Early Look at Good Free-Agent Fits for Philadelphia Flyers This Offseason
Currently, the Philadelphia Flyers are chasing a difficult postseason spot, but it's apparent the team will be looking at free agents this offseason to fill much-needed holes on its roster.
Unfortunately, according to Capgeek, if Philly does not use its amnesty buyout with Danny Briere or Ilya Bryzgalov, the team will only have a measly $75 thousand in cap room this summer. Therefore, it's likely one of these players will be bought out—creating more cap space and much better options in the market
It's imperative the Flyers address their weaknesses (defense) and general manager Paul Holmgren redeem himself from costly, historical transactions.
If the Flyers can create the necessary wiggle room, here is an early look at free agents that may be a good fit in Philadelphia next season.
Mike Kostka UFA
Mike Kostka, the undrafted rookie from Etobicoke, Ontario, has been a pleasant surprise for the Toronto Maple Leafs this season.
Standing at 6'1" and 210 pounds, Kostka has averaged over 22 minutes on the ice in 32 games played. And according to TSN's Jonas Siegel, then Leafs' general manager Brian Burke was keen on signing the unproven player before the season.
"He has been impressive," Leafs president and general manager Brian Burke said via e-mail. "High hockey IQ, great patience with the puck, can really thread passes on the power play."
Current general manager Dave Nonis may have a dilemma on his hands, as four additional Maple Leafs' defenders will become free agents at season's end: Ryan O'Byrne, Carl Gunnarsson, Cody Franson and Mark Fraser. It may be extremely difficult to maintain all players.
Kostka could be a nice addition to the Flyers' system, as well as coming with a cheap price tag. The 27-year-old still has much hockey to learn, but his determination and work ethic could benefit Philly's blue line depth next season.
Ian White UFA
Ian White's days may be numbered in Detroit. The veteran defenseman has been a bit of a journeyman over his eight seasons in the league, playing in Toronto, Calgary, Carolina, San Jose and, currently, Detroit. And he may be on the move again.
Playing in only 25 games for the Red Wings this season, White has seen his playing time decrease more and more throughout the year. According to MLive's Ansar Khan, White has remained positive and striving to crack the lineup, but only time will tell his fate in Detroit.
In addition, defenders Brendan Smith and Jakub Kindl will also be free agents this summer—meaning the Red Wings may let White test the market. And coming off a down season, the Philadelphia Flyers may take advantage of buying low.
White could be a nice second or third pairing in Philly's system while providing veteran experience to the roster. His shot-blocking skills and smart play would provide a needed boost to the Flyers.
Ben Lovejoy UFA
Ben Lovejoy has been a pleasant surprise for the pleasantly surprising Anaheim Ducks this year.
Since acquiring the 29-year-old blueliner from the Pittsburgh Penguins early in the season, Lovejoy has made a positive impact on the team.
The mobile defenseman has contributed on offense with nine assists in 27 games, while compiling 68 hits and 37 blocked shots on defense.
According to Capgeek, the Ducks will have plenty of money to re-sign players this offseason, but with many offensive free agents in Anaheim—Lovejoy may test the market. The Flyers will not have to spend a ton of money bringing him on board and his offensive style of play would instantly benefit the team.
If the Ducks were to let him walk, the Flyers may want to snatch Lovejoy at the right price.
Carl Gunnarsson RFA
As previously mentioned, the Toronto Maple Leafs will have five free-agent blueliners after the season and one will be Carl Gunnarsson.
The four-year veteran has been an extremely solid player through his short career, averaging over 100 blocked shots and 50 hits each season. This season, Gunnarsson has averaged over 21 minutes on the ice, while boasting a plus-8 on the year.
He is exactly what the Philadelphia Flyers need in a defender.
Gunnarsson, who is also crafty with the puck, will be a restricted free agent with a cap hit of $1.325 million but will likely ask for something higher.
If the Flyers have the money, he could be a tremendous addition to the line.
Kevin Shattenkirk RFA
Kevin Shattenkirk may be one of the best options for the Philadelphia Flyers this offseason. The only issue being he will be a restricted free agent and the St. Louis Blues will likely try to hold on to him.
Yet according to Capgeek, the Blues will also be facing a huge dilemma with six offensive and five defensive free agents to retain for next season. Now, the Blues will have plenty of cap space to work with and might make Shattenkirk a priority to re-sign.
But if he were to test the market, the Flyers would need to consider pursuing the 24-year-old.
In his fourth season in the league, Shattenkirk has proved to be an effective player on both ends of the ice—averaging 27 points a season and over 47 hits each year. Last season, the talented blueliner tallied 43 points with 34 assists.
Again, he is a restricted free agent, but if the Flyers can pry him from St. Louis, they would possess one of the brightest young blueliners in the NHL.