While the Chicago Blackhawks and Tampa Bay Lightning do battle for Lord Stanley’s cup, the Flyers are looking ahead to next season. This offseason is one GM Ron Hextall hopes to use free agency to compliment the talent that is already on the current roster in order to build a sustainable contender.
The Flyers have glaringly obvious needs, such as defense, and although there are young, highly touted prospects within the organization, there are some already established veterans that will be unrestricted free agents this summer. The challenge for Hextall will be to overcome the salary cap issues that have left him with his hands pretty much tied and unable to offer any top-tier money. If he can somehow manage to shed some of the massive contracts that are bogging him down, then some of these players could be within his price range.
Here are five players set to hit the open market on July 1 that would be a nice fit in Philadelphia.
1. Jeff Petry
Petry could be an answer to the Flyers’ issue of poor play in their own zone. He is smart with the puck, has a strong blueline presence and played alongside NHL star P.K. Subban in Montreal. He would demand slightly over $3 million this season, which is doable.
UPDATE: 6/21/15, 4:45 PM: Petry has been re-signed by the Montreal Canadiens.
2. Mike Green
Green could play a similar role that Michael Del Zotto and Mark Streit did this season. He is offensive-minded and has skating speed on the backcheck. The Flyers lacked solid backchecking support, often leading to many odd man rushes in their own zone and too many shots on goal. The main issue? His cap hit of $6.25 million which could be a lot more next season.
3. Justin Williams
Signing Williams would continue the Flyers’ tradition of bringing back familiar faces. The 33-year-old would be a good role player and could possibly fill the void on the first line alongside Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek. He is a three-time Stanley Cup champion who has scoring ability and veteran leadership. Coming back to Philadelphia would cost the Flyers no more than $3-3.5 million.
4. Jhonas Enroth
The Dallas Stars netminder will test free agency. With Ray Emery unlikely to return and Steve Mason’s recent injury history, Enroth is a proven backup. While finding another goalie right now doesn’t seem like a top priority, it would be a good idea to shop around for one who could can handle a good portion of the games.
5. Re-sign Michael Del Zotto (RFA)
The Flyers took a chance on Del Zotto this season, a young defenseman who showed some promise with the New York Rangers, but struggled and fell off in Nashville with the Predators. It appears that the 24-year-old has found his game again and has a comfortable home in Philadelphia.
He was one of, if not the only, bright spot on a weak Flyers defensive corps. His scoring ability and physical play, along with his age, make him valuable to keep around. He is a veteran that could accompany the new crop of defensemen coming up nicely. Both he and Hextall are optimistic that a deal will get done soon and there is no rush, since he is a restricted free agent and the Flyers can match any offer sheet from other teams.