When a team needs help at virtually every position, the start of NHL free agency must be a red-letter date on the general manager’s calendar.
Such is the case with Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher, who approaches Wednesday’s 12 noon opening bell with an open mind and an itchy checkbook.
The Flyers did bolster their defense over the weekend with the trade for Carolina’s Tony DeAngelo. That move was viewed as both a replacement for the trade of veteran Justin Braun last season and a hedge against the possibility of Ryan Ellis (pelvic injury) not being ready for the start of the 2022-23 campaign.
Otherwise, the Flyers could use help (and depth) at just about every position. Especially on their special teams. Their power play finished dead last in the NHL and their penalty kill wasn’t much better.
No doubt Fletcher’s telephone line has been lit up quite a bit over the past few days. If he can secure a bit more veteran scoring up front – not to mention added toughness – that would be a plus.
As the 2022 NHL Entry Draft concluded on Friday at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Fletcher suggested there could be a lot of movement around the league.
“It’s a pretty deep group of free agents,’’ Fletcher said. “It’s going to be interesting. I know some of the prominent ones are still being pursued aggressively by their current teams or former teams. It’d be pretty interesting next few days to see who signs prior to the deadline.’’
There are some big names in that “pursued’’ group, including Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin and Boston’s Patrice Bergeron. Whether they go back to their old clubs remains to be seen.
Here, as of midday Tuesday, are 10 of the highest profile potential unrestricted free agents heading into Wednesday:
>1. Johnny Gaudreau, LW: Calgary has made an offer to the South Jersey native but it sounds like he’s headed elsewhere. One of only eight players with more than 100 points last season.
>2. Nazem Kadri, C: Coming off a career season with Colorado, the 31-year-old recorded 87 points in 71 games. His previous high was 61 points. Some say that 87 number is inflated because of the Stanley Cup championship talent around him.
>3. Claude Giroux, C: The ex-Flyer, traded to Florida in March, did well with the Panthers, posting 23 points in 18 games. Although going back to his native Ottawa might sound attractive, the Edmonton Oilers are rumored to be showing interest. Any chance of returning to Flyers? Sorry, that ship has sailed.
>4. Matthew Tkachuk, RW: Another Calgary Flame who enjoyed his best season to date with 104 goals. Flames have some interesting decisions to make.
>5. Jason Robertson, LW: The Dallas standout-to-be has posted 125 points in his first 128 games. What team couldn’t use that kind of consistency.
>6. Patrice Bergeron, C: Ho-hum, another Selke Trophy in the awards case this past season. The Bruins are said to have offered the great two-way player a one-year extension. It would be nice to see him finish his career in a Boston uniform.
>7. Evgeni Malkin, C: How weird would it look to see the Penguin superstar sailing around the ice in a Flyer uniform? Not going to happen. If he doesn’t stay with Pittsburgh, look for a serious contender to give him a short-term deal.
>8. John Klingberg, D: As mentioned, the Flyers need help on their power play and this offense-minded backliner could help. Dallas has a new coaching staff so who knows if he leaves the Stars?
>9. Vincent Trocheck, C: Carolina definitely could benefit by holding on to its excellent two-way player but salary cap issues almost always cloud the picture when these difficult decisions have to be made.
>10. Ondrej Palat, LW: You saw how good he played for Tampa in the playoffs. For his career, 94 points in 138 Stanley Cup games, including a lot of crucial goals. That’s clutch.
>Flyers make nine qualifying offers
The Flyers have made qualifying offers for the following nine players: Wade Allison, Jackson Cates, Morgan Frost, Hayden Hodgson, Linus Hogberg, Tanner Laczynski, Zack MacEwen, Isaas Ratcliffe, Owen Tippett.
These do not take effect until Wednesday.
The Flyers did not qualify three players: Matthew Strome, Maksim Sushko and Kirill Ustimenko.
>A great honor for Flyers’ PR legend Zack Hill
The Flyers’ Zack Hill, one of the greatest public relations guys in the history of the NHL, officially retired on July 1 after 29 years on the job. He will remain as a consultant for one more year to make it an even 30.
As the Wells Fargo Center’s Event Level is completely re-imagined next summer, the new press conference room will be named in honor of Hill. The new space will be named the “Zack Hill Media Center.”
“For more than 30 years, Zack has been a beloved representative of both the Flyers and the 76ers, and he’s famous among members of the Philadelphia sports media for his skill, experience, and unfailing kindness,’’ said Flyers governor Dave Scott.
“That’s why I’ve decided that when we open a new press conference room at the arena in 2023, it will be named for Zack in honor of his decades of service to the Flyers.’’
The 2021-22 season was Hill’s 29th with the Flyers organization. Under Hill’s direction, the Flyers PR staff won the Dick Dillman Award for the Eastern Conference, given annually by the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association to the top PR staff in each NHL conference on three occasions (2011-12, 2014-15 & 2017-18) and have been finalists for the award 12 times.