Even with a disastrous start to the season, the Philadelphia Flyers qualified for the playoffs for the sixth time in the last seven seasons. The biggest problem early on was the lack of offensive production from Claude Giroux, who struggled to find his scoring touch after surgery last off-season. Once Giroux got healthy, he completely changed the fortunes of the club. He registered 28 goals and 56 assists and was nominated for the Hart Trophy.
The Flyers pushed the eventual Eastern Conference champion New York Rangers to seven games in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but came up on the losing end.
Outside of the team’s horrible start, the biggest surprise in Philadelphia was goaltender Steve Mason. He posted a .917 save percentage along with a 2.50 goals-against average in 61 games, earning himself a contract extension in his first full year as the club’s starter. He stabilized a position that has long been problematic for the organization.
At the same time, the Flyers had a goal differential of just plus-one. The team needs more consistent play in their defensive zone, an area that the Flyers have struggled to address since the injury, and then retirement, of Chris Pronger.
After the season, the Flyers reorganized the front office, promoting Paul Holmgren to team president and giving the general manager’s role to Ron Hextall. The new GM didn’t take long to make a major move as the team shipped out 32-year-old forward Scott Hartnell to Columbus for R.J. Umberger and a draft pick in 2015.
Click player positions to see depth chart
Areas to address
The Flyers do not have much wiggle room heading into free agency; CapGeek projects them to have approximately $4.3 million of salary cap space.
Despite the Hartnell move, the Flyers should have a very familiar look in 2014-15. The first three forward lines are full of quality players that have earned their spots. Umberger will fill Hartnell’s spot on the wing so it would be a surprise to see Philadelphia add anything but a bottom-line forward with grit and toughness.
On defence, they could use some upgrades but have already committed more than $2 million per season to six roster players. They have Mark Streit and Andrew McDonald carrying cap hits of over $5 million each and Luke Schenn, Braydon Coburn and Nicklas Grossman scheduled to earn over $3 million each. The obvious trade candidate would be Coburn, whose $4.5 million cap hit might be a better fit with a team that has more cap space and is in need of blueliners (read: Edmonton). Philly doesn’t have much wiggle room to upgrade here.
In net, they have a stable situation with Mason as the starter, but have to make a decision on Ray Emery, who was effective in the backup role. Emery is an unrestricted free agent and the team should look to re-sign him to play behind Mason.
Possible signing targets
Tom Gilbert (D): He may be out of the Flyers’ price range but he’s a defensively-sound player who fits the needs of the team.
Ville Leino (LW): On first glance this may sound absurd, but the recently bought out forward (Buffalo) would provide depth on the wing for a very cheap price. He was an effective player with the Flyers before signing with Buffalo in 2011.
Ray Emery (G): As mentioned, Emery proved to be a reliable backup and a decent spot starter. If Mason flounders, he’s good insurance to have.