Monday's Catch Up 4/18

Monday, April 18, 2016
The Phantoms have plenty of players returning next year. Photo: Nina Weiss/The Home News
The American Hockey League's (AHL) 2015-16 season has come and gone quickly as it seems to do every year. The 2016 Calder Cup Playoffs are set, beginning Wednesday night as the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins host the Providence Bruins in Game One of the Atlantic Division Semifinals. Here's a link to the schedules for all the AHL's first round, best-of-five series.

Even with the season over and the Lehigh Valley Phantoms not in the postseason, things will still be very busy here. Currently, the plan is to cover some AHL playoff games while also getting started on several off-season topics, stories and prospect updates.

I'll have more details about my off-season writing schedule in the coming days as I sort everything out, but be on the lookout this week for some AHL playoff coverage and the final edition of the monthly prospect report on Flyers prospects who played in the AHL with the Phantoms during the month April.

After the jump, a variation to the format of Monday's weekly story starting with a glance ahead to who is under contract next season, the salary cap situation and who the impending free agents are with regards to both the NHL and AHL team.

A Look Ahead To 2016-17

Unless some moves are made to free up roster spots on the NHL roster, the Flyers won't have too much work to do to fill out the roster with free agent additions and from within the organization's prospect pool. (All salary numbers from Cap Friendly)

Heading into the summer, the Flyers have approximately $60.7 million spent on 10 forwards, 5 defensemen and two goaltenders with restricted free agents Brayden Schenn, Nick Cousins, Jordan Weal, Radko Gudas and Brandon Manning still without a contract for next season.

NHL - Flyers

Forwards (14): Claude Giroux, R.J. Umberger, Jakub Voracek, Wayne Simmonds, Matt Read, Sean Couturier, Brayden Schenn (RFA), Michael Raffl, Scott Laughton, Nick Cousins (RFA), Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Chris VandeVelde, Jordan Weal (RFA) and Colin McDonald

  • It simply looks like there isn't room for pending unrestricted free agent (UFA) forwards Sam Gagner and Ryan White. 
  • Colin McDonald will likely end up back in Lehigh Valley next season to captain the Phantoms, leaving the Flyers with the necessary 13 forwards if they re-sign their three restricted free agents.
  • It's certainly a possibility that the Flyers will buy out the remaining year of R.J. Umberger's salary and not retain the rights to Jordan Weal, but even then it only leaves 1-3 spots open for up and coming forwards like Taylor Leier to snag an NHL job out of training camp in the fall.
Defensemen (7): Mark Streit, Andrew MacDonald, Michael Del Zotto, Nick Schultz, Radko Gudas (RFA), Shayne Gostistbehere and Brandon Manning (RFA)
  • Much like with the forwards, there doesn't appear to be any room for UFA Evgeny Medvedev. He was often scratched and his 1-year, $3 million dollar experiment seems to be just that - a one-year experiment.
  • RFA's Radko Gudas and Brandon Manning will likely be retained simply for cheap depth while the prospects on the back end - i.e. Sam Morin, Travis Sanheim, Robert Hagg, etc. - continue to develop and approach being ready for NHL work.
  • The Flyers still have options, such as moving a defenseman to make room if they think one of the younger players in the system is ready to make the jump. GM Ron Hextall has preached patience since day one, so it will be interesting to see when the young guns get their chances.
Goaltenders (2): Steve Mason and Michal Neuvirth
  • Suggesting the Flyers need an upgrade at the goaltender position is laughable. Both Mason and Neuvirth are under contract for next season.
AHL - Phantoms

Forwards (7): Taylor Leier, Chris Conner, Nicolas Aube-Kubel, Radel Fazleev, Cole Bardreau, Danick Martel, and Tyrell Goulbourne
  • Adding Colin McDonald to this group gives the Phantoms a decent head start on a talented core up front next season. 
  • While Petr Straka, Aaron Palushaj, Brandon Alderson and Derek Mathers are all NHL-restricted free agents (RFA), it remains to be seen whether any will be retained for next season.
  • Tim Brent is the only UFA forward on an NHL contract that if brought back would join the Phantoms. The UFA forwards on AHL deals with Lehigh Valley this season include Phil DeSimone, Pavel Padakin, Michael Parks, Jay Rosehill, Dalton Smith, Kevin Sundher and Geoff Walker. 
  • Oskar Lindblom was not included on this list because he has not been signed to an NHL contract by the Flyers yet and still has one year left on his current contract in Sweden with Brynas IF Gavle. He was non-committal about playing in North America next season when first asked about the possibility, so it's not out of the question that he remains in Europe for one more year.
Defensemen (7): Mark Alt (RFA), Sam Morin, Robert Hagg, Travis Sanheim, Christian Marti, Jesper Pettersson and Reece Willcox
  • The back end is off to a great start for next season in Lehigh Valley. Mark Alt will almost surely be brought back and that means a very formidable top four of Morin-Alt, Sanheim-Hagg is already in place for next season.
  • Marti, Pettersson and Willcox look to be AHL depth and fringe AHL/ECHL players next season. The Flyers are not expected to bring back Max Lamarche on an NHL contract, but it's not out of the question that he'd be brought back on an AHL deal for next season.
  • Impending free agents include NHL UFA Davis Drewiske and AHL UFA Nick Luukko and Mike Marcou. The Phantoms will certainly need to add a veteran or two on the back end, so it's certainly possible the Flyers would bring back Drewiske to mentor this group of young defensemen.
Goaltenders (2): Anthony Stolarz and Alex Lyon
  • Newly signed Alex Lyon should form a nice duo with Anthony Stolarz in the fall in Lehigh Valley.
  • Stolarz proved over the course of this season that he can handle a heavy workload and will be the true number one goaltender for the Phantoms in 2016-17, waiting for a chance to make his much awaited NHL debut next year.
  • Free agents at the position include NHL UFA Jason LaBarbera and AHL UFA's Martin Ouellette and Connor Knapp. While LaBarbera's injury riddled season prevented him from being the goaltender he is capable of being, I think the Phantoms will look to bring back Ouellette on another AHL deal for depth at the position. They need at least one, maybe two goalies on AHL deals in Reading in case of injury/call ups.


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