Each day until July 1, the day NHL free agency begins, NBC Sports Philadelphia's John Boruk, Tom Dougherty and Jordan Hall will analyze some of the league's impending free agents and project their likelihood of signing with the Flyers.
Over time, general manager Ron Hextall has freed his club from its salary cap dungeon, setting the Flyers up with greater financial flexibility this offseason. The team has $21.7 million in cap space, according to CapFriendly.com.
As the Flyers look to take a step forward in 2018-19, free agency will provide Hextall an avenue to fill specific holes and supplement his mix of veterans and youth. While the team hasn't been major players on the market under Hextall in the past, the GM indicated earlier this month the Flyers could be active this summer.
Hextall said the Flyers wouldn't entertain a seven-year contract on a free agent, but he expressed a desire to add a veteran or two depending on the term.
With that said, let's look at some possible fits and how/if they make sense for the Flyers.
Last team: Flyers
2017-18 cap hit: $5 million
Filppula is one of those high-character guys coaches talk a great deal about, who will always put his team first. However, with the aging forward turning 34 this past season, we saw a considerable drop in Filppula’s level of play. Having remained healthy for the majority of 2017-18, Filppula was able to contribute just 11 goals and 33 points as he struggled to be a strong, efficient forechecker while lacking the ability to create quality scoring chances.
Now playing reduced minutes, Filppula has fallen into that realm of bottom-six forward, and doesn’t quite bring the energy required of a fourth-line player. He’s no longer an ideal third-line center capable of scoring in the neighborhood of 16-20 goals with 40-45 points, and lacks the speed to be a complete 200-foot player.
At this stage of his career, Filppula has become a third-line winger on the downside of his career. All of which makes signing him to a multi-year extension a very risky move for any general manager. If you’re the Flyers, Filppula has become a fallback option worth consideration only on a one-year contract at no more than half of the $5 million he was earning in his previous deal.
Hextall keeps leaving the door open for Filppula to return in 2018-19, but I don’t see it happening. I view it as Hextall keeping that door open and not burning a bridge.
Filppula’s best playing days are well in the past, and last season he began becoming a liability most nights. There was a rare night in which he’d have an impact, i.e. Game 5 vs. Pittsburgh.
He brings veteran leadership, which the Flyers value. That’s why I don’t believe Hextall is closing the door on him … just yet. I think Hextall will shop aggressively for a third-line center and if he doesn’t like the price tag, he’ll circle back to Filppula. But the Flyers have money to spend and there are better options on the market than Filppula.
The Flyers are going to let things unfold before they decide on Filppula.
Hextall said in late April the team still had interest in the 13-year forward. But, bringing back Filppula should come only at bargain terms and after the Flyers pursue other options. Essentially, the Flyers are going to allow the market to play out and then assess where both parties stand.
Filppula simply didn't do enough to make the Flyers truly want to re-sign him. He had one goal, five assists and a minus-9 rating over his final 21 regular-season games while playing 15-plus minutes a night. He's aging and the Flyers' forwards group is getting younger.
However, bringing back Filppula at the Flyers' terms wouldn't be the worst idea. There's no denying he's a good influence on younger players, he's won a Stanley Cup and maybe he can offer the Flyers a responsible fourth-line, penalty-kill option.
Don't rule it out. First, we have to see what comes from the Flyers' testing the waters.