley Phantoms, who has one winning season in the last five years. A better supporting cast on the Phantoms will assist the development of some of the Flyers top prospects currently projected to play in the AHL this season. These prospects include Shayne Gostisbehere, Robert Hägg, Taylor Leier, Nick Cousins, and maybe even Scott Laughton.
However, most will look at the Flyers’ roster and still feel that there is something missing. The defense, while not appealing to most, is largely set unless Hextall finds a way to move a defenseman such as Andrew MacDonald, Nick Grossmann, or Luke Schenn. At this point such a move is considered unlikely. At forward, things are a little more open, especially after the trade of Scott Hartnell to Columbus and loss of Steve Downie to Pittsburgh. It is a known fact that the Flyers are openly shopping Vincent Lecavalier, but it is looking more and more like he will remain in Philly this season. Jason Akeson’s performance in the playoffs likely earned him a spot on the main roster, and French free agent signee Pierre-Edouard Bellemare will probably follow a similar track to Michael Raffl.
Still, the Flyers could stand to add another free agent forward for the purposes of bolstering the forward corps, especially at left wing, and maximizing the cap benefit of Chris Pronger’s placement on long term injured reserve. Of course, being over two weeks into the unrestricted free agency period, the options are running thin, but it is still very much possible to pick up an impact player at this point or on a professional tryout basis come training camp time. It is also important to note that basically every player still available will sign a one year deal worth about $1 million, making the possibility of a value signing even higher. The following players are still looking for a job and could help the Flyers next year:
Dustin Penner: Penner had a hot start to the season playing along Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry in Anaheim, but once he started to tail off, he was sent to Washington at the trade deadline. Penner struggled through his eighteen games in the nation’s capital production wise, but he maintained his impressive possession stats across two bottom-half possession teams. Penner would be an asset to any of the top three lines, but he would likely be slotted into a top-six role. Penner went through a similar free agency experience last season, and a cheap one-year deal for him could pay dividends.
Peter Mueller: An intriguing name in a couple rumors is former Florida Panther Peter Mueller, who played the last season in Switzerland. He appears poised to return to the NHL, and he would be an immediate upgrade to the bottom-six. The desire to have a fourth line playing substantive minutes (in other words, a line capable of handling offensive situations reliably) would be helped by the addition of Mueller. In Mueller’s most recent NHL season, he was a total possession driver against moderate-level competition. His contextual role is made clearer by the Florida player usage chart for that season.
David Booth: In all likelihood, Booth will not be a free agent for much longer, and the Flyers who ought to be the team to pick him up. Booth, throughout his career with the Panthers and Canucks, was a possession driver through and through. His production levels dipped following his trade to Vancouver, which is partially due to John Tortorella’s open disliking of Booth. However, the most attractive part of Booth is that he is a natural left winger, a position at which the Flyers are scarily thin. He can play up and down the different lines due to his style and potential.
Daniel Winnik: Like Mueller, Winnik would provide an immediate upgrade to the bottom-six. Like Booth, Winnik has also been a possession driver throughout his career, aside from a down year last season. Overall, Winnik can also provide the substantive minutes on the fourth line should he end up being used there. His career production totals suggest that he is reliable for about 25 points, which is superb for his usage and role. He is a natural center, which could be concerning to some, but he can also be viewed as an offensive upgrade to last year’s fourth line center Adam Hall.
Now is the time of year for value signings, the kind that make other teams wonder “How did we let this deal fall through the cracks?” Last season, the league saw it with Tom Gilbert, who signed with the Panthers for $900k; he went on to form one of the best defense pairings in the league alongside Brian Campbell. The Flyers have the potential to make one of these cheap, smart signings by bringing in any one of these listed free agent forwards.
Do not hesitate to ask me for help understanding these numbers in the links I included in this article. They simply provide context for each of these player’s known skills and capabilities.
Posted on July 16, 2014, in NHL, NHL Free Agency, Phi. Flyers and tagged Daniel Winnik, David Booth, Dustin Penner, Peter Mueller, Philadelphia Flyers, Ron Hextall, Tom Gilbert. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.