Philadelphia Flyers Offseason: Salary Cap Forces Philly to Look to Farm System
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The Philadelphia Flyers are in the unenviable position of having the least amount of cap room of any team in the NHL. Plus the addition of Ilya Bryzgalov, and his expected annual salary somewhere between 5-6.5 million dollars, makes a bad situation that much worse.
So with little room to maneuver, a trade is obviously still to come for a salary dump. And even then many of the Flyers unrestricted as well as restricted free agents will likely find themselves pushed off the team in the number crunch. This will leave the Flyers with no other choice but to fill out their roster with inexpensive players from their farm system.
Let's take a look at some of the guys who could make contributions in the upcoming season.
Erik Gustafsson, D
Gustafsson is considered the top prospect in the Flyers system
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Gustafsson is widely regarded as the best prospect in the Flyers organization, and even saw limited action with the team last season.
With his 49 points (5 G, 44 A) and an All-Star game appearance for the Phantoms last year it seems that it's time for Gustafsson to become a full-time Flyer.
And with Sean O'Donnell and Nick Boynton both becoming unrestricted free agents, along with the possibility that Braydon Coburn or Matt Carle could be moved in a deal to free up cap space, it seems all but certain that Gustafsson will find himself on the opening day roster.
Eric Wellwood, LW
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Eric Wellwood played 3 games for the Flyers last season, and that was all it took for fans to fall in love with the way he played the game. Wellwood's speed always makes him enjoyable to watch as he is relentless in his pursuit of the puck. He had a solid season, notching 28 points (16 G, 12 A) for the woeful Phantoms last season. The Flyers may look to Wellwood if they are looking for a cheaper alternative to restricted free agent Andreas Nodl.
Ben Holmstrom, F
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Ben Holmstrom put up some of the best point totals on the Phantoms last season (16 G, 22 A).
Those numbers probably exceed his potential output on the NHL level and Holmstrom's worth to the team will come from is his defensive play. As such he projects to a 4th line defensive specialist with the ability to play on the penalty kill.
So if Darroll Powe isn't resigned look for the Flyers to call on Holmstrom.
Mike Testwuide, RW
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Solid is the word that would probably best describe Testwuide. His numbers last season, 39 points (18 G, 21A)—solid. His skill and speed—not special, but solid.
So why is he on this list? Well that's simple, his size 6' 3", 216 lbs—great. On a Flyers team that seemed small and overpowered against Boston in the playoffs, someone with Testwuide's size can make a big difference.
Thus you could see Testwuide given a shot above others who may have more talent simply because he can intimidate people, which the Flyers severely lack at this point.
Tom Sestito, LW
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The Flyers acquired Sestito from Columbus at the trade deadline last season. Sestito has bounced up and down from the NHL and AHL over the last couple of years. And while he has shown some ability, what he brings to a team is filling the role of enforcer.
At 6' 5" 228 lbs he is an intimidating presence and is more than willing to drop the gloves, proven by the fact that he has 4 fights at the NHL level in 13 career games.
With Dan Carcillo all but gone, Sestito could easily take his place on the roster if the Flyers decide they want more than just Jody Shelley on the team.
Jason Akeson, RW
Jason Akeson was signed by the Flyers on March 2 of this year off of the Kitchener Rangers of the Ontario Hockey League after he led the OHL with 108 points (24 G, 84 A) in 67 games. Now no one knows how he'll translate to the tougher competition, and he may well need a year or two in the AHL before he's ready. But I would like to see what he can do in camp this summer as that kind of playmaking ability is always in demand.