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.
Calvin de Haan
Last team: Islanders
2017-18 cap hit: $1.9 million
de Haan is that other unrestricted free agent on the island. Like John Tavares, de Haan is 27 years old as he enters unrestricted free agency. Who is de Haan and what would he bring to the Flyers?
First, he’s a positionally sound left-handed defenseman and reliable in his own end. He's only been a minus player once in his career and even more impressively, he’s an aggregate plus-26 over the past two seasons.
What immediately comes to mind is how he sacrifices his body to block just about any shot that comes his way. In that aspect, he’s one of the most fearless players in the NHL and he’ll even throw his body around to deliver the occasional bone-numbing hit.
But there’s a red flag as it pertains to his injury history. de Haan has played the full 82-game slate only once over the past five seasons, and in those other four injury-plagued seasons, he’s averaged just 55 games. He enters the 2018-19 season coming off shoulder surgery so how much commitment do you make to an injury-prone defenseman who lays his body on the line on a nightly basis?
I like de Haan, but he’s not that much-needed right-handed defenseman the Flyers covet. The position here is a contract no longer than four years and not exceeding $5 million annually, which is what the Flyers are currently paying former Islander Andrew MacDonald, who will be entering Year 5 of a six-year pact.
We keep seeing de Haan’s named attached to the Flyers loosely in reports so if there’s smoke, there has to be a little bit of fire. Hextall would like to add a second-pair defenseman and de Haan fits that profile. The dream would be a right-handed D-man and de Haan is not that.
But de Haan is a solid puck-moving blueliner who was limited to just 33 games last season because of a shoulder injury. There doesn’t appear to be a shortage of suitors for the Islanders defenseman, who reportedly has about 10 teams interested in him. de Haan doesn’t compile a ton of points but is considered to be a smooth-skater with a good first pass.
The Flyers currently have six defensemen on their roster for next season and an argument could be made that bringing in another defenseman either A) takes a lineup spot away from a kid or B) pushes Andrew MacDonald or Radko Gudas into a potential seventh-defenseman role. The preferred scenario there is B. The Flyers will likely bring in another defender, though, and if it’s de Haan, they could do a lot worse.
de Haan went from his best NHL season to his most difficult.
After playing all 82 regular-season games for the first time in his career during 2017-18 and setting personal bests in goals (five), assists (20), points (25) and plus/minus (plus-15), the 2009 first-round pick was limited to just 33 contests in 2017-18.
Still, there's a lot to like if you're the Flyers.
The lefty shot clearly doesn't light up the scoreboard, but that's not what the Flyers need. They need a reliable source on the back end and de Haan fits that bill. He's known for his smooth skating ability and first pass, which will only help the Flyers in their coverage and zone exits — it's all about being steady.
Even better, de Haan will come at a reasonable price and he's only 27 years old. The reward here far outweighs the risk and I'd like to see the Flyers consider it.