October 09, 2020
At noon on Friday, NHL free agency officially got underway. And while it was expected to move at a somewhat slower pace in their odd offseason, taking place at the same time a new season is typically getting underway, there have already been a flurry of moves made in the early going, perhaps a sign that it's going to be as active a market as ever.
The Flyers have decisions to make, as do the 30 other teams around the league, and we'll keep you updated daily on the latest news and rumors surrounding the Orange and Black in our daily free agency tracker. But on the heels of this week's NHL draft, there's been little time to prepare for free agency or to recap (and grade) the picks GM Chuck Fletcher made on Tuesday and Wednesday. So we'll attempt to do both right here in a Friday edition of What They're Saying about the Flyers.
We'll get started with some free agency chatter before diving into a closer examination of the Flyers' draft haul. Let's do this...
Earlier this week, the Flyers lost veteran defenseman Matt Niskanen to retirement. And while they resigned Justin Braun (at a reduced rate) to keep a veteran presence along the blue line, they could be looking to bring in another defenseman to pair with some of their younger players.
Over at Inquirer.com, Flyers beat writer Sam Carchidi took a look at some names who should be options for Fletcher and Co. now that free agency has kicked off.
There are many interesting defensemen who will be unrestricted free agents Friday, topped by St. Louis' Alex Pietrangelo, 30, a righthanded shooter who would give the Flyers one of the NHL’s best No. 1 pairings if he joined Ivan Provorov.
But Pietrangelo, who had a $6.5 million cap hit last season, may be too costly for the Flyers. With commitments to 18 players expected to be on the team, they have about $8.7 million in cap space and still must sign restricted free agents Patrick and Myers, who were given qualifying offers.
The list of free-agent defensemen who will be less costly than Pietrangelo includes Tyson Barrie, Torey Krug, T.J. Brodie, Justin Schultz, Kevin Shattenkirk, and Radko Gudas.
Shattenkirk, 31, who was teammates with Kevin Hayes with the Rangers, would be a nice fit. He is still productive, righthanded, and he would bring a winning pedigree, like Niskanen did. Shattenkirk had two game-winning goals against Dallas to help Tampa Bay win the Stanley Cup last month. [inquirer.com]
Over at Broad Street Hockey, Ryan Quigley took a look at five players who make sense for the Flyers — some of whom also appear in Carchidi's article. One name that didn't make Carchidi's list but has generated a lot of buzz this week despite his age is Mikko Koivu.
He's certainly not the player he once was, but he would certainly make for an interesting fourth-line center in Philly...
Mikko Koivu, 37
2019-20 cap hit: $5,500,000
After watching every game of the Wild’s 2019-20 season, it’s clear that Koivu is now a shell of his former self. The longtime Minnesota captain used to be an annual candidate for the Selke (which Sean Couturier won this year, in case you forgot), but his play has since regressed at an alarming rate. He managed just four goals and 21 points in 55 games this past season and was eventually demoted to a fourth-line role later on in Minnesota’s disappointing campaign.
That said, though, signing Koivu to a short-term contract as a fourth-line center could be a smart move for the Flyers. He’s one of the longest-tenured captains in the NHL behind only Zdeno Chara, Sidney Crosby and Jonathan Toews, and his leadership in the dressing room could help give some of the younger Flyers a boost.
As noted by The Athletic’s Michael Russo, Koivu has a very strong relationship with Chuck Fletcher, who spent nearly a decade as general manager of the Wild. And at 37 years old, Koivu probably won’t be asking for much on his next contract. He wants to win a Stanley Cup, which was not going to happen in Minnesota.
On a cheap deal, the Flyers could do much worse than Koivu at 4C. [broadstreethockey.com]
On Friday morning, Flyers All-Star forward Travis Konecny appeared on TSN's trade bait list, a sight that might have sent a chill down the spines of all Philly fans. Fortunately, NBC Sports Philadelphia's Jordan Hall is here to calm your nerves and explain that his inclusion in the list does not mean Fletcher is shopping his young forward.
TSN's trade bait list is great because it's put together from an insider's perspective and gives everyone a consistently fresh sense of who could be had in an exchange.
The list, though, is long, it does change and it doesn't translate to each and every player being moved. Shayne Gostisbehere has been featured on the list since May 2019. James van Riemsdyk appeared on it not long ago and then came off of it in September. By now, many know why Gostisbehere and van Riemsdyk have been rumored. It's not like the Flyers do not value these players. They do and won't just give them away. But in order to pull off substantial trades, if the Flyers so please, you have to be willing to part with pieces.
Konecny could be on this list because if the Flyers were to swing something huge, trade partners will be highly interested in the 23-year-old All-Star, who is under contract for the next five seasons. [nbcsports.com]
And now, let's shift our focus from free agency back to this week's draft with a roundup of some grades from around the internet, starting with the lowest and working our way up the list.
Corey Pronman from the Athletic wasn't a big fan of what the Flyers did in the draft, specifically in the first round. And as you'll see, he wasn't alone.
2020 Draft Grade: C
The Flyers didn’t have a lot of picks but got a fair number of players who could play in the NHL. I struggle with Tyson Foerster at 22. He’s a good player, a future NHL player, but with his skating it’s hard for me to see top-six forward. Connor McClennon at 178 has a chance to provide value if he gets a little quicker. [theathletic.com]
ESPN's Chris Peters was slightly higher on the Flyers draft, with an emphasis on slightly.
Philadelphia Flyers: C+
Favorite pick: Zayde Wisdom, No. 94 overall
Philadelphia got a pretty solid scorer in Tyson Foerster with its first pick, which pads a system that graduated Joel Farabee and soon will do the same with Morgan Frost. Foerster can change his release and has a great shot off the pass. The Flyers took a chance on an undersized but offensively gifted defenseman in Emil Andrae, who went at a very reasonable 54th overall. He is 5-foot-9, but his offensive ability provides upside.
One pick that I think a lot of people were cheering for was Zayde Wisdom, who has overcome a number of obstacles to become a legitimate NHL prospect. He played big minutes with Kingston in the OHL and plays the game hard; he's a Philly kind of guy. Lastly, the Flyers picked up Connor McClennon, my No. 75 prospect, late. He flashes hand skills, good vision and sharp offensive instincts. This wasn't a franchise-changing draft by any means, but it was productive. [espn.com]
This isn't necessarily a grade, but it is a scouting report for the Flyers' top pick, Tyson Foerster, whose name I will forever misspell. Unfortunately, it's not promising that his scouting says the team needs to "fix Foerster's skating." That seems like the one thing an NHL prospect should be able to do.
Scouting report: A solid scorer who gets up and down the ice well, Foerster navigates the offensive zone with great awareness. He led Barrie in scoring by 33 points. He has a good variety of release points on his shot and can make plays off the pass. -- Chris Peters
Team fit: Heading into the draft, the Flyers needed forward depth, and they had plenty of decent options available. In Foerster, Philadelphia gets one of the best shooters in the draft. Foerster has high-upside production and great size, and plays with grit, but he needs to work on his skating. That said, Foerster has already proven he can make improvements, nearly quadrupling his point total from 23 points as a rookie in the OHL to 80 last season. If the Flyers believe they can fix Foerster's skating, they found a gem late in the first round. -- Emily Kaplan
Where Foerster is most likely to play in 2020-21: OHL [espn.com]
This is the highest grade we were able to find for the Flyers, and it includes some more love for second-round pick Emil Andrae. Unfortunately, it also includes some more criticism of the
Forester Foerster pick.
Favorite pick: Emil Andrae was a steal in the second round. I had a bottom of the first round grade for him. Andrae is a very effective defenseman. He’s 5’9″, but he’s a very strong 5’9″. Andrae has to improve his skating, but I love his instincts and his confidence in all three zones.
Zayde Wisdom was a heck of a pick as well. I’m definitely rooting for him. He’s a great, skilled kid who has overcome so much in his life. Wisdom’s the kind of player who Flyers fans rally behind. He plays hard on every shift and can be lethal with the puck.
Least favorite pick: I had a second round grade on Tyson Foerster, who they drafted in the first round. Certainly skilled, but his skating needs to be overhauled if he wants to stick in the NHL. Then again, people said the same thing about Brayden Point and looked what happened to him.
Grade: A-. Flyers drafted some very skilled guys and had a terrific second day of the draft. [puckprose.com]
And finally, we were able to find three grades from Bleacher Report, but none came with any more analysis, so we won't have any here either...
• Mike Chiari: B-
• Timothy Rapp: B
• Paul Kasabian: B-
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