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: Maple Leafs
2017-18 cap hit: $4.2 million
Bozak would seem like an ideal third-line center for the Flyers. He has size, skill, contributes in all situations, can make occasional plays, but he’s not the fleetest of foot and now at the age of 32, don’t expect Bozak to find his stride once he signs a free-agent contract.
Also, Bozak can be labeled as soft and to some extent, he was exposed in the Maple Leafs' first-round series against the Bruins. It was obvious Bozak wasn’t up to the challenge in the game Nazem Kadri was suspended, forcing Bozak to play bigger minutes. The fact the Leafs are allowing Bozak and James van Riemsdyk to move on says they’re trying to cleanse their roster from the Brian Burke days.
The Flyers need to tread lightly here and not overspend for a player that may have very little left in the tank in two or three years. I’d be leery of signing Bozak to three years, especially at a price tag around $5 million.
I fully expect the Colorado Avalanche to come hard after Bozak, who owns an offseason home in the Denver area and also played his college hockey at the University of Denver prior to joining the Maple Leafs' organization. That seems to be the ideal fit.
The Tyler Bozak you remember from five years ago is not the Tyler Bozak that is entering free agency, unless you’re looking to massively misuse him like the Maple Leafs used to do. When Bozak was the top-line center on Toronto, it was when the Leafs’ roster was an eyesore. It put Bozak in the spotlight and in a role his talent level wasn’t equipped for.
That said, the past few seasons have been different. Bozak has slotted down to the third line as the Maple Leafs’ roster vastly improved and the centerman finally found himself a role. Bozak has posted 40-plus points in four of the past five years and in 2017-18, he had 43 points in 81 games while winning over 50 percent of his faceoffs, an area he’s always been solid in.
Ten teams are reportedly in on Bozak and I would be surprised if the Flyers were not one of them. Bozak is a veteran, two-way center with leadership qualities and a high compete level. The drawback with Bozak is his skating is not what it used to be and that could be a problem.
One area the Flyers have to keep making strides in is getting faster. They’ve added better skaters over the last couple of seasons. Because of that, the term on a Bozak contract is important. The Flyers have money to spend in the short term, Hextall said. With Bozak’s speed already in the decline, anything more than three years is a high risk.
But if the Flyers can bring Bozak in for two years, he would be an upgrade over Valtteri Filppula. He would slot nicely in on the third line. He’s a player I would imagine Hextall will target.
There's a chance a team might overspend for Bozak and it won't be the Flyers.
Should they be in the market for the 32-year-old? Of course. The Flyers need to improve their depth at center and in the bottom six, and Bozak would do both.
"You would like to find another centerman," Hextall said in late April. "You always look through the center of your lineup. Your goaltending, your D and your centers. If we could upgrade there, that would be great."
Bozak does a lot of little things well — he wins faceoffs, provides some secondary scoring and offers good intangibles.
However, he doesn't play on the penalty kill, an area the Flyers want to improve as well with a possible depth addition, and I can see a fellow suitor offering him a nicer deal — maybe one more year, a little extra money — than the Flyers.
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