The Flyers: What We Know, What We Don’t Know

The beginning of free agency is an equally exciting and nerve-wracking time for Flyers fans, especially depending on how much cap space the Flyers have and whoever is in charge of spending Ed Snider’s money at the moment. So far the orange and black haven’t made a big move in free agency, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t been busy…

IN (so far):

Ray Emery, G, 1 year $1M. Will back up Steve Mason.

Jason Akeson, RW, 1 year 575K. Will presumably break camp with the Flyers, having scored 172 points in 208 games over the last three years with the Phantoms. He’s ready.

Nick Schultz, D, 1 year $1.25M. A twelve-year vet, he’ll be the seventh D-man, taking the place of Hal Gill.

Rob Zepp, G, 1 year, 600K. He’s a vet who played on the same German team as Giroux and Briere during the lockout. He’ll back up Anthony Stolarz on the Phantoms as Stolarz continues to progress to being NHL- ready.

Chris VandeVelde, C, 1 year, 575K. A 27-year-old who saw time in the NHL all four years he’s been around, he could be one of the first to be called up in case of injury.

Zack Stortini, RW, 1 year, 575K. He’s got 256 NHL games played and 718 PIM. Organizational tough guy, it is.

Andrew Gordon, RW, 1 year, 550K. He has the capacity to score, averaging nearly a point a game for two years in Hershey, and scoring 57 points in 76 games last year in St. John’s in the AHL. An intriguing signing.

Blair Jones, C, 1 year, 600K. He’s been organizational fodder for Tampa and Calgary, totaling 128 NHL games in 7 years.

OUT (so far):

Unsigned restricted free agents:

Erik Gustafsson, D: Given a qualifying offer. Went to Russia instead of signing an RFA deal.

Brandon Manning, D: Given a qualifying offer. No deal yet.

Unsigned unrestricted free agents:
Adam Hall, C
Hal Gill, D
Cal Heeter, G
Kyle Flanagan, F
Tyler Brown, F
Yann Danis, G
Marc-Andre Bourdon, D
Cullen Eddy, D
Tyler Hostetter, D

OTHER MOVES:
Traded: Scott Hartnell (Columbus), Tye McGinn (San Jose)
Signed elsewhere: Steve Downie (Pittsburgh), Kris Newbury (Washington),

Current NHL Roster:
Goalies: Steve Mason, Ray Emery
Left Wings: RJ Umberger, Michael Raffl, Zac Rinaldo, Jay Rosehill. This is gross, by the way.
Center: Claude Giroux, Brayden Schenn, Sean Couturier, Vincent Lecavalier
Right Wing: Jakub Voracek, Wayne Simmonds, Matt Read, Jason Akeson
Defensemen: Mark Streit, Andrew MacDonald, Braydon Coburn, Luke Schenn, Nick Grossmann, Kimmo Timonen, Nick Schultz

This is what we currently know (or think we know) about this year’s Flyers. What we don’t know:

Q: Will one or more prospects break camp with the Flyers?

A: If anyone does, I think it’ll be Scott Laughton. Although Hextall has stated that rushing young kids has hurt a ton of players through the years, Laughton just might be ready. They may have him spend a year with the Phantoms, though.

Q: Where will Vinny Lecavalier play?

A: Will it be on the second line? The third or fourth line? Will he even be in Philadelphia? He was a player that Peter Laviolette wanted badly and got for the three games he coached here last year. Especially with Mike Fisher’s blown Achilles, could he end up re-united with Peter in Nashville? This is a team with too many centers and nearly enough LW. Speaking of which…

Q: Who plays LW1?

A: The depth the Flyers have up the middle and on the right wing is formidable. Their LW options consist of Umberger (LW2 or LW3), Raffl (LW2 or LW3), Zac Rinaldo (LW4) and Jay Rosehill (no). They need help badly; they either need to deal for a LW1 (unlikely), sign one (not really any out there better than Hartnell) or move one of their centers to LW. You don’t want to move Giroux or Couturier out of the center, which leaves you Lecavalier (which didn’t work last year) or Brayden Schenn. Putting Schenn out with Giroux and Voracek may not be a bad idea, especially if Laughton makes the team or they decide they want to bring back Adam Hall. Playing with Giroux would make the transition easier, but it’s still a black hole the Flyers need to fill somehow.

Q: Can Steve Mason be as good or better as he was last year?

A: He’s the most important man in orange and black. If he struggles, it will be a very long year for Flyers fans. Look for Emery to make maybe twenty starts (mostly on back-to-backs), but it’ll be Mason who determines if this team matters a damn in the Spring.

A final note:
Here’s what Ron Hextall had to say about expectations this year:
“As far as the Stanley Cup, I think I have a realistic expectation. I don’t think we’re in that top half dozen teams… I’m not going to make a move because people in our building are getting antsy. I’m going to make a move because it’s the right move for this franchise, not only for today but for tomorrow. I have a long-term view; I don’t view things in short boxes… I really like what’s coming. I also like what’s on the ice, too. I think we’re going to be a competitive team this year. Like I said, I don’t view us as being a top half dozen contender, but I wouldn’t have viewed the Rangers like that three months ago either.”

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