Flyers sign eight unrestricted free agents to improve their depth

Nate Prosser

Chuck Fletcher wasn’t kidding when he predicted he might sign some unrestricted free agents to fill holes in the Flyers organization.

The general manager stuck to his word on Monday, signing a whopping eight UFAs on the NHL’s signing period opening.

Just over an hour after the noon start, Fletcher came to terms with Andy Andreoff, Kurtis Gabriel and Nate Prosser.

Less than an hour later, he added Andy Welinski, Tyler Wotherspoon and goaltender J-F Berube.

Finally, he came to terms with Chris Bigras and Kyle Criscuolo.

None of these moves is considered major by any means but, as Fletcher pointed out the other day, they can provide depth.

“We were able to sign eight players to help bolster our depth,’’ Fletcher said during a late afternoon media conference call. “Both in Philadelphia and Lehigh Valley (AHL Phantoms farm affiliate).

“Several of these players will probably move back and forth between Philadelphia and Lehigh Valley. One of the important things we were hoping to do is provide a solid, veteran cast of players to surround our talented young players who are starting their professional journey down in Lehigh Valley.’’

The Phantoms, who made the AHL Eastern Conference finals in 2017-18, took a step back last year, missing the playoffs altogether.

“Clearly the depth of our organization is much better now,’’ Fletcher said.

The Flyers already made their big splash in the UFA market by trading for and signing center Kevin Hayes from the Winnipeg Jets.

Plus, the Flyers still have to sign restricted free agents Ivan Provorov, Travis Konecny and Scott Laughton, which will eat up quite a bit of Fletcher’s remaining salary cap space.

Earlier, the Flyers shelled out $50 million over seven years for Kevin Hayes.

“The majority of players we brought in I think are upgrades over last year,’’ Fletcher said. “We didn’t have a very good season last year at Lehigh Valley.’’

Some of that was due to injuries. Fletcher pointed out that Phantoms stalwart Phil Varone spent most of the season with the Flyers as a call-up and that hurt the Phantoms’ finish.

Fletcher said he did not pursue an established NHL player on signing day. It was more about getting in players who could add versatility to his roster.

“We didn’t jump into those waters,’’ Fletcher said.

Sounds like Fletcher has pretty much completed the transactions phase of the offseason. He will keep talking to other teams but it looks like he’s comfortable with what he has.

He wants to keep some money lying around because he has other youngsters besides Provorov and Konecny who have to be paid in the next couple years.

Fletcher got ahead of the curve by signing Hayes, along with getting veteran defensemen Matt Niskanen and Justin Braun, plus back-up goalie Brian Elliott.

“We felt if we could get ahead of it and get the guys we wanted . . . we didn’t want to get into a bidding war,’’ Fletcher said.

A quick look at the eight signees:

>Andreoff, 29, two-year contract with an annual average value of $750,000. 6-foot-1, 203-pound left wing. Has appeared in 159 NHL games with the Los Angeles Kings over four seasons. 13 goals, 24 points.

>Gabriel, 26, one-year, two-way contract with an average annual value of $700,000.  6-foot-4, 200-pound right wing, Has appeared in 38 games for N.J. Devils and Minnesota.

>Prosser, 33, two-year, two-way contract with an average annual value of $700,000. 6-foot-2, 201-pound defenseman. Has played 353 games for the Wild over parts of 10 seasons.

>Welinski, 26,  one-year contract with an average annual value of $750,000. 6-foot-1, 201-pound defenseman. 33 career NHL games with Anaheim, eight points.

>Wotherspoon, 26, two-year, two-way contract with an average annual value of $700,000. 6-foot-2, 225-pound defenseman, Wotherspoon spent the 2018-19 season with the AHL’s San Antonio Rampage. Has appeared in 30 NHL games over parts of four seasons with the Calgary Flames.

>Berube, 27, one-year, two-way contract with an average annual value of $700,000. 6-foot-1, 177-pound netminder. Spent the 2018-19 season with the AHL’s Cleveland Monsters. Has appeared in 34 NHL games over parts of three seasons with the New York Islanders and Chicago Blackhawks.

>Bigras, 24, two-year, two-way contract with an average of $700,000. The 6-foot-1, 190-pound defenseman has played 46 NHL games with Colorado.

>Criscuolo, 27, one-year, two-way contact with an average of $700,000. A center, he hails from Southampton Township in Burlington County, N.J. He has appeared in nine NHL games with the Buffalo Sabres.

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About Wayne Fish 2452 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.

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