Who Stays/Who Goes, and What Enticing Free Agents Might the Flyers Look to Add this Off Season?

Photograph courtesy of Comcast Spectacor

Let us now take a look at what the team should do with the players who have expiring contracts and whom they might replace them with if they choose not to re-sign them.

To make things easier, I will break them down into positions. First up, we will take a look at what the team has offensively.

On the front lines, the Flyers look pretty set since most of the players will be returning next season to play out the remainder of their contracts. And to add to that, Briere has already shown that he wishes to be proactive instead of reactive in nature (like past administrations) by getting a jump on things given his recent re-signing Owen Tippett, who was due to be a restricted free agent this summer to a new eight-year deal worth over $49 million. They also decided to bring back center Ryan Poehling for an additional two seasons to the tune of $1.9 Million a season.

In addition to these NHL re-signings, Danny also chose to sign a 25-year-old 6’4 220-pound winger named Oscar Eklind out of the SHL to a one-year prove-it type deal. Eklind is a fast-moving power forward who was able to score 17 goals this season for the Lulea HF and should pose a real threat to take someone’s spot on the Flyers out of camp.

Also, management has inked their recent NCAA National Champion-winning prospect, center Massimo Rizzo, to a two-year entry-level contract. Rizzo, of course, played for the University of Denver this past season, scoring 34 points in 30 regular season games played for the Pioneers.

Thus leaving the soon-to-be 23-year-old restricted free agent Bobby Brink as the only piece offensively to have to re-sign this off-season. However, even though re-signing him should come easy, seeing that he is a (RFA) restricted free agent. He could prove to be a viable trade chip if the Flyers wished to package him up in a deal in an effort to move up in the draft, considering he showed some real promise in his first entire season with the team, where he was able to score 11 goals, and 12 assists for 23 points in 57 games played.

But this does not mean the team should not seek help offensively come July 1st, for they have a bunch of forwards with expiring contracts next season that include unrestricted ones like Cam Atkinson, Travis Konecny, and Garnet Hathaway. Not to mention restricted ones like Noah Cates, Morgan Frost, and Tyson Foerster.

So, although signing a potential free agent right now would make it a little crowded, my thought process would be to try and cut some dead weight and save some money at the same time. A way to do that would be to buy out 34-year-old Cam Atkinson this summer, whose point totals took a drastic nosedive this past season. This move would save the Flyers a total of $3,516,666 next season but force them to have to pay $1,758,334 the following season as well as in the form of a cap penalty.

Yakov Trenin

With this move, though, the Flyers could look to sign a guy like UFA forward Yakov Trenin. Trenin is a 27-year-old 6’2 201 pound human wrecking ball. Throughout his time in Nashville and even now with Colorado, his unrelenting, aggressive play style has allowed him to move up and down the lineup when needed, mainly when injuries occur.

He can play center as well as wing and is known around the league to be a very high-energy guy. And while he may not be the most talented player out on the ice, he is one to watch still as he is a guy that will undoubtedly outwork you!

For example, Yakov is a 200ft player who lives to deliver massive mind-erasing hits to unsuspecting players on the opposition who are taking their time gathering the puck out of the boards in both their defensive and offensive zones. Not to mention, Trenin has the admirable trait of being willing to stand up for his teammates. Fearless in his approach, Yakov is but one of few players who have been crazy enough to drop the gloves on more than one occasion with the “Nephilim-like” Zdeno Chara.

But beyond all that, the one thing that should make Trenin a definite target over others this off-season is the fact that he is Russian and could help ease the transition for Philly’s star prospect Matvei Michkov, who the team have hinted at the possibility of maybe being able to break free from his contract in the KHL so can join the team as early as this upcoming season.

Now, Yakov is coming off a deal that paid him $1.7 million a season and is rumored to be looking to get a much-deserved raise. But the Flyers may not have to pony up more than you think to acquire his services this off-season. Because Trenin was traded to Colorado and the Avalanche are stacked and therefore only using him to center their fourth line. Not to mention the fact that this off-season, Colorado is set to lose more than half of their offense as well as their defense to free agency, which includes names like Casey Mittelstadt, Jonathan Drouin, and ex-Flyer Sean Walker, whom all they will have to pay dearly for.

So, in my mind, Yakov could bring the Flyers more bang for the buck than he could Colorado. Besides, this underrated player seems like he would not only be a fan favorite here in the City of Brotherly Love but also appear as he would flourish in Tortorella’s system. To the point that I would expect him to reach a new career high in goals under John’s tutelage. (NOTE: his previous career high in goals is 17).

Moving on to defense, we can now begin to see some holes appear as the team has multiple veteran UFA defenders, such as 36-year-old Erik Johnson and 37-year-old Marc Staal, to make decisions on.

In my mind, it should have been to the point that they both should have been told at the team’s exit interviews. Thanks for what you did for the team this season, but we will no longer need your services moving forward.

This in no way is to say that they did not play a role. Both players brought an extensive amount of knowledge and experience to a very youthful defensive core. Still, with that being said, the team would benefit from an upgrade in that area. However, I don’t see the need for multiple veterans to offer their guidance to their youth. Thus, potentially providing a roster spot for one of their impressive blueliners in their system to make the big clubs’ opening night roster next season: Yegor Zamula, Ronnie Attard, Emil Andrae, Adam Ginning, Helge Grans, and/or Oliver Bonk will all prove to be options who could fight for this spot.

So, which veteran blueliner should Philadelphia look to sign this offseason, you might be asking?

Jani Hakanpaa

Well, if I had my choice, it would be Dallas’ towering 6’7, 225-pound defender who goes by the name Jani Hakanpaa. Jani is 32 years old and is set to be an unrestricted free agent after the season.

Now, while his statistics of two goals and ten assists for twelve points this season may not blow you away. His defensive prowess should. Hakanpaa is a force that is not to be messed with in his own zone.

Whether it’s clearing his goalie’s porch, laying a huge hit to regain puck possession, or standing up for teammates after the opposition has laid a dirty hit, Jani can do it all with punishing force.

And, while he may not be known for his offensive skill set, it should be known that in due-or-die situations when his team is down, Hakanpaa has proven to let one rip right past the goalie from atop the point.

So, I think the Flyers would be crazy not try to offer the league’s most underrated defenseman, (who is currently playing over twenty minutes a game for the Stars right now in the playoffs), a contract come July 1st. Especially since he has never been paid over $1.5 million a season in his entire career and has gained more playoff experience than most of the players combined currently on the Flyers roster throughout just the last three seasons.


For the first time in my life, I feel confident enough to say that there is depth between the pipes in Philadelphia!

This, of course, comes as much more of a surprise given the fact that the Flyers lost Carter Hart to legal troubles mid-season.

So, it should go without saying that the team should look to let Hart’s expiring contract go to the wayside, given the fact that they will still have Samuel Ersson playing on his rookie deal and just re-signed the long-awaited “Russian Bear” Ivan Fedotov to a new two-year deal that will pay him $3.275 million a season.

With that being said, the team should let their 27-year-old pending UFA goalie Felix Sandstrom walk as well, seeing that he has been with the team for parts of four seasons and has yet to impress.

Still, if the Flyers wanted some short-term reassurance given the fact that Ivan’s stats this season upon joining the club late in the year were as follows: a 4.95 goals-against-average (G.A.A.) and a .811 save percentage (SV%). It might make sense to give Fedotov just a little more time to get used to playing on the smaller ice surface.

Scott Wedgewood

So if they felt such a need I guess I would suggest taking a look into what it would cost them to sign a player like Scott Wedgewood. Scott is a 31-year-old netminder who you may remember from his days playing for a struggling New Jersey team, but for me, it is the body of work he has been able to put up while in Texas that should have grabbed the Flyers’ attention.

For example, over the last three seasons playing as a backup in Dallas and making just one million dollars, Wedgewood has been able to average a 2.83 G.A.A. and a .907 SV%. And, if those stat lines weren’t impressive enough, you’d be surprised to find out that he was able to tally 16 regular season wins this season.

But I would not want the team to offer him anything longer than a one-year deal, given that they have the likes of goalies Alexei Kolosov, Carson Bjarnason, and Yegor Zavragin all developing at a pretty fast pace in their system as we speak.

And, if the Flyers are capable of pulling off these simple acquisitions I listed above, I think that they would be in a much better position to start next season than they were this past September.

*As always, let me know what you think*

Lance Green

I’m a lifelong Flyers fan who has been playing the sport of Ice Hockey we all know and love competitively for over 30 years now. I grew up playing in-between the pipes where I was able to take in the whole game and analysis just what the team needed to do to help us win. Over the years I always enjoyed reading and gaining as much knowledge as possible about this great sport, but always thought it lacked something. A players prospective!