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Philadelphia Flyers 2021-22 Season Preview

2020-21 record 25-23-8, 55 points

6th in the MassMutual NHL East Division

Missed the postseason for the first time since 2020

Additions: F Cam Atkinson (acquired from CBJ), F Derick Brassard, F Ryan Fitzgerald, F Gerry Mayhew, F Nate Thompson, D Adam Clendening, D Ryan Ellis (acquired from NSH), D Rasmus Ristolainen (acquired from BUF), D Nick Seeler, D Keith Yandle, D Cooper Zech, G Martin Jones

Subtractions: F David Kase (ELH), F Pascal Laberge (signed with Maine Mariners, ECHL), F Nolan Patrick (traded to NSH, flipped to VGK), F Carsen Twarynski (expansion, SEA), F Jakub Voracek (traded to CBJ), D Chris Bigras (signed with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, AHL), D Shayne Gostisbehere (traded to ARI), D Robert Hagg (traded to BUF), D Philippe Myers (traded to NSH), D Matt Niskanen (retired prior to 2020-21, contract officially expired), D Derrick Pouliot (signed with Henderson Silver Knights, AHL), G Brian Elliott (signed with TBL), G Alex Lyon (signed with CAR)

Still Unsigned: F Andy Andreoff, D Nate Prosser, D Tyler Wotherspoon

Re-signed: F Connor Bunnaman, F German Rubstov, F Linus Sandin, D Samuel Morin, D Travis Sanheim, G Carter Hart, G Felix Sandström

Offseason Analysis: Not satisfied with their disappointing 2020-21 performance, Flyers General Manager, Chuck Fletcher, knew something would have to change.

Jakub Voracek broke into the NHL with the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 2008-09 season after the Blue Jackets drafted him in the 1st round (7th overall) of the 2007 NHL Draft and spent three seasons in Columbus before being packaged with a 2011 1st round pick and a 2011 3rd round pick in a trade with Philadelphia for Jeff Carter on June 23, 2011.

In 968 career NHL games, Voracek has 214-520–734 totals, including 601 points (176 goals and 425 assists) in 727 games with the Flyers from 2011-21.

That 2011 1st round pick became Sean Couturier and the 3rd round pick was used to select Nick Cousins as Philadelphia was one-year removed from making the 2010 Stanley Cup Final.

Adding Voracek was to provide a spark for a player in need of a change of scenery and provide Philly’s top-six forward group with a better fit.

After serving primarily as a playmaker for a decade of waffling in and out of the playoffs, the Flyers dealt Voracek back to Columbus for Cam Atkinson, who proudly wore his wife’s Gritty t-shirt in his introductory Zoom with media members after the trade on July 24th.

Atkinson joins Philadelphia after amassing 213-189–402 totals in 627 games with the Blue Jackets since the 2011-12 season after Columbus drafted him in the 6th round (157th overall) of the 2008 NHL Draft.

But that’s not the only trade that Fletcher made to supplment his new-age core as Couturier, Travis Konecny, Claude Giroux, Joel Farabee, Kevin Hayes, Ivan Provorov and their teammates seek the franchise’s first Stanley Cup championship since 1975.

Fletcher kicked the summer off by trading Philippe Myers and Nolan Patrick to the Nashville Predators for defender, Ryan Ellis, on July 17th.

Nashville flipped Patrick after the deal in a separate trade with the Vegas Golden Knights, while Philadelphia added Ellis to bolster their top-four defenders.

For the first time in his career this October, Ellis will don a uniform that isn’t Predators marigold, but rather Flyers orange.

After being drafted in the 1st round (11th overall) in 2009, by Nashville, Ellis emerged in the 2011-12 season, putting up 3-8–11 totals in 32 games as he broke into the league. Since then, he’s produced 270 points (75 goals, 195 assists) in 562 games from parts of the 2011-12 season through 2020-21.

Due to an upper body injury, Ellis was limited to 35 games last season and only had 18 points (five goals, 13 assists) from the blue line, but his ability to move the puck out of his own zone and start a rush is important as the Flyers try to balance out Provorov’s prowess with someone that can keep up on his pairing.

Five days after acquiring Ellis, Fletcher dumped Shayne Gostisbehere’s $4.500 million cap hit in the Arizona desert with a 2022 2nd round pick and a 2022 7th round pick also going to the Coyotes for future considerations to make room for Ellis’ $6.250 million cap hit through the 2026-27 season.

Then Fletcher did something unprompted and– depending if you’re a Flyers fan or not– unhinged as he made a deal with the Buffalo Sabres, though not for Jack Eichel as Philly fans can only dream of to compete with Couturier for the first line center job, while Hayes would likely be demoted to the third line.

Rather, the Flyers traded Robert Hagg’s $1.600 million cap hit, a 2021 1st round pick (14th overall, Isak Rosén) and a 2023 2nd round pick to the Sabres for Rasmus Ristolainen and his $5.400 million cap hit on July 23rd.

Hagg managed 2-3–5 totals and was a minus-3 in 34 games last season with Philadelphia, while Ristolainen had 4-14–18 totals in 49 games and, uh, was a minus-18 to match Buffalo’s 18-game losing streak at one point last season.

Some would argue the points are an upgrade, but at what cost when it seems to be live by the sword, die by the sword.

Then Fletcher acquired Atkinson and free agency began on July 28th.

Seeking veteran experience to aid the younger players in making a long run, Fletcher signed Keith Yandle, Derick Brassard and took a chance on Martin Jones, while also brining back Nate Thompson for another stint with the Flyers in the bottom-six.

Yandle was bought out by the Florida Panthers and can command a power-play unit while not having missed a game since the 2008-09 season.

He had 3-24–27 totals with the Panthers after Joel Quenneville utilized him as an afterthought and nearly scratched the 35-year-old defender.

Brassard earned a one-year, $825,000 contract late in the summer on Aug. 25th as a low-risk, high-reward move as a recent league-journeyman that had 20 points (eight goals, 12 assists) in 53 games with Arizona last season after a career-resurgence with the New York Islanders (32 points in 66 games) in 2019-20.

At the very least, he’ll give Philadelphia depth down the middle in the top-nine.

Jones, meanwhile, was bought out by the San Jose Sharks and is looking to salvage whatever’s left of his career as the presumptive backup to Carter Hart on a one-year, $2.000 million contract.

The 31-year-old Canadian goaltender went 15-13-4 in 34 games last season and had a 3.28 goals-against average, as well as an .896 save percentage and one shutout in that span.

Meanwhile, Brian Elliott departed for the Tampa Bay Lightning– replacing Curtis McElhinney as the Bolts’ backup.

McElhinney went 4-6-2 in 12 games last season for Tampa and had a 3.09 goals-against average as well as an .875 save percentage and one shutout.

Elliott had a 15-9-2 record in 30 games last season and sustained a 3.06 goals-against average, an .889 save percentage and two shutouts in that span with the Flyers.

Hart, meanwhile, had a disastrous run.

In 27 games played, the 23-year-old netminder went 9-11-5, had one shutout and amassed a 3.67 goals-against average, as well as an .877 save percentage– one season removed from going 24-13-3 in 43 games with a 2.42 goals-against average, a .914 save percentage and one shutout in 2019-20.

He earned a three-year extension worth $3.979 per season as a bridge contract with a lot to prove to get back to his once promising form.

Finally, Fletcher locked down Couturier and Farabee with long-term extensions that won’t begin until the 2022-23 season.

Couturier’s earned an eight-year deal worth $7.750 million per season, while Farabee’s nailed a six-year contract with a $5.000 million cap hit– presenting the Flyers with their greatest challenge yet– being tight against the cap and having high expectations.

Offseason Grade: B

It kind of feels like a “make or break” year for Philadelphia, even though there’s no way of really knowing what’s in store for the Flyers.

Fletcher made some admirable moves signing veterans that Philly could use in top-nine or specialty roles, but it’s also a risk to take on Jones while Hart is already on shaky ground heading into the 2021-22 season.

If the ghost of the revolving door of goaltenders in a Flyers uniform is to be kept out of Wells Fargo Center, then Philadelphia’s going to need to hope their goaltending coach is ready with a plan that’s different from whatever happened last season.

Flyers head coach, Alain Vigneault, can bring immediate success to an organization and make them hard to play against, but he tends to carry a time limit in the modern NHL as the game continues to evolve.

With about $381,500 left in cap space entering this season, Philadelphia had to move out at least one big contract in favor of something smaller– though they’ve taken on Ellis with term and Giroux is due for an extension unless he decides to walk in unrestricted free agency next summer.

The Flyers may have almost $15.6 million to spend next offseason, but they need to show forward progress, if not win now.

By Nick Lanciani

I have a degree in communication and yet I cannot find the words for this bio. Anyway, I write stuff on Down the Frozen River, make/appear on podcasts, used to write stuff for Couch Guy Sports and apply to jobs for a living when I'm not painting something cool to distract myself from my unemployment.