Of the teams that come to mind when thinking about this past offseason, the Flyers are not the main headliners, but maybe they should be. Philadelphia made three major trades over the past few months. The problem for them was the timing. The draft overshadowed two of the moves, and one came at the very end of the time before the expansion draft trade freeze. So with big events happening as the Flyers were wheeling and dealing, they tend to be forgotten.
Offseason additions: D Ryan Ellis, F Cam Atkinson, D Rasmus Ristolainen, G Martin Jones, F Derick Brassard, D Keith Yandle, F Nate Thompson.
Offseason subtractions: F Jakub Voracek, D Philippe Myers, D Shayne Gostisbehere, F Nolan Patrick, G Brian Elliott, D Robert Hagg, F Andy Andreoff, F Carson Twarynski, G Alex Lyon.
The Flyers didn’t just give Sean Couturier an eight-year extension this offseason for fun. His elite defensive skills have been known for quite awhile now, as he finished second in Selke voting in 2017-18 before winning the whole thing in 2019-20. He may have only fallen in fifteenth in 2020-21, but him playing in only 45 games has something to do with it. Couturier scored 18 goals with 41 assists. His 56.9 percent face-off rate while averaging over 19 minutes on ice per game was crazy good. Captain Claude Giroux may have exited his prime already, but he is still a very good player. He has mostly moved to the wing, but is still an elite face-off man, winning nearly sixty percent of draws last year. Giroux scored 16 goals with 27 assists for 43 points in 54 games. It was only the second time since 2009-10 and the first since 2014-15 where Giroux did not receive a vote for the Hart, Selke, or Byng Trophy. After his no goals in 16 playoff games in 2019-20 became a narrative, Travis Konecny broke his streak of three consecutive seasons of exactly 24 goals by netting… eleven. His shooting percentage was not outrageously unlucky, either. Sure, his 11.0 percent was his worst since he was a rookie, but that is average. The Flyers have a ton of players who can score, but Konecny should be “that guy”. He wasn’t last year. A 21-year-old Joel Farabee led the team in goals with 20, a big improvement from the eight in his rookie season. There was shooting luck involved, but Farabee has established himself as a key cog to the future of the Flyers. The Kraken didn’t bite on James van Riemsdyk, so he returns to Philadelphia after another good season. van Riemsdyk’s 43 points tied with Giroux and Jakub Voracek for the team lead, with his 17 goals leading that trio. For the 11th season in a row, van Riemsdyk either reached 20 goals or was on pace to reach twenty. It will be quite a bit before we see Kevin Hayes after the center had abdominal surgery. This was a tough offseason for Hayes, who recently lost his brother, Jimmy. Hayes’ absence could lead to Morgan Frost getting a great opportunity. The 2017 first-round pick had seven points in 22 games in 2019-20, but only got into two NHL games last year thanks to a dislocated shoulder. Coming back from Columbus for Voracek is Cam Atkinson. The scoring winger had 41 goals in 2018-19, but his goal total has collapsed since then. His 15 last year was still respectable. Atkinson has suffered from a single-digit shooting percentage over the last two seasons. Oskar Lindblom won the Masterton in his return last year, and Head Coach Alain Vigneault recently revealed that the young winger is officially cancer free. Lindblom is looking to get back to where he was before the diagnosis, when he had 11 goals through 30 games. He scored eight times with six assists in 50 contests last year. Philadelphia had a tough choice to either trade or extend center Scott Laughton at the trade deadline, and they decided to bring him back for five more seasons. The gritty defensive bottom-sixer had 20 points last year, nine of which were goals. He made his presence known physically, with 141 hits. That was five off of his career high, which came in 29 more games back in 2018-19. Nic Aube-Kubel also cranked up his hits, with 120 in 50 games in 2020-21. The 2014 second-round pick added three goals with 12 points on 53 shots. Veteran Derick Brassard joins the Flyers, who will be his fifth Metropolitan team played for. He was a prolific scorer for the Rangers in his prime, but Brassard is now a bottom-six player. He spent last season with the Coyotes, scoring eight goals with 20 points in 53 games. Nate Thompson returns to the Flyers, who acquired him at the end of 2019-20. Thompson left Philly for the Jets last year, where he had five points with 60 hits in 44 games. Wade Allison was impressive in his debut season, scoring four goals with three assists in 14 games. The six-foot-two winger also had 28 hits. Allison also had nine points in 10 AHL games.
The final six years of Ryan Ellis’ massive contract are now on the Flyers’ books are a big offseason trade with the Predators. The savvy two-way defender only played in 35 games last year, but he was still good. Ellis had 18 points with 63 blocked shots. He should jump straight to the top pairing, something that he did not always have on Predators teams with Shea Weber and PK Subban. This deal gives Ivan Provorov easily the best defensive partner of his career. The 24-year-old left-handed shot had 26 points with 106 blocks last year. Overall, he did struggle, so adding Ellis will be important. Since debuting in 2016-17, Provorov has not missed a game. Second-pairing Travis Sanheim has lost his partner, Philippe Myers, who went back the other way for Ellis. He blocked 73 shots with 15 points in 55 games. Sanheim’s reputation was hurt by a terribly unlucky 93.9 PDO, which would be impossible to repeat. The Flyers replaced Myers with Rasmus Ristolainen, trading two valuable picks for the former Sabres top-pairing guy. Ristolainen has always had awful analytics, which makes this trade look rough. But he should play less than the ~24 minutes that he has averaged in his career, plus with a better team around him. That could help. Ristolainen is known for his physicality, with 193 hits last year. The Panthers bought out Keith Yandle, prompting the Flyers to pounce on a cheap deal. He is a good power play quarterback, but really struggles defensively. Yandle had 27 points last season, 18 of which came on the man advantage. Defensive defender Justin Braun would be a great match for Yandle. He played in 53 games last year, blocking 73 shots with 78 hits. Braun’s time in Philadelphia has not been as great as his long tenure in San Jose, but he is still a stable, third-pairing player. Drafted 14th overall in 2019, Cam York made his NHL debut in 2020-21, playing in three games. York had 20 points in 34 games at the University of Michigan, then had five in eight AHL games. York could make the team, although the likely outcome is that he goes to the AHL. Yegor Zamula played in two NHL games last year in his first professional season. He also had six assists in 25 AHL games. The undrafted defender was a point-per-game player in his final WHL season.
The Flyers goaltending was an absolute mess, as Carter Hart went from promising future elite goalie to the league’s worst starting goalie. Hart started 27 games, with an ugly .877 save percentage and a 3.67 GAA. His -22.6 GSAA was shocking to see after he had a 7.0 and a 4.5 in his first two seasons. To help Hart carry the load, Martin Jones was brought in. Jones has been a starting goalie for many seasons, which is a positive. The negative is that before Hart’s collapse, he was the league’s worst starter. That is not to say that Jones was good in 2020-21. He had a save percentage of .896 with a 3.28 GAA. Jones has had a GSAA worse than -11 in three consecutive seasons.
Claude Giroux – Sean Couturier – Travis Konecny
James van Riemsdyk – Morgan Frost – Joel Farabee
Oskar Lindblom – Scott Laughton – Cam Atkinson
Nate Thompson – Derick Brassard – Nic Aube-Kubel
Extras: Wade Allison
Ivan Provorov – Ryan Ellis
Travis Sanheim – Rasmus Ristolainen
Keith Yandle – Justin Braun
Extras: Cam York, Yegor Zamula
The Flyers are primed to regress to the mean in a good way. There is no way that Hart posts another truly awful season given his talent. Will they be better than they were last year? Almost certainly. But they will have to be better than two of the Islanders, Hurricanes, Penguins, Capitals, and Rangers. That just does not seem plausible right now.