The Flyers sit at just over $2.25 million in cap space heading into the 2020-2021 season. However, that hasn’t stopped Philly fans from looking at every star in the league who isn’t locked up long-term and formulating some insane multi-part trade to add them to the roster. Which of these options is realistic? Are any of them truly moves that would be good for the team when considering the short and long term implications?
Acquiring Patrik Laine/Nikolaj Ehlers
The Flyers would likely have to spend a king’s ransom to pry away either of these players from Winnipeg. While they were reportedly involved in discussions surrounding Laine, there’s been a conspicuous drop in conversation concerning the Finnish sniper. Ehlers was another player who fans of other teams eyed as a potential cap casualty for the Jets, but he’s an excellent winger and on a good contract. Hence, it was unlikely he’d be moved from the get-go, let alone to a team like Philadelphia that’s loaded with two-way winger talent.
Signing Sami Vatanen
Sami Vatanen is a peculiar player who will probably only get a short-term deal. However, I don’t think the Flyers want to invest any more money in the blue line this offseason unless a decent top pair defender is involved. Vatanen is far removed from his productive years in Anaheim. At age 29, he isn’t an appealing player to most anymore.
Signing Mike Hoffman
Mike Hoffman is projected to get upwards of six million AAV and around four years of term by Evolving Wild’s contract model (the same model that predicted Phil Myers signing for three years at $2.55 AAV), so the price tag is already an issue. Add in a horrifying analytical profile at even strength over the past three years, lackluster defensive effort under Coach Q (a known disciplinarian) that clearly was visible to me in the decent number of Florida games I watched this past season. You have the picture of what Hoffman really is: a powerplay specialist with a plus shooting ability. Hoffman benefitted from playing on the top unit in Sunrise with Sasha Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, and Evgenii Dadonov for the past few seasons. Watching him however, I always felt that he was an extremely replaceable cog in that unit.
Paying somebody who can only really score with a man advantage (14 goals at even strength, 15 on the powerplay this past year) who doesn’t fit the culture, system, or cap structure the team is attempting to maintain is foolish at best and disastrous at worst. The point totals are deceiving. The fit is poor, and the Flyers are already overpaying for a luxury player who’s arguably been a more valuable winger as recently as 2018-2019 in James Van Riemsdyk. If Philadelphia really wants to invest in a plus shooter who will command a relatively hefty cap hit, they should take a look at Max Pacioretty. Otherwise, the Flyers need to focus on restructuring their powerplay to fix their shooting issues internally.
Trading for Matt Dumba
The Flyers took a hit on the back end with the loss of Matt Niskanen this offseason, but Dumba isn’t the answer to replace Steady Eddie in the top four. While the Minnesota defender has eye-catching talent that made him Fletcher’s choice at the seventh overall pick in 2012, he’s been underwhelming as a 200 foot player in a system that tends to mask defensive deficiencies. Flyers fans will love the tools, but Dumba’s expensive cap hit and lack of true top-pair results make him a risky investment that the team shouldn’t consider pursuing as one of their options.
Offer sheeting Anthony Cirelli or Erik Cernak
Tampa Bay is slammed up against the cap ceiling at the moment with no end in sight. The Lightning need to jettison a contract or two to make room for their young RFAs, but nobody seems to be biting on the likes of Tyler Johnson or Yanni Gourde. The Flyers should be taking advantage of this by offer-sheeting the two to reasonable contracts that the Lightning will struggle to match without shedding major assets. If Philadelphia dumped a contract to jump on this while negotiations drag on in Tampa, the Flyers could rapidly fill the gap at 3C or help supplement the young top four on defense with another good player. Cirelli is projected to earn around six million AAV with plenty of term, and Cernak should command around two to two and a half million AAV. Still, with Tampa currently well over the cap ceiling, Philadelphia has all the leverage.
This is unlikely to happen considering it would require the movement of Shayne Gostisbehere and an offer sheet. It would require Chuck Fletcher to feel that the Flyers badly need center depth. Still, I think this is an intriguing idea that the Flyers are probably quietly considering. Cirelli is a young stud and would instantly make the Flyers an elite shutdown team. Cernak took huge steps forward this past year to help propel Tampa deep in the postseason. Both are good players, and both would honestly have been signed away from the Lightning if the league wasn’t so anti-player movement. If the Flyers offered Cirelli the maximum contract allowed to only command a 2nd round pick in compensation (or Cernak around two and a half million dollars), the only real potential repercussion they could face is other GMs frowning upon offer sheets. Otherwise, they get a good player on the cheap who helps their Cup hopes.
Max Pacioretty or Jonathan Marchessault
I already covered this more in-depth in an article you can read here, but these two players are the best possible “swing for the fences” additions that the Flyers should be looking at, given Vegas’s stringent cap situation. Pacioretty is a player whose goal-scoring ability I genuinely believe in (top 10 in the league at even strength goals in 2019-2020). Marchessault would give the Flyers incredible depth down the middle and flexibility with their lineup (Marchessault plays both center and winger). The pair are expensive, but a swap with Vegas would likely come after a Shayne Gostisbehere cap dump elsewhere, so it’s a mildly feasible move that makes a lot of sense.
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