In the second of our five-part offseason series examining the future of the Flyers, Tom Dougherty, Jordan Hall and Greg Paone give their opinions on who will be and who won't be on the roster. We go alphabetically. Here’s Part 1. Today, we begin with Claude Giroux.
2015-16 stats: 78 GP, 22 G, 45 A
Contract: Signed through 2021-22, $8.275 mm cap hit
Dougherty: Easy call here. Giroux’s the captain on a long-term contract and the team’s leading scorer. He shouldn’t go anywhere, and no, the Flyers should not strip him of the ‘C,’ either.
Hall: Despite tallying just one point in six games of the Flyers’ first-round playoff series loss, Giroux had another productive season and was likely playing hurt through a good chunk of it. That may have been why his goals (22), assists (45) and points (67) were his lowest in a full season since 2009-10. Regardless, the 28-year-old was strong and steady. He’s under contract for quite a while and is obviously staying put.
Paone: This is a rhetorical question about a 28-year-old who has the most points (116 G, 251 A – 367 P) in the NHL over the past five seasons, led the Flyers in points five of the last six seasons, is a four-time All-Star and one of the best players in the world, right? Um, yeah, he’s back.
2015-16 stats: 64 GP, 17 G, 29 A
Contract: Signed through 2016-17, $925,000 cap hit
Dougherty: Another easy one here. Gostisbehere came up to the Flyers when Mark Streit underwent pubic plate dislocation surgery and never looked back. He’s a Calder Trophy finalist, and one of the most exciting young defensemen to watch across the league. He’ll be back next season, though we should temper our expectations a bit.
Hall: This guy wasn’t too bad in his first NHL season. I think he’s staying.
Paone: “Ghost” took the NHL and, more specifically, Philadelphia by storm in 2015-16 with his spectacular rookie campaign. If you ask Flyers players, they’ll tell you they can’t pinpoint when this season turned around. But it’s no coincidence the picture started to brighten when the Calder Trophy finalist arrived. The question isn’t whether he’ll be back. The question is what will he do for an encore in his sophomore campaign?
2015-16 stats: 76 GP, 5 G, 9 A
Contract: Restricted free agent
Dougherty: I’m not a huge fan of Gudas’ game, but it’s hard to ignore what he did last season once he figured out how to legally check players in the NHL. Once the discipline came, Gudas turned into an effective defenseman and was used as such. He’s a restricted free agent, but Hextall hinted at a long-term contract. He’ll be here, and he should. Plus, Gudas is a right-handed shot, which goes well with the coveted prospects.
Hall: I’m not sure what the allure is with Gudas. Maybe it’s the physicality and thumping hits that bring fans back to the golden days. There’s no denying Gudas played better down the stretch of the regular season. He’s a restricted free agent and likely returning, but I wouldn’t mind if the Flyers let him walk to open more opportunity on the blue line and for the future.
Paone: Gudas’ season traveled from one end of the spectrum to the other. Once he calmed himself down and stopped taking dumb major penalties that hurt both opponents physically and his Flyers teammates who were forced to pick up for him on the ice after, he was one of the team’s most effective players. His ability to play a physical game can’t be underestimated, especially when he plays it smartly. And when he plays it smartly, he’s a valuable weapon who gets under the opposition’s skin with the best of them. He’s a restricted free agent who will get a raise, but he’ll be back.
2015-16 stats: 71 GP, 7 G, 14 A
Contract: Signed through 2016-17, $863,333 cap hit
Dougherty: The Flyers aren’t going to give up on Laughton after one full NHL season. It’s just not going to happen and it’s not how the business works. Laughton’s first season up didn’t go well and quite frankly, if he wants to be an everyday NHLer, he’ll have to come into training camp with a metaphorical boulder on his shoulder. Why’s that? Because I’m not sure he’ll earn a spot on the roster in camp. The one thing we’ve learned with Hextall is young players have to earn their way. If we consider the Flyers will add a winger or two from outside the organization and Travis Konecny will be pushing for a spot come September, Laughton will have to show another level he hasn’t displayed yet. I could very well see him starting the season with Lehigh Valley.
Hall: Remember, Laughton is going to turn just 22 years old in a week. This past season was his first full one in the NHL and he saw just 10:26 of ice time per game. Give him some time. Laughton said his goal is to be a top-six forward. He’s shown flashes, and I think added opportunity will give him a better chance at NHL success.
Paone: Perhaps no Flyer had more of an up-and-down season than Laughton. And it ended in ugly fashion with that frightening collision into the boards in Game 4 against the Capitals that left him motionless on the ice for several minutes. The former first-round pick found himself a healthy scratch as the Flyers made their playoff push at the end of the season. I do believe he has plenty more to offer. But two things have to happen for his situation to be more conducive to success. Whether at center or at wing, he needs a defined position and, once he gets that, he needs to show his abilities on a more consistent basis. He’ll be back, but he needs to make that consistent impact when he gets his chances. The leash could be short, though.
2015-16 stats: 28 GP, 1 G, 7 A
Contract: Signed through 2019-20, $5 mm cap hit
Dougherty: MacDonald’s contract hurts looking at it. To his credit, MacDonald handled everything with class last season, spending the majority of the year in the AHL. He came up because of injury and played better than expected … but that’s because the expectations were so low. It’ll be a minor miracle if Hextall is able to move MacDonald’s contract this summer, but it’s very hard to see a Flyers roster come opening night with MacDonald on it. He figures to be on the Phantoms again at the start of the season, unless Hextall chooses to buy him out.
Hall: It’s hard to blame MacDonald for accepting what was offered to him, that being his contract. It’s the reason why he’ll be staying in the Flyers’ organization. The 29-year-old defenseman is under contract through the 2019-20 season and brings with him a cap hit of $5 million, according to Spotrac.com. MacDonald is a classy and well-respected player that did actually perform in his 28 regular-season games. Because of his deal, he’ll be here, whether it’s the AHL or NHL.
Paone: Let’s get this straight: MacDonald is not a bad hockey player. He’s a fine No. 4, 5, 6-type defenseman, and he and Gostisbehere had some nice chemistry together as a pairing toward the end of the season. But that contract is a figurative anvil tied to his skates. Would the Flyers prefer to move the money on MacDonald’s contract? Probably. And if we’ve learned anything about Hextall over the past couple of seasons, it’s that nothing is impossible when it comes to him working the phones (see: Lecavalier, Vincent). Could a buyout starting with a $2.02 million cap hit next season be an option? Sure, anything is an option. But would it really be worth it? Defense is at a premium in today’s NHL and MacDonald is a really good depth guy. Add in the hefty contract and my gut says he’s back with the Flyers next season with more easily moveable veterans out the door.