VOORHEES, N.J. — Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher spoke for 35 minutes Monday morning addressing the coaching search, his pursuit of free agents and the continuous problems plaguing the Flyers.
Here are five takeaways from his press conference:
Coaching search starts today
Fletcher was asked if he was disappointed that Joel Quenneville chose the Florida Panthers, but only responded by saying, “I'm happy for Joel.” There’s been speculation surrounding Quenneville and the Panthers for several months, so I believe Fletcher knew the Flyers were never really on Quenneville’s radar.
“I’m not going to speculate on names or people who may be available or were available or available in past years. It’s a big decision for the Flyers,” Fletcher said. “Obviously, I’m going to take the time to get it right.”
Fletcher said the process of finding the team’s next head coach started Monday, a list that includes interim head coach Scott Gordon.
“I had a conversation with Scott this morning, who remains a strong candidate,” Fletcher said. “Talked to him about what I’m going to do. My plan is start my due diligence and reach out to some people and also spend some time with Scott. Hopefully at the right time, name the right person."
'OK, not elite free-agent market'
Fletcher will be looking to add a second-line center, a top-four defenseman and a backup goalie. Those will be the priorities heading into the offseason. How he acquires those players will be the interesting element to this offseason, whether it’s through trades or free-agent signings. The Flyers' general manager also labeled this year’s free-agent crop as “OK, not elite.”
Right now, the biggest potential UFAs are defensemen Erik Karlsson, Tyler Myers and Anton Stralman, and forwards Matt Duchene, Artemi Panarin, Jeff Skinner and Kevin Hayes.
“We’re going to be active in trying to improve our team,” Fletcher said. “How that translates this summer, we’ll find out. You can’t control the marketplace, you can’t control the trade market."
In nearly 10 years as an NHL GM, Fletcher has never extended an offer sheet to a restricted free agent and I don’t see him traveling that path this summer, even with some high-end RFAs (Mitch Marner, Mikko Rantanen, Brock Boeser, Zach Werenski, Patrik Laine) looking for that next contract.
Fletcher very critical of team's bad habits
I considered this a reflection against the previous regime, especially head coach Dave Hakstol and how the Flyers haven’t been ready at the start of games (falling behind 2-0 in 32 games) and even slow starts to each season.
“We have some bad habits right now, flying into the zone before we have possession of the puck, not getting in shooting lanes, not keeping the third guy high, turning pucks over in the neutral zone when there’s no time and space to make a play, and just recognizing things,” Fletcher said. “It’s mindset, but you need the mindset to embrace the habits.
“It’s about making sure going into camp next year, we have to change some details, change our mindset and have a good start. A lot of reasons we fall behind in games is because we give up easy goals. It’s not about effort. It’s about thinking, about working smart and playing better.”
Don't have players in Lehigh Valley who can challenge for jobs now
When asked directly whether some of the current Phantoms can challenge for full-time positions with the Flyers next season, Fletcher redirected his answer toward the need for outside help.
“Obviously, somebody can come in and make the team, but they’re going to have to earn it,” Fletcher said. “We’re not looking just to put players on the team. I hope we’re a little deeper up front and on the blue line and it will be a little tougher to make the team. That would be ideal.”
A lack of forward depth at the AHL level is one reason why Fletcher re-signed Michael Raffl as there really isn’t a player ready to step up and fill that role.
No surgeries and likely no buyouts
Outside of goaltending, the Flyers were relatively healthy this season with the majority of players dealing with minor issues throughout the course of the season. The Flyers don’t anticipate any offseason surgeries, but they should know definitively after some follow-up exams.
Fletcher also added he’s "not a big fan of buyouts." In buying out contracts, teams stretch out the cap hit over future seasons and that’s not an ideal situation for the Flyers' GM. Defenseman Andrew MacDonald would appear to be the likely candidate with one season at a $5 million cap hit.
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