Coming off a strong 2019-20 regular season and their first playoff series win in eight years, the Philadelphia Flyers find themselves in an interesting position this offseason.
On the one hand, the core group that led them to finishing second in the Metropolitan Division is going to return next season.
Travis Konecny had his most prolific scoring output with 61 points, despite playing a career-low 66 games in the regular season. Sean Couturier had the second-best plus-minus (21) of his career. Carter Hart, 22, had his best year with a 2.42 goals against average in 43 games.
"There's a lot of teams right now that don't have cap space already. The teams that do have cap space over the next three years, every one of them has some young players that are going to get raises, potentially big raises. Teams that spend money on UFA's this summer and have young players aren't necessarily going to have any more money in year two and year three."
Matt Niskanen's decision to retire with one year left on his contract does create an opening on the roster for a defenseman.
Justin Braun to re-signed for a reasonable average annual salary of $1.8 million over the next two years.
There are still plenty of questions for the Flyers to address with free agency set to begin Friday at 12 p.m. ET.
Latest on Patrik Laine Trade Talks
The hottest rumor involving the Flyers has been about their trade talks with the Winnipeg Jets for Patrik Laine.
Per TSN's Darren Dreger, the Jets had "multiple discussions with a number of clubs" about Laine and other players.
Frank Seravelli of TSN added the Flyers "were the team most engaged" with Winnipeg about Laine, but those talks "have cooled for now."
According to Seravelli, Philadelphia's offer for Laine included a defenseman going to Winnipeg, and Niskanen's retirement "is a nonfactor in (the Flyers') ability to revisit a potential Laine deal."
In July 2019, Fletcher told reporters his approach with the roster was to build around their young players and supplement the roster in free agency.
More than one year later, it doesn't sound like Fletcher is dramatically altering that approach, but Laine would also fit into his philosophy. The Jets star is only 22 years old and had 63 points in 68 games last season.
One big catch if the Flyers do aggressively pursue Laine is his contract status. The Finland native is eligible for restricted free agency after next season and could command a lot of money on a long-term deal.
Based on Fletcher's comments about being pragmatic with the cap over the next few years, Laine might not make sense for the Flyers in that regard.
On talent alone, though, there's no denying that Laine's offensive capability would make him a fit for a Philadelphia team that ranked seventh in the NHL with 3.29 goals per game in 2019-20.
The Shayne Gostisbehere Market
One way for the Flyers to create some cap flexibility would be to move someone who has fallen out of favor.
The most-talked about potential trade candidate is defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere.
Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic reported last week that Gostisbehere is on the market, and the Flyers "have shown a serious willingness to move him if they get the right offer."
Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim and Robert Hagg are currently under contract with Philadelphia. Ghost has three years and $9.75 million left on his current deal.
Head coach Alain Vigneault seemed to lose faith in Gostisbehere as the season went on. The 27-year-old averaged just over 18 minutes of ice time per game, his fewest in five full seasons. He only played in five of Philadelphia's 13 playoff games, including once in seven games against the New York Islanders.
Given how much depth the Flyers have at the position right now, dealing Gostisbehere makes the most sense based on where they are at heading into next season.