While Vegas and Washington are currently competing for the Stanley Cup, the Flyers season was ended long ago. For teams not still playing into June, Free Agency provides hope. Hopefully the Flyers will add the right pieces this offseason to prolong next year’s playoffs. Here are five players the Flyers should target when Free Agency beings on July 1st.
John Tavares, C
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Tavares doesn’t just top Philadelphia’s Free Agency list, he’s the leagues most coveted commodity. Every team would love to have his services, including his current employer. Early reports on Tavares are that the New York Islanders will do everything they can to keep their captain. Tavares may very well stay in Brooklyn, but winning should trump loyalty. The Flyers could be a dark horse in landing the All Star Center. It would take some re-tooling of the roster to allow for salary demands, but not impossible for Tavares to land in Philly. After yet another disappointing end of the year, the Flyers could move more franchise players. Guys like Wayne Simmonds or Jake Voracek may be shipped off for salary relief. Claude Giroux produced last year at Wing, and would seemingly only improve with Tavares at Center. It’s a long shot but the Flyers have made huge, franchise-altering transactions before in the offseason. Will Tavares become the centerpiece of another blockbuster move?
Ilya Kovalchuk, LW
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A 35 year old Russian head case who hasn’t played in the NHL in five years may be just what the team needs. Not likely but Kovalchuk can score, which the team really does need. Before exiling himself to the KHL, Kovalchuk topped 50 goals in a season twice. Despite being on the back stretch of his career, Kovalchuk could still be of service to some NHL club. This signing is not ideal for the Flyers, but still intriguing. Some skilled players still produce well into their 30’s. Kovalchuk has put up respectable numbers in Russia and could easily slide into a top six role in Philly. Signing Kovalchuk would be the riskiest signing for the Flyers since Jagr, which turned out surprisingly well. If nothing else, the Flyers should consider signing Kovalchuk just to make the Devils mad.
James Van Riemsdyk, LW
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The last time the Flyers had JVR, he was traded for Luke Schenn. In 2007 the Flyers took JVR second overall in the draft after Patrick Kane. His first tenure in orange and black was rocky, but teased glimpses of talent. Van Riemsdyk has proven his worth since then, and should attract interest from a lot of teams. In Van Riemsdyk the Flyers would add size, skill, and more scoring to the front end of the lineup. He’s no superstar, but JVR is a solid player that won’t break the bank for the Flyers. Again, roster adjustments would most likely be a prerequisite for this move. If he does come back to town though, JVR would immediately improve the Flyers offense.
Ian Cole, D
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It’s already known that Brandon Manning will not be returning to the blue line next year. Hagg and Sanheim may start with the Phantoms again, and Gudas and MacDonald are question marks at this point. Signing Cole wouldn’t be flashy, but would ensure the back end. Though his offense is lacking, Cole is solid in his own end. Philadelphia has two speedy defensemen who can move the puck in Provorov and Gostisbehere. Cole’s skill set could mesh well with one, or both of these players. Teams covet defensive depth in today’s NHL, which Cole would provide the Flyers. Signing Cole would be a low-risk move that adds a veteran to a young group of players still in development.
Carter Hutton, G
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Carter Hart is the future franchise Goalie for the Philadelphia Flyers. The problem is, he’s still a ways away from joining the team. Until that moment, the Flyers will continue to utilize the veteran who is a career middle of the pack player. Michael Neurvirth has proven he cannot remain healthy enough to be named starter. Petr Mrazek tried to stabilize the Philadelphia crease this season, but failed. Hutton could become the veteran backup GM Ron Hextall is so fond of. Brian Elliot could remain the starter for this upcoming season with Hutton on the bench. This would force Alex Lyon and Anthony Stolarz to compete with Carter Hart for the Phantom’s starting job forcing the best player to get minutes. While he’s not exactly the Carter Flyers fans would prefer to start next year, Hutton would be a valuable addition to a team who is always in search of help in the crease.
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