Several questions remain on the table for Flyers General Manager Ron Hextall to answer as the 2015 NHL Season concludes. Who to keep, who to let walk or trade, who to go after in free agency, all while dealing with the messy salary cap situation will be a big test for the GM. The draft is also right around the corner, and should be one of the most interesting drafts since the year the team had two first-round picks back in 2003.
The names that stand out there approaching Unrestricted Free Agency include Michael Del Zotto, Ryan White, and Ray Emery. Del Zotto had nice rebound season by producing 10 goals and 22 assists in 62 games, and the team should be willing to match any reasonable offer that may come to the 24 year-old. Ryan White was even more limited this season, tallying six goals and six assists in 34 contests. The bright side to him, though was being fearless when chasing the puck and not backing down to anyone, and all NHL teams need a few gritty guys to do the dirty work. If he is willing to settle for an average veteran deal, I would be glad to see White return to the Orange and Black next year. Ray Emery was re-signed to a one-year deal last offseason to return as the backup to Steve Mason. While he had a few bright points throughout the season, his stats show that he is the same Emery from the first go-round. The Flyers can either give Robb Zepp a shot to be the backup or shop elsewhere for a goaltender, but it seems that Emery has played his final game as a Flyer. Even though they are severely handcuffed from shopping in the free agent market because of the cap, a top-six winger would be an ideal addition to the front end, and don’t count out a trade that could land such a player.
This years draft will be a fun one to watch, especially with the Flyers being loaded with picks from deals made at the trade deadline. The Flyers got a first and a third-rounder from Tampa Bay for Brayden Coburn, and a second-rounder, as well as a conditional pick that has become a third-rounder in 2016 from Chicago in the Kimmo Timonen deal. The conditions were that the Blackhawks win two rounds in the playoffs and Timonen plays in more than 50% of the games, both which have been performed. That gives the Flyers some picks to dangle come draft day, whether they want to move up for a certain player or acquire someone in a trade.
The other big question remaining is which you players will be ready to move up to the NHL level when the season begins in October, especially on the defensive side? At this point, it seems that Sean Morin and Shayne Gostisbehere could be in the plans next season, especially with a strong performance in camp. Other than the Scott Hartnell trade to Columbus for R.J. Umberger, Hextall has done a good job in the front office, and gives fans belief that this franchise is getting back on the path that they’ve been searching for since going to the Finals back in 2010. Stay tuned…