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Flyers 2018 free-agent target: C Valtteri Filppula

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Flyers 2018 free-agent target: C Valtteri Filppula

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.

Valtteri Filppula

Age: 34
Position: C
Height: 6-0
Weight: 196
Last team: Flyers
2017-18 cap hit: $5 million
 
Boruk
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.

Dougherty
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.

Hall
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.

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Subpar start leads to Flyers loss vs. Lightning but doesn't hurt spot in NHL playoff race

Subpar start leads to Flyers loss vs. Lightning but doesn't hurt spot in NHL playoff race

BOX SCORE

The Flyers didn't bring their A-game to a game they needed it.

There would be no giant killing Saturday as the Flyers lost to the Lightning, 5-3, at Amalie Arena.

Goals from Ivan Provorov, James van Riemsdyk and Claude Giroux weren't enough for the Flyers (32-20-7), who are 6-3-2 against the Bruins, Lightning, Capitals, Penguins and Blues, the league's top five clubs.

Tampa Bay is the only one the Flyers haven't beaten. They'll get a final crack at the Lightning on March 12 in the same building.

The Lightning (39-15-5) have won 10 straight games.

• This really wasn't a bad loss for the Flyers.

They were at the end of a road trip and playing the NHL's hottest team. Tampa Bay is 22-2-1 over its last 25 games and hasn't lost at home since Dec. 19.

The Flyers entered Saturday with a 66.9 percent chance to make the playoffs, according to Hockey-Reference.com, and still hold an Eastern Conference wild-card spot (see standings).

Alain Vigneault's team just needs to recharge and be ready for a big home-and-home set against the Blue Jackets next week.

• Things got chippy in the second period. Travis Konecny was right in the middle of it all.

Steven Stamkos appeared to trip Giroux before a faceoff. Giroux didn't even look to be that mad about it.

During the final 6:09 of the middle frame, 22 penalty minutes were accrued.

• Brayden Point (10-game point streak) is good at hockey.

• Carter Hart, who was coming off his first road victory since Nov. 10, allowed four goals on 23 shots.

The 21-year-old wasn't the problem.

The first goal was a fluky one by Alex Killorn. On the second, Provorov was sloppy with the puck in the defensive zone and Tampa Bay capitalized to take a 2-0 lead into first intermission.

In the middle stanza, the Lightning beat Hart on a 3-on-2 to grab a commanding 3-0 advantage. Tampa Bay improved to 33-4-3 when it scores three or more goals.

Not only are the Lightning really good, but the Flyers also didn't play their typical forechecking, possession-based game until it was too late.

• Outside of the van Riemsdyk's third-period goal, Lightning netminder Andrei Vasilevskiy was strong with 30 saves, 15 of which came in the final stanza. 

Vasilevskiy improved to 18-0-1 with a 1.83 goals-against average and .940 save percentage over his last 19 starts.

• Provorov was far from his best against Tampa Bay but he did score the Flyers' first goal to trim the Lightning's lead to 3-1 in the second period. He also had an assist.

The 23-year-old has grown into a power play quarterback this season. He leads all NHL defensemen with seven man advantage goals after scoring only two over his first three NHL seasons.

• Travis Sanheim played 19:43 minutes Saturday after missing almost the entire third period of Thursday's 6-2 win over the Panthers because of a lower-body issue.

• The Flyers are off Sunday, practice at 11:30 a.m. Monday in Voorhees, New Jersey and host the Blue Jackets Tuesday (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP).

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

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Flyers, Lightning have 4 p.m. start on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Flyers, Lightning have 4 p.m. start on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Saturday's game should be a good one.

The Flyers and Lightning are two of the hottest teams in the NHL. Since Jan. 8, the Flyers have the league's most goals (52) and only one team has more points (21) — the Lightning (27).

Tampa Bay is also on a nine-game winning streak and 21-2-1 over its last 24 games.

The big showdown comes a little earlier than usual. Puck drop will be shortly after 4 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Philadelphia, with Flyers Pregame Live set for 3:30 p.m. ET.

The matchup finishes off a three-game road trip for the Flyers, who then play four of their next five games at the Wells Fargo Center.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Flyers