An element in which Chuck Fletcher highlighted as an offseason focus is the Flyers' bottom-six production. Earlier this month, the Flyers' general manager noted how the club's depth scoring went quiet in the postseason. The Flyers, as a whole, scored only 2.08 goals per game in 13 contests over the first and second rounds.
Down the stretch of the regular season, the Flyers' secondary threats at forward became a team strength and the offseason addition of Tyler Pitlick was a driving force to the improvement.
The Flyers believe their forward depth needs more work, citing it as an important initiative to taking the next step in 2020-21, so they probably don't want to lose one of the biggest contributors they already have in that area.
For a few reasons, Pitlick, who is set to be an unrestricted free agent when NHL free agency opens Oct. 9, could be the most likely of the Flyers' pending UFAs to re-sign with the club. Brian Elliott, Justin Braun, Derek Grant and Nate Thompson are also slated to hit unrestricted free agency.
"It has been great," Pitlick said during July about his one season in Philadelphia. "All the guys are great, we’ve got a really tight group here, so that has been awesome. I've loved it, every minute of it has been great."
Pitlick, who was acquired by Fletcher in a June 2019 trade, registered eight goals, 12 assists and a plus-11 rating through 63 games this regular season with the Flyers. The winger's hard-on-the-puck, hard-to-the-net style was a constant in the club's bottom six. Pitlick led the Flyers' forwards in hits (132) and blocked shots (42), while he played 66:05 minutes on the penalty kill, a unit that improved from 26th in the league last season to 11th in 2019-20. Along with Kevin Hayes, Pitlick allowed the Flyers to lighten the shorthanded load for Claude Giroux, who had to play 1:44 minutes per game on the PK in 2018-19 and only 0:56 per game this season.
Fletcher pointed out how the Flyers' bottom-six forwards (when they were actually in the bottom six, not higher in the lineup) produced two goals in the team's 13 games over the first and second rounds of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Pitlick scored one of those goals and finished with a solid tournament: 16 games, two goals, one assist, 40 hits and 13 blocked shots in 13:35 minutes per game.
During February in an interview with NBC Sports Philadelphia's Taryn Hatcher, Fletcher spoke highly of Pitlick.
"Tyler Pitlick is a young man that brings a ton of energy, he can score, he can make some plays offensively, but he never cheats you," Fletcher said. "His game is remarkably identical night in and night out — he goes north, he finishes checks, he brings pressure, he kills penalties, you always know what you’re going to get from Tyler Pitlick and I think that’s an incredibly valuable asset to have in your bottom six."
With an eye on improving the bottom six yet again, would the Flyers want to lose that asset? There might not be a significantly better, more affordable option on the market. Pitlick had a cap hit of only $1 million in 2019-20 and he's only 28 years old. He's getting better and likely won't demand a ton of years or a major raise, especially given the flat cap and the current economic state of the league. Say somewhere in the range of two years and a $2-2.2 million average annual value? Pretty good for both sides.
Pitlick has had some trouble staying healthy in his career but explained before the season how that has been "a fluke thing."
Two weeks ago, when asked about the performances of Pitlick and Grant, Fletcher said:
"I don’t know if I want to get into critiquing everybody. I think all of those guys, all the free agents, you can include Braun and Thompson, and everybody, I think they all came in and played to their role, played to the role we asked them to play and played well.
"Over the 13-game playoffs, I think every player on our team had some games that were better than others. That’s probably the same for every team that played in the bubble. But I think they did what was asked of them, they provided us depth.
"We’ll sit down here with the coaching staff, with our analytics group and with our pro scouts, and we’ll go through and look at what we think we need to do going forward and whether we’ll extend offers to them or not. At this point, we’ve just told everybody give us some time here, we’ll take a week or two, decompress and we’ll be prepared to make those decisions."