- Speaking to the media today, including Philly Hockey Now’s Sam Carchidi, Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher said that it was more likely the team would move down in the draft than move up. Fletcher added that he had been discussing the pick with other teams to gauge its value and would only move it for a player that could help the team win now and in the future. Assistant GM Brent Flahr, who also runs the team’s draft board, added that the team could simply move down in the draft depending on what happens, if they believe they can get the player they want later on. Philadelphia is in an interesting position with its pick, the fifth overall selection being a rather valuable pick that almost always fetches a highly-regarded prospect, but this year’s draft appears to have a fairly uniform top-three players in Shane Wright, Juraj Slafkovsky, and Logan Cooley, with the pool opening up a bit after.
- Ryan Ellis has played in just four games for the Philadelphia Flyers since they acquired him in the summer of 2021 and that total may not increase for a while. When speaking with media including Charlie O’Connor of The Athletic, general manager Chuck Fletcher explained that there is still plenty of work to do in Ellis’ rehab and would not confirm that the veteran defenseman will be ready for the start of the season. Ellis, who was acquired for Philippe Myers and Nolan Patrick, has five years remaining on his contract and carries a cap hit of $6.25MM.
The Vegas Golden Knights announced a series of coaching hires Tuesday night, adding John Stevens as their assistant coach, Sean Burke as their goalie coach and Director of Goaltending, and naming Mike Rosati as Manager of Goaltending Development and Scouting.
General manager Kelly McCrimmon gave the following statement on the hires:
John Stevens is a very respected NHL coach with an extensive resume that adds considerably to our staff. We are excited to add a two-time Stanley Cup winner with head coaching experience. Sean Burke is a great addition to the organization, with tremendous experience as an elite NHL goaltender and an accomplished coach and executive. We are pleased to keep Mike Rosati in an influential role across the organization. With those two and Henderson goaltending coach Fred Brathwaite, we have proven, qualified expertise at the goalie position.
While new head coach Bruce Cassidy won’t get to build the entire bench from scratch, he does get some fresh faces in here to join assistants Ryan Craig and Misha Donskov, who were retained in the wake of Peter DeBoer’s firing. Stevens comes in to replace both Steve Spott and Ryan McGill as an assistant, who were both fired days after DeBoer. Stevens has been an assistant for the Dallas Stars for the past three seasons, but most hockey fans will remember him as the head coach of the Philadelphia Flyers (2006-2009) and the Los Angeles Kings (2016-2018). In all, the 56-year-old Stevens has 15 years of NHL coaching experience.
Burke’s hiring isn’t huge news, as it was reported earlier in the week that Vegas would bring him on. Burke was not on an NHL staff during the 2021-22 season, but he spent seven years as the goalie coach of the Arizona Coyotes and a handful of months in 2021 as the goalie coach of the Montreal Canadiens. He replaces Rosati as the goalie coach, who moves to a more behind-the-scenes role in the organization.
The Philadelphia Flyers could be without Joel Farabee for the first part of the 2022-23 season after the young forward underwent successful disc replacement surgery in his cervical region this morning. The procedure was completed at Penn Medicine, and Farabee is expected to make a full recovery in three to four months.
Neck or spinal surgery is certainly not what Flyers fans want to hear about their young star, who struggled along with the rest of the roster this season. The 22-year-old forward had just 17 goals and 34 points in 63 games, numbers that didn’t even match his shortened 2020-21 sophomore campaign. Signed long-term to a contract that carries a $5MM cap hit, Farabee is meant to be one of the pillars that the Flyers build around moving forward.
A three-month timeline would allow him to be ready for the start of the regular season but obviously, that is still in jeopardy at this point. An injury like this is not something a player would want to rush back from, even if the team expects to try and contend for the Metropolitan Division playoff spots after a poor year.
With the team also looking to clear salary this summer by moving James van Riemsdyk, according to The Fourth Period, there could be quite a different look upfront to start the year. Those two finished fourth and fifth in team scoring during the 2021-22 campaign, just behind Claude Giroux, who is an unrestricted free agent after a deadline trade.
The Philadelphia Flyers have finished a bit of offseason work, signing Felix Sandstrom to a new two-year contract. The deal is two-way in 2022-23 and one-way in 2023-24, and includes an average annual value of $775K at the NHL level. The minor league netminder was set to become a Group VI unrestricted free agent this summer, had he not signed a new deal by July 13.
Perhaps it is unfair to call Sandstrom a minor league goalie now that he has made his NHL debut, entering five games for the Flyers this season. He, unfortunately, lost all five of those behind the struggling Flyers, but posted a reasonable .910 save percentage in the process and showed that he could be in contention for a backup role at some point in the near future.
That future could even come as soon as next season, depending on how things shake out this summer. Ivan Fedotov was recently signed out of the KHL but has no North American experience, and the team may want to go with a more veteran option given Carter Hart’s inconsistencies to this point. At very worst, Sandstrom is now an inexpensive depth option that has shown he can handle spot starts if necessary.
Notably, he is no longer waiver-exempt and will need to pass through them in order to be assigned to the minor leagues. That’s not something the team has dealt with previously, meaning if another club has their eyes on Sandstrom, he could be at risk if they want him in the AHL.
- Boston University forward and 2018 Philadelphia Flyers first-round pick Jay O’Brien recently underwent surgery on his hip, reports Mark Divver of NHL.com, but is expected to be ready for the start of the 2022-23 season. O’Brien’s case is an interesting one, yet to sign a professional contract, he has struggled at times since being drafted. As a freshman at Providence College, he recorded just five points in 25 games before leaving. He spent 2019-20 in the BCHL with the Penticton Vees where he was expectedly good, tallying 66 points in 46 games before a transfer to Boston University for the 2020-21 season. Over the past two seasons at Boston University, O’Brien has impressed with 38 points in 40 games. Although his future professional career still has promise, it will be up to O’Brien to recover strong from injury and impress once again in the NCAA in order to prove he belongs as one of the Flyers’ top prospects.
9:02 AM: The Flyers have officially announced the hiring of Tortorella, but did not confirm the financial terms. The Athletic’s Arthur Staple reports that the finalists for the job were Peter DeBoer and former New York Islanders head coach Jack Capuano.
4:25 PM: ESPN’s Kevin Weekes reports that Tortorella’s deal with the Flyers is a four-year, $4MM per year contract.
3:21 PM: After days of it seeming like an eventuality, John Tortorella is expected to officially be named the next head coach of the Philadelphia Flyers. The Athletic’s Charlie O’Connor reported this morning that final negotiations were underway and that an official announcement could come tomorrow, but The Fourth Period’s Anthony Di Marco now reports that an official announcement could come as soon as tonight and that the organization is “moving forward” with Tortorella as their new head coach.
We’ve gotten an unusually extensive amount of reporting on the Tortorella hiring process. It’s been known for a few days now that the team had zeroed in on Tortorella as a candidate and that the hiring was likely, but negotiations between the two sides had not been completed. Now, it seems like that process is done, although it’s unclear whether the terms of the deal will be made public.
Tortorella joins his fifth NHL team as a head coach and his fourth Eastern Conference team, with his one season spent in Vancouver as his lone Western Conference head coaching experience (2013-14). He ranks 13th all-time in games coached (1,383), 14th in wins (673), and has a 2004 Stanley Cup ring with the Tampa Bay Lightning to show for his illustrious career.
After his second gap year in the past decade, Tortorella returns to the NHL with the goal of quickly restoring a competitive team in Philadelphia. Whether that happens is a different story entirely. Of note, in his first entire season as coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2016-17, he took a team that had finished below the .500 mark the previous year to their only 100-point season in franchise history. However, that was a team spearheaded by a list of quality young players, most notably Zach Werenski and Seth Jones on defense, that the Flyers simply don’t have to offer. Nor do they have a goalie with the track record that Sergei Bobrovsky had at that point, who earned his second Vezina trophy that season with a .931 save percentage and 41-17-5 record.
While a healthy Sean Couturier and Ryan Ellis should give the Flyers a large boost next season, Tortorella will be tasked with the job of helping the team navigate their post-Claude Giroux era. He’ll be charged with restoring the ceilings of players like Travis Konecny and Oskar Lindblom up front and continuing the positive development of Joel Farabee. He’ll also need to institute a system that can help Ivan Provorov and Rasmus Ristolainen on the back end after some rough defensive seasons.
None of it will be an easy job in the Metropolitan Division. With the New York Rangers and Carolina Hurricanes poised to dominate again next season, they’ll also have the Blue Jackets and New Jersey Devils as on-the-rise teams to battle with.
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.
When ESPN’s Kevin Weekes broke the news late Tuesday night that the Philadelphia Flyers had offered their head coaching vacancy to John Tortorella, there were plenty of mixed reactions surrounding the team’s potential hire of the controversial coach. Those in opposition likely hoped that the final set of negotiations required to complete the deal would fall through, and the Flyers would go in another direction.
According to The Athletic’s Charlie O’Connor, those hopes are all but gone. O’Connor notes that the negotiations between the Flyers and Tortorella are indeed “in the final stages,” and that an official announcement on the hire is expected to come tomorrow. It will be extremely interesting to learn what the terms of Tortorella’s contract are (if they’re released), considering the Flyers are still on the hook for $5MM to Alain Vigneault through 2024.
- Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman notes on today’s 32 Thoughts podcast he believes that the Florida Panthers have been “talking to people” over the phone regarding their head coaching vacancy, and gauging their interest in the role. While it’s not a sure thing that they’ll move on from interim head coach Andrew Brunette, it shows that the team is at least interested in examining other options. It’s a bit surprising the team isn’t more committed to keeping Brunette around, especially considering how locked in the Edmonton Oilers are on extending Jay Woodcroft, who’s in a very similar situation to Brunette.
- During a radio appearance this morning, Colorado Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar noted that both Nazem Kadri and Andrew Cogliano have “gotten better,” saying that it’s a possibility at least one of them will return during the Stanley Cup Final. It’s a positive assessment, and while they are both still labeled as day-to-day, Kadri has yet to even practice while holding a stick after his thumb injury. Colorado will be watching their health closely, as they’re two incredibly important pieces to their forward depth that could help swing the series in their favor.
After John Tortorella and the Columbus Blue Jackets mutually parted ways after the 2020-21 season, it was unclear whether Tortorella would return to coaching in the NHL. The now 63-year-old coach had been in NHL roles for what seems like forever, getting his start as an assistant coach with the Buffalo Sabres in 1989. When he made the move to broadcasting, joining ESPN’s NHL coverage for the 2021-22 campaign, some had thought that signaled the end of his lengthy coaching career.
It now seems that Tortorella will be back in the fold next season. Tortorella reportedly interviewed with the Philadelphia Flyers for their head coaching vacancy in late May, and the fit between the coach’s infamous personality and the team’s historically aggressive identity seemed just too perfect. After a few weeks, the Flyers have zeroed in on Tortorella as their top finalist, with ESPN’s Kevin Weekes reporting late last night that the team had offered the position to Tortorella. He also noted that there were “more negotiations required for the deal to be completed,” which TSN’s Pierre LeBrun says will take place Thursday.
There’s some fair criticism of the Flyers for choosing an option with such an old-school approach in a league that’s evolving more every season. Tortorella went viral for some of his quips on ESPN this past season, including chastising Anaheim Ducks forward Trevor Zegras for his lacrosse pass to Sonny Milano for a goal early in the season and saying that Connor McDavid would have to change his game for the Edmonton Oilers to win in the playoffs, which didn’t age well. It’s fair to wonder if that’s the right voice in the room for the Flyers, who, as their core continues to age past its prime, need to focus on the development of their existing prospects in order to be competitive.
However, Tortorella does have a track record of success that’s impossible to ignore. His time with the Columbus Blue Jackets gives the most accurate picture of the coach the Flyers might get, and there are definitely some good takeaways there. Aside from guiding the team to their first playoff series win in franchise history (against a historically great Tampa Bay Lightning squad), he showed an ability to cool his temper and adapt that he hasn’t shown in past jobs. However, he did have some pretty notable rifts with younger players, especially Pierre-Luc Dubois. The Flyers can ill-afford to botch prospect development at this point.
If Tortorella does complete negotiations with the Flyers and takes the job, he’ll be one of the most interesting stories to watch in the NHL for the 2022-23 season.