Chuck Fletcher and the Philadelphia Flyers project to be in an odd position come July 1, here are some options that may help change the Broad Street Bullies for the better.
As of January 23 2019, the Philadelphia Flyers sit twenty-eighth of thirty-first in league standings with a minus-thirty goal differential. This is (obviously) very poor and is widely credited to the Flyers’ carousel of below-average goal-tending, which will be reviewed first.
Goaltending (5GP or More)
Carter Hart (20 Y/O, 12GP-6W-2.66GAA-.918SV%, 3YL@$863K)
Entering this season, Carter Hart was ‘hyped’ up and was pressured early as he struggled out of the gate. However, as the season progressed, Hart improved and earned an NHL call up, which he took advantage of as he quickly became the Philadelphia Flyers best goaltender. Hart is the undisputed future in-goal. (Hopefully a stud for many years to come)
Brian Elliott (33 Y/O, 14GP-6W-2.59GAA-.911SV%, 1YL@$2.75million)
Elliot was the clear-cut starter when signed, injuries have affected the Philadelphia Flyers more than Elliot himself. It seems unlikely that re-signs with the Flyers. (Likely gone July 1)
Anthony Stolarz (25 Y/O, 9GP-2W-3.90GAA-.880SV%, 1YL@$761K)
Stolarz definitely has potential, but at 25 yeas old, the time to prove his NHL capability is quickly running out. Injuries greatly affected Stolarz during the 2017-18 season, which lowered him to the ECHL’s Reading Royals. It seems unclear if Chuck Fletcher will re-sign or even qualify Stolarz at this point. (Future uncertain)
Michal Neuvirth (30 Y/O, 7GP-1W-4.26GAA-.859SV%, 1YL@$2.5million)
Unfortunately, Neuvirth is the focus of a sad, fall-from-grace story. From being a successful backup to Semyon Varlamov on the stacked 2009 onward Washington Capitals to struggling to put up poor NHL numbers within a matter of 5 years. Neuvirth now has to focus on rehabbing his career, which he is very unlikely to do in Philadelphia. (Likely gone July 1)
Forwards (10GP or More)
C Jori Lehtera (31 Y/O, 27GP-1G-2A, 1YL@$4.7million)
Lehtera was a cap dump in the Brayden Schenn deal. Advertised as a good PK specialist, Lehtera has not been stellar in any aspects of the game, and in wake of some personal issues, it seems unlikely that Lehtera will be playing hockey in North America next year.
RW Wayne Simmonds (30 Y/O, 48GP-15G-8A, 1YL@$3.975million)
A long time Flyer whom was part of the Mike Richards trade, Simmonds will likely be moved at the trade deadline for size-able assets. Don’t expect him to sign with the Philadelphia Flyers come July 1.
LW Michael Raffl (30 Y/O, 34GP-3G-5A, 1YL@$2.35million)
Raffl, apart from a 21 goal season in 2014-15 and a 31 point season in 2015-16, has been an ‘fine’ player, never exactly great but never awful, He could go for a later pick at the deadline. Don’t expect him to re-up with the Philadelphia Flyers this off-season.
C Scott Laughton (24 Y/O, 48GP-7G-12A, 1YL@$962K)
A former first round pick, Laughton has been a solid young bottom six forward. However, Laughton racks up penalty minutes but is solid in the face-off dot. I expect the Philadelphia Flyers to qualify and sign Laughton.
RW Travis Konecny (21 Y/O, 48GP-12G-14A, 1YL@$894K)
Konecny must be signed. I repeat, KONECNY MUST BE SIGNED!! A former first round pick, Konecny put up fantastic numbers last season, totaling 24G and 47P in 81GP. Konecny can play centre and is a good all-around player, has an excellent shot and good hands. A big part of the Philadelphia Flyers future, expect a long-term deal.
Defense (10GP or More)
Ivan Provorov (22 Y/O, 48GP-4G-13A, 1YL@$894K)
A top ten pick in 2015, Provorov is the back-bone of the Philadelphia Flyers defense and will be their number 1 defenseman for many years to come. Fully expect a long-term contract.
Travis Sanheim (22 Y/O, 48GP-4G-11A, 1YL@$863K)
Yet another first round pick, Sanheim has top 4 potential and projects to be a solid defenseman. A long-term deal is unlikely, expect a bit more of a ‘show me’ deal, 2-3 years.
Christian Folin (27 Y/O, 23GP-0G-1A, 1YL@$800K)
A young-ish defenseman, Folin is okay, but not excellent in any areas of the ice. Expect Folin to find another team on a cheap deal come this offseason.
With both Brian Elliot and Michal Neuvirth likely out the door come July, finding a goaltender to split games with Carter Hart may be harder to find or convince to come to Philly (it’s true!). The Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) has a fantastic crop of both young and experienced goaltenders, of which some may be willing to make the jump to North America.
Jakub Kovar (30 Y/O, 41GP-34W-1.66GAA-.944SV%,1YL)
A former fourth round pick of the Flyers in 2006, Czech Republic native Jakub Kovar is in his sixth KHL season and putting up fantastic numbers. Always a top-half, and more recently top 10, goaltender in the league Kovar seems to be solid bet for $2 million, which was around what former top KHL goalie Mikko Koskinen took from the Oilers this past offseason.
Ivan Bocharov (23 Y/O, 33GP-15W 1.89GAA-.934SV%,1YL)
A young, undrafted goaltender, Bocharov poses more risk for the Flyers considering he is only in his second KHL season. However, Bocharov is putting up top 10 goalie stats on one of the worst KHL teams right now. Bocharov is unlikely to come over, however the NHL must be an enticing option for the young back-stopper.
Ilya Konovalov (20Y/O ,38GP21W1.81GAA-.932SV%)
Playing and dominating in only his second KHL season, Ilya Konovalov is ranked number 5 in terms of European Goaltenders by NHL Central Scouting. With 5 KHL Rookie of the Week awards, 1 KHL Rookie of the Month award, and 1 KHL Goaltender of the Week award, Konovalov is already very accomplished at just 20 years old. Look for him to be relatively high draft choice, has potential to be a steal.
The Flyers defense is far, far, so far from good at the moment and needs to be addressed in both the draft and free agency. Apart from Gostisbehere, Provorov, and Sanheim, the entire defense needs to be changed. A $5million Andrew MacDonald should not be playing as much as he has been and Radko Gudas seems to be valued by other teams and should be traded for as much as possible, as soon as possible. Robert Hagg is fine, but certainly is not used properly in his current role, the same goes for Samuel Morin. Once again, we turn to the KHL for potentially positive options.
Matthew Maione (28 Y/O, 47GP-10G-28A, 1YL)
Known now for his cover of the Lumineer’s ‘Ho Hey’ at the 2019 KHL All-Star game, the second-highest scoring Dman in the KHL this season appears to have been under-utilized as a dominant ECHL producer in recent years. Maione left the ECHL’s Wheeling Nailers in 2016 for HC Banska Bystrica of Slovakia, for whom he put up 57P in 55GP. He then signed with KalPa of the Finnish-Liiga for the 2017-18 season and was an effective producer. Both productive seasons in Europe contributed to a 1 year contract offer from Dinamo Riga of the KHL. A fantastic story could be capped off with an NHL contract.
Adam Polasek (27 Y/O, 50GP-7G-17A, 1YL)
A former fifth-round pick of the Vancouver Canucks, Polasek is a good producer at the KHL level, being top ten in points among defensemen. Polasek is often a minus player, which leaves the impression of poor defense until the realization that he is playing on one of the worst KHL teams this season.
With the likely losses of Simmonds, Lehtera, and Raffl, the Flyers are in need of some extra depth scoring, and some major defensive support from the forward group. Some KHL options are certainly enticing.
Dimitri Kagarlitsky (29 Y/O, 52GP-21G-32A, 1YL)
A consistent producer, Kagarlitsky could prove to be a valuable NHL player if he makes the jump. More of a playmaker, Kagarlitsky could easily fill and improve on the role that Michael Raffl played in Philly. However, he is on the older side and may choose prime time minutes in the KHL over a few potentially good bottom-six seasons in the NHL.
Sakari Manninen (26 Y/O, 51GP-17G-26A, 1YL)
A long time producer in Liiga, 26-year-old Manninen is short and speedy and is producing well his first season in the KHL. Manninen can play centre as well, and may prove to be a worthwhile pick up, as he doesn’t take many penalties and is often a plus player.
Pavel Datsyuk (40 Y/O, 44GP-9G-25A, 1YL)
Yeah right, lol, I doubt it. NEXT!!!
Mikhail Grigorenko (24 Y/O,46GP14G27A,2YL)
The only player without an expiring contract on this list, former 12th overall pick of the Buffalo Sabres, Mikhail Grigorenko was met with much hype when he entered the NHL at the age of 18. Unfortunately, Mikhail Grigorenko seemed to have been rushed to the NHL as he was not able to produce consistently or effectively until he was traded to the Colorado avalanche in 2015. Even then, a career-high 27 points is not exactly stellar. However, Grigorenko is currently one of the best producers in the KHL and is only 24, which may warrant a serious look when 2020 free agency comes around.
Overall, there are some intriguing options out there for all positions, all of which (if everything pans out) are mutually beneficial to the players and the Flyers. Exploring the KHL to fill holes should become commonplace in today’s NHL, hopefully the players showcased in this article showed you why.
stats from NHL.com, hockey-reference.com, eliteprospects.com, en.khl.ru
salary research from capfriendly.com
featured image photo credit – Nikos Michals