Flyers

3 Flyers thoughts from NHL free agency

Flyers

Day 1 of NHL free agency commenced Friday at noon ET and the Flyers haven't changed all that much.

Maybe it's not as fun, but it's not the end of the world.

Let's get into three Flyers thoughts:

1. A Pitlick replacement?

The Flyers and Tyler Pitlick parted ways after a one-year relationship. The role winger signed a two-year, $3.5 million contract with the Coyotes.

Pitlick's departure is far from nothing. He was an Alain Vigneault system kind of guy who made the Flyers better in 2019-20. He brought forechecking, was a secondary scoring threat, played on the penalty kill and helped the Flyers substantially cut down on their troubling goals-against figure of 3.41 per game from 2018-19.

In a flat-cap world that will have a multi-year impact, the Flyers could see their in-house kids as a more cost-effective way to move forward. They like their prospects and will be asking them to jump on opportunity.

Last offseason, the Flyers made a slew of additions before free agency opened, which made for a quiet July 1. This time, one acquisition they made well before Friday is one they likely viewed as a free-agent addition prior to free agency ever arriving: Linus Sandin.

The 24-year-old winger has just a $792,500 cap hit compared to Pitlick's $1.75 million. He signed with the Flyers in late April and is 6-foot-1, 209 pounds, with bottom-six abilities. During 2019-20, he finished tied for third in the Swedish Elite League with 19 goals and scored 36 points through 51 games with HV71.

 

"Our scouting staff has done an excellent job identifying him as a player who can come into camp and compete for a spot on our team right away," Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher said in April. "He works extremely hard and we expect him to add size, skill and tenacity to our forward group."

Sounds a lot like Pitlick's game.

2. The Niskanen void

The Flyers will continue looking at different avenues to fill Matt Niskanen's skates.

Some big free-agent names on the blue line went off the board Friday:

Stanley Cup champion Kevin Shattenkirk signed a three-year deal with the Ducks worth a reported $11.7 million. 

TJ Brodie signed a four-year, $20 million contract with the Maple Leafs, with a reported no-movement clause that later converts into a limited no-trade clause

Torey Krug inked a seven-year, $45.5 million deal with the Blues, which amplifies the league-wide Alex Pietrangelo watch.

The Flyers could seek the trade route in helping patch up the hole left by Niskanen. Remember a couple of things that Fletcher said.

On Sept. 10:

"I don’t expect us to be a major player in free agency over the next couple years. I do expect us to aggressively try to keep our own players and obviously we’ll be working the phones to see what we can find on the trade front."

On Wednesday:

"We’re not going to spend money just to spend it. If there’s some ability to add a player on the right deal at the right cap price and the right term, we’ll do it. If not, we’ll certainly wait. I think there will be opportunities along the way to address whatever needs we feel we need to address."

A name to possibly keep an eye on: Matt Dumba. He is a righty-shot defenseman who is No. 6 on TSN's trade bait list and was drafted by Fletcher and assistant general manager Brent Flahr while the two were with the Wild.

More: Too quiet? Fletcher, Flyers facing early questions in offseason

3. Market value

A couple of intriguing forwards on the free-agent market: Jimmy Vesey and Matt Nieto.

Vesey is a 27-year-old who can play both wings and should be in the Flyers' price range. He played two seasons for Vigneault in New York and has a pair of 17-goal seasons on his résumé. He is a Northeast guy and close friends with Kevin Hayes. Vesey and Fletcher are both Harvard products.

Nieto is a solid, bottom-six winger who turns 28 years old in November. He is coming off three straight seasons of 20 or more points with the Avalanche. His cap hit was only $1.975 million last season and he's a very good penalty-killer.