Philadelphia Flyers: 5 Reasons the Flyers' Offseason Has Been a Success
The Philadelphia Flyers have swung and missed a few times this offseason.
Zach Parise. Strike one.
Ryan Suter. Strike two.
Shea Weber. Strike three.
But unlike their baseball counterparts across the sports complex parking lot, the Flyers haven't completely struck out this summer.
Be it an under-the-radar free agent acquisition, a player-for-player swap or a move that simply didn't happen, this offseason has still been a success for the Orange and Black.
Here are the five biggest reasons why.
Added Defensive Depth
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The biggest area of need for the Flyers heading into this offseason was improving their defense.
The loss of Matt Carle via free agency to the Tampa Bay Lightning was a setback but Philly has still made a pair of minor moves to help improve the team's defensive depth overall.
The first came at the conclusion of the NHL draft when the Flyers shipped James van Riemsdyk to the Toronto Maple Leafs for Luke Schenn. The older brother of Flyers' budding forward Brayden Schenn, Luke brings a physical presence to Philadelphia's back end and could easily develop into one of the team's steadier blueliners in the years to come.
Luke comes with a manageable cap hit ($3.6 million annually) and is under team control for the next four seasons. Most importantly, both he and Brayden should benefit from having each other on the same roster as the sibling rivalry stands to accelerate the growth of the 22-year-old defenseman and 20-year-old forward.
The other addition the Flyers made on defense was the free agent acquisition of Bruno Gervais. Signed to a two-year, $1.65 million deal, Gervais is nothing more than a depth defenseman for the Flyers. Having suited up in just 50 games in Tampa Bay last season, after dressing in only 53 tilts the year before for the New York Islanders, it's unrealistic to expect Gervais to be a difference maker for the Flyers.
Still, if he can help solidify the team's third defensive pair or be a nice injury filler on occasion Philadelphia will have gotten its money's worth.
The additions of Scheen and Gervais coupled with the development of sophomore blueliners Marc-Andre Bourdon and Erik Gustafsson give the Flyers some nice depth at a position in which you can never have too many options.
Maintained Young Forward Core
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Per usual, the Flyers have been very aggressive this offseason.
First, Philly took a run at the top two free agents this summer in Ryan Suter and Zach Parise.
Then, the Orange and Black signed restricted free agent Shea Weber to a 14-year, $110 million offer sheet.
And throughout everything, the Flyers have been rumored trade suitors for both Anaheim's Bobby Ryan and now-New York Rangers forward Rick Nash.
Through it all though, Philly has been unwilling to part with the young forward pieces it would seemingly take to land a Weber, a Ryan or a Nash.
The two names that have popped up all summer long are blue chip forwards Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier. Both were rumored to have been coveted in deals for both Nash and Ryan but the Flyers haven't budged.
GM Paul Holmgren snatched the seemingly untouchable Schenn from Los Angeles last summer when he shipped Mike Richards to the Kings. And even though Schenn only contributed 12 goals and 18 points in 54 games last season, the consensus remains that far bigger and better things are just around the corner.
Meanwhile, Couturier came via the eighth overall pick in the 2011 draft which was nabbed from Columbus along with Jake Voracek for Jeff Carter. Carter didn't even finish out the season in Columbus while Couturier emerged as a shutdown center in last year's playoffs and will likely be given an even bigger role this year.
Neither Couturier nor Schenn is at the level of a Nash or Ryan today but it shows what tremendous confidence the Flyers organization has in both players by refusing to move either for a proven commodity. For the first time in a long time, Philadelphia appears to be thinking beyond just this season and is building a team that could win several times over in the years to come.
Re-Signed Jake Voracek
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Part of maintaining its youthful batch of forwards this summer involved the Flyers re-signing 22-year-old restricted free agent Jake Voracek.
Philadelphia lost a combined 30 goals and 78 points with the free-agent departure of Jaromir Jagr and the Schenn-for-JVR swap. Most importantly, the Flyers lost the winger (Jagr) to their tremendously productive Claude Giroux-Scott Hartnell-Jagr line from a season ago.
Re-signing Voracek ensures Philly will have a viable option to replace Jagr on the team's top line.
Voracek finished tied for fourth on the team in scoring last year with 49 points and excelled in crunch time at the close of the season, notching 15 points in his final 17 regular season games before tallying 10 points in 11 postseason tilts.
The Flyers inked the former seventh overall pick to a 4-year, $17 million deal last week that will cost Philly an annual cap hit of $4.25 million. That's less than $1 million more per season than what Jagr made last year to round out the team's top trio.
Even though he's already got four years of NHL service under his belt, Voracek is still only 22 years old and now has a four-year window to develop his offensive talents amidst one of the league's most exciting group of forwards.
Shea Weber Offer Sheet
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Yes, it was incredibly devastating when the Nashville Predators matched the Flyers' 14-year, $110 million offer sheet to Weber. Philadelphia had an opportunity to land one of the game's truly elite, all-around defenders and it didn't work.
But the good news that comes out of the whole Weber offer sheet debacle is that it shows the Flyers are prepared to do whatever it takes to improve their hockey team. Moreover, Holmgren is prepared to use every tool at his disposal to give his team the best possible chance to win each and every night.
Philly offered a massively front loaded deal that would have paid Weber $26 million in the next 11 months. All told, it would have paid him an astounding $110 million over an even more incredible 14 years.
The Flyers were incredibly aggressive in putting together a package they were comfortable with but one that would be very difficult for Nashville to match. In the end, that's exactly what the Predators did.
But while the Flyers may have lost out on Weber (for now), the offer sheet guarantees he'll stay exactly where he's at for the next year. After matching Philadelphia's offer sheet, Nashville can't trade Weber for at least one full year which keeps him away from the Detroit Red Wings along with Atlantic Division rivals, the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins, for the next 12 months.
The Flyers may not have gotten their man but their aggressive approach has ensured no one else gets him either.
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While it hasn't exactly been a quiet summer in Philadelphia, it has been an offseason marked more by rumors and speculation than by actual spending.
As evidenced by the offers made to Parise and Suter and the offer sheet signed by Weber, the Flyers aren't a team that's afraid to spend money. Since the introduction of the salary cap in 2005, Philly has been at or near the cap ceiling virtually every season.
The Flyers play in front of sold-out crowds and are in the conversation of the most recognizable and marketable teams in the NHL today. They have the money to spend and aren't shy about using it.
But so far Philadelphia has been rather frugal with its offseason spending.
The Flyers opened free agency by re-signing goalie Michael Leighton to a one-year, $900k deal and followed that by re-inking defender Danny Syvret to a two-year deal worth a modest $1.175 million.
Then, after watching Jagr bolt for Dallas on a one-year, $4.5 million deal and Carle head to Tampa Bay on a six-year, $33 million deal, the Flyers responded by nabbing Ruslan Fedotenko on a one-year, $1.75 million deal and signing Gervais to a two-year, $1.65 million pact.
Finally, as noted earlier, Philly re-signed restricted free agent Voracek to a four-year, $17 million contract.
And that's it. Rather modest spending for a team that's used to maxing out its payroll.
What this means is the Flyers will have the salary cap flexibility to take on a hefty salary in trade should Anaheim soften on their demands for Ryan or Philly will have money saved up for next summer when free agents-to-be like Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Jarome Iginla become available.
It's all indicative of a Flyers team that continues to focus on the future and the long-term success of the Orange and Black.