Valtteri Filppula

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

Flyers 2018 free-agent target: C Valtteri Filppula

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USA Today Images

Flyers 2018 free-agent target: C Valtteri Filppula

Each day until July 1, the day NHL free agency begins, NBC Sports Philadelphia's John Boruk, Tom Dougherty and Jordan Hall will analyze some of the league's impending free agents and project their likelihood of signing with the Flyers.

Over time, general manager Ron Hextall has freed his club from its salary cap dungeon, setting the Flyers up with greater financial flexibility this offseason. The team has $21.7 million in cap space, according to CapFriendly.com.

As the Flyers look to take a step forward in 2018-19, free agency will provide Hextall an avenue to fill specific holes and supplement his mix of veterans and youth. While the team hasn't been major players on the market under Hextall in the past, the GM indicated earlier this month the Flyers could be active this summer.

Hextall said the Flyers wouldn't entertain a seven-year contract on a free agent, but he expressed a desire to add a veteran or two depending on the term.

With that said, let's look at some possible fits and how/if they make sense for the Flyers.

Valtteri Filppula

Age: 34
Position: C
Height: 6-0
Weight: 196
Last team: Flyers
2017-18 cap hit: $5 million
 
Boruk
Filppula is one of those high-character guys coaches talk a great deal about, who will always put his team first. However, with the aging forward turning 34 this past season, we saw a considerable drop in Filppula’s level of play. Having remained healthy for the majority of 2017-18, Filppula was able to contribute just 11 goals and 33 points as he struggled to be a strong, efficient forechecker while lacking the ability to create quality scoring chances. 

Now playing reduced minutes, Filppula has fallen into that realm of bottom-six forward, and doesn’t quite bring the energy required of a fourth-line player. He’s no longer an ideal third-line center capable of scoring in the neighborhood of 16-20 goals with 40-45 points, and lacks the speed to be a complete 200-foot player.

At this stage of his career, Filppula has become a third-line winger on the downside of his career. All of which makes signing him to a multi-year extension a very risky move for any general manager. If you’re the Flyers, Filppula has become a fallback option worth consideration only on a one-year contract at no more than half of the $5 million he was earning in his previous deal.

Dougherty
Hextall keeps leaving the door open for Filppula to return in 2018-19, but I don’t see it happening. I view it as Hextall keeping that door open and not burning a bridge.

Filppula’s best playing days are well in the past, and last season he began becoming a liability most nights. There was a rare night in which he’d have an impact, i.e. Game 5 vs. Pittsburgh.

He brings veteran leadership, which the Flyers value. That’s why I don’t believe Hextall is closing the door on him … just yet. I think Hextall will shop aggressively for a third-line center and if he doesn’t like the price tag, he’ll circle back to Filppula. But the Flyers have money to spend and there are better options on the market than Filppula.

Hall
The Flyers are going to let things unfold before they decide on Filppula.

Hextall said in late April the team still had interest in the 13-year forward. But, bringing back Filppula should come only at bargain terms and after the Flyers pursue other options. Essentially, the Flyers are going to allow the market to play out and then assess where both parties stand.

Filppula simply didn't do enough to make the Flyers truly want to re-sign him. He had one goal, five assists and a minus-9 rating over his final 21 regular-season games while playing 15-plus minutes a night. He's aging and the Flyers' forwards group is getting younger.

However, bringing back Filppula at the Flyers' terms wouldn't be the worst idea. There's no denying he's a good influence on younger players, he's won a Stanley Cup and maybe he can offer the Flyers a responsible fourth-line, penalty-kill option.

Don't rule it out. First, we have to see what comes from the Flyers' testing the waters.

More on the Flyers

Analyzing Flyers' free-agent class, Part 1

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USA Today Images

Analyzing Flyers' free-agent class, Part 1

While the hockey world awaits July 1 and the start of free agency, the Flyers are still looking to get their own house in order as they make the crucial financial decisions with a handful of restricted and unrestricted free agents. The organization has between now and the June 25 deadline to make qualifying offers to their RFAs.

We break down the Flyers’ free agents and their futures moving forward with Part 1 of our two-part series:

Valtteri Filppula (UFA)
Filppula simply doesn’t have the speed to keep up with the league’s younger, more skilled forwards. However, he proved he can still be a valuable asset on a penalty kill, a mentor to younger players and capable of that occasional big game (Game 5 vs. Penguins).

Comparable player: Tomas Plekanec, Maple Leafs
You have to think these two players will be watching to see what the other does when free agency starts on July 1. Both are in their mid-30s and play a very defensively-responsible game, while their offense has receded significantly over the past few years. Interested teams would be looking at both players as third or even fourth-line checking forwards.

Outlook: I’d be really surprised if the Flyers lock up Filppula before free agency starts. Filppula will be looking for a multi-year contract, which in all likelihood would be the last contract he signs. The Flyers can afford to wait out the situation and sign him to a more team-friendly one-year deal that would be at a 50-75 percent reduction over his most recent $5 million cap hit. 

Robert Hagg (RFA)
Hagg surprised many by earning a full-time role with the Flyers straight out of camp. A bruising defenseman who’s a good complement to a more offensive-minded blueliner, although he can be sneaky offensively as well. Hagg’s game tailed off over the second half of the season, but as a rookie, that’s not uncommon. Expect Hagg to bounce back in Year 2. 

Comparable player: Derek Forbort, Kings
Forbort plays a similar game to Hagg, although not quite as punishing with his checks and hits along the boards. Over the past two seasons, Forbort averaged just over 20 minutes per game for the Kings, who have considerably more depth on their blue line. Forbort signed a two-year RFA deal after seeing action in 14 games as a rookie.  

Outlook: General manager Ron Hextall would like to lock up Hagg for at least two seasons around the $1.25-1.5 million range and keep him under club control as a restricted free agent. You have to think Hagg’s agent would also like a short-term bridge, which would give his client a chance to prove his worth and then cash in with a more lucrative deal next season or in 2020.   

Taylor Leier (RFA) 
Leier showed potential as a valuable fourth-line forward who brings quickness and skill to the bottom six. Leier needs to develop into a more reliable penalty killer and provide that consistent jolt of energy he showed in the first 20-25 games of the season while maintaining defensive responsibilities.

Comparable player: Tomas Hyka, Golden Knights
Drafted two rounds after Leier in 2012, Hyka went unsigned by the Kings before he eventually latched on with the Golden Knights. Both Leier and Hyka are smaller, energy guys still looking to prove they belong in the NHL.

Outlook: Under club control, look for the Flyers to offer Leier a short-term contract with the expectation that he takes the next step in his development as an NHL regular.

Alex Lyon (RFA)
Lyon can take pride in his first two pro seasons coming out of Yale. He progressed from 2016-17 to this past season and gave the Flyers some decent play in net over his 11 appearances following injuries to Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth. Lyon wasn’t rattled when he was called upon at a moment’s notice to join the Flyers in a pinch this past season.   

Comparable player: Garret Sparks, Maple Leafs
Interestingly, these two AHL goalies battled each other in the Eastern Conference Finals. While Sparks didn’t take the collegiate route that Lyon did, the Leafs have shown patience with the 24-year-old netminder who has played just 17 games with the Maple Leafs in 2015-16. He will have earned between $575K-675K in the three years after signing his entry-level contract.  

Outlook: Somehow, I find a way to keep Lyon in the organization on a two-year, two-way deal around $750K annually. Lyon understands his role and how he fits in. He’s perfect as a backup to Carter Hart, who I expect to start the season with the Phantoms.