NHL Free Agency is well underway.
Day 1 came and went without Chuck Fletcher and the Philadelphia Flyers making any significant signings. They did add eight depth players, but none of them are expected to directly impact the NHL roster.
“No. We didn’t jump into those waters,” Fletcher said Monday when asked about all of the NHL players signed on Day 1.
It makes sense for the Flyers to not make any big waves in free agency. Fletcher went out and did his work earlier in the offseason with the acquisitions Kevin Hayes, Matt Niskanen and Justin Braun. He set the roster up in the way he wants.
“This year we were proactive. We identified the players we wanted to get and we went out and got them early,” he said. “Rather than getting into a bidding war over very scarce, in a market where there just weren’t a lot of players, we felt if we could get ahead of it and get the guys that we wanted, that would be a smart thing to do”
Fletcher’s emphasis in free agency was on the Flyers’ current group of players, specifically the younger players, rather than committing money long-term to a veteran.
“Over the next 24 months, we’ll have several young forwards knocking on the door of the NHL,” he said. “I don’t think it’s a very smart thing to box these kids out and take on additional cap responsibilities when we’re going to have a lot of really good pieces that could mature and grow through the system.”
Not only do the Flyers have youth knocking on the door, they also have a few young stars needing to still be locked up.
“I like the position we’re in right now. We have some cap space left. We feel it will be enough to cover our RFAs,” Fletcher said.
“We have three RFAs this summer, but we have two RFAs next summer and two more the summer after that. Those are top young players that our staff has worked hard to draft and develop. They are high priorities for us. You have to be mindful of your future obligations when you go through a day like today,” he continued.
Ivan Provorov, Travis Konecny and Scott Laughton are the RFAs this summer, while Nolan Patrick, Oskar Lindblom, Robert Hagg, Philippe Myers, Travis Sanheim (again), Sam Morin, Carter Hart are due in the next few years.
The focus is on the future in both the short- and long-term. Those guys are already carving out their roles in the NHL, while a few others are clawing to get their shot.
With the first-day frenzy over and most of the top free agents signed, the door has been left open for one of the Flyers’ young guns to make the roster out of training camp.
“I don’t foresee another move as we get closer to camp, but again, there are a lot of teams that are going to have significant challenges this summer,” Fletcher said.
That sounds like the opportunity will likely be there for an in-house option, but he could also pounce on a trade if a team needs to rework their cap space.
When asked about the chances that Morgan Frost and Joel Farabee would have to make the roster after not signing an NHL forward, Fletcher had praise for that pair as well as a few others.
“It’s more than Farabee and Frost. I think (German) Rubtsov had a tremendous prospect camp here. (Isaac) Ratcliffe is a quality young player. (Mikhail) Vorobyev is a young man that we feel is going to come back next year a little bit stronger,” he said. “There are several players down there that can play games.”
“That’s what training camp is for. It’s an opportunity for players to come in and show that they belong. It should be an exciting camp.”
It should definitely be an exciting camp with an intense competition between some talented players.
The Flyers have solidified their group of top-six forwards and most of their top-nine forwards. However, one spot could be up for grabs.
Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier, Travis Konecny, James van Riemsdyk, Kevin Hayes, Jake Voracek, Nolan Patrick and Oskar Lindblom are all top-nine — if not top-six — forwards. The names are in order of how the lineup could look for the Flyers to begin the season. A top line of Giroux – Couturier – Konecny, second line of JVR – Hayes – Voracek, and a third line with Lindblom and Patrick.
The Flyers still need a third-line winger and the lack of an early signing in free agency leaves the door open for an in-house option.
We’ll see if Frost, Farabee or Ratcliffe can follow in the footsteps of Konecny, who went straight to the NHL, or if a player with professional experience will grab the job. All we know for now is that the Flyers will have a wealth of options to choose from.