Free agency is now less than a month away and many teams are already looking ahead to when it opens up. There will be several prominent players set to hit the open market in mid-July while many teams have key restricted free agents to re-sign as well. Next up is a look at the Flyers.
Key Restricted Free Agents
F Morgan Frost — Frost, 23, has had high expectations placed on him since he was drafted 27th overall at the 2017 draft. Frost was a prolific scorer at the junior level, notching over 100 points in his final two seasons for the Soo Greyhounds of the OHL. In Frost’s first professional season he flashed that scoring talent as well, potting 13 goals and 29 points in 41 games. Frost also got into 20 NHL games, and posted a respectable seven points, although he did at times struggle with the pace and physicality of the NHL game. A dislocated shoulder cost Frost almost all of the 2020-21 season, and this past season was one that wasn’t the clear developmental step forward that many hoped it’d be. Sure, he scored well at the AHL level, with 19 points in 24 games, but he was shuttled between the NHL and AHL level multiple times before settling in and getting into a total of 55 games for the Flyers. He finished with 16 points in 55 games at the NHL level, including four in his last five games, and at times flashed the offensive upside that made him such a tantalizing prospect in the first place. His two-way game is still a work in progress, though, and it remains to be seen if Frost can truly stick down the middle long-term at the NHL level. His overall upside is still very much a mystery, and as a result, his next contract is complicated. If the Flyers remain major believers in his upside, he could always ink a long-term deal, but that seems highly unlikely, especially since he was not a draft pick of GM Chuck Fletcher. A one or two-year bridge contract seems most likely.
F Owen Tippett — Tippett, in some ways, is a lot like Frost. He’s also a 2017 first-rounder who has yet to establish himself as a full-time NHL-er but has also flashed the potential that got him drafted so high in the first place. Tippett came to Philadelphia as part of the Claude Giroux trade, and in his stretch as a Flyer (often playing on a line with Frost) Tippett had the up-and-down play that one would expect out of a highly skilled but also flawed young player. Tippett finished with seven points in 21 games, and also had 18 points in 14 games at the AHL level, a more clear reminder of the offensive talent he possesses. Like Frost, a short-term bridge makes the most sense for Tippett, who should come in at around a $1MM cap hit, if not lower.
F Zack MacEwen — MacEwen was claimed off of waivers from the Vancouver Canucks at the start of the 2021-22 season, and was one of only seven Flyers to reach the 75 games played mark. MacEwen, 25, is a hard-nosed grinder whose NHL minutes come thanks to his physicality and relentless motor. MacEwen isn’t much of an offensive producer — he had only nine points in 75 games in 2021-22 and has 18 points in his 130 career NHL games — but he plays a role many coaches still want in their lineup and does so at a cheap price. MacEwen played on an $825k cap hit this year and as he’s an arbitration-eligible restricted free agent, expect a small raise from that number to reward his hard work and availability.
Key Unrestricted Free Agents
F Nate Thompson — It’s been clear what Nate Thompson can bring at the NHL level for many years now. The 37-year-old center has been a bottom-six staple for nine NHL teams since making his debut in 2006-07. Thompson plays around 10-12 minutes per night, helps a second penalty-killing unit, and wins over half his draws. Thompson may not have a ton of gas left in his tank as he gets deeper into his late thirties, but if he still wants to play it’s easy to imagine him finding another suitor for the well-defined package of skills he brings. He clearly has an affinity for Philadelphia as well, as he signed up to return to the organization as a free agent after a year in Winnipeg, having first joined the Flyers as part of a 2020 trade with the Montreal Canadiens. It remains to be seen if the team’s expected next head coach, John Tortorella, will want Fletcher to retain his services, but if he does then Thompson could probably be had for around the $800k cap hit he played on this past season.
D Keith Yandle — Yandle was the subject of some controversy this season, as the Flyers snapped an “iron man” streak of consecutive games played that had lasted since 2009. Yandle is a well-liked locker room voice and a highly respected veteran, although his play on the ice has slipped considerably. After being bought out of his massive seven-year, $44.45MM deal, Yandle signed a one-year, $900k deal with the Flyers. He provided his trademark offense, albeit to a decreased degree, notching 19 points in 77 games. He also showed the defensive deficiencies that have plagued his game for years, deficiencies that have become even more pronounced as he’s aged. While Yandle is a player deserving of the utmost amount of respect for the career he’s had so far, it’s difficult to imagine a return to Philadelphia is in the cards for him. But given all that he’s put forth to date, he should probably be able to catch on somewhere this summer with a chance to make a team at a training camp next fall.
G Martin Jones – Like Yandle, Jones joined the Flyers after an offseason buyout forced an exit from his previous team. Unlike Yandle, though, Jones’ 2022 season was a quiet one. He got into 35 games and posted a .900 save percentage, a performance that isn’t anything to write home about. That production is made more palatable, though, by the fact that he was playing behind one of the NHL’s worst teams. The Flyers were a mess last season, and Martin Jones was far down on the list of their biggest issues. Jones is a veteran of nearly 400 NHL games and has flashed brilliance in the past, like when he led the San Jose Sharks on a run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2015-16. He’s a backup goalie who has in the past shown an ability to handle starter-level workloads, so another contract around the $2MM he earned this year, if not a touch lower, seems fair.
Projected Cap Space
The Flyers enter an offseason where getting the team on track after two hugely disappointing years is a number-one priority. They have just over $5MM in cap space at the moment and their pending restricted free agents figure to occupy a small chunk of that. The real “X-factor” for this Flyers’ offseason, from a cap perspective, comes from whatever they choose to do with some of their highly-paid veterans. Defensemen Ivan Provorov and Travis Sanheim, making $6.75MM and $4.675MM against the cap, respectively, have each been the subject of trade rumors, as has winger James Van Riemsdyk, who is entering the final year of his $7MM-AAV deal. If the Flyers want space to aggressively upgrade their roster next month, they’ll likely have to move one of their major contracts.
Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images. Contract information courtesy of CapFriendly.