The Philadelphia Flyers haven’t seen the second round of the post-season since 2012, and in those 5 seasons since, missed the show entirely 3 times. For a team that spends as much on offense as the Flyers, their production has been incredibly mediocre. Many point to the seemingly never-ending goaltending carousel as the root cause of the team’s woes, and they wouldn’t be entirely incorrect. That said, over the last four seasons, their goals for per 60 minutes (GF60) is good for only 25th league-wide. That puts them above only the Vancouver Canucks, Carolina Hurricanes, Arizona Coyotes, New Jersey Devils, and Buffalo Sabres in that timeframe. In short, their offense has been remarkably underwhelming for years. And yet, the team is allocating $47.32 MM of its available $75 MM to its forward group in 2017-18, with most of that money tied up in only a handful of skaters. For comparison’s sake, that’s more than $5 MM more than their divisional rivals in Pittsburgh or Washington.
Leading the pack in terms of bloated contracts are the team’s captain Claude Giroux and last season’s team-points-leader Jakub Voracek. Neither player is detrimental to the cause – they both have tallied multiple 50+ point seasons with relative consistency. That said, their contracts are some of the most exorbitant in the league. Giroux’s $8.275 MM AAV for the next 5 seasons puts him in an elite group of forwards. So does Voracek’s $8.25 MM for the next 7 seasons. This places them 12th and 13th respectively among the highest paid players league-wide for the 2017-18 season. Giroux’s career PPG is .87, while Voracek’s is a measly .71. Excluding defensemen P.K. Subban and goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, these stats simply don’t match up to the rest of the “elite” group. Jonathan Toews’ and Anze Kopitar both also account for around .87 PPG, but unarguably do far more on the defensive side of the puck than the simply capable Giroux. One of these bloated contracts alone would be a hindrance; two on the same roster is nearly insurmountable.
Further down the roster, you see other albatross contracts. Valtteri Filppula was acquired by the Flyers to shore up the center position and increase playmaking ability. He only scored 8 points through 20 games in Philadelphia. Thankfully for the Flyers, his $5 MM contract expires at the end of 2017-18. Jori Lehtera was acquired this off-season in a bizarre move for Brayden Schenn, who arguably saw a great deal of improvement last season. Lehtera has only two seasons remaining at $4.7 MM, but his only effective (44 points) season is two years in the past. He scored only 7 goals all last season. Then there’s Sean Couturier, who while not a total dud, has failed to progress the way the organization hoped when they drafted him with the 8th overall in 2011 acquired as part of the Jeff Carter transaction. He provides solid defensive play, but he has never broken 40 points, and seemingly regressed last season, falling out of Selke conversations. He has 5 seasons remaining at a moderate $4.33 MM AAV. Wayne Simmonds (the one true bargain on the team) and Matt Read both make over $3 MM, while Dale Weise and Michael Raffl both draw over $2 MM. For a team that truly struggles to put the puck in the net, a lot of money is being spent on marginal players.
Ultimately, the Flyers are in a difficult spot playing in the Metropolitan Division. With the high-flying, offensively-dynamic Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins competing for playoff positioning, the inclination to try and duplicate those franchises is only natural. The team did luck into a dynamic, potentially franchise, talent in Nolan Patrick, which may help alleviate some of the problems with consistent offensive production. That said, if the Flyers continue to struggle this season, look for some of the offensive big guns to find themselves on the trading block. Excluding the one year of Filppula and the incredibly valuable Simmonds, only Giroux has any sort of no-movement clause. With Ivan Provorov and Shayne Gostisbehere looking to be core pieces on the back-end for many years, the day may soon come where an offensive overhaul visits Philadelphia. GM Ron Hextall will have money moving out in the next few seasons, but he undoubtedly has decisions to make going forward, particularly if this season again falls short of a playoff appearance.