Having already made a big splash by signing headline potential free agent Kevin Hayes, the Flyers would not appear to be headed toward any significant moves when the NHL signing period opens on Monday.
General manager Chuck Fletcher entered the spring with a lot of salary cap space, but a lot of that went to securing Hayes, to the tune of $50 million over seven years.
Fletcher still has several restricted free agents of his own to sign, including Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim and Scott Laughton.
He’s made two big transactions on defense, trading for Washington’s Matt Niskanen and San Jose’s Justin Braun.
Plus, he’s re-signed veteran goaltender Brian Elliott. So, on the surface, it doesn’t look like he has any glaring holes to fill.
On top of all this, the NHL salary cap projection (originally thought to be about $83 million), came in a bit low at $81.5 million.
So while it would be nice to have the resources to grab a UFA like Matt Duchene, it’s probably not going to happen.
“The cap coming in at 81.5, at one point there were projections that it would be 83, and you’re making plans all year,’’ Fletcher said. “ I think the 81.5 was a little bit of a curveball at the 11th hour, and we had to adjust.
“We’re just trying to keep as much flexibility as we can here to get our RFAs signed, and to make sure we can accrue as much cap space as possible going into the season, and keep as much, and during the season you can accrue it quickly… just to give ourselves that opportunity whether it’s the summer, the fall or next winter to have opportunities to improve our team.’’
Over the past decade, the Flyers have often found themselves right up against the cap and that’s a situation Fletcher wants to avoid. Especially if the Flyers run into one of their injury epidemics.
“Often times injuries are 10, 12, 14 days, and you have to have enough space to recall players assuming you don’t have enough healthy ones on your roster already,’’ Fletcher explained.
“We feel we’ve made some key additions, we’ve filled some holes, and we have some pretty good young kids coming too. I think our depth will be significantly better, and hopefully on July 1 and 2, we’ll have some more announcements to make on some players that can come in and help our organization, whether it’s Lehigh Valley or Philadelphia. I think we’ll be in a good space in terms of having good players but also having sufficient depth.’’
It can be difficult to gauge how much to budget for an unrestricted free agent when the contracts for the RFAs haven’t been finalized.
“It’s not really a front-burner issue for us at this point,’’ Fletcher said. “I just know every summer you put your roster together and when you come to training camp, inevitably there’s players that surprise you and there’s players that maybe are a little bit disappointing.
“So you don’t always know the holes you may end up having. If we start the season with what we have now and knowing we have a pretty good chance of adding a few more players for depth, we’d be fine, we’d be happy. We’d be a significantly deeper team, I think a more talented team.
“We’ll certainly have opportunities whether it’s the next week or training camp, there will be roster decisions every team has to make, and obviously during the season you can make tweaks as well. We’ll have opportunities, and sometimes it’s better before you lock in too many players with term to maybe see exactly what you have.’’
At least Fletcher and the Flyers coaching staff had the recently completed five-day development camp to get some eyes on their kids’ progress.
That could help determine whether Fletcher has to put a hammer to his piggybank on Monday.