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.