CALGARY, Alberta — Western Canada was Michael Raffl’s sound of music last season.
When Dave Hakstol reshuffled his lines heading into last season’s game at Calgary, the Austrian took on a Frankenstein-like awakening, scoring the game-winning goal in each of those three victories when the Flyers swept the Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver road trip for the first time in 21 years.
Raffl also contributed a point in five straight games during that stretch, the longest such streak of his career.
“We’ll have to wait and see, but I’m very excited,” Raffl said Tuesday of playing with Jakub Voracek and Sean Couturier. “It’s definitely not the same. I’ve felt as good as ever since I came back. It’s a great opportunity for me to step up and do something.”
Now five games back in his return from a lower leg injury, Raffl has been one of the Flyers' better forwards and the 30-year-old could be on the verge of putting together a stretch of solid performances that could increase his value.
Which leaves you asking: what exactly is Raffl’s future in Philly and should the Flyers look to strike if he gets red hot again?
It was generally assumed under the Ron Hextall regime that Raffl would test the free-agent market this offseason after signing a three-year extension in February 2016. With Chuck Fletcher now calling the shots, the situation is a little more difficult to read. Raffl had an injury-plagued season in 2016-17 and was inconsistent through 2017-18.
Right now, re-signing Raffl is probably not too high on Fletcher’s pecking order with the Wayne Simmonds dilemma coupled with extensions for Ivan Provorov and Travis Konecny.
“I was struggling my first contract year and I basically wasted a year just thinking about wrong stuff,” Raffl said. “I’m not going to let it bother me again, so I’m chill.”
Cool and calmness aside, the next two months could ultimately determine the next chapter in Raffl’s career.
For a player that doesn’t get a sniff on the power play, his numbers could be in the 30- to- 35-point range for someone with his size, skill and ability to control the puck. He plays significantly better when paired with Voracek and more skilled forwards, while he also has a tendency to take his foot off the pedal when he’s relegated to a third or fourth line.
Raffl becomes a valuable asset for a general manager looking for versatility in their bottom six. He’s a strong forward who plays big, kills penalties and plays both wing positions. He can also even be a net-front presence on a second power-play unit.
“I believe he relishes those opportunities,” Hakstol said. “One of the reasons he’s been successful is, he doesn’t change his game. He stays within what gives him success. He plays straight line, power hockey. Possession hockey.”
Raffl also has an expiring contract at a very manageable $2.35 million cap hit, which makes his situation even more appealing.
There’s value with Raffl that could pique a team’s interest.
The Flyers just need Raffl to be playing at his peak.
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