Lehigh Valley Phantoms Off-Season Guide - Part 1

Tuesday, June 6, 2017
The Phantoms have a solid group of players returning to the team in 2017-18.
Photo property of Highland Park Hockey
What does the Flyers' roster situation mean for Lehigh Valley?

Written by: Tony Androckitis - Twitter/Facebook

The Lehigh Valley Phantoms (AHL) have been in off-season mode for five weeks now, and while a few of the team's free agents heading into the summer have found new homes overseas business will begin picking up in June.

Not only does free agency loom, but this summer the NHL's Expansion Draft for the new Las Vegas Golden Knights takes place just days before the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. With both the NHL and AHL in their respective championship rounds, hockey on the ice will soon end and the business side of the game off the ice will heat up.

Here at Highland Park Hockey, the focus is and will be providing daily, year-round coverage of the Philadelphia Flyers' top minor league affiliate with news, notes and more you can't get anywhere else - especially in the off-season.

As the transition to a brand new website is currently underway (hopefully a launch in mid-July), Highland Park Hockey will cease to exist. But before that occurs, there will be plenty of AHL-wide content here at HPH to give readers an idea about what the future coverage plan will entail.

In addition to this 'Phantoms' Off-Season Central' - a complete one-stop shop for all the news, player movement and more surrounding the team this off-season - the work is already underway to have our annual AHL Free Agent Big Board back and live later this month leading up to the start of free agency.

After the jump, important dates to keep an eye on as well as a look at the Phantoms' roster situation/free agents heading into the 2017-18 season.

Philadelphia Flyers Organizational Depth Chart

Understanding UFA vs. RFA

"Restricted" and "Unrestricted" are two words put in front of free agents that put available players for the upcoming season in two very different categories.

My best explanation? A restricted free agent is a typically younger player who has an expiring contract that was either his first professional contract (aka an entry-level deal) or a subsequent contract in which a team submitted a qualifying offer (see below) to the player from the previous year.

Teams have until 5 p.m. ET on June 25th to submit what is called a qualifying offer to their restricted free agents to retain their rights or else they will be come unrestricted free agents and be free to sign with any team they choose when the NHL's free agency begins on July 1st.

A qualifying offer is a raise of 110% the player's salary from the previous season if he made under $660,000 (NHL-level) or a raise of at least 105% if he made up $1 million. Players making over a million must be offered 100%. Still with me?

What you should get out of all of this is that a team's restricted free agents have almost no bargaining chips in their stack. If a team qualifies their restricted free agent, they retain his rights through next season. It is only after June 25th and no qualifying offer, that a restricted free agent becomes unrestricted and is free to sign with any team who is interested in him.

Unrestricted free agents, on the other hand, are only exclusive to the team the played on last season until NHL free agency begins. They can reject any contract their team offers and opt to hit the market and field offers from other teams. Thus, it is a little more difficult to retain unrestricted free agents than it is a restricted free agent.

I hope all of that made sense. If you are interested in finding out more or have any specific questions, feel free to ask and I'll do my best to clear the air.

All salary numbers/info via CapFriendly.com

UFA = unrestricted free agent
RFA = restricted free agent


FORWARDS (11): Claude Giroux ($8.275 million AAV through 2021-22), Jakub Voracek ($8.25 million AAV through 2023-24), Brayden Schenn ($5.125 million through 2019-20), Valtteri Filppula ($5 million AAV through 2017-18), Sean Couturier ($4.33 million AAV through 2021-22), Wayne Simmonds ($3.975 million through 2018-19), Matt Read ($3.625 million through 2017-18), Dale Weise ($2.35 million through 2019-20), Michael Raffl ($2.35 million through 2018-19), Pierre-Edouard Bellemare ($1.45 million through 2018-19) and Travis Konecny ($894,167 through 2018-19)

Forwards salary: $45,627,500
NHL-LEVEL FREE AGENT FORWARDS (5): Nick Cousins (RFA), Roman Lyubimov (RFA), Chris VandeVelde (UFA), Michael Vecchione (RFA) and Jordan Weal (UFA)
DEFENSEMEN (4): Andrew MacDonald ($5 million AAV through 2019-20), Radko Gudas ($3.35 million AAV through 2019-20), Brandon Manning ($975,000 AAV through 2017-18) and Ivan Provorov ($894,167 AAV through 2018-19)

Defensemen Salary: $10,219,167
NHL-LEVEL FREE AGENT DEFENSEMEN (3): Michael Del Zotto (UFA), Shayne Gostisbehere (RFA) and Nick Schultz (UFA)
GOALTENDERS (1): Michael Neuvirth ($2.5 million AAV through 2019-20)

Goaltenders Salary: $2,500,000

FORWARDS (4): Scott Laughton (RFA), Taylor Leier (RFA)Oskar Lindblom ($925,000 AAV through 2019-20) and Colin McDonald ($637,500 AAV through 2017-18)

DEFENSEMEN (4): Robert Hagg ($894,167 AAV through 2017-18), Sam Morin ($863,333 AAV through 2017-18), Philippe Myers ($678,333 AAV through 2019-20) and Travis Sanheim ($863,333 AAV through 2018-19)

GOALTENDERS (2): Alex Lyon (RFA) and Anthony Stolarz (RFA)


FORWARDS (5): Nicolas Aube-Kubel (signed through 2018-19), Greg Carey (signed through 2018-19), Radel Fazleev (signed through 2018-19), Tyrell Goulbourne (signed through 2017-18), Danick Martel (signed through 2017-18) and Mikhail Vorobyov (signed through 2019-20)
AHL-LEVEL FORWARD FREE AGENTS (7): Cole Bardreau (NHL RFA), Chris Conner (NHL UFA), Boyd Gordon (NHL UFA), Corban Knight (AHL), Derek Mathers (AHL), Chris McCarthy (AHL) and Steven Swavely (AHL)
DEFENSEMEN (4): T.J. Brennan (signed through 2017-18), Mark Friedman (signed through 2019-20), Will O'Neill (signed through 2017-18) and Reece Willcox (signed through 2017-18)
AHL-LEVEL GOALIE FREE AGENTS (2): Mark Dekanich (AHL) and Martin Ouellette (AHL)

Phantoms' Roster Notes

With already 11 projected forwards signed at the NHL level and potentially three in-house free agents expected to re-sign - restricted free agents Nick Cousins and Michael Vecchione and unrestricted free agent Jordan Weal - it's possible three or even all four of those potential 'on the bubble' forwards above (Scott Laughton, Taylor Leier, Oskar Lindblom and Colin McDonald) will make their way to the AHL roster this fall.

Keep in mind that Laughton will need to clear waivers to be reassigned to Lehigh Valley in 2017-18 - a risky move that the Flyers may not want to partake in with their former 1st round draft pick (20th overall) in 2012. The best case scenario for the Flyers is that Laughton comes into camp and blows away the competition to make the NHL roster out of training camp.

Still, adding Taylor Leier, Oskar Lindblom and Colin McDonald to a forward core in Lehigh Valley that will have Nicolas Aube-Kubel, Greg Carey, Danick Martel, Radel Fazleev and Tyrell Goulbourne on it is a great start toward building another playoff-contending club in the Atlantic Division.

They'll need to replace some veteran scoring punch lost with the departure of Andy Miele and impending unrestricted free agent Chris Conner up front, but perhaps a combination of increased roles with the current prospects on the AHL roster and a few free agent additions can put Lehigh Valley's forward core among the elite in the league in 2017-18.

As far as the blue line goes, with four defensemen signed at the NHL-level for next season not including restricted free agent Shayne Gostisbehere it doesn't leave much room for those on the bubble prospects making the jump to Philadelphia full time. With only two spots open on the blue line with the Flyers, I don't see how more than two of the big four - Hagg, Morin, Myers and Sanheim - can make the NHL roster out of camp and that's based on assuming the Flyers won't bring in any cheap veteran depth to fill out their third pairing which remains to be seen.

The Phantoms will have veteran offensive defensemen T.J. Brennan and Will O'Neill back on the blue line next season along with returning second year pro Reece Willcox and incoming rookie Mark Friedman. Sprinkle in two, or even three or four of those big name prospects and the Phantoms' defensive core looks pretty solid already heading towards the draft and free agency.

The interesting portion of the Phantoms' roster heading into the 2017-18 season is, of course, in net. Much like at the NHL-level, there aren't any goaltenders signed at the AHL level. In fact, Michal Neuvirth is the only signed goaltender in the organization at the pro level. Carter Hart is on his entry-level contract but it appears likely he will be heading back to the WHL next season and his contract will slide to the following year.

Both Anthony Stolarz and Alex Lyon proved more than able to be a starting goaltender at the AHL last season, and both are restricted free agents heading to June 25th's deadline to submit qualifying offers on them to retain their rights moving forward. The question is, are either interested in being relegated to AHL duties in 2017-18?

It's certainly possible that one of Neuvirth or Stolarz might be selected by Las Vegas in the upcoming Expansion Draft later this month. The Flyers can only protect one goalie on the roster.

Time will tell, but the Phantoms certainly have plenty of pieces in place heading into the free agency portion of the offseason. Remember that anytime the Flyers add an NHL-level free agent this summer (after free agency begins on July 1st) it means another player will be heading to the AHL club in the fall.

Dates to Remember

Also via CapFriendly.com, here's a list of important dates coming up this month in the hockey world to pay attention to.


Post a Comment