Much of the Flyers' blink-and-you'll-miss-a-move offseason has revolved around the importance of experience and winning.
While the future has to always be in mind for any team, the Flyers badly want to win in 2021-22. There's a real pressure to do so because of the club's staggering step backward last season. After coming within one victory of the Eastern Conference Final in 2019-20, the Flyers missed the playoffs in 2020-21 and surrendered more goals than any other team in hockey.
The Flyers haven't missed the playoffs in consecutive seasons since the 1992-93 and 1993-94 campaigns, so jumping right back into contention is an objective in the eyes of everyone — from management to the coaches to the players and to the fans.
General manager Chuck Fletcher's desire to set up a winner, a look-at-us-now type of season, was evident by his moves Wednesday when the doors swung open on NHL free agency. His wheeling and dealing prior to free agency had implications on the present and future. But Wednesday's acquisitions were all about winning in this very next season. Fletcher signed Martin Jones, Keith Yandle and Nate Thompson. All three players inked one-year deals. All three are in their 30s with vast experience. All three have win-now mantras.
They've bought into the new-look Flyers' ability to win now.
Jones, a 31-year-old goaltender who was the guy in San Jose, is sliding into a backup role with the Flyers. He has something to prove after two down years with the Sharks and his contract being bought out.
"It was a couple of trying seasons," Jones said Wednesday. "Sometimes a fresh start can give you a little bit of life and a little bit of energy and kind of refocus. I love a lot of the moves that the Flyers have made in the offseason so far. I think we have a good opportunity to have a good team and win some hockey games.
"Experience is always a helpful thing. Making the playoffs is obviously the first step. Bringing in some of these guys like Yandle and some of these other veterans, that's always a good thing, when you can lean on guys that have experience. Hopefully that helps us move along here."
Free agency gave way to a ton of movement on the goalie landscape. The Flyers felt good with Jones, who has experience with goaltending coach Kim Dillabaugh from their days in the Kings' organization.
"It was a really fast-moving market, there was a lot of teams looking for goaltenders," Fletcher said Wednesday. "You look at as many situations as you can and find as many situations where the player has the same interest in you that you have in him and you make quick decisions. Martin Jones is a guy that has played really well in this league for a long time. The last couple seasons in San Jose I think haven't gone as well as he hoped or the team had hoped. But he has over 60 games of playoff experience, won 30 games in this league multiple times.
"He's only 31 years of age and perhaps as importantly as all of those points, he's very familiar with Kim Dillabaugh. He and Kim have a strong relationship and I think they both feel strongly that they can do the things they need to do to get Martin’s game going the way everybody would like to see it go."
If Yandle works out well in Philadelphia, many can thank Kevin Hayes. The two Boston natives are close friends and train together every summer. When Yandle's contract was bought out by the Panthers this month, the soon-to-be 35-year-old defenseman had his sights on the Flyers.
"Keith Yandle, teams have been really trying to recruit him since he was bought out from Florida," Fletcher said. "There was a lot of interest in Keith. Certainly, Kevin was an important part of selling the virtues of coming to the Philadelphia Flyers. We're very pleased that Keith chose to come here over many other competitive offers and teams.
"I think Keith perfectly complements our existing D core. A left shot was something we felt we needed, somebody to help with the power play. Keith is very good at moving the puck up the ice, he's got a lot of experience. Neither one of our special teams were great last year. We think we've added some things to help the PK and I think Keith in particular is somebody that can help quarterback the power play and bring another option for our coaches for the power play."
Yandle is a defenseman with offensive skills who has played in 922 straight games, the NHL's longest active streak. He said the Flyers' aggressiveness this offseason caught his eye.
"It was a huge part," he said Wednesday. "I think seeing what Chuck's done even before free agency and making moves, making big moves, just helping the team get better — I thought it was a no-brainer for me and being able to see what he did before today and tomorrow and see how active he was, it just seems like it's a win-now situation and that's something that I'm all about. I thought it was the best fit."
Hayes did his part in convincing Yandle why it was the best fit.
"I know the roster and know how good the guys are, but I think the biggest thing with him is that the group is not happy with not making the playoffs last year and how it ended, how guys want to come in this year and have a huge year and get back to where you should be," Yandle said. "I think for me, that's the biggest thing — you see the hunger in the group and talking to guys on the team and how excited they are for the season to start. It's definitely a big thing for me as well."
Thompson, a role center who turns 37 years old in October, knows the Flyers from his time with the club after it acquired him in February 2020 at the trade deadline. He spoke highly of the Flyers' locker room following the team's playoff exit that season and has 86 games of postseason experience.
Wednesday was about winning now for the Flyers and supplementing the club's chances at doing so.
"We believe in our group," Fletcher said about the Flyers' offseason acquisitions. "Time will tell, but we think these are quality bets to make."
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