Free agency is here and for the first time in what feels like forever, the Philadelphia Flyers have plenty of cap space to work with. Ron Hextall has set up for these next few offseasons to be his time to shine.
The free agent class, headlined by John Tavares, isn’t a fantastic one, but there are several players worth taking a look at.
John Tavares opted to not choose the Flyers as one of his finalists, despite Hextall wanting in on the top free agent, leaving the Flyers looking elsewhere. There are still talented players in the class, especially ones that can fit some of the Flyers’ needs.
Hextall wants to add a top forward as well as a veteran defenseman. There are quite a few of those available come July 1st.
Using TSN Hockey’s Top UFA List, here’s 10 of the top 20 free agents that the Flyers could target.
James van Riemsdyk (Left Winger, #2 on TSN’s list)
The Flyers could be interested in bringing back the 2nd overall pick from the 2007 draft. He might be one of the most sought after wingers in free agency, but he hasn’t been deeply linked to any teams as of yet. He could come with too high of a price tag for the Flyers, but the two sides could come to an agreement that works for both sides.
The 29-year old winger scored a career-high 36 goals last season and has been on pace for at least 27 goals in each of the past five seasons. He could slot in for the Flyers as a top-six winger and help out on the power play as well.
Paul Stastny (Center, #3 on TSN)
All eyes are on the John Tavares sweepstakes, including Paul Stastny’s. Stastny is likely waiting for Tavares’ decision to come out before picking his new home. He will be the consolation prize for one of the teams that missed out on Tavares, and the Flyers could be that team.
Stastny is a good two-way center, but his best years are behind him at 32 years old. He had 53 points across 82 games with St. Louis and Winnipeg last season, and only averaged 45 points in 68 games per season from 2014 to 2017. He would be a huge upgrade over Valtteri Filppula as a middle-six center.
Tyler Bozak (Center, #6 on TSN)
A few steps down from Tavares is Stastny, and a few steps down from that is Tyler Bozak. Bozak would strictly be a third-line center, but at least he could be a good third-line center.
Bozak would fit in the “Filppula role” of the past season and a half. He’s a veteran center (32 years old) that can play good two-way hockey. He is what some people hoped Filppula would be.
With the free agent class being so thin, I could see Bozak getting overpaid somewhere. If he isn’t, the Flyers could be in on him. Bozak at a decent cap hit for two years, maybe three, could entice the Flyers. But that doesn’t seem likely either.
David Perron (Right Winger, #7 on TSN)
Another free agent that falls under the “top forward” umbrella that Hextall might be looking at is David Perron.
Perron is coming off a career-high 50 assists and 66 points with the Vegas Golden Knights, and it doesn’t look like he’ll be returning to the Sin City. He is a bit older at 30 years old and could get paid based off last season rather than his previous few, however.
Prior to last year, Perron had 46 and 36 points in 2017-18 and 2016-17 respectively. He’s not the flashiest winger, but he could be an option to fill in the Flyers’ middle-six.
Calvin de Haan (Defenseman, #8 on TSN)
Now we’re beginning to get into the players that fit the Flyers’ goals a bit more: centers and defensemen at a reasonable price.
Hextall has said that he wants to acquire a right-handed defenseman this offseason, but the market for them is pretty slim, especially with Mike Green re-signing in Detroit, so he could settle for a lefty. If he does, Calvin de Haan is one of the best in the bunch.
De Haan would be quite the upgrade over Brandon Manning, who he would essentially be replacing as one of the Flyers’ veteran defenseman. The career-Islander could give you flashbacks to Andrew MacDonald, but he shouldn’t. The 27-year old defenseman is a good middle-pair defenseman that could mesh well with a younger guy.
Ron Hextall wants to upgrade the defense and de Haan should be on their radar in terms of free agents.
Ian Cole (Defenseman, #10 on TSN)
A little bit further under the radar is Ian Cole. The veteran defenseman is the type of shutdown defenseman that some teams seem to overvalue. He blocks shots, is physical, and kills penalties. The Flyers might want a guy like that to replace Brandon Manning and supplement Radko Gudas as a “physical” defenseman.
Riley Nash (Center, #15 on TSN)
In that sweet spot below the “top” centers and the bottom of the barrel is Riley Nash.
Nash is coming off of the best season of his career with 41 points (15 goals, 26 assists) as a Bruin, and could be looking to cash in. In fact, he had nearly one-third of his career points (41 of 139) last season. He had 17 points in 81 games in 2015-16, and in the mid-to-low 20s in the previous three seasons.
The 29-year old center would be another bottom-six center option for the Flyers. He showed he can step up when he filled in for a few injured Bruins, which is a plus.
Derek Ryan (Center, #16 on TSN)
Right there with Nash is Derek Ryan. The 31-year old finally broke into the NHL full-time in 2016-17 after a short career overseas, and he has been solid as a depth center in the past two seasons.
Ryan had 38 points (15 goals, 23 assists) in 80 games last season, and combined for 67 points in 147 games over the past two years. He’s going to want to cash in during what could be his only chance in his career.
Ryan has good possession numbers and the scoring to go with it. The Flyers might get outbid, but they should be interested in the depth centerman.
Anthony Duclair (Left Wing, #18 on TSN)
Anthony Duclair will be looking for his fifth team in his five-year career. The young winger broke onto the scene with a 20-goal year in his rookie year with the Rangers, but has fallen off since. He wasn’t qualified as a RFA by the Blackhawks, making him an intriguing free agent option.
Duclair is the type of player that would be perfect to take a flier on. He has shown that he can score at the NHL level, but he needs the right fit. At 22-years old he is young enough to find that again and his best years should be ahead of him.
Hextall could take a chance on Duclair as a bottom-six winger with a chance to grow.
Michael Grabner (Right Wing, #19 on TSN)
Michael Grabner seems like a great fit for the Flyers. He is a speedy winger with a knack for killing penalties and scoring goals. He scored 27 goals in each of the past two seasons, though his assist totals (13 and 9 respectively) aren’t as pretty.
Grabner went from New York to New Jersey during the season last year, and he could keep moving on down to Philadelphia. He doesn’t have the best possession numbers, but his penalty-killing ability and speed is very enticing.
If the Flyers want to sign a depth winger that can help fill in some of their gaps, Grabner could be their guy.
The Flyers have plenty of cap room and should use it, whether it be in free agency or via a trade. If they look to sign one of the “top” free agents, these 10 could fit the bill.
Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images
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