A Busy Summer Ahead: Potential Unrestricted Free Agent Targets

May 8th, 2016 by Ryan Waterman | Filed under Flyers, General, Hockey, Sports, TalkSportsPhilly.

download (9)

Welcome to part two of my Philadelphia Flyers offseason preview. Over these four parts, I will take a look at trades that should be made, free agent signings that need to happen, prospects that could interest the Flyers, and I’ll also project their offensive and defensive lines come opening night. Without further ado, let’s get right to the free agency preview!

By now, I’m sure you’re all very aware of the Flyers’ storied season this year. They entered the season with a new GM, new coach, and were considered a long-shot for a playoff berth. Yet, they proved everyone wrong by fighting their way into the playoffs. To make matters even more amazing, they took the league-best Washington Capitals to their limit, falling just short of a game 7. Over the course of the season, the Flyers had their highs, and their lows. The team had moments of brilliance, and there were also times of pure stupidity. Above all, they found a way to play like a team.

Despite all the positives, there were still a few negatives this season. The top problem that plagued the Flyers this year, was their lack of scoring. Philly ranked 22nd in the NHL, in Goals Per Game at 2.6. A big reason for that number is that the Flyers had only three players that crossed the 20-goal threshold. Wayne Simmonds led the team with 32 goals, while Claude Giroux (22) and Brayden Schenn (26) also hit 20+. Their next highest goal-scorer was Shayne Gostisbehere, with 17. It’s becoming quite clear, that if the Flyers would like to take the next step forward, they’ll need to acquire more players capable of finding the back of the net.

Another thing the Flyers lacked this season was size and physicality. The Flyers only have six skaters that are 6’2″ or taller, and only two skaters that weigh more than 205 lbs. Call me naïve here, but I believe that you need to have serious size if you want to compete in today’s league. Look around the league at these competitive teams, and you’ll see guys like Evgeni Malkin (6’3, 212 lbs), Alex Ovechkin (6’3″, 230 lbs), Nicklas Backstrom (6’1″, 213 lbs)…they’re all big, physical guys. Look back at the Flyers, and you don’t see that.  You see a team full of playmakers that get dominated on the puck, and don’t show a lot in the way of physicality.

What’s missing from this team? Physicality and players that can bury the puck.  That needs to change over the summer, and I believe Ron Hextall knows that. With that said, let’s take a look at six free agent targets for the Flyers, once July 1 rolls around.

Source: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images North America

Source: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images North America

1.) Steven Stamkos, Center, Tampa Bay Lightning

Stamkos is by far the biggest fish to test the open market this July. He’s probably the biggest to test the waters in quite some time, dating back to 1998 when Brett Hull signed with the Dallas Stars. While reeling in the “big fish” may not be Ron Hextall’s style, he’d be an idiot to not inquire on Stamkos. Philly has been tossed out as a possible destination for Stamkos, as has about 75% of the league. Signing Stamkos would be exactly what the doctor ordered for the Flyers, as he’d bring a background of being a 40-goal scorer. Pairing Stamkos on the top line with Claude Giroux and Wayne Simmonds could give the Flyers their best line since the Legion of Doom trio of John LeClair, Mikael Renberg, and Eric Lindros.

The asking price was once thought to be astronomical, but with the recent play of Nikita Kucherov and Jonathan Drouin, one must wonder how deep into his pockets Steve Yzerman is willing to dig when offering Stamkos a contract.

Source: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images North America

Source: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images North America

2.) Milan Lucic, Left Wing, Los Angeles Kings

Can there be anymore of a prototypical Philadelphia Flyer? Milan Lucic is big, he’s strong, he can score, and he’s not afraid to get physical. This would’ve been the Flyers top target if Stamkos wasn’t a threat to hit free agency. Since his surprising trade to Los Angeles, Lucic has been rejuvenated. He led all of LA’s wingers with 55 points, and has five seasons of 18+ goals. Lucic has expressed interest in returning to Los Angeles, and the Kings would like to bring him back. Whether that happens or not, that depends on the Kings. I’m just saying…if Lucic becomes available on July 1, the Flyers need to contact him.

Source: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images North America

Source: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images North America

3.) Kyle Okposo, Right Wing, New York Islanders

Okposo is a good bet to find the back of the net 20+ times per year. He has six seasons of 18+ goals, and has recently added a new dimension to his game by dishing the puck. The 28 year-old has been a consistent producer on the man-advantage throughout his time with the Islanders, and has developed an excellent chemistry with John Tavares. Part of me believes that he could re-develop that type of chemistry with Claude Giroux. Nonetheless, it would add another scoring threat to the Flyers.

Source: Justin K. Aller/Getty Images North America

Source: Justin K. Aller/Getty Images North America

4.) Keith Yandle, Defense, New York Rangers 

Do the Flyers really need defensemen?  After last season, I say absolutely. Outside of Gostisbehere, and Del Zotto, the Flyers don’t have a lot on defense. Radko Gudas and Nick Schultz are decent players, but he won’t be a top-4 option. They’re good bottom-six options. In Mark Streit, and Andrew MacDonald, the Flyers have two aging defenders that are significantly overpaid, and need to be traded. It’s widely expected that Ivan Provorov will be with the Flyers next year, leaving one open spot on the blue-line. In Yandle, the Flyers would get a fantastic power-play defenseman, that is also an excellent two-way player. As an added bonus, we’d also be hurting the Rangers by signing him.

Source: Elsa/Getty Images North America

Source: Elsa/Getty Images North America

5.) Kris Russell, Defense, Dallas Stars

The Flyers already have their fair-share of offensive defenseman. It’s about time they find a good stay-at-home defenseman, that is capable of blocking shots. Luckily, Russell is a world-class shot blocker. Russell won’t pile up the goals, but he’ll chip-in between 20-30 assists per year. The main attraction is that he logs an average of 24:00 per game. He’s a true stay-at-home defender, that is pretty responsible when in possession of the puck. That’s something that the Flyers could really use.

Tune in next Friday for the third installment of “A Busy Summer Ahead”, where I will preview some of the prospects that Ron Hextall could be targeting in June’s NHL Entry Draft.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Comments are closed.