Brandon Manning

NHL free agency: Where the Flyers' UFAs have landed

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Jordan Hall/NBC Sports Philadelphia

NHL free agency: Where the Flyers' UFAs have landed

Ron Hextall said at his end-of-the-season press conference in late April that the Flyers were not planning to bring back their unrestricted free agents, with the exception of Valtteri Filppula, which the general manager did not rule out.

So some now-former Flyers were on the move Sunday as NHL free agency opened at noon.

Here's the latest on where which players have landed.

Brandon Manning

The defenseman, who went undrafted and played parts of six seasons with the Flyers, signed a two-year deal with the Blackhawks. The contract has an annual average value of $2.25 million, according to TSN's Frank Seravalli.

"Brandon Manning was a good player for us," Hextall said Sunday. "He was an absolute warrior and a character guy, and I was actually very happy to see him sign that two-year deal in Chicago."

Over time, Manning became a much-maligned player among the fan base, especially when Dave Hakstol would elect to play him over Travis Sanheim and Robert Hagg. Still, Manning never shied away from a fight, was classy off the ice and turned himself into an NHL player.

He thanked the fans, city and organization on Twitter earlier in the day.


Valtteri Filppula

Hextall on Sunday confirmed the Flyers were moving on from Filppula, who ended up signing with the Islanders, according to Arthur Staple of The Athletic.

Filppula was acquired in the Mark Streit deal at the 2017 trade deadline. The veteran center turned 34 in March and had 11 goals and 22 assists over 81 games during 2017-18.


Petr Mrazek

After the Flyers' season ended, it was clear Mrazek wasn't coming back to Philly. Hextall didn't qualify the goalie and he became an unrestricted free agent.

Now Mrazek is headed to the Hurricanes on a one-year, $1.5 million contract.

Mrazek will share the net with Scott Darling. Longtime 'Canes goalie Cam Ward moved on and signed with the Blackhawks.


More on the Flyers

Analyzing Flyers' free-agent class, Part 2

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USA Today Images

Analyzing Flyers' free-agent class, Part 2

Here's Part 2 of our two-part series analyzing the Flyers' free-agent class.

For Part 1, click here.

Brandon Manning (UFA)
Manning is one of the players who general manager Ron Hextall informed will not be retained. Manning can have an exceptional game and then follow up with a real clunker. However, he brings a combination of offensive awareness coupled with physicality that you don’t see all that often while playing an average of 18 minutes over the past two seasons.

Comparable player: Brenden Dillon, Sharks
Both players inject a rugged, physical presence along with the occasional offensive punch. However, Dillon is more imposing and doesn’t lose coverage as often as Manning. Because of his unique combination of size and skill, Dillon secured a five-year extension with the Sharks worth $16.3 million in 2015.

Outlook: Don’t be surprised if teams like Vancouver or Edmonton pursue Manning, who would like to be closer to family in Western Canada, and offer him a two-year contract in the $3-4 million ($1.5 AAV) range. Manning is capable of becoming a solid third-pairing defenseman if he lands in the right situation. 

Petr Mrazek (RFA)
After three wins in his first three starts with the Flyers, Mrazek lost out on a major opportunity when he failed to secure the Flyers' No. 1 job heading into the playoffs. His play was very streaky and his agent will argue that his client has never been given the opportunity to become a full-time starter. 

Comparable player: Robin Lehner, Sabres
Interestingly, both goaltenders are roughly the same age, making the same money with very similar numbers over the past few seasons, and both guys are now free agents. Lehner is a much bigger presence in net. Personally, I prefer Lehner, who was surrounded by a defensively porous Sabres squad over the past three seasons. 

Outlook: Mrazek’s not coming back to Philadelphia, so look for Hextall to trade him for a draft pick/player later this month. He has some value, but it’s hard to say what that is right now as the other franchises internally sort out their depth charts and determine how much they value Mrazek, who appears to be more of a backup to an established starter.

Matt Read (UFA)
Hextall informed Read that the Flyers will not be looking to re-sign the 31-year-old forward, who spent the majority of the season with the Phantoms. 

Comparable player: Rich Peverley
It’s hard to find an identical case to Read, who played four years at Bemidji State before earning a roster spot coming straight out of camp in 2011. Read then proceeded to record two 20-goal seasons. Peverley played four years at St. Lawrence University before a breakout season with the Atlanta Thrashers, but was never able to duplicate that and was out of the league in 2015 at the age of 32.

Outlook: The Flyers gave Read’s agent permission to seek a trade this season, and while there may have been slight interest, no one wanted to absorb the $3.625 cap hit or at least half that value. I suspect teams will look at Read after the first wave of free-agent signings. He may have to accept a one-year, two-way deal near league minimum with incentives or possibly take a professional tryout entering training camp.

Anthony Stolarz (RFA)
It was just a year ago the Flyers elected to protect Stolarz over Michal Neuvirth in the expansion draft to protect their second-round pick from the 2012 draft. However, offseason knee surgery derailed Stolarz’s season, and as a result, he couldn’t take the next step in his development. 

Comparable player: John Gillies, Flames
I once likened Stolarz’s situation to Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck, as both were selected in the 2012 draft and went from the NAHL to college. Believe it or not, Hellebuyck was a fifth-round selection and has now joined the NHL’s elites. Gillies is a more suitable comparison and has a similar stature as Stolarz. The Flames have been very patient in his development as well. 

Outlook: With Carter Hart and Felix Sandstrom, there’s an internal logjam at the goaltending position, which is not a bad problem to have. The discussions surrounding Stolarz will be extensive as the Flyers decide what’s the best decision moving forward. This is one I simply can’t predict, but a player of his size will have value for an outside organization looking to improve.

Flyers' defensemen grades and outlook for next season — Part 2

Flyers' defensemen grades and outlook for next season — Part 2

Over the next several days, we’ll evaluate the Flyers at each position, give a regular season and postseason grade and provide an outlook for their roster status for the 2018-19 season. Next up, Part 2 of the defensemen:

The 2017-18 season was one of growth for the Flyers' young defense with half of that six-man unit in their first or second years of NHL service. After the Flyers' three consecutive years of drafting defensemen in the first round, we finally received a glimpse of how the defensive core will look like over the next few years. We broke down the young blueliners Thursday, so let's now turn to the veterans.

Radko Gudas 

Regular season: C-

Playoffs: D

Gudas’ 10-game suspension continued to linger over his head after he returned to action. He struggled to find the delicate balance between playing physical and playing responsible. Gudas would get caught puck chasing in his own end and, along with Brandon Manning, was much of the reason why the Flyers would spend a good amount of time in the defensive zone. Gudas was erratic in the playoffs and his turnovers in Game 6 were part of the Flyers' eventual downfall in the series.

2018-19 outlook: Under contract for the next two seasons at $3.35 million, which makes the contract tough to trade if the Flyers elect to do so, especially considering his suspension history. Right now, Gudas is the only right-handed defenseman on the roster, which could change through free agency. Unless a deal presents itself, the Flyers will likely hold on to Gudas for next season. 

Andrew MacDonald

Regular season: B

Playoffs: B- 

As much as MacDonald seems to draw the ire of Flyers fans, he’s not a concern for the organization. In the second half of the season, MacDonald proved to be a solid playing partner for Travis Sanheim, whose game settled down after he returned from Lehigh Valley. MacDonald scored in two of the Flyers' playoff games and played very well defensively in those contests. I thought he was inconsistent with his penalty killing through the regular season.

2018-19 outlook: Two more seasons at $5 million — a cap hit that’s becoming mid-level salary as revenue increases throughout the league. With some of the young prospects still working their way through the system, MacDonald gives the blue line a steady, veteran presence. Expect MacDonald to be part of the Flyers' second pairing next season.

Brandon Manning

Regular season: C

Playoffs: C

Manning displayed more of an offensive upside in 2017-18, jumping into plays and finishing the season with seven goals, but he was clearly exposed defensively when mismatched against the opponent’s top two lines paired with Gudas. Manning would play a string of games and look like a steady NHL defenseman and then have an absolute clunker.

2018-19 outlook: An unrestricted free agent, Manning will not return next season, Ron Hextall confirmed Thursday (see story), as his departure opens up another spot on the team’s blue line. Either Hextall will find a more dependable veteran to replace Manning or elect for one of the prospects to slide into that role as a third-pairing defenseman.