Quick Hits: July 26, 2021
1) On the Monday edition of the Flyers Daily podcast, newly acquired right winger Cam Atkinson has a one-on-one conversation with Jason Myrtetus. In the second segment, Jason and I wrap up Draft weekend and the moves the Flyers made over the last week-plus.
We spent a portion of the second segment talking about Rasmus Ristolainen, who is basically the poster child for how most NHL pro scouts and the majority of coaches sometimes can see the game quite differently from the analytics community (side note: there's a reason why NHL teams all have analytics departments nowadays because most of today's GMs want as many frames of reference as possible before arriving at decisions, and value the combined work of both staffs).
Another portion of the second segment is spent talking about what the Flyers' next steps may be to complete their offseason activity when free agency officially opens on Wednesday. The majority of the time is spent discussing goaltenders.
The final portion of the hour-long podcast is an "Ask Billy" segment where we field Twitter questions. On my Twitter page, I answered various questions that we couldn't get to on the program due to time constraints. Keep 'em coming! Jason and I both really enjoy the back-and-forth segment.
To listen to the podcast, click here
2) Flyers prospects Tyson Foerster and Elliot Desnoyers were invited to Hockey Canada's Summer Showcase roster
. However, neither are attending. Flyers assistant general manager Brent Flahr clarified their statuses.
* Foerster tweaked his shoulder while training in Toronto. It's only a 10-day to two-week injury but the recovery timetime overlaps with the Summer Showcase.
* Desnoyers had off-season surgery and is still rehabbing. However, he should be fine to participate in the Flyers' Rookie Camp in September.
3) On Friday, Jason Myrtetus and I had the chance to chat with a few different Flyers staff members. No one came right out and said this but I got the sense that the organization may be interested in some degree to hedge their bets in case Cam York (or Egor Zamula) is not immediately ready for full-time NHL starting duty.
However, they also don't want box out the youngster, either. Morgan Frost is also in a similar situation after missing all but four and a fraction periods of the entire 2020-21 season and having his AHL/NHL debut season in 2019-20 end in mid-March due to the pandemic.
During his post-Draft press conference the next day, general manager Chuck Fletcher acknowledged that additional depth on defense (and forward) would be of interest in free agency. I assume he meant trying to sign a defenseman of sufficient cache to be a potential third-pairing left defense option at the NHL level on a one-year deal but not at a price tag or term that would lock the Flyers into him and block York for a full season or more.
At the same time, if it's strictly a Derrick Pouliot or Tyler Wotherspoon type of UFA -- and I have nothing against that caliber of player as AHL regulars and fill-in NHL depth -- that's fine for the Phantoms but not a viable NHL option barring multiple injuries. Last season, the Flyers dressed Nate Prosser in a half-dozen games. His first game worked out fine, including him scoring a rare goal, but the returns diminished very quickly. As great of a guy and AHL leader with 360 games of NHL experience as the right-handed Prosser (now a UFA) is, that variety of signing should not be considered an NHL starting option except under the most dire of roster emergencies.
Someone messaged me on Twitter about whether I think the Flyers would have interest in Mike Reilly as a UFA. The 28-year-old definitely played quite well for the Bruins after Boston acquired him from Ottawa. He's a well-known commodity to Fletcher and Flahr as a former Minnesota Wild player and University of Minnesota product. However, while I do think he'd be a player of interest from a hockey standpoint, I think there's at least a 50-50 chance he re-signs with Boston. If not, there'll be competition. He will make more than the $1.5 million of his now-expired deal. The price tag should be a little north, although not outrageously so, of what Philly might budget if theiy add a third NHL roster defenseman this offseason after Ryan Ellis and Ristolainen were acquired. I'd also think it'd take a two-year deal, rather than one.
Others have asked me about Keith Yandle, who is expected to announce his next destination by Wednesday. While some rumors had the Flyers among teams with interest
, that was before the Ristolainen addition. Even with being bought out recently by the Florida Panthers, the nearly 35-year-old offensive defenseman can possibly pull down a pretty decent chunk of change somewhere on a 1-to-2 year deal. Hockey-wise there is a fit but he might temporarily block York.
Alex Goligoski will turn 36 at the end of this month and is getting to to the age where he's a year-to-year player although he's presently still a big minutes D. A one-year veteran third pairing of Goligoski and Justin Braun would be an excellent way to round out a top six with Sam Morin as the number seven guy and York getting top-pair minutes on the Phantoms. However, I'd be surprised if it actually played out that way. He's coming off a pretty decent season for a poor Coyotes team and his expiring contract had nearly a $5.5 million cap hit. That's the sort of acquisition the Flyers would absolutely have jumped on in the pre-cap era or even during the cap era when there were few internal prospects who were potentially NHL-ready and the defense corps budget share was extremely high (which it now is again among the top 4).
Teams do need a few entry-level contract players on the roster, too. So unless there's a 6/7 D who can rotate in and out with Morin based on matchup and is simply short-term insurance in case York doesn't seem ready for full-time top-six duty out of camp, I think York may still ultimately enter 2021-22 camp with an inside track. The cap forces tough decisions ahead of training camps. But who knows? Due to the flat cap, there may be surprising players squeezed out of contracts and become potential PTO candidates for a training camp.
4) I don't think the Flyers plan to skimp on what they'll spend for a backup goalie to restricted free agent Carter Hart. This is another fact that I think will reduce the team's ability to add a prominent name UFA defenseman for the third pair.
On the podcast, Jason mentioned Carolina UFA Jonathan Bernier as goalie in whom the Flyers have had interest multiple times when he's been available over the years. Bernier also has a past working relationship with Kim Dillabaugh from their time together in the LA Kings organization in the late 2000s when Bernier was a prospect and "Dilly" was the organization's goaltender development coach. It's not hard to see a fit here in Philadelphia, but there's competition and it's not a certainty that Bernier (or James Reimer, who'd be another potential backup or 1B to Hart) departs the Hurricanes.
Jason also put out a name I hadn't thought about: 28-year-old Winnipeg UFA Laurent Brossoit. He fared well as Connor Hellebuyck's backup in two of the last three seasons. Brossoit has had something of a good year/ rough year alternating pattern in limited duty going back to his time with the Edmonton Oilers but he seemed to find his niche with the Jets and gave them mostly strong performances when called upon 21 times in 2018-19 and 14 times this past season. He'd be a less expensive option as a backup than some of the other names out there. His expired one-year deal was for $1.5 million.
Goalies such as Buffalo's Linus Ullmark more likely want both a bigger payday plus the chance to be the undisputed No. 1 or at the least 1A (i.e., a little more than 50 percent of the starts) in a tandem. Fletcher indicated that he's looking more for a 30-to-35 game goalie in an 82-game season.