Flyers finally in a better salary cap space to pursue talent

Chuck Fletcher
       For years the Flyers have been forced to get creative with acquiring players via free agency, trades, etc.
      That’s because for the most part they were dealing with salary cap compliance issues.
      But those days, at least for the short-term future, appear to be over.
      General manager Chuck Fletcher has headed into a long offseason about $5 million under the NHL’s projected $82.5-million projected cap for the 2022-23 season.
      Now $5 million is not exactly a king’s ransom in today’s market, but it goes give the GM a little more flexibility in entertaining trades or picking up players via free agency when that opens on July 13.
      At a press briefing on Wednesday at the Flyers Training Center in Voorhees, N.J., Fletcher noted he probably won’t have to move any significant talent off the roster to sign a free agent who can fill a particular need.
      “We’ll see,’’ Fletcher said. “Unlike several teams, we don’t have a cap issue. We don’t have the cap issues that several teams do where we literally have to move bodies out to be cap compliant. We can be cap compliant easily. We are cap compliant.’’
      With the trade of forward Claude Giroux last season, the Flyers could certainly use some more help down the middle. Both Sean Couturier (back surgery) and Kevin Hayes (multiple abdominal surgeries) need to show they are fully recovered before Fletcher can sleep well at night.
      “If we want to be aggressive in free agency then we have to get creative,’’ Fletcher said. “It’s just how aggressive we want to be and how aggressive we can be that may dictate how many transactions we make. This is the best we have been at least in the last few years. We can be cap compliant if we go away from the summer, we got a hockey team. It’s just how aggressive we want to be.’’
      When Fletcher mentions “aggressive’’ he might be referring to some of the bigger names on the free-agent list, which includes South Jersey native Johnny Gaudreau (who might be re-signing in Calgary); Colorado’s Nazem Kadri (the Avalanche do have salary cap concerns) and Pittsburgh’s Bryan Rust (who has superstars Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang waiting with their hands out in front of him).
      As for trades, Fletcher already made a big splash last summer when he acquired defensemen Ryan Ellis and Rasmus Ristolainen via that route. The Giroux trade brought in promising forward Owen Tippett. A big trade might be waiting until the late-season deadline.
      With new coach John Tortorella on board, it will be interesting to see if Fletcher goes after players (both through trade or free agency) who fit into the profile of someone who is “hard to play against.’’ That’s a theme Tortorella has already promoted before his first game behind the Flyers’ bench.
      And, we might add, Fletcher seems to be on board with that credo as well.
      “One hundred percent agree, that is why we hired him,’’ Fletcher said. “You have to remember the ‘19-20 season, we were a hard team to play against. We played hard. Playing hard doesn’t just mean we were big and strong; it means playing the game the right way and having the puck. It’s forcing the team to defend; it’s forcing the other team to play the way you want them to play and on your terms.
      “So, it’s not just about personnel. It’s about, not defending all the time. It’s defensive structure. It’s how you retrieve pucks and get out of your own zone. Again, it’s hopefully having the puck, not being trapped in D-zone like we were all last season. When you’re defending all the time, it’s hard to dictate. It’s hard to be aggressive. All you’re doing is reacting to what the other team does.’’
      Puck possession skills are high up on Fletcher’s list of potential new players’ attributes.
      “You want to have the puck, but to have the puck, you have to defend quickly,’’ he said. “You have to defend well and get the hell out of the D-zone. Once you do that now you can manage the game and make puck decisions. You can chip and chase. You can enter under control. You can do whatever you can do because you have the puck. You can dictate the flow of the game. That’s what we want to get back to. That’s what we want to be. That’s what Torts’ teams always have been. That’s the mindset and identity of what we want to accomplish here. It’s coaching. It’s buy-in. It’s accountability. It’s structure. It’s fitness levels. It’s personnel. It’s everything. We’re going to try to check every box we can this summer to be that type of team.’’
      >Russia giving Fedotov a hard time
      Gee, what a surprise. Good old Russia giving one of its top young goaltenders, Ivan Fedotov, a bunch of bull as he tries to make his way to the United States to compete for a job on the Flyers.
      On Friday afternoon, reports out of Russia indicated Fedotov was detained due to an attempt to avoid military service.
      Fedotov, one of Russia’s best goalkeepers and a member of the country’s national team, was apprehended in St. Petersburg.
      The 25-year-old netminder, who recently signed a contract with the Flyers, was the object of a manhunt launched by the military prosecutor’s office, which made the accusation.
      After signing his contract with the Flyers, Fedotov announced his intention to quit his Russian club, Central Sport Club of Army (CSKA), to be able to play in the United States.
      The CSKA is an ice hockey club of the Russian Army and its members are officially considered military personnel. Therefore, termination of contracts by team members may be considered illegal.
      As with the case of U.S./WNBA basketball star Brittney Griner, who is on trial for drug possession in Russia, the Fedotov situation seems to carry more than a faint odor of politics.
      Let’s hope this mess can be straightened out before it becomes another ridiculous international incident.
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About Wayne Fish 1882 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.