On December 3rd, the Philadelphia Flyers officially announced that Chuck Fletcher would step in and serve as the General Manager of the Philadelphia Flyers, taking over the role previously held by Ron Hextall. As you might have already noticed, the courtship of Fletcher by the Flyers drew strong opinions from the Flyers’ fan base, dividing the Philly Faithful between two main factions: Those who wanted Fletcher for his Joel Quenneville connections, and those who opposed Fletcher due to his perceived inability to win in the playoffs in Minnesota.
Regardless of what faction you might belong to, there is one idea that we all can agree on: Fletcher is in a good position.
With one of the deepest prospect pools in the league and a significant amount of cap room, Fletcher has flexibility to start putting his stamp on this team in the very near future. With that said, I’d like to break down next season’s salary cap situation to give better context on how much room Fletcher really has to work with, especially given Dave Scott’s desire to spend up to the cap.
How Much Room Do We Have Right Now?
With the 2018-19 Salary Cap set at $79.5 million and 22 players on the active roster, the Flyers currently have just shy of $9 million in cap space, good for 7th most in the league. This is a significant accomplishment for the organization, who appears to have finally fully recovered from the uneasy Salary Cap situation the team found itself in just over 5 seasons ago. Freeing up this dearth of cap room is one of the major fruits of Ron Hextal’s labor, which will now surely be enjoyed by Chuck Fletcher as he looks to turn the Flyers into a contender in the next few seasons.
Even more attractive to Fletcher is the amount of contracts that are expiring at the end of the season, freeing up even more cap space and allowing Fletcher to shape the team in his first off season as GM. Barring any mid-season extensions, trades, or signings, there are 13 contracts that expire on July 1st, freeing up $23,850,417 in cap space for Fletcher to use however he sees fit. Additionally, it is projected that Fletcher will gain approximately $3 million in cap space next season when the cap raises to a projected $83 million.
|Flyers’ Expiring Contracts on July 1st, 2019|
|Name||Position||Age||2018-19 Cap Hit|
|Simmonds, Wayne||RW, LW||30||$3,975,000|
|Elliott, Brian||G||33||Mitchell Ness Walter And Jersey Payton $2,750,000|
|Raffl, Michael||LW, RW||30Service 40 Digital Jersey Tillman Camo Cardinals To Salute Pat||$2,350,000|
|Laughton, Scott||C||Mitchell Ness Walter And Jersey Payton 24||$962,500|
|Konecny, Travis||LW, RW||21||$894,167|
|Folin, Christian||RD||27||$800,000 Kyle Jersey Lowry Gold Gold Lowry Kyle Jersey|
|Stolarz, Anthony||G||Mitchell Ness Walter And Jersey Payton 24||$761,250|
Though the additional $27 million in space Fletcher is gaining seems like a major win, he still will have a number of tough negotiations and decisions to make before July 1st even approaches. Among the contracts that are expiring are a number of young players with expiring entry level contracts that will be seeking much more lucrative deals, and the infamously impending Wayne Simmonds negotiation. With that said, let’s take a look at who Fletcher should prioritize in signing, and what players we can afford to let walk on July 1st.
Sign the Young Guys
Among the contracts expiring at year end are some of the Flyers’ most promising prospects. Ivan Provorov, Travis Konecny, and Travis Sanehim will all be coming off their 3- year ELC’s and will need to be paid appropriately. It goes without saying that the Flyers will absolutely need to sign these guys, but Fletcher will have to be savvy in his negotiating to avoid a William Nylander situation. Without going into too much detail, I listed the 5 players with expiring contracts that the Flyers absolutely cannot afford to let walk on July 1st and made an educated guess as to what I think they’re worth. I’ll briefly go over these numbers.
|Players that Must be Signed|
|Name||Position||Age||Estimated Cap Hit||Years on Potential Deal|
|Provorov, Ivan||Mitchell Ness Walter And Jersey Payton LD||21||$6,000,000||6|
|Konecny, Travis||LW, RW||21||$5,500,000||5|
|Mitchell Ness Walter And Jersey Payton Sanheim, Travis||RD||22||Mitchell Ness Walter And Jersey Payton $3,500,000||4|
|Mitchell Ness Walter And Jersey Payton Stolarz, Anthony||G||24||$1,500,000||2|
|Total||Mitchell Ness Walter And Jersey Payton||$19,500,000|
First off, Ivan Provorov. What more can we say? The young D man has had an uncharacteristically-rough go this year, which may not be the worst thing for Fletcher. Seeing Provorov’s potential in the past two seasons gives the GM an idea of Provorov’s true value, but he will be able to use Ivan’s struggles as a bit of leverage to potentially lower the AAV of the blueliner’s first big deal. Even though Gostisbehere was signed at a $4.5 million AAV, I see Provorov signing slightly north of Seth Jones’ $5.4 million cap hit due to Ivan’s more robust two- way play and ability to play big minutes so early in his career.
Travis Konecny’s deal may not be as cut and dry. Though he hasn’t had a breakout year yet, it’s very apparent with his jump and shooting ability that he will one day be a consistent 30 goal, 55+ point scorer in this league. TKO’s camp will likely use this argument to get closer to the $6.9 million AAV William Nylander just signed with Toronto, but realistically he won’t get close to that. The Flyers will likely start somewhere closer to $4.5 million and meet in the middle.
Both Travis Sanheim and Scott Laughton have taken the next step in their development this year, and the Flyers cannot afford to lose out on their talents moving forward. Unfortunately for both players, neither have demonstrated the ability to put up the points necessary to demand higher dollar amounts or longer term for their next contract, so I wouldn’t be surprised if both look for shorter bridge deals as they continue to try and impress Flyers brass.
Anthony Stolarz, the once-forgotten Flyers netminder has once again regained relevance after missing the better part of two seasons to knee injuries, and not a moment too soon. I may be jumping back on his bandwagon a little prematurely, but I’ve liked what Stolarz has done in his 10 NHL starts. If he can continue to provide any level of stability in the Flyers’ net this season, I would absolutely want the Flyers to sign him to a conservative, short- term contract to ensure we don’t miss out on desperately- needed goaltender talent.
By allowing Elliott and Neuvirth’s contracts to expire, the Flyers will be saving $5.25 million in cap space, so unless the Flyers plan on making another run at Bobrovsky this offseason, they will have plenty of money to spend to stabilize their goaltending situation. $1.5 million to Stolarz might be worth the risk if Fletcher isn’t able to land a big name.
Players to Avoid
The Flyers will need to cut some of their expiring contracts to make cap space for the new deals of their young, up-and-coming core. Fortunately for Fletcher, these decisions should not be as ambiguous or difficult to make.
I would be shocked if the Flyers decided to re-sign Jori Lehtera, and frankly I’m not sure how anyone ever justified spending $4.7 million annually on him. The Flyers took on this financial burden as a trade off for two first round picks that became Morgan Frost and Joel Farabee. Certainly wherever he ends up in 2019-2020, he will not be making that kind of money, even if he is the “life of the party.”
|Players that We Cannot Sign|
In addition to Lehtera, the Flyers will need to jettison both Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth, who have largely failed to stabilize the situation between the pipes due to injuries in 2018-2019. Neuvirth has been injured a staggering 19 times since signing with the Orange and Black, and Elliott is an aging goalie recovering from hip/core surgeries. Neither of these things are conducive to long term success, and the Flyers must address this in the offseason to help relieve pressure on Carter Hart’s development. Doing so is vitally important for both the team’s immediate success on the ice, as well as for Hart’s development into an NHL goalie.
Lastly, Christian Folin will likely need to relinquish his role as the Flyers’ 7th defenseman. The Flyers have Phillippe Myers and Sam Morin who will be competing for the final spot on the Flyers’ blueline next season, and I’m anticipating that one of them will be ready to make the jump into the NHL. This will likely relegate Andrew Macdonald to 7th defenseman duties, and push Folin out into free agency.
Who’s Coming up?
As I mentioned earlier, I fully anticipate seeing either Phillipe Myers or Sam Morin finally crack the Flyers’ top 6 in 2019-2020. I find it more likely that Myers will be able to do this, given his puck moving ability and the fact that Morin will be coming back from a significant knee injury. Of course, that could change in camp, but that’s just my way-too-early pick.
The forwards joining Myers on the Flyers will most likely be Mikhail Vorobyov and Nicolas Aubé-Kubel from Lehigh Valley. Vorobyov made the team out of camp this year, but struggled early in the season and was sent down to get some AHL seasoning. If all goes well, he will bounce back and end up on the Flyers next season. Aubé-Kubel will need a new contract, but given his time spent with the Flyers so far this season, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him make the team out of camp next year as well on a short- term, low cap-hit deal.
Depending on his performance throughout the rest of the season, there’s a chance that Carter Hart also sees time in the NHL next year, but for the sake of being as realistic as possible, I’ll leave him out of the conversation for now. I believe it’s more likely that Fletcher adds a more experienced goalie via trade in the near future.
If everything else I mentioned above is to happen, that leaves 4 contracts on the outside looking in. Wayne Simmonds, Jordan Weal, Michael Raffl, and Corban Knight all have contracts expiring on July 1st but don’t necessarily fall into a “sign,” or “avoid,” category. As has been discussed in length over the past few months, Simmonds will likely demand a higher cap hit than the Flyers will be looking to give him, and this will cause the Flyers to either pay more than they want or trade him at the deadline.
Weal and Raffl are more interesting cases. Both have been steady middle- six forwards for the Flyers for a few years, but neither have had standout seasons so far that necessarily make them irreplaceable, either. With Vorobyov and Aubé-Kubel potentially making the leap into the NHL next year, it’s very possible that one or both of these guys doesn’t come back in free agency.
Given his age, higher cap hit, and slower skating ability, I find it more likely that Raffl won’t be back with the team next season. Weal was hyped pretty thoroughly throughout the organization coming into 2018-19, so it’s likely that the coaching staff thinks highly of him and will give him more chances to prove himself.
Lastly, Corban Knight will need a new contract on July 1st, but his future will be harder to predict until he returns from his broken collar bone late in the regular season. Even if Knight does get offered another contract, it will likely be in the $750,000 range with 1-2 years of term.
The Off season Cap Situation Summary
Now, assuming everything I just laid out happens, the Flyers will be left with 19 players on the roster and roughly $15 million in cap space to sign two forwards and one goalie. As I mentioned earlier in the article, the Flyers’ upper management in David Scott and Paul Holmgren have expressed a desire to be active at the trade deadline and spend up to the cap to give the Flyers the best chances at winning in the near term. What this means is that it’s very likely that the Flyers will make a run at a big name that will occupy a large portion of this space.
|FORWARDS- 11 ($42,142,500)||POS||AGE||2019-20|
|Giroux, Claude “C”||C, RW||30||$8,275,000|
|van Riemsdyk, James||LW||29||$7,000,000|
|Mitchell Ness Walter And Jersey Payton Couturier, Sean “A”||C||25||$4,333,333|
|Weise, DaleNew Islanders York Jersey Authentic||RW||30||$2,350,000|
|Patrick, Nolan||C, RW||20||$925,000|
|Konecny, Travis||LW, RW||21||$5,500,000|
|Aubé-Kubel, Nicolas||Mitchell Ness Walter And Jersey Payton RW||22||$800,000|
|EMPTY||Mitchell Ness Walter And Jersey PaytonRyan Ryan Jersey Jets Fitzpatrick Fitzpatrick|
|DEFENSE- 7 ($24,178,333)||POS||AGE|
|MacDonald, Andrew “A”||RD||32||$5,000,000|
|Mitchell Ness Walter And Jersey Payton GOALIES- 1 ($1,500,000)||Mitchell Ness Walter And Jersey Payton|
|Mitchell Ness Walter And Jersey Payton Stolarz, Anthony||G||24||$1,500,000|
Regardless of who Chuck Fletcher decides to go after, conservatively estimating $15 million in salary cap room to sign three players will give the new GM immense flexibility to address ongoing Flyers concerns and upgrade a team that already has a number of high- end players. It’s impossible to know what exactly Fletcher will do in the mean time, but as long as contract negotiations go well, the Flyers look to have a great financial situation heading into 2019-2020 already.
Matt is a retired Army Infantryman who loves scotch whisky. When he is not contributing to the BSB Podcast, Matt is forever scrolling twitter, looking for rational takes and fancy stats to calm the masses. He is the anti-Jeff.