Flyers' free agents: Stay or go?

Flyers' free agents: Stay or go?
May 8, 2014, 11:30 am
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This week, we’ll be taking a look back at the Flyers’ season and a peek at what lies ahead. Today, a look at the free agents on the Flyers’ roster and whether or not they will be back with the club.

On Wednesday, Philadelphia Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren was promoted to team president and assistant general manager Ron Hextall was subsequently promoted to the role of general manager to usher in a new era.

Hextall, a first-time general manager, won’t have much time to get his feet wet because he has decisions to make on five unrestricted free agents and five restricted free agents currently on the Flyers’ roster before he can proceed with his offseason plans.

It’s time to take a look at those free agents and whether or not they’ll be back in orange and black sweaters this coming fall.

The players’ respective cap hits from this past season is in parentheses, courtesy of capgeek.com

 

Unrestricted free agents

 

RW Steve Downie ($2.65 million)

Things just never got on track for Downie, who was acquired from the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for Max Talbot on Halloween, during his second stint with the Flyers.

In his first game back with the team that originally drafted him, Downie broke his orbital bone in a fight and missed about two weeks of action. When he returned, he scored just three goals in 51 games. Just one of those goals came after Dec 11 and it was an empty-netter. Things got so bad for Downie that he found himself as a healthy scratch toward the end of the year and then missed the playoff series with the Rangers with what Holmgren called “balance issues.”

When Downie was on the ice, he found himself mostly on an effective checking line with Sean Couturier and Matt Read that drew the opponent’s best players night in and night out. Despite that fact, Downie didn’t prove much so the guess here is that he won’t be brought back.

 

G Ray Emery ($1.65 million)

Many thought Emery would be the Flyers’ starting netminder when he signed with team last offseason. But that was before Steve Mason skyrocketed into goalie superstardom in a way Flyers fans haven’t seen in years.

Still, Emery played admirably well in a backup role as he went 9-12-2 with a .903 save percentage, 2.96 goals-against average and two shutouts. And those weren’t easy games as Emery saw the likes of the Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks, Los Angeles Kings, St. Louis Blues, Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lighting across from him when he started.

The $1.65 million cap hit isn’t a terrible number for a backup who put up those kinds of numbers against that kind of competition. Emery coming back to the Flyers is certainly within the realm of possibility. But it will likely come down to whether or not Emery feels he has a legitimate chance to compete for a starting job somewhere else. The guess here is that he’ll at least get that chance somewhere and go.

D Hal Gill ($700,000)

The now-39-year-old Gill was brought in to be a depth option in case the Flyers needed him. The Flyers didn’t need him much and he played just six regular-season games without registering a point.

After Nick Grossmann was injured in Game 4 against the Rangers, Gill stepped into the lineup in Game 5 and will be remembered for fumbling a pass in the defensive zone that led to a Rangers goal just after missing a wide-open net on the other end.

The guess here is that was Gill’s last hurrah and he walks off into the hockey sunset.

 

C Adam Hall ($600,000)

Hall was a sturdy fourth-line center for the Flyers during the recently-completed season.

The 33-year-old won faceoffs at a 59.4 clip to lead the team and was also an effective penalty killer while mostly playing alongside Michael Raffl. He also added four goals and five assists.

Even though the Flyers are stacked at center and have Scott Laughton on the way, Hall can still be a big help. The guess is that the Flyers figure out a way to bring him back to once again anchor the fourth line, whether it’s at center or on the wing.

D Kimmo Timonen ($6 million)

Let’s preface this by saying 39-year-old Timonen has yet to decide whether or not he wants to return to the Flyers for a 16th NHL season. If he does, it certainly won’t be at the $6 million rate he played for this past season.

Say what you want about Timonen, but he was still the Flyers’ best defenseman last season. It wasn’t fair that he had to be forced into that position yet again due to a lack of pro depth at the position but that’s the way it was. That said he still posted six goals and 29 assists and was still an incredibly effective quarterback on the power play.

If he comes back, he can’t be the team’s No.1 defenseman again. He just ran out of gas at the end of the year. The Rangers skated up and down on him in the playoffs and he just couldn’t keep up.

Timonen can certainly still help the Flyers in a big way but he needs help, whether it comes from outside the organization or one of the kids in the minors is ready to go. If Timonen is ready to accept a deal in the, say, $2 million range, the guess is he’ll be back for one more run at Lord Stanley’s Cup.

 

Restricted free agents (The Flyers have the right to match any offer to one of these players.)


RW Jason Akeson ($750,000)

If you didn’t know who Akeson was before the Stanley Cup Playoffs began, you sure do now after he burst onto the scene against the Rangers with two goals in seven games.

It wasn’t just that Akeson, a rookie who had played just two regular-season games before the playoffs began, scored two goals. He was one of the Flyers’ few offensive threats in the series. He was one of the few Flyers who were making things happen. Plus, he fit it nicely and didn’t skip a beat on the defensive line with Couturier and Read.

He led the Phantoms with 24 goals and granted nine NHL games is a small sample size, but Akeson looks like a keeper. The guess is he stays and starts next year with the big club.

 

D Erik Gustafsson ($1 million)

Some thought the 25-year-old, offensive-minded defenseman would see more than the 31 regular-season and two playoff games he played. But the acquisition of Andrew MacDonald and the Flyers’ relative health along the blue line this past season nullified those plans.

When he did play in the regular season, Gustafsson scored two goals and added eight assists. He also added a goal in Game 6 against the Rangers.

But with kids such as Shayne Gostisbehere likely to challenge for a roster spot in the fall and who the Flyers already have on defense, is there a spot for Gustafsson in Philadelphia? The guess is probably not. Don’t be surprised if the Flyers look to add him into some sort of trade package, whether it’s his negotiating rights or signing him and then trading him.

 

G Cal Heeter ($783,750)

The 25-year-old Flyers’ third-string goalie played just one NHL game – the meaningless season finale against the Carolina Hurricanes – and proved how green he was during the 6-5 shootout loss.

He’s not a viable backup option to Mason at this point. The guess is he’ll be brought back and put in the minors to start for the new Lehigh Valley Phantoms AHL team.

 

LW Tye McGinn ($775,000)

McGinn, a favorite among many Flyers fans for the physicality and grit he brings to the game, totaled four goals and an assist with the big club this season.

But that was before he tapered off from a hot start and eventually lost his roster spot to Raffl. He rejoined the Flyers later on in the season but didn’t impress the coaching staff and a lost playoff spot to Akeson.

The good news is that McGinn is still just 23-years-old, finished second on the Phantoms with 20 goals and the organization likes his style so the guess is he’ll be back but for some more seasoning in the minors.

C Brayden Schenn ($870,000)

And now here’s where things get interesting.

The 22-year-old center posted career highs in goals with 20 and assists with 21 but was very inconsistent throughout the season and even more so in the playoffs where he didn’t score a single goal in seven games.

Holmgren had some pointed comments about Schenn during the then-general manger’s exit interview following the Game 7 loss to the Rangers. He said the two sides haven’t talked about a deal and that Schenn’s lack of consistency from the second-line center spot concerned him.

None of that is good news for Schenn, who was the crown jewel of the Mike Richards trade at the time and not Wayne Simmonds, when you consider Couturier got his bridge deal last year and is a year younger than Schenn. Keep in mind a player with Schenn’s upside could provide a huge return in any sort of trade. Cough *defense* cough.

That said, Hextall’s philosophy is to build from within so the guess is he gives Schenn another chance or two to reach that next level the Flyers would like to see him at. But don’t be surprised if his name becomes popular in the trade rumor mill this summer.

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