Who Are The Flyers Targeting in Free Agency For Depth (Phantoms)

Friday, July 1, 2016
Is former Portland Pirates forward Corban Knight on the Flyers' radar? Photo: Nina Weiss/The Home News
The free agent frenzy begins at noon ET Friday July 1st, and the Philadelphia Flyers are in an interesting position as the summer's off-season truly gets underway.

According to CapFriendly, the Flyers have just over $61 million spent with nine forwards, six defensemen and two goaltenders signed through the 2016-17 season. They are as follows:
Forwards: Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, Sean Couturier, Wayne Simmonds, Matt Read, Michael Raffl, Scott Laughton, Pierre-Eduoard Bellemare and Chris VandeVelde
Defensemen: Mark Streit, Andrew MacDonald, Michael Del Zotto, Radko Gudas, Nick Schultz and Shayne Gostisbehere
Goaltenders: Steve Mason and Michal Neuvirth
With those 17 players under contract, the Flyers have just under $12 million (~$11.928 million) in cap space to fill out the rest of their roster. Here's a few things to keep in mind with the roster situation:
  • Adding Ivan Provorov ($894,167) to the NHL roster for 2016-17 leaves Flyers with $11.033 million in space. Easily can be done.
  • The Flyers qualified four restricted free agents at the NHL level. They are as follows with quaifiying offer salary in parenthesis:
    • Jordan Weal ($695,750), Nick Cousins ($884,665), Brayden Schenn ($2.5 million) and Brandon Manning ($687,500)
  • While it's not unthinkable that the Flyers can retain Weal, Cousins and Manning at their qualifying offer rates, Schenn is going to command a much high rate than his $2.5 million qualifying offer.
  • For argument's sake, we'll say Flyers retain all their RFA's at their offer rate minus Schenn and Provorov makes the NHL roster. Those moves give Flyers roster 11F,8D,2G signed with in ~$8.765 million in cap space and only Schenn left to sign.
  • There are several reports that the Flyers and Ryan White are working on a new contract for the 2016-17 season. I don't see that being much more than a one or two year deal worth around or under $1 million a season.
  • As you can see, the Flyers don't have a whole lot of wiggle room after signing Schenn to a new contract (Just spit balling here, but likely in the $5 million/year range). Those in the fan base dreaming of a high-prized free agent addition for the NHL club will have to let those dreams pass, unless of course the Flyers are able to swing a trade to free up some more cap space to go after a bigger name.
There are plenty to follow for Flyers news (i.e. Sam Carchidi, Dave Isaac, Bill Meltzer, etc.) and that is not why you follow/read here.

After the jump, some names to keep an eye on as free agency begins that the Flyers could/should be targeting to build depth and field a competitive AHL team in Lehigh Valley.

Lehigh Valley Phantoms Under Contract for 2016-17:
NOTE: Petr Straka is a restricted free agent that still needs to be signed. The Flyers submitted a qualifying offer to retain Straka's rights on Monday.
Forwards: Nicolas Aube-Kubel, Cole Bardreau, Chris Conner, Radel Fazleev, Tyrell Goulbourne, Taylor Leier, Danick Martel, Colin McDonald and Steven Swavely (AHL)
Defensemen: Mark Alt, Robert Hagg, Max Lamarche (AHL), Sam Morin, Jesper Pettersson, Travis Sanheim and Reece Willcox
Goaltenders: Anthony Stolarz and Alex Lyon
At first glance, the Phantoms are looking at nine forwards, seven defensemen and two goaltenders on the roster heading into free agency. A decent head start, but there's still some pieces that need to be added.

Projected 2016-17 Lineup:

xxxxx-xxxxx-Aube Kubel



Phantoms' Team Needs

  • A first line center
  • A second line center
  • A top-six proven scorer
  • A veteran defenseman that brings a physical edge
  • An AHL veteran goaltender for depth

Possible Targets

Forward Corban Knight
2015-16 NHL Stats: 20GP, 2G-5A, +3, 4 PIM
2015-16 AHL Stats: 33GP, 4G-7A, -11, 8 PIM

Knight is an interesting player when you look at his stats from last season split between the NHL's Florida Panthers and AHL's Portland Pirates. His numbers in the NHL are better than his AHL stats, which could raise a few question marks. The Pirates had several rookie and second year forwards in larger roles than Knight in 2015-16, which saw him primarily on the team's third line and on the penalty kill instead of in the top-six and on the power play.

Flyers' Connection: Knight was a productive four-year player at the University of North Dakota under then head coach Dave Hakstol. The Phantoms' obvious needs in their AHL lineup are down the middle, and Knight can definitely be a first or second line center in the AHL. With an increased role as compared to last year in Portland, Knight could flourish playing alongside talented offensive wingers like Taylor Leier, Chris Conner, Danick Martel and Nicolas Aube-Kubel. 

Defenseman Steve Oleksy
2015-16 AHL Stats: 63GP, 2G-17A, +8, 123 PIM

If the Flyers want to pair Sanheim with a veteran in his rookie pro season in the AHL, Oleksy is a great fit for several reasons. A steady defender, Oleksy also plays with edge and aggressiveness. The fact that he's played on both Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and Hershey in recent years will also make the transition a little easier as he won't be moving too far and be playing against familiar opponents.

Flyers' Connection: No real connections to the organization, just a great fit and also a guy that can hop up into the NHL on an as-needed basis when mid-season injuries and call ups arise.

Defenseman Andrew MacWilliam
2015-16 AHL Stats: 72GP, 1G-14A, -17, 86 PIM

A physical defender with size (6-2, 223), MacWilliam enters 2016-17 with 189 games of AHL experience and has been a leader on most of his teams throughout his hockey career including an alternate captain in the AHL the past three seasons and captain of his collegiate team in his senior season after serving as an alternate in his junior year.

Flyers' Connection: MacWilliam was a four-year player for Hakstol at North Dakota, and understands how Hakstol wants his teams to play. If a veteran blue liner doesn't come from Philadelphia, the Flyers would be wise to add one via free agency or re-sign Davis Drewiske,

Defenseman Patrick Mullen 
2015-16 AHL Stats: 65GP, 3G-27A, +1, 30 PIM

If the Flyers are looking to have a proven puck-moving defenseman to help mentor Travis Sanheim then perhaps Mullen is a good fit for the Phantoms. He's undersized at 5-10, 183 pounds, but makes up for it with his skating ability and vision to locate open teammates. Mullen can also be the quarterback on the power play and help teach Sanheim in the offensive zone.

Flyers' Connection: Mullen was in the Los Angeles Kings' minor league system when Hextall was Manchester's GM and overseer. Hextall is familiar with the player, so if he sees a potential fit there could be interest.


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