Throughout the offseason, we’ll ask questions about the Flyers to our resident hockey analysts and see what they have to say.
Going End to End today are CSNPhilly.com producers/reporters Tom Dougherty, Jordan Hall and Greg Paone.
The topic: Should the Flyers consider bringing back Scott Hartnell?
Let’s entertain the idea before completely dismissing because of the Flyers’ youth movement. Let’s entertain the idea because signing Scott Hartnell wouldn’t mean Nolan Patrick is headed back to junior. Or that Oskar Lindblom doesn’t make the team.
Should the Flyers consider signing Hartnell? The immediate reaction is no, especially after they re-signed Jordan Weal to a two-year contract extension Thursday night.
Travis Konecny is expected to have an increased role. Patrick and Lindblom both figure to be part of the roster. There are already so many roster spots and plenty of competition.
We don’t know what Valtteri Filppula’s role will be. Same goes for Jori Lehtera. Then there is Dale Weise and Matt Read. We can toss Scott Laughton and Mike Vecchione out there too. There already is so much competition within the forward group this idea screams no.
I was open to the idea of bringing Hartnell back before they re-signed Weal. I thought if Weal decided to take the money and run, it would open up a spot for a free-agent winger.
I thought losing Weal and Brayden Schenn is just too much to lose without bringing someone else in to add some additional scoring punch, but Weal decided to stay.
Any role Hartnell would fill here would be in the bottom six, which at this point in his career, is where he belongs. The only avenue I see where he could return is if GM Ron Hextall ships out at least one bottom sixer because there’s just too much competition there.
I would say it’s a lo-o-o-o-o-ng shot for a Hartnell reunion in Philly, but with the Flyers reportedly being one of the teams pursuing Justin Williams, I wouldn’t totally count it out.
Nostalgia can be a dangerous thing.
For me, the answer here is easy — no.
Haven't we clamored for the Flyers to give their prospects a chance, to become younger up front and discover more playmaking? Hartnell, as beloved as he is, doesn't help in any of those areas.
The Flyers are finally seeing the fruit of their rebuild. They have a great problem with a crowded and competitive crop of forwards, which could feature rookies Patrick, Lindblom and Vecchione.
Meanwhile, Hartnell is 35 years old and coming off a year in which he totaled his fewest goals (13) and points (37) in a full season since 2002-03. Even if the reunion were for one season, Hartnell would still be blocking the future because he will play.
Hextall said it best at cleanout day in April.
"Our young players, they've done enough," he said. "Our young players are going to get a long look. We don't plan on going out and signing veterans on the back end. Our kids, it's time to give them a shot, and we're going to do that."
Hartnell only impedes that plan.
Oh, now this … this is interesting.
The first thing the comes to mind for me is the question where would Hartnell fit. Weal is officially back in the fold. Lindblom has to really flame out during camp and preseason to not make the squad for opening night. And Konecny has to be placed in a better position to succeed in his second year. And as Tom mentioned above, there are many other moving parts at forward outside of those three players I just mentioned. But, if the Flyers think Hartnell can contribute in a third or fourth-line role, they'll find a way make it work. They wouldn't be getting the same Hartnell who left here in 2014. And they clearly wouldn't be getting the same Hartnell who had that monster 37-goal season in 2011-12. But they would still know the player and presence they would be getting.
The next question is an obvious one and that's about money. As things stand right now after Weal's signing Thursday evening, the Flyers have about $9.7 million in cap space heading into the start of free agency this weekend, according to CapFriendly.com. The Flyers have reportedly added goalie Brian Elliot behind Michal Neuvirth (see story), but Hextall and staff no doubt have other priorities they want to shore up ahead of any potential Hartnell conversations. So Hartnell would likely need to take a steep discount to return to Philadelphia.
But on another hand, the presence of a veteran such as Hartnell never hurts. Especially with the familiarity he has with core group centered around Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds and Jake Voracek that still remains from when Hartnell departed. He's a very well-respected voice and that does mean a lot, especially with a fair amount of youngsters around now. But the fit and especially the money mean more.
Nothing is impossible, but the Flyers have other priorities right now to spend their money on. As good of a story as it would be, don't bet on a Hartnell reunion with the Flyers.