Subject: Matthew Strome
No sibling rivalry here.
With the 106th pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, the Flyers selected Matthew Strome. The Strome name is already commonplace in the NHL; his older brothers Ryan and Dylan both went in the first round (5th and 3rd respectively) on their draft days. Matthew is the last of the Strome clan to be drafted, and now he’s a Flyer! Sick!
But I’m not here (nor am I ever here) to just give you the boring stuff. I’m here to share this:
Newest Flyer @Mstrome16 ! The little big brother always has, and will prove people wrong...proud of ya!— Ryan Strome (@strome18) June 24, 2017
The Strome brothers couldn’t be more stoked about this. Sibling rivalry? Not here, no sir. Not until Matthew makes the roster, that is.
You know, hopefully one day people will look at Matthew Strome and say wait, really? He fell to the fourth round? And we’ll remember when Dylan Strome told us we wouldn’t regret it. That’ll be fun.
I don’t have a clincher for this article, so accept this photo instead (courtesy of the Strome parents):
Subject: Two of the Flyers
A lot has happened since that fateful day in June 2011.
The Flyers made a total of three trades at the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. Two of them can be traced back to one date, June 21, 2003. What significance does this June day from 14 years ago hold? Well, it was the day the Flyers drafted Mike Richards 24th overall in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft.
The timeline that follows:
- On June 23 (Flyers D-Day, as you may know it), 2011, the Flyers traded Richards, along with Rob Bordson, to the Los Angeles Kings for Brayden Schenn, Wayne Simmonds and a 2012 2nd-round pick.
- The 2012 2nd-round pick was traded alongside another draft pick for Nicklas Grossmann on February 16, 2012.
- Grossmann was then traded (with the ghost of Chris Pronger) for Sam Gagner and a 2016 4th-round pick.
- During the 2016 draft, the Flyers traded that very 4th-round pick to the Islanders for a 2017 3rd round pick, and now everything starts falling into place.
- The Flyers packaged that 3rd-round pick (the 75th selection) with the 44th and 108th selections for the 35th pick in this years draft. With the 35th pick the Flyers selected Isaac Ratcliffe, who can now find himself on the Mike Richards trade tree.
But wait, there’s more!
Too much to follow? Here is a handy chart for you...
The Mike Richards trade tree has seen a lot of action these last couple days. pic.twitter.com/D5mpqs6Ubk— Joe Pergola (@BSH_Joe) June 24, 2017
In total, five players and seven draft picks have been connected to the Flyers’ selection of a kid from Kenora, Canada in 2003. The tree has doubled in size overnight, and with many new branches, it still has room to grow.
Subject: Evaluating the Brayden Schenn trade
Just a year after locking him up to a lucrative contract extension, the Flyers traded Brayden Schenn. Was it the right move?
On a night that saw the Philadelphia Flyers add Nolan Patrick to their organization with the No. 2 overall selection, it would have been very easy for general manager Ron Hextall to simply collect his winnings from the table and go to bed. But befitting a draft that saw Las Vegas make its first amateur selections, Hextall clearly had no interest in calling it an early night. With the first round coming to close, he flipped Brayden Schenn to the St. Louis Blues for Jori Lehtera, the 27th overall selection in this draft, and a future first rounder.
The move came out of nowhere. There were no credible rumblings that Schenn was being shopped, and the Flyers aren’t dealing with salary cap issues. Schenn may be coming off an especially ineffective season at 5-on-5, but he remained fantastic on the power play, and was second on the team in goals with 25. He did not need to be moved.
But Hextall still pulled the trigger. In return, he received Lehtera, a 29-year old forward coming off his worst NHL scoring season, and two first round picks. The first of those was used immediately following the trade, as Hextall selected center Morgan Frost. The latter pick is a conditional 2018 selection — it comes with top-10 protection next year, but in that case, the Flyers would receive a first rounder and a third rounder.
It’s certainly a haul in terms of picks, but both sides are taking risks here. St. Louis is gambling that Schenn’s power play prowess will carry over to a new system, while Philadelphia is both hoping for a Lehtera bounceback and that a new player can step into Schenn’s old role on PP1 and provide a close approximation of his production. Still, even though the Philadelphia end of the deal isn’t without risk, it remains solid value and even has the potential to be a major win as well.
Lehtera is nothing special
No one should be expecting Jori Lehtera to “replace” Brayden Schenn’s on-ice production. That’s obvious just by looking at the trade itself, as the Blues had to add two first-rounders in order to even things out, but also by the numbers, which don’t paint an especially pretty picture of Lehtera.
His initial path to the NHL was a bit unorthodox. Drafted by St. Louis in 2008 as a 20-year old, Lehtera eventually found his way to the KHL and played there for four seasons, establishing himself as a slightly-below-point-per-game player. He finally joined the Blues at age-26, and posted a solid rookie season of 44 points in 75 games. That earned him a three-year, $14.1 million extension that would kick in at the start of the 2016-17 season.
Unfortunately for the Blues, Lehtera has yet to match those numbers from his rookie season. He dropped to 34 points in 79 games in Year 2, and 22 points in 64 games last year. The result was a contract that St. Louis was desperate to get off their books.
A deeper dive into the numbers doesn’t hint at an especially impressive player. Over three NHL seasons, Lehtera’s Points/60 rate at 5v5 is 1.57, which is passable middle-six caliber. But that’s dragged up by his strong 2.02 in his rookie year. Last season, it dropped all the way to 1.17. Combine that with a decreased role on St. Louis’ power play, and it’s not difficult to understand why Lehtera’s raw scoring numbers fell off a cliff last year.
As for his play-driving abilities at 5v5, they seem passable at first glance. In his three NHL seasons, Lehtera has posted Corsi For% RelTM marks of -0.3%, +0.8% and -1.4% — not stellar, but not disastrous either. However, those metrics do not fully account for one key factor. Lehtera has essentially been joined at the hip to superstar winger Vladimir Tarasenko, which likely has served to dramatically inflate his play-driving metrics.
Lehtera has spent a whopping 69.5% of his 5v5 minutes over the past three years alongside Tarasenko, and without him, Lehtera is a nothing-special Corsi player. It is fair to note that in the shifts away from Tarasenko, Lehtera was used in a more defensive role (44.2% offensive zone start percentage with Tarasenko, 26.6% away from him), and that probably accounts for some of the discrepancy, but not all of it. My guess is that away from a play-driving stud, Lehtera might be a minor liability from a Corsi standpoint.
Lehtera also rarely shoots the puck. Again, some of this may be due to playing alongside a bonafide sniper, but his 6.38 shot attempts per 60 minutes at 5v5 ranked him 372nd in the NHL among forwards with at least 400 minutes last season — fifth from the bottom. It makes sense to pair him with a high-volume shooter, except the Flyers don’t have many of those on their current roster, which raises the question of linemate fit.
Basically, Jori Lehtera has the statistical profile of a middle-sixer, but that comes with the caveat that his numbers are likely inflated due to his time alongside Vladimir Tarasenko. In addition, his point scoring rates are trending downwards. I’d expect Lehtera to produce like a decent bottom-sixer moving forward, which is obviously not what a team wants from a player with a $4.7 million cap hit.
Schenn and Lehtera’s respective values
Of course, Brayden Schenn is no stud at 5v5, either. In fact, even with Lehtera having a down statistical season, he still basically matched Schenn in rate scoring and easily bested him in play-driving.
Even accounting for the fact that Schenn didn’t play with anyone as good as Tarasenko (even if Schenn’s most frequent linemates included Wayne Simmonds and Claude Giroux), Lehtera has a measurable advantage in on-ice outcomes. To be fair to Schenn, he had never been this poor at play-driving in the past, even if it wasn’t ever a strength of his game. Still, Lehtera provided more 5v5 value than Schenn this past season, and it’s tough to see him as a major downgrade at even strength. It’s possible that Lehtera could be a minor improvement there.
But even strength isn’t where Brayden Schenn provides the bulk of his value. That comes on the power play. Last year, Schenn scored 17 PP goals, and has delivered three straight seasons with a 5v4 Points/60 over 4.0. In fact, Schenn easily made up the gap in value added between himself and Lehtera solely through his power play production, according to the Goals Above Replacement model from DTMAboutHeart. While the model placed Lehtera’s 2016-17 even strength value at 2.4 goals over replacement and Schenn’s at 0.1 goals, Schenn racks up four GAR just via power play impact. Lehtera, on the other hand, checks in at 3.7 Goals Above Replacement on the whole, well behind Schenn’s 5.8 GAR.
It’s very possible that Lehtera and Schenn are basically a wash moving forward in terms of 5v5 value. I’m even open to the possibility that Lehtera will be better in that situation, even though I wonder how much of his past “value” was a product of Tarasenko. However, Schenn remains the more valuable player due to his power play prowess. St. Louis absolutely got the better forward in this deal.
Trade was still good for Philadelphia
If Friday’s trade was a one-for-one deal in the vein of Hextall’s Hartnell-for-Umberger swap, it would have been objectively a bad trade for Philadelphia. But considering the other portion of the deal, it’s clear that both parties realized that Schenn’s on-ice value currently outweighs that of Lehtera. That’s why the Blues threw in two first round picks.
Draft picks are basically weighted lottery tickets, with the likelihood of a win going up the higher in the draft they land. Two first round picks goes a long way in terms of making up the on-ice value gap between Schenn and Lehtera.
But did it make up enough value? We already know that one of the picks was the 27th overall selection (used on Morgan Frost), and the second of the two will likely fall somewhere in the 16-24 range, as the Blues are a likely playoff team but no one’s idea of a true Cup contender.
Using Scott Cullen’s recent evaluation of the NHL success of players taken at each slot between 1990 and 2013, we can at least get a general idea of reasonable expectations for those picks. The 27th pick has played at least 100 NHL games in 62.5% of cases, and has turned into a truly valuable player (top-6 forward, top-4 defenseman, starting goalie) 16.7% of the time. As for picks falling in the 16-24 range, they “hit” as 100+ game regulars about 66% of the time, and become truly valuable pieces at about a one-in-four rate.
So these picks aren’t sure things. But don’t forget that in the salary cap era, good young players under cheap team control are probably the most valuable commodity, aside from franchise-changing superstars. That’s why amassing tons of lottery tickets tends to be the best route — it increases your chance of unearthing one of those money-savers. It’s also why the general consensus in that statistical community is that trading down to acquire more picks is usually the “smarter” move, at least in terms of value.
Take Michael Schuckers’ draft value chart, for example. The 27th pick has a value of 291 points, and the 16-24 pick range goes from 413 points (at 16) to 308 points (at 24). Combine the two values, and you end up in the 599-704 point range in terms of draft value acquired — somewhere between the value of the sixth and ninth overall picks.
And this is where the Flyers’ current situation comes into play. The heart of this deal is an assumption from Hextall that the short term downgrade from Schenn to Lehtera is outweighed by the long-term value of two additional first round picks. If the Flyers were in the hunt for a Stanley Cup title, this wouldn’t be a smart move to make, as maximizing on-ice value in the here and now wins out in those situations. But no one is realistically expecting a team that missed the playoffs last season and will be breaking in between three and six rookies to be a title contender in 2017-18.
Maybe, if everything breaks right, the Flyers go full Leafs next year and hit 2018-19 as a trendy pick to take the next step into title contention. In that scenario, they probably miss Schenn. But general managers can’t deal in “maybes.” At this stage of the Flyers’ retooling process, they need cost-controlled assets with upside more than anything else. That’s why, in the moment, it’s hard to fault Hextall for turning Brayden Schenn into two first round picks.
How the Flyers really win this trade
Some have stated in the aftermath of the deal that they’ll withhold judgment until they see how the two first round picks develop. While I understand the thought process, I tend to avoid that line of thinking when it comes to evaluating trades. To me, what is more relevant is the expected value of those picks, since a prospect’s development path is so unpredictable. If the two first round picks don’t pan out, that means that Ron Hextall made bad picks, not a bad trade.
But there is one way that the Flyers could truly win big on this trade, and it’s not even related to any of the assets involved in the actual trade. It all goes back to Brayden Schenn’s on-ice value. We’ve already determined that Schenn and Lehtera’s even strength value is fairly similar, and that the main reason Schenn has been a more valuable player is because he’s been fantastic on the power play.
But the thing about power play value is that it is, first and foremost, dependent upon receiving the role in the first place. Schenn added about four Goals Above Replacement solely from his power play production last season per DTM’s model. But it’s unfair to just strip four GAR off the top of Philadelphia’s projected totals for 2017-18. Someone is going to get the minutes that Schenn had on PP1, and it’s probably going to be a player who either played on the Flyers’ incredible weak PP2 last season (which provided almost no PP value to the team) or wasn’t on the roster at all.
The safe assumption is that the player who takes over Schenn’s role in the slot won’t be as effective there as Schenn was. After all, Schenn finished tied for the league-lead in PP goals — it’s tough production to replace. But what if the new addition can?
Let’s imagine a scenario where Lehtera basically reproduces Schenn’s expected 5v5 production — slightly negative in terms of play-driving relative to his teammates, and somewhere in the 1.3-1.6 Points/60 range in scoring. And then, the Flyers slide a new player into Schenn’s role on PP1 who immediately excels, due to natural ability and the fact that Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds and Shayne Gostisbehere have created an environment where it is relatively easy for a skilled triggerman to rack up points in the slot.
In this thought experiment, you’re left with a Flyers team that doesn’t feel the loss of Brayden Schenn in terms of value added, and picked up two first-round picks for their trouble. That’s the true best-case scenario here: that a main driver of the trade is that the Flyers’ coaching staff feels that they have another player who can slide into Schenn’s power play role and basically replicate his production.
Let’s assume that the new coach Kris Knoblauch plans to keep the current 1-3-1 formation in place for PP1, with Giroux running things from the left half-boards. In that setup, the man in the slot is preferably a left-handed shot, since he can rip one-timers from Giroux passes just a bit quicker than a righty can. Unfortunately, this “requirement” rules out talented options like Travis Konecny, Nolan Patrick and Jordan Weal, all of whom would seem like good fits from a skillset standpoint.
But the Flyers aren’t lacking for lefty-shot forwards. Sean Couturier, Michael Raffl, Valtteri Filppula, Lehtera, Jakub Voracek and Oskar Lindblom all fit the bill as scoring forwards who shoot left. Personally, I’d immediately rule out Filppula and Lehtera, since both are pass-first players. Sean Couturier has consistently struggled on PP2, and seems most at home below the faceoff dots, so I’d hesitate to give him the role either, though I wouldn’t be opposed to a test run.
The three most intriguing options to me are Raffl, Voracek and (especially) Lindblom. Raffl isn’t generally viewed as a scorer, but no Flyers regular has a higher Goals/60 rate at 5v5 over the past four seasons than Raffl and his 0.76 rate, which isn’t far off from players like Toews (0.77), Gaudreau (0.78) and Carter (0.79) over that same time period. While Raffl isn’t much of a distributor, he’s been a pretty solid goal scorer in his NHL career and has plus hockey sense, which is key for the slot role. He’s at least worth a look.
Voracek is obviously already on PP1, but he currently plays the right side on the half-boards. He doesn’t have the greatest one-timer, and he’s struggled to score goals on the power play over the past two seasons (3.85% shooting percentage at 5v4). But the benefit to moving Voracek to the slot is that someone else can easily move onto the right side, even a righty shot like Konecny or Patrick. If the goal is to stack as much high-end talent onto PP1, this would be an intriguing way to do it. They could even move to a 3F/2D setup and add Provorov to the mix, though I wouldn’t recommend that path.
Lindblom, however, is the really fun option. He played all over the power play formation in Sweden but he does have experience in the slot role (as well as netfront), and he projects to be a similar “high hockey-IQ” type player as Raffl, but with more offensive upside. Obviously, he still needs to make the Flyers out of camp in September (which is far from a sure thing), but at least in theory, he could be a solid fit in Schenn’s spot.
In the end, this is still a good trade for the Flyers even if Schenn’s replacement in the slot is merely decent. But if they can immediately replace the bulk of his production through a “next man up” philosophy, then the trade becomes a stroke of genius by Ron Hextall.
Best and worst-case scenarios
Brayden Schenn is absolutely a player with value in the NHL. While it was easy to focus on his struggles at 5v5, which reached epic proportions in 2016-17, he found a home as a major weapon on one of the league’s best power play units, and consistently improved there each year.
The big question regarding that production is whether it is easily replaceable. Critics of Schenn often pointed to the fact that Scott Hartnell succeeded in the same role as well, implying that the other pieces on the unit (particularly Claude Giroux and Wayne Simmonds) were the truly indispensable ones while the slot man was more a fortunate beneficiary of all that talent. Others argued that the Flyers simply found two players who were both very good at a difficult task, and that Schenn’s goal scoring ability from the middle of the ice should not overlooked.
By trading Schenn for Jori Lehtera and two first rounders, Ron Hextall is essentially putting this argument to the test. Since Lehtera’s 5v5 play has been fairly comparable to Schenn, Hextall is receiving two first rounders for the loss of Schenn’s PP prowess. And to be sure, that could be a big loss in the short-term. The Flyers were horrific at 5v5 scoring this past season, racking up a large portion of their goals in other situations. If they cannot adequately replace Schenn on PP1 and its effectiveness tails off dramatically as a result, they’ll need to improve at even strength to make up for it, and it’s questionable whether they can considering their personnel.
But the upshot is that if they do have an in-house replacement with the necessary skillset to flourish in that role, or if it truly does turn out that anyone can succeed there as long as Giroux is feeding him perfect passes, then the Flyers just made a brilliant trade. They picked up two first rounders that essentially combine to value out as a sixth-to-ninth overall pick, and didn’t miss a beat in the short term when it comes to on-ice performance.
The worst-case scenario is that the Flyers’ power play took a major short-term hit during a period in which Cup hopes were dim at best. The most likely result is that the power play takes a slight dip, but the future value added by the two first rounders makes this a good trade for Philadelphia. And the best-case scenario is that the PP doesn’t miss a beat with a new face, Lehtera replicates Schenn’s 5v5 value, and Hextall picked up two firsts basically for free.
With the downside acceptable and the ideal upside legitimately possible, it’s easy to understand why Ron Hextall jumped at this deal. Just be sure to keep an eye on who takes Schenn’s power play role at camp, as that will be pivotal towards understanding the final grade of Friday’s trade.
The gang got together with a few hundred of their friends to watch the first round of the draft. And it was something to behold.
Steph, Charlie, Bill, and Kelly got together with a few hundred of their friends to record a special live episode of BSH Radio as the first round of the draft went down. The party was absolutely amazing and whether you were there or missed it you can relive it here with us. Our new buddy Keith Jones sits down with us to talk about the future of the Flyers and his own memories of being an NHLer, we all get completely incoherent as the Flyers’ pick is announced, and a fantastic time was had by all.
Follow us on twitter @BSH_Radio so you don’t miss our next insanely awesome party!
Subject: Monday Morning Fly By: That was fun!
Today's open discussion thread, complete with your daily dose of Philadelphia Flyers news and notes...
*Folks, this weekend was pretty incredible. And the most incredible part was Nolan Patrick becoming a Philadelphia Flyer. [BSH]
*Also incredible and huge and kind of unexpected? Ron Hextall traded Brayden Schenn. Lots of luck in St. Loud, dude! [BSH]
*That trade gave the Flyers an extra first round pick, with which they selected forward Morgan Frost. Day two also brought a huge haul and since this website is amazing and the best ever, we've got the details on every pick. Here we go:
- The Flyers traded up to select Isaac Ratcliffe at #35. [BSH]
- Ron went goalie with #80, taking Kirill Ustimenko. Great name on this kid. [BSH]
- We set up Dylan Strome ultimately becoming a Flyer in order to play with his kid brother by drafting Matthew Strome at #106. [BSH]
- And right after we took winger Maksim Sushko at #107. [BSH]
- Then at #137 winger Noah Cates joined the fam. [BSH]
- Swedish winger Olle Lycksell was selected at #167. [BSH]
- And finally, Wyatt Kalynuk ended things at #196. [BSH]
*If you'd like a full rundown of everything that happened in the NHL this weekend, we've got you. [SB Nation]
*Okay so obviously that Schenn trade was a big huge deal. Thankfully we have Charlie to break it all down for us. [BSH]
*Nolan Patrick is totally fine with dropping to #2, probably because he knows it's waaaaay better to be #2 than to be a New Jersey Devil. [Inquirer]
*One problem the Flyers did not solve this weekend is the current goalie situation, but Ron is determined to stay patient. [NBC Sports]
*But yeah, this was a good weekend for your Flyers. And for BSH, which threw a draft party that absolutely rocked. [Philly Is Flyer]
*Meltzer has some insight into some of the early-picked names you may no recognize. [Hockeybuzz]
*And finally, the top takeaways from the draft from the national media. It's going to be a fun time to be a Flyers fan soon, you guys. [ESPN]
Subject: What can the Flyers expect from Jori Lehtera?
We check in with our friends in St. Louis to ask about the newest Flyer.
The focus on Friday night’s shocking trade of Brayden Schenn to St. Louis has largely been on the future assets that it brought with it — particularly, the 2017 and 2018 first-round picks that the Flyers received for the 25-year old forward. But the Flyers did pick up a roster player in 29-year old Jori Lehtera, who has had a strange journey to the NHL and potentially an even stranger one to Philadelphia.
Lehtera had a strong first season with the Blues (at the age of 27), earning himself a three-year, $14.1 million contract extension that would kick in prior to the 2016-17 season. Unfortunately, Lehtera’s play has fallen off in each of the two years since that deal, to the point where he (and his massive contract) had become a point of constant frustration in St. Louis. His presence in the trade was very much a cap dump for the Blues, who are happy to be able to use his money on a relatively productive player instead.
What happened to Lehtera in the past two seasons? Can he amount to anything in the orange and black?
Our friends over at SB Nation’s St. Louis Blues site, St. Louis Game Time, seemed pretty happy with the trade, and with the Blues’ other big move of Friday evening (see here, and here, and here). We sent a few questions to SLGT’s hildymac, asking what to expect from the Flyers’ latest acquisition, with a question tacked on at the end about their newest center as well. (Our questions in bold, responses in plain text.)
1. First and foremost: two first-rounders, even mid-to-late ones, is a hefty trade price in today's NHL. Are you all of the opinion that it was worth it for the Blues to pay that much (plus potentially an extra 3rd if they toll the 1st to 2019) to dump Lehtera and pick up Brayden Schenn?
I'm always uncomfortable when Doug Armstrong deals around first round draft picks, because I feel like it's a tantamount to dealing away a potential opportunity for the team. On the flip side, the Blues need scoring and with the loss of David Perron to the Golden Knights, Schenn replaces that with the added bonus of being a better center than Lehtera.
So, as a matter of principle I question it, but for right now I can understand the justification for it.
2. Lehtera had a pretty solid first season in St. Louis back in 2014-15, as he was part of that successful STL line with Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz. What the hell happened to him in the two years since then? How did he fall out of favor in St. Louis so quickly?
I'm not sure what exactly happened with him considering that Hitchcock religiously played him with Tarasenko. Schwartz was moved around a bit as needed and was injured for a while, so that may've played a role. It's easy to point a finger at Hitch's message wearing thin, but Lehtera had issues under Yeo too.
3. Much of the appeal for the Blues in dumping Lehtera is in losing his $4.7 million cap hit for the next two seasons. Surely that's an overpay for what he brings at this point, but is Lehtera a guy that Blues fans probably would have been fine with if he was making way less money and playing a smaller role on the team, or is he just not a guy that could've had any realistic fit with the Blues at this point? Is he at least a fine bottom-6 guy if he never improves from what he currently is, or are we talking about someone who you think is basically a marginal NHLer?
I think that the salary is a huge part of why Blues fans wanted him out. If he produced at the same level that he got paid for, no one'd have an issue with him, and vice versa. The Blues have an abundance of third liners who can be a bit overpriced, and I think Lehtera was the breaking point there. I think he's a competent bottom-six guy for sure, but there's no way a competent bottom-six guy should get $4.7 million a year.
4. In that vein, you all wrote this past season about how the burden of his contract may be weighing on him. Could a change of scenery and lower expectations help him?
I think lowered expectations should help, as long as the Flyers are aware of what they got. They're not getting a replacement for Schenn's numbers, so if you approach him like he is, there'll be issues. If the team realizes that he is what he is, he should be ok.
5. Finally, what does it sound like the expectations are for Schenn in St. Louis? Is he going to be at center/is there an obvious spot in the lineup where they're going to use him?
I honestly think Schenn'll be used as a second-line center, and I think that's a pretty workable position for him. The Blues have been weak down the middle for a bit, but I think Schenn should be enough to get some production going depending on the others on his line.
Thanks again to Laura for answering our questions!
Subject: Thoughts on the Flyers
With the 2017 NHL Draft now in the rearview mirror, let’s take a look at the Flyers’ haul.
On April 28, the 2017 NHL Draft was not looking like an especially exciting one for the Philadelphia Flyers’ organization. Yes, general manager Ron Hextall had stockpiled an impressive number of picks, but in terms of immediate high-end talent, they likely weren’t going to add a franchise-changer with a mid-first round pick in a draft generally viewed as a “two-player” draft.
Then, the lottery happened.
With only a 2.4% chance of it occurring, Philadelphia somehow jumped up to the No. 2 pick in the draft, opening up a clear path to acquiring either Nolan Patrick or Nico Hischier, the two prizes of the class. Next up was two months of speculation, rumors, and unfounded concerns that the Flyers might somehow find a way to waste the gift that had fallen into their laps.
On Friday night, the Flyers made no such error, snapping up Patrick after the New Jersey Devils took Hischier at No. 1. But the draft didn’t end there. Philadelphia still had six more rounds to go, with ten more picks remaining. After three trades, they would end up making eight more selections, adding nine total prospects to the organization, obviously headlined by the franchise’s best hope in years for a homegrown 1C.
Nolan Patrick, C | 1st round, 2nd overall
This was the obvious choice, but there is something to be said for not overthinking the situation. The Flyers’ prospect pool entering Friday night was one of the deepest in hockey, with one key element missing: a forward prospect guaranteed to stick at center possessing top line potential. Patrick, long expected to be the #1 selection in this draft, fell right into their lap, and the Flyers made the only logical decision: they rushed up to the podium and grabbed him.
There is no rational reason to criticize the pick. Sure, there were a few other intriguing center prospects — Cody Glass, Gabriel Vilardi, Elias Pettersson and Nick Suzuki were my favorites — but none graded out as well as Patrick on the whole. He’s a do-it-all center with ideal size for the position, a plus shot, solid skating ability and fantastic hockey sense. Patrick is the total package.
Are there some concerns surrounding him? Sure. His draft year didn’t go as planned because he dealt with two sports hernias (one undiagnosed) and unsurprisingly didn’t take the previously-expected point production leap as a result. He’s also old for his draft year, which makes his statistics a little less impressive in comparison to his peers. Patrick’s style also isn’t the flashiest, especially in comparison to Nico Hischier.
But these are more quibbles than legitimate concerns. The injury issues were the most worrying, especially because Patrick has only spent one year of his hockey career fully healthy. But Ron Hextall, as a former Brandon Wheat King, has lots of connections in Patrick’s organization, and he clearly saw nothing to dissuade him from making the pick.
As for the “bad” draft year, I’m honestly impressed that despite playing through a fairly serious injury and on a squad that lost its three highest scorers from the previous year not named Nolan Patrick, he still basically replicated his point per game pace from 2015-16.
Patrick will likely be in the Flyers’ lineup for Game 1 of the 2017-18 season, and the sky is the limit when it comes to his upside.
Morgan Frost, C | 1st round, 27th overall
A direct result of the Friday night deal that sent Brayden Schenn to the St. Louis Blues, Frost is a center from the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds who put up 62 points in 67 games during his draft year. He’s fairly young for his class, as he just turned 18 years old on May 14, and was generally projected in the muddled 20 through 60 range of the draft, according to public evaluations.
Frost will always be linked to two players in the minds of diehard Flyers fans. The first is Schenn himself, since the team likely downgraded in the short term by flipping Schenn for Jori Lehtera and future draft picks. The trade becomes far easier for fans to swallow if Frost turns into a major NHL contributor. The second is Eeli Tolvanen, who was the consensus “best player available” at pick No. 27 for the Flyers and was passed over in favor of Frost. Tolvanen is a high-volume sniper prospect, which was perhaps the only archetype the Flyers lacked in the prospect pool after the selection of Patrick. Television broadcasts even briefly placed a Tolvanen graphic up on the screen immediately before Hextall announced the Frost pick.
For my money, I wanted Tolvanen. He’s a player I’ve had an eye on going back to before the Flyers jumped to No. 2, back when it looked like they would pick at No. 13. He’s exciting to watch, has excelled in international play, and seemed highly regarded in the pre-draft process. As for Frost, I’m naturally skeptical of any forward going in the first round who didn’t at least score at a point per game pace in his draft year, unless he was buried on an ultra-talented lineup, and Frost was not. To me, the upside of Tolvanen made him a better pick.
But this isn’t the first time that the Flyers passed up on a volume shooter for a two-way forward. In fact, just last year, Hextall had a chance to grab Kieffer Bellows and instead traded down before nabbing German Rubtsov in the first round, and then Bellows posted a fairly disappointing freshman season at BU. It’s possible that players with that style simply don’t fit Hextall’s preferred mold, and fans should stop expecting that one gets taken by Philadelphia.
In addition, Frost is a talented young playmaker. Out of draft eligible OHL forwards, only Robert Thomas (the 20th overall pick) had a higher Estimated Primary Assists per 60 rate at 5v5 than Frost, and his Estimated Primary Points/60 ranked eighth. He also appears to be a plus skater, and graded out quite well in the physical tests at the combine. In addition, the OHL is the hardest of the three leagues to score in, so if the Flyers were going to take a non-PPG forward in the first, I’m glad he came from the OHL.
There’s definite upside here, and I wouldn’t call Frost a bad selection. But I do worry about getting another Scott Laughton type. Hopefully Frost can produce more than the 56-points-in-49-games that Laughton did in his Draft+1 season.
Isaac Ratcliffe, F | 2nd round, 35th overall
Isaac Ratcliffe NHL Draft profile 2017 | SB Nation NHL Draft M...
Four picks into Round 2, the Flyers traded up for Isaac Ratcliffe!Posted by Broad Street Hockey: For Philadelphia Flyers Fans on Saturday, June 24, 2017
This strikes me as the most intriguing pick in the draft by Ron Hextall. Prior to this draft, Hextall had conspicuously avoided the “loved by scouts, not by stats” forwards in the first two rounds, instead targeting players like Travis Konecny, Nicolas Aube-Kubel and Pascal Laberge who were exciting, offensively gifted prospects. Isaac Ratcliffe, on the other hand, is one of those “projectable” forwards that scouts love to dream on.
Ratcliffe’s most noticeable attribute is obviously his size. He’s 6’5’’ and already over 200 pounds, and he’s certainly a power forward prospect to say the least. The production in the OHL was decent in his draft year (54 points in 67 games) but not incredible. His skating is also above-average for his size, so it’s not like he’s a plodder. From what I gather, the aspect of his game that needs the most work is his puck skills while skating, as he already possesses soft hands around the net. It’s clear this selection is an upside play, and for an organization that was lacking Ratcliffe’s skillset in their prospect pool, I totally understand the thought process behind the pick.
From a pre-draft value standpoint, Ratcliffe was a great pick at No. 35. It was a minor surprise when he fell out of the top-31, as many mock drafts had him going as early as the mid-first round. I would have disliked a Ratcliffe pick in that range, but No. 35 feels right for a projectable power forward to me.
I do have concerns about the trade up, however. To acquire pick No. 35, the Flyers traded No. 44, a third (75th overall) and a fourth round pick (108th) to Arizona in order to nab Ratcliffe. Looking at Michael Schuckers’ Draft Value Chart, that’s 455 points sent by the Flyers for a pick (#35) worth 222 points on average. In fact, Coyotes GM John Chayka noted after the draft that he told Hextall it was an overpayment, and Hextall did the deal anyway.
That leads me to believe that Hextall felt that even though Ratcliffe was officially taken at No. 35, he had the value of a player who “should have” been taken much higher. How much higher? Going back to Schuckers’ chart, the 455 points of value that the Flyers shipped to Arizona is basically equivalent to the 14th overall pick — which is right where the optimistic public scouts had Ratcliffe ranked.
Essentially, I like the player and I like where he was picked, but I don’t like the value they gave up to make the pick.
Kirill Ustimenko, G | 3rd round, 80th overall
These goalie picks are always hard for me to analyze, for two obvious reasons:
- We don’t have much information regarding European prospects past probable first rounders.
- My knowledge of goaltending technique is limited at best.
As a result, all I can really use are the numbers and the reports of scouts. In the former, Ustimenko absolutely stands out. In the MHL (Russian juniors), he posted a 0.938 save percentage in 27 games, second-best in the league. He also performed well in two games at the U18 World Championships. However, he barely rated on any of the public draft boards, and was taken over more highly-rated goalies that were available at the time.
Personally, I have no issue with the pick. This is around the point in the draft where I’m fine with a netminder being taken, and Hextall has implied that he’d like to grab one in every draft just to keep the pipeline full with lottery tickets at that position. The strong metrics intrigue me, as does his ideal size for the position (6’3’’, 179 pounds at age-18).
Plus, the Flyers showed their cards last year by taking German Rubtsov in round one and proved they keep a very close eye on the Russian junior levels, since that pick required a great deal of background research due to the doping scandal. Clearly their scouts see something in this guy, and finding a good young goalie is more a volume play than anything else. Pick a bunch, hope you stumbled upon the next Lundqvist.
Matthew Strome, F | 4th round, 106th overall
This was a fantastic value selection, and unlike the Ratcliffe pick, it didn’t require an expensive trade-up. Strome was thought to have an outside chance of slipping into the tail end of the first round, but most thought he was probably ticketed for round two. Getting a player in the fourth round who scored at a better point per game rate than your late first round pick, has legitimate power forward potential, and has two brothers who are sure NHLers was a coup for Ron Hextall.
The big concern surrounding Strome is obviously his skating — it’s legitimately a major weakness, and could definitely prevent him from ever making the NHL. But every other skill that Strome possesses is NHL caliber, and like Ratcliffe, he’s a big kid (6’3’’, 201 pounds) who is capable of imposing his will on the opposition.
I’m iffy on taking power forward projects in the first two rounds. I love taking them in the middle rounds, however, and the guys that fall this far rarely come with the past point production and pedigree that Strome brings to the table.
Maksim Sushko, F | 4th round, 107th overall
Sushko has the numbers (32 points in 54 games in the OHL) of a Samuel Dove-McFalls or Carsen Twarynski-type mid-round selection, but not the skillset. Unlike those players, who from the moment of drafting felt like future NHL bottom-sixers in an absolute best-case scenario, Sushko appears to bring more raw talent to the table. He was a first round pick in the OHL Import Draft last year, and was touted as a potential impact scoring forward coming over from Belarus.
Unfortunately, it didn’t translate in his rookie North American season, with his Estimated Primary Points/60 ranking 25th among draft-eligible forwards in the OHL. My guess is that Flyers’ scouts like the skillset, and think that his underwhelming 2016-17 season was a result of Sushko adjusting to a new home and style of play, not a lack of projectable talent.
For what it’s worth, ESPN’s Corey Pronman had him in his Honorable Mention section prior to the draft, which includes his favorite 30 players not ranked in his top-100. There’s legitimate talent here — it’s just a matter of whether Sushko can put it all together.
Noah Cates, F | 5th round, 137th overall
This is exactly the type of late round lottery ticket pick that I love to see from Ron Hextall. Cates is something of an unknown, spending most of his time in the Minnesota high school hockey system, though he did get a brief 11-game stint in the USHL, putting up seven points for the Omaha Lancers while there. But he’s flashed impressive skill and raw talent, per scouts and YouTube clips.
At this point in the draft, why not take a stab at a under-the-radar player with sky-high upside, especially if he’ll be moving to a much better league the following year and you’ll know very quickly if he’s fulfilling his promise? Cates will play a full season in the USHL next year before moving on to the University of Minnesota-Duluth in 2018-19, a strong program. If there’s a Tanner Laczynski in this draft class for the Flyers, I feel like Cates is it.
Olle Lycksell, C | 6th, 168th overall
Meet the forward version of Linus Hogberg, taken last year by the Flyers in the fifth round. Like Hogberg, Lycksell is Swedish, very young for his draft year and a total unknown to anyone who isn’t focusing heavily on the lower levels in that country. But the Flyers clearly see something in the undersized forward, and he certainly won’t be rushed. Like the Cates pick, this is a matter a trusting a scout in your organization who thinks he unearthed a gem. I’d rather take a chance of a high-upside project like Lycksell than a slow CHL middle-sixer.
Wyatt Kalynuk, D | 7th round, 196th overall
Kalynuk is a 20-year old defenseman who put up unspectacular numbers in three USHL seasons, and now is committed to Wisconsin for college hockey. This strikes me as a flier just in case Kalynuk’s game translates well and turns him into the type of player who becomes a sought-after college UFA. But considering the fact that the Flyers originally had two seventh round picks and traded away one for a seventh round pick next season, my guess is that the Flyers were running out of attractive targets by this stage of the draft.
The addition of Nolan Patrick to the organization immediately turns the 2017 NHL Draft into a major win for the Philadelphia Flyers. He’s everything that the Flyers needed at this stage of their retooling process, especially with Claude Giroux’s 5v5 production dropping off dramatically over the past few seasons. Despite all of the work that Ron Hextall has done to build up his prospect pool, the biggest concern was that Giroux’s decline would leave them without a first line-caliber center just as the rest of the kids were hitting their primes.
Typically, a team only gets that type of prospect in the first few picks of a draft, but considering the talent that Hextall was bringing into the organization, it seemed unlikely that the team would ever be so bad as to earn one of those picks. The results of the 2017 lottery gave the Flyers that missing piece without requiring the team to fully “tank” a season, and the importance of that cannot be overstated.
As for the rest of the draft, I have mixed feelings. On one hand, it’s clear that Hextall expertly filled the gaps in his prospect pool. Stocked with potential top-four defensemen and enviable goalie depth, the Flyers were comparatively weak down the middle, and lacked much in the way of big, physical wingers. The selections of Patrick and Morgan Frost — who I believe both project as centers at the NHL level — resolve the former issue, while Ratcliffe and Strome are intriguing projects with top-six upside and address the latter. This truly is now a system with no holes, and I honestly believe a case can be made that it’s the best prospect pool in the NHL at the moment.
At the same time, I can’t help feeling a bit underwhelmed. I’m not a fan of the Ratcliffe trade-up, because I feel that it basically views him as a top-15 talent in this draft, and I disagree with that valuation. I would have rather the Flyers kept their third and fourth round selections and added even more depth to the organization. And while I don’t hate the Frost pick, I do worry that they missed an opportunity to bring in a difference maker in Eeli Tolvanen who also filled an organizational need.
Aside from Nolan Patrick, there just isn’t a player in the class that I really love. Frost didn’t post the type of scoring totals that make me stand up and take notice, Ratcliffe is a project in the Samuel Morin vein, and Ustimenko is a total unknown. Strome was a fantastic value pick, but even if he improves his skating to the point where he becomes an NHL regular, we’re not talking about a dynamic player here. Cates and Lycksell are intriguing (especially the former) but truly are the definition of lottery tickets.
I freely admit that part of my lack of excitement surrounding the draft is due to my bias towards more dynamic, skilled players. But the Flyers have lots of those in the organization already, and this draft did go a long way in filling the role-related gaps. And maybe Morgan Frost’s playmaking ability results in him taking a major scoring leap in his Draft+1 season, or Noah Cates absolutely kills it in the USHL. Neither are out of the realm of possibility.
On the whole, I’d give the draft an A- in terms of value added to the organization, and a B in terms of how much I liked the individual picks and trades, simply because the Patrick selection was such a no-brainer. Of course, I’m no scout, and the Hextall front office has historically done a fantastic job in acquiring talent at the NHL Draft. It’s completely plausible to me that this time next year, we’re talking about how Frost was a steal, Ratcliffe took a major step forward, and Strome is so much better at skating now.
Hextall certainly has earned the fans’ trust when it comes to his drafting. But aside from Nolan Patrick (obviously), I’m just a little less excited about this overall class than any of his others.
Subject: The Flyers have the correct mentality about a potential Claude Giroux trade
It’s probably not happening. They probably won’t ever get enough value for it to be worth it. But they should always listen.
There were rumors at the NHL Draft on Saturday that the Flyers and Montreal Canadiens were in trade talks for Claude Giroux. TSN’s Bob McKenzie heard those rumors and got curious. While there was nothing really there, McKenzie went on the radio this morning and discussed the general idea of the Flyers moving Giroux.
To make a long story short, the Flyers aren’t seriously considering a move right now, and Giroux has a no-movement clause in his contract anyhow. That’s not to say, however, there couldn’t be a deal at some point in the relatively near future.
“They did say that there have been a couple of calls recently from teams asking just, ‘Is he available? Would he be available? Would they consider going down that road?’ And the Flyer answer is very simple: A) He’s got a no-move clause, B) We’ll obviously listen.
“Because at some point in time – and again, you pointed out the numbers. The contact is not favorable. The output lately has not been favorable. That’s not to say it couldn’t return to favorable because he’s a hell of a hockey player, although he’s battled a lot of injuries over the last number of years, which has contributed probably to the lower numbers as well.
“But at some point in time here in the next little while, the Philadelphia Flyer bucket of really good young players is filling up at an astonishing rate – especially on the blueline. ... “Now, at some point you’ve got to start turning those veteran players over and sort of giving the younger kids the reigns. I don’t think the Flyers are quite at that point right yet, but they’re going to be at some point. So there’s going to be teams along the way that are going to keep an eye on the Flyers and find out whether a Giroux or a Voracek or a Simmonds – the Flyers might be in a position where they turn those people over.
While the idea of trading Claude Giroux initially sparks some pretty negative emotions, it’s true that the Flyers should always be listening. This is the right perspective for Ron Hextall to have.
The points McKenzie makes here regarding Giroux’s production are completely valid, even if injuries have played a part. And even if Giroux does rebound back to form in the next year or two, there is certainly a point where his $8.275 million cap hit is going to get cumbersome.
That’s just the reality of the situation, and it’s going to get even tougher as the young kids coming up hit the ends of their entry-level deals. Unless they are all busts (in which case we have much bigger concerns), some of these young guys are going to get paid in the coming years. The Flyers will need room to make that happen.
Ultimately, it’s possible that the Flyers never actually get enough value in return for a trade of Claude Giroux. But Ron Hextall would be an idiot not to listen to offers, even if he never does wind up trading Giroux.
Subject: Mark Recchi inducted into Hockey Hall of Fame
He still isn’t in the Flyers Hall of Fame.
Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs is in the Hockey Hall of Fame. He’s the chairman of the NHL’s Board of Governors; the man arguably responsible for three NHL lockouts; the real-life Mr. Burns who made his employees pay $7,000 in taxes on Stanley Cup rings; the man who didn’t “want to attract the kind of people the Akon concert would attract to this community” ... yeah, that piece of shit. He’s a Hall of Famer.
Sometimes this sport really, really pisses me off.
#HHOF Class of 2017: Teemu Selanne, Paul Kariya, Dave Andreychuk, Mark Recchi, Danielle Goyette, builders Clare Drake and Jeremy Jacobs.— Frank Seravalli (@frank_seravalli) June 26, 2017
Recchi played 1,652 regular season games in the NHL, of which 602 came in a Philadelphia Flyers uniform. He was more than a point per game player in those 602 games, scoring 232 goals and 395 assists as a Flyer as part of his career 577 goals and 956 assists. He’s currently eighth all-time on the Flyers scoring list.
Recchi was a seven-time NHL All-Star, repping the Flyers three of those times, and he won the Stanley Cup three times. He was the Flyers’ team MVP three times. He is 12th all-time in NHL scoring and one of just 13 players to score more than 1,500 points in his career. Recchi is definitely worthy of the Hall.
The question now remains, as it does with Eric Lindros: will the Flyers retire his number? They’ve retired the number of every player (Mark Howe, Bernie Parent, Bill Barber and Bobby Clarke) who has gone into the Hall after playing the majority of their career in Philly -- pending the eventual, expected retirement of No. 88.
But will Recchi be different? He’s not even in the Flyers Hall of Fame, although that could change now too. For some reason — perhaps the four-season gap he spent in Montreal in the middle of his Flyers’ tenure — we don’t really think of him as a Flyers all-timer, but maybe that will change now that he’s in the Hall.
Subject: Tuesday Morning Fly By: On to free agency!
Today's open discussion thread, complete with your daily dose of Philadelphia Flyers news and notes...
*Seems like overall, most people think Hexy and crew did pretty good. [Inquirer]
*Here's what we can learn from draft weekend as a whole. [Puck Daddy]
*Dave Hakstol is already impressed by Nolan and indicates that the kid definitely has a shot of making his team. [CSN Philly]
*Next up on the Summertime Fun calendar is free agency. Should we expect anything from the Flyers? [Inquirer]
*One thing the Flyers definitely need is a goalie, and when we talked to Keith Jones Friday night he thought that Brian Elliott might be Hextall's target. Well, looks like Elliott might end up much farther north. [NBC Sports]
*Mark Recchi is finally an NHL Hall of Famer. [TSN]
*Lucky for us, DGB doesn't think the Flyers are facing a lot of pressure this offseason. [Sportsnet]
Subject: Nolan Patrick is a Flyer!
In which the gang has a rather vigorous debate about the Brayden Schenn trade and takes an in-depth look at the Flyers entry draft haul
Nolan Patrick is officially a Philadelphia Flyer, but before that can truly be celebrated, the big trade of the weekend must be addressed, and BSH Radio is back to do just that. The shocking trade of Brayden Schenn to the Blues has the panel divided, with Steph railing against the move and the rest of the gang viewing it more positively. Linked to the trade was the pick of Morgan Frost, and Charlie joins Steph in her skepticism of that pick. Then, it's onto the rest of the draft, led by the one and only Nolan Patrick. His bright future and probable role as a rookie, along with the pick's impact on Claude Giroux, gets the panel back on the same page once again. After going through each individual Flyers pick, the show closes out with yet another goaltending discussion, and whether there is any chance whatsoever that Steve Mason could return.
You can listen below or on your mobile device thanks to iTunes, Google Play, and Soundcloud. Also, check out Steph & Bill on The 700 Level on The Comcast Network at 530PM and 1030PM on Thursday, June 29!
Subject: 2017 draft class exposes Flyers scouting weaknesses
Let’s have a conversation about the Flyers and their drafting strategy because it is all the way messed up.
The dust has finally settled on draft weekend, and as our vision clears, we know one thing for certain: for the Philadelphia Flyers, the 2017 draft has been absolute, total, inexcusable, objective failure.
Some might say this is a hasty declaration. Haste is for losers. Are you a loser? No, I didn’t think so. Losers play the wait and see game. Losers wanna see how things pan out, see development and growth and all that boring shit. Not us. We already know that things are bad, and we know exactly why.
Let me back up a little bit.
Don Cherry, hockey’s racist grandfather, is known for several things. Racism? Check. Goofy suits? Check. Good-Canadian-Boy-itis? Check-a-fuckin-roo. After the festivities of the draft had ended, Cherry tweeted this:
MVP of the Stanley Cup was a Canadian, two top goalies (Fleury, Murray) in the playoffs were Canadian, MVP of the season was a Canadian, scoring champ was a Canadian, most goals a Canadian, most assists Canadian, Ted Lindsay award Canadian, best defenceman Canadian, I could go on but we all know we are the best. I’ve got to admit though after reading, listening and watching the draft I would never have guessed we’re the best. We just love those foreigners. First round 11 Canadians were picked. Strange, Toronto coach Mike Babcock says guys from Ontario play harder in Toronto and that is so true because of family and friends watching but yet 4 of the 5 first Leafs picks never mind born in Ontario, they were born in another country. Of the 7 Canadian teams only Ottawa drafted a Canadian in the first round.
That’s 145 words of blistering, unapologetic Don Cherry-brand xenophobia, right there. That good, uncut shit.
But you know what? He’s right. He’s so totally right. Not about Canada being perfect at hockey. Personally? I think Canada is the worst country at hockey. But that’s exactly where we stumble upon The Point. Canadians. We’ve got a ton of them. They’re just bumbling fools out there. Fuckin’ Matt Strome has never skated forward, let alone backward, in his entire life and we drafted him in the fourth round. We got a Swede, a Russian, a Belarusian! All the makings of a great sitcom, but a hockey team? I’m not so sure.
I mean, if you saw a cheesesteak skating around the Wells Fargo for the first time, you’re telling me you wouldn’t get up and yell? The excitement that would surround that pick would be phenomenal, overwhelming. That’s what we need. That’s the thing that Ron Hextall has never addressed in his tenure as our general manager. Where are all the icons? Where are the stars?
No soft pretzels drafted, no water ice, no liberty bell? How in the hell has he not even thought about drafting Rocky? Not once in these three years? How do we keep explaining away his questionable choices? Sure, Nolan Patrick might work out maybe, but are you telling me a Wawa couldn’t absolutely wipe the floor with that rosy-cheeked chump? There’s no competition.
Philadelphia is strong, ripe with talent. There’s no explanation for this negligence, nor should there be any excuses. We should be demanding more from this organization. And for all of the naysayers, the fanboys and girls who want to tell you that Ron Hextall is a competent GM or that the song “Philadelphia Freedom” by Elton John is incorporeal so it couldn’t actually play hockey because it doesn’t possess a physical form? Ignore them. We know better.
Subject: Wednesday Morning Fly By: The quiet before the UFA...light drizzle.
Today's open discussion thread, complete with your daily dose of Philadelphia Flyers news and notes...
*Or hey uh...what about Jonathan Bernier? [CSN Philly]
*One thing is sure, it's not a great market for a team looking for a starting goaltender. [Inquirer]
*This feels relevant: Friedman on the trade value of a first round pick and 29 other various and sundry thoughts. [Sportsnet]
*Here's a couple of really really good reasons why July 1 will be important for the Flyers. [Daily News]
*Speaking of July 1, the UFA class this year kind of blows. So it's the contract extensions that are going to be fun to watch this summer. [Sportsnet]
*And finally, the 2017 draft class exposes some big time weaknesses in the Flyers' scouting department. It's time to Take Note. [BSH]
Subject: Tim Panaccio is no longer covering the Flyers at CSN Philly
Flyers coverage is going to look different next season.
Tim Panaccio has covered the Flyers for
... my entire life?
At the Philadelphia Inquirer.
At CSN Philly.
Panotch announced on Twitter this afternoon that he’s no longer with CSN, on a day when they also let go of their Sixers Insider, Dei Lynam.
PART 1: The business of reporting is rapidly changing and so am I. I’m leaving CSN. (continued) ...— Tim Panaccio (@tpanotchCSN) June 28, 2017
PART 2: Thanks to everyone at the network and, of course, the Flyers. Third period ends. Overtime next.— Tim Panaccio (@tpanotchCSN) June 28, 2017
Panaccio is the (sometimes cranky, sometimes crazy, always lovable) grandfather of Flyers Twitter, and we will definitely miss him in some ways -- even if he has thousands of us blocked on Twitter.
It’s definitely clear that CSN is making a strategic shift as they let go of a ton of older, expensive talent. In addition to Panaccio and Lynam, they’ve also parted ways with Leslie Gudel, Neil Hartman and several others this year.
This is happening all over sports media, particularly with companies that have a ton of overhead with expensive broadcast rights and a shifting television market driving their business. ESPN laid off their entire damn hockey department earlier this year (plus lots of others), and just this week, Fox Sports decided to cut their entire digital writing team in favor of propping up clowns like Skip Bayless and Jason Whitlock on FoxSports.com.
CSN isn’t a national broadcaster, but they still pay for broadcast rights in local markets (like Philly) across the country. It’s a similar trend. They’re losing subscribers, and thus money, and they can’t offset those losses with their digital product.
In most cases, it’s also because that digital product isn’t very good. The level of analysis of the game -- particularly hockey, which is poorly covered in even the “good” American markets -- you’ll get from a CSN or a traditional newspaper these days pales in comparison to what you can get elsewhere online. That’s a recipe for disaster.
And if we are being honest, in Panaccio’s case, he was the poster child of that. The Flyers beat as a whole has never really adapted to what readers expect in the Internet era, and Panaccio was the ring leader of the beat.
He often broke news — although with much less frequency in recent years -- but fans crave more than just the news. The analysis provided by traditional writers and reporters on the Flyers beat just isn’t very good. Here’s just one egregious example from Panaccio. The audience sees this stuff and looks elsewhere, because we are no longer in a media environment where you just read whatever your local paper says; where you have to take what you can get. We have options now, and that’s hurting media companies and reporters who don’t adapt.
That said, we’re sure Panaccio will land on his feet somewhere. He’s respected by the hockey media establishment and that goes a long way. Will his next gig be covering the Flyers? Will it be covering hockey? Who will CSN replace him with? Who knows. We do know that coverage of the Flyers will certainly be different going forward, though.
Subject: Thursday Morning Fly By: The end of an era.
*Big big big news yesterday was that, seemingly out of nowhere, CSN Philly decided to let Tim Panaccio go. [BSH]
*It's not clear if the Flyers are targeting any free agents (besides Jordan Weal. Maybe? Probably.), but here's how this weekend's UFA madness might impact our rivals. [Daily News]
*Well how about Brian Elliott? We still have that goalie problem to solve. [CSN Philly]
*Meltzer looks back on new Hall of Famer Mark Recchi's time as a Flyer. [Flyers]
*And finally, it can't be officially announced until July 1, but Connor McDavid's new contract is setting the bar pretty, pretty, pretty high. [Puck Daddy]
Subject: NHL free agency: Does Jonathan Bernier make sense for the Flyers?
Our pre-free agency look at potential goalie targets begins with a guy that Ron Hextall is already pretty familiar with.
As we sit mere days from free agency, the Flyers have two pressing questions on their hands. The first is whether Jordan Weal, who suddenly finds himself as a popular target in free agency, will be back with the Flyers or not. The second is which goalie the team will bring in to play alongside Michal Neuvirth. With no real clues on how the first one may go, let’s turn our attention to the second one.
Steve Mason is, in all likelihood, not returning to the Flyers this year, which means they will need to find one NHL-level goalie pretty soon. The trade market is a possibility, but the most likely outcome here is that the Flyers end up dipping into free agency and choosing a guy from there.
We’ll take some time today and tomorrow to go through all of the guys that may make sense as potential targets for the Flyers, be it through free agency or a trade. Before we do that, though, let’s try and put together a quick rubric for what the Flyers are trying to find in their search for a goalie.
What are the Flyers looking for here?
While goaltending is obviously a significant need for a team that ranked towards the bottom of the league in save percentage this past season, there are limits to how much Ron Hextall can really attempt to improve the position in the short-term. For one, the current crop of goalie targets isn’t terribly inspiring. Additionally, even if it were, Hextall has made it clear he doesn’t want to spend a ton on the position this summer, going out of his way to mention in April that he was hoping to avoid a long-term deal. That could, in theory, also limit his options (even if the aforementioned uninspiring group of goalies could mean that a long-term deal was never really in the cards).
So what are the biggest priorities for the Flyers in a potential new netminder? Here are the five that seem most important, in order.
- Short-Term Commitment: Can the Flyers sign this guy to a short-term deal? As mentioned, Hextall has cited not wanting to give out a long-term deal to a goalie as a priority. As for specific numbers in mind, you’d have to think that Hextall isn’t looking to give out or acquire anyone with a contract that carries more than two years’ time on it (meaning, a contract ending beyond summer 2019), for a number of reasons. Getting into a long-term contract with a goalie can end poorly, the Flyers have prospects that they like in net and probably want to have the space if any of them prove to be NHL-ready by 2019, and right now the Flyers’ cap situation come the summer of 2019 looks like it could get a bit hairy (among others, Wayne Simmonds, Ivan Provorov, and Travis Konecny will all be up for new deals then). Not getting locked into a long-term deal that could turn bad is the biggest priority here.
- Ability: Duh. Is the guy a good goalie or not? With nearly everyone the Flyers will be choosing between, there will be at least some doubt on this one, but some guys’ résumés here will inevitably be superior to others’.
- NHL-level Durability: Is the guy in question someone who’s shown at some point that, if necessary, he can handle a starter’s workload at the NHL level? Right now the only goalies the Flyers have under team control for next season are Michal Neuvirth (who hasn’t played more than 32 games in a regular season since 2012), Anthony Stolarz (who has played in seven NHL games, total), and Alex Lyon (who has played in zero NHL games). While in some circumstances I’d be all for taking a gamble and pairing the established veteran (Neuvirth) with someone a bit more unknown who may have some upside, right now the Flyers are in a situation where they need certainty, not potential/upside. Someone who’s shown that they can play 50-plus games in a season at the NHL level (and do at least fairly well in them), even just once or twice in his career, would be ideal here, in the event that Neuvirth is unable to buck his career norms and play more than 30-ish games.
- Cap Hit: Can the guy in question be signed to a low cap hit? As suggested already, I think term is more important than cap hit at this point, but the team surely doesn’t want to pay a guy more than it has to. The Flyers have a bit of cap space — just enough that they should feel fairly comfortable heading into free agency with only Weal, Scott Laughton, and a goalie to sign — but keeping some cushion between their payroll and the cap ceiling is important.
- Tandemability: So I made up that word, probably. But is whoever the Flyers get someone who’s OK with playing in a timeshare sort of role? Steve Mason’s biggest complaint following the season was essentially that he didn’t want to spend time in a goalie platoon — which is the exact thing Hextall has said he expects the Flyers to have this coming season. Ideally, whoever the Flyers get is someone who’s excelled in that kind of a role before.
That’s a lot of things, and it’s unclear whether the Flyers will be able to confidently check off all five of those boxes with whoever ends up with them when the dust clears. But that’s the goal, and that’s the criteria by which we’ll be evaluating all of the team’s potential goalie choices over the next two days.
With that, let’s get started with the guy that, in my opinion, might make the most sense here.
Age at start of 2017-18 season: 29
2016-17 Team: Anaheim Ducks
(Rankings above are out of all goalies that played in at least 25 games per season during the timeframe in question. “Quality Start %” is the percentage of a goalie’s starts in which he allows 2 or fewer goals, or has a save percentage above the league average.)
Why is he available?
Because he’s been overtaken in Anaheim’s goalie depth chart by John Gibson. Bernier, who’s been on three teams in his NHL career, has been a solid goalie on the whole since first taking on a backup role with the Kings in the 2010-11 season, but he’s never quite lived up to his draft pedigree — he was the No. 11 overall pick in the 2006 draft — and emerged as an unquestioned No. 1 on a winning team. He was traded from Toronto to Anaheim last summer for Frederik Andersen, and while he was solid in a backup role, it won’t make much sense for Anaheim to pay him as a UFA with Gibson emerging as a star goalie, and it makes even less sense for him to stay in a situation where he’ll be a clear No. 2 guy.
Does he meet the Flyers’ needs?
Let’s look at the checklist we established in the last section and try and see how Bernier fits with it.
- Can the Flyers sign him to a short-term deal? Probably. Bernier’s signed three consecutive two-year deals prior to his current one that expires on Saturday, and while he’d likely want to change that trend, it’s unlikely he’s got the leverage to do so anywhere. Another two-year contract seems like his destiny at this point.
- Is he good? He’s not bad. In the four years since he really became more than a backup (starting with Toronto in 2013-14), he’s only had one decidedly below-average season, and that was behind a Toronto team in 2015-16 that was basically tanking. His career save percentage of .915 is solid — around average, probably slightly above-average for your typical timeshare-type goaltender.
- Can he handle a starter’s workload if necessary? His history suggests yes. He played in 55 or more games in both 2013-14 and 2014-15, and even played in 39 games last year as a backup with Anaheim. He hasn’t done it in a while, but at 29, it’s not likely he’s lost the ability to play a ton of minutes at this point.
- Can he be signed to a reasonable cap hit? Depends on what you define as reasonable, but probably. Hockey-Graphs’ Matt Cane’s free agent projection system pegs Bernier as likely to make around $3.1 million per year in free agency this offseason. That’s probably a higher amount than some of the other guys we’ll look at here, but it should still fit within the Flyers’ budget.
- Can he succeed in a platoon/tandem? Hopefully, but it’s fair to question this one. Bernier’s best year came when he was Toronto’s clear No. 1 in 2013-14, and when he was relegated to more of a backup role the last two years, his numbers took a bit of a dip. In fact, his worst season during that time came in 2015-16, when he and James Reimer more or less split time.
Would the Flyers want him?
It seems like it. Bernier checks off most of the important boxes on our list. And there’s a connection to the Flyers here, of course: Ron Hextall was an assistant in Los Angeles in 2006, the same year that they drafted Bernier, and he was the GM of the Manchester Monarchs, the AHL affiliate that Bernier played very well at before getting promoted to the NHL. If Hextall liked what he saw then, he’ll probably like what he sees now.
Of all of the goalies Ron Hextall may potentially be able to sign beginning on Saturday, Bernier is probably the one that makes the most sense at this time. He’s got a decent track record, obvious connections to our front office, and he shouldn’t cost too much. The Flyers will probably be interested here.
Subject: Dave Hakstol on Nolan Patrick, replacing Brayden Schenn, signing Jordan Weal, and the goalie situation
The coach sat down for a 13 minute interview and had some things to say.
Dave Hakstol went on the radio yesterday in Trenton yesterday. You can hear the full interview above — it’s 13 minutes long -- but we’ve picked out some of the more newsworthy quotes below.
On Nolan Patrick and his chances of making the NHL next season:
“The chance to draft a player like Nolan Patrick is a special opportunity for the franchise. He’s a tremendous young man, outstanding two-way player that’s going to make a lot of plays, we feel, and he’s gettin’ to work right now, gettin’ himself ready for training camp this fall.
There’s so many things to readiness to be a National Hockey League player. You look back at his track record; Nolan is going to turn 19 right as we get into the meat of training camp there so he’s got a little be of age and maturity to him. I’m going to look for a lot of little things.
Physically you look at his package overall and all of the predictors are that he is NHL ready but we’ve got to get in and do the work and make sure that it’s the right thing for him and for our hockey team. All of those questions -- I know it’s a broken record — sometimes guys, you’d love to hear a little more certainty coming from me, but we have to go and do the work. I think he’s got a great opportunity with our hockey team, he’s a player that I’m really excited to work with, but let’s go through the process.”
On replacing Brayden Schenn’s offense:
“I think guys that aren’t on the roster yet — you know, I’m interested to see where Nolan is in training camp. One of the things he’s going to do is provide offense if he’s with our hockey team. A young guy like Oskar Lindblom. There’s others that have the opportunity to show they’re ready to be on our team and grow and be part of that.
But also guys within our roster. The obvious one that comes to mind is a guy like Travis Konecny. There’s extra minutes available, I know Travis is going to do the work over the summer. I know that he’s going to have himself at a high level of readiness and I know he’s going to be hungry to assume a little bit more of those minutes, a little larger role, and he’s a guy that will step in and provide some of that as well.”
On if he wants Jordan Weal back next season:
“No bones about it, I hope Jordan is back with us. I think he can be a big part of where we go in the near future and the long future here. Really impressed with him as a worker, as a guy that’s hungry to get better and push and improve himself every day. Most importantly on game nights he’s a guy who goes out and gets the job done. He competes hard, he finds a way to impact and affect the game, and those are guys that you have to have on every spot on your lineup.
He obviously has to go through a process, he’s a free agent, and he’s obviously going to do that.”
On the goalie situation heading into free agency:
“That’s something that over the next few days here has a chance to be addressed. Again, timing is always a bit up in the air but I feel comfortable with Neuvy. He’s done a very good job for us and he’s going to come off of a year where he is probably not all that satisfied with the end product. I’m confident that he’ll step back in and elevate his game.
Stolie is a guy who came in and did the job, but in staying that, I think our position is that we want to strengthen ourselves in that area. The next few days will probably tell us a lot in that area.”
Subject: NHL free agency: Could Brian Elliott bounce back with the Flyers?
Elliott, whose recent history is pretty similar to that of Steve Mason, may make sense as a replacement for him on the Flyers.
This morning, we took a look at a potential Flyers goalie target in free agency, current Anaheim Duck and former L.A. King/Toronto Maple Leaf Jonathan Bernier. Here, we’ll look at another guy the Flyers may be interested in: departing Calgary Flames netminder Brian Elliott.
- Age at start of 2017-18 season: 32
- 2016-17 Team: Calgary Flames
(Rankings above are out of all goalies that played in at least 25 games per season during the timeframe in question. “Quality Start %” is the percentage of a goalie’s starts in which he allows 2 or fewer goals, or has a save percentage above the league average.)
Why is he available?
Because he picked a bad time to have his worst season in years. Elliott’s story isn’t that unlike Steve Mason’s, in some ways. After struggling his way through three seasons in Ottawa, Elliott revived his career in St. Louis beginning in 2011, consistently posting outstanding numbers with the Blues. Still, St. Louis never seemed totally comfortable handing him an unquestioned No. 1 role, and with Jake Allen ready to take over the reins there, they dealt Elliott to Calgary last summer for a second-round pick.
But given a chance to take the starter’s job with the Flames and run with it this past season, Elliott fell flat, recording a very pedestrian .910 save percentage and essentially being matched in performance by journeyman Chad Johnson. The Flames have since moved to trade for Arizona netminder Mike Smith, which essentially guaranteed that Elliott won’t be returning to Calgary unless he’s content being a clear backup to Smith (and maybe not even then).
Does he meet the Flyers’ needs?
Using the checklist we established earlier today in Bernier’s post, let’s see how Elliott may fit with what the Flyers are looking for.
- Can the Flyers sign him to a short-term deal? You’d think so. Elliott’s last contract was a three-year deal, and that was signed at a time when he was coming off of a .922 season and had some leverage in St. Louis. Right now he doesn’t have nearly as much leverage with anyone. Also, he’s 32. No one’s giving him a lengthy deal.
- Is he good? Probably? Elliott’s late-blooming career arc is an interesting one, but this past season was his worst non-shortened NHL season (by save percentage) since 2010-11, and even this year he was just below-average rather than catastrophically bad. The track record since he got to St. Louis is fantastic — during his five seasons with the Blues, only Tuukka Rask and Carey Price had a higher save percentage among regular goalies. You can debate whether or not those extremely good numbers may have been, at least in part, a product of a solid defensive system in St. Louis, but there’s a point at which the player has to be given some credit for his play, and Elliott’s performance was well beyond that point. Even if it’s maybe unfair to expect him to get back to that level of performance at this point in his career, a bounce-back from last season would not at all be surprising, and the floor here is probably still pretty high.
- Can he handle a starter’s workload if necessary? Here’s the real wild card. Elliott was indeed fantastic in St. Louis before being unimpressive in Calgary. But he never played much more than half of the games in a given regular season with the Blues — his 49 games played with Calgary this past season were the most he’s had in a regular season since his Ottawa days of many years ago. He’s dealt with some minor injury problems in the past (chief among them, a lower-body injury in 2015-16 that took him out of play for a month) but for the most part he’s just never been given a starter’s kind of workload. He may be able to do it, but it’s a risk to assume that he can at 32 after years of not doing so.
- Can he be signed to a reasonable cap hit? Among potential Flyers targets, Elliott may be one of the more expensive ones. Hockey-Graphs’ Matt Cane’s Puck++ Salary Prediction free agent model has Elliott’s likely price point around $3.6 million per year on a new contract. I think that’d be worth it on a short-term deal, but it would make things a bit tighter against the cap than we may have been expecting. But that figure seems more like a ceiling than a middle ground, and it could be an overshoot — Elliott’s last deal paid him $2.5 million per year, and he may not be able to ask for much more than that after a mediocre contract year that couldn’t have come at a worse time for him.
- Can he succeed in a platoon/tandem? Yep! The flip side of our concern at point No. 3 is that we know he can play very well while splitting time with another goalie.
Would the Flyers want him?
I don’t know. As we mentioned earlier, Elliott’s recent history isn’t that unlike Steve Mason’s. Both of them had a rocky (read: bad) tenure with the team that drafted them, went to another team and flourished for a while, only to fall off in 2016-17 in a contract year and (likely) head elsewhere. It’s possible that whatever came up during Mason’s time here that has led the Flyers away from him could also be the case for Elliott.
But at this point in his career, Elliott may be more willing to accept a tandem role than others out there, and as mentioned, it’s very unlikely that he’d demand a long-term deal. The likelihood of him blocking any young guys that may be ready in the near future also seems low. Also, and this part’s important: he’s been consistently very good for the past half-decade and is coming off of one of his only bad years during that time. The fit is there, and there’s a buy-low potential here. You have to think Hextall will at least consider it.
If the team’s looking for a true tandem guy and a short-term stopgap to work with Neuvirth, Elliott may be the best fit of anyone on the market. He’s succeeded in that role multiple times over the past few years, and while it’s possible that his mediocre 2016-17 season was a sign of things to come as he reaches the twilight of his career, it’s also possible that that was a blip on the radar and he’s still got a couple of good years left in him.
Now, we should point out: there were rumors earlier this week that Elliott was looking at places to live in Winnipeg, which at the time made a possible signing with the Flyers seem unlikely (the Jets are one of the only teams left that is really looking for a goalie in the way that the Flyers are). However, we heard yesterday from TSN’s Bob McKenzie that Winnipeg also has “significant” interest in none other than our old friend Steve Mason, and the odds of both of them signing in Winnipeg would be very slim. We’ll have to keep an eye on that situation, but until any sort of agreement is reached there, the Flyers should absolutely at least give Elliott a call.
Subject: Thoughts on Scott Hartnell
Bring back Scott?
The buyout will cost the Blue Jackets $1.25 million per year until 2020-21. It will cost them $1.5 million against the cap in Year 1, $3 million in Year 2, and $1.25 million in Years 3 and 4. There were two years left on the contract which would have cost them $4.75 million against the salary cap in each of those years. They have a bit of a cap crunch going on there now and needed the immediate space. Thus, buyout.
The first thought here from our perspective is that the Flyers won the trade. Ron Hextall’s first big move as general manager was to trade Hartnell to Columbus for R.J. Umberger, and we weren’t terribly happy with it at the time because it clearly made the team worse in the short-term.
But here we are three years later, and the long-term sense that Hextall had in making that deal is obvious. He knew Hartnell’s contract would outlast his value on the ice, and that’s exactly what happened — in 2016-17, Hartnell scored just 13 goals and added 24 assists in 78 games, down from 20 goals and 32 assists in his final year with the Flyers in 2013-14.
Umberger was downright terrible in 106 games as a Flyer after the trade, scoring just 11 goals and 15 assists in those games. But his buyout number is just a measly $1.5 million, and that will be totally off the Flyers’ books by the end of the upcoming season. It’s not really a factor, especially not compared to Hartnell’s buyout in Columbus that’s now three seasons longer and also more expensive.
The second thought here is ... well, could we bring Hartnell home to Philadelphia?
Notice how I worded that sentence above about Hartnell’s worthiness. In comparison to the $4.75 million he made against the cap, he was no longer a valuable player. But that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t be valuable on a short0term deal.
Yes, Hartnell is 35 and at the back end of his career. Yes, he still takes a lot of bad penalties — but 63 PIM in 78 games this past year was the lowest PIM he’s had since his first year in the NHL. 37 points isn’t nothing, either, and you could potentially imagine him in the exact same role on the power play that Brayden Schenn was in here. After all, Schenn is the one who replaced Hartnell in that spot on the Flyers’ top power play unit after Hartnell was traded. Might as well just swap them back in before, and that would help to solve the issue of how one might replace Schenn’s power play production.
So with that said, the right deal would have be a cheap one -- less than $2 million for a year, and no longer. Another team would probably offer Hartnell more than that, but the Flyers shouldn’t be pulled into any sort of bidding war for him. For the right price, if Hartnell wanted to come back, I wouldn’t hate it. It’d be a nice little stop-gap before Nolan Patrick or Oskar Lindblom or any of the other kids really settle into impactful NHL roles.
Plus, Scott Hartnell is fun as hell. It’d be an entertaining year. But I’m pretty sure Hartnell doesn’t want to come back here, considering the quotes from him after the trade was made back in 2014:
Hartnell says Hextall implied “he was done” in Philly. Was initially angry about the trade, ultimately decided waiving NTC was smart— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) June 23, 2014
Hartnell on Hextall: “I guess he has a different vision of the club going forward."— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) June 23, 2014
Subject: NHL free agency: Examining the Flyers
Could the still-productive 35-year-old find a home on the Flyers’ second line?
We’ve already written about Scott Hartnell today, and now we’re taking a step 10 years further back in time and writing about Justin Williams. The former Flyers and current Capitals forward is set to be a free agent on Saturday afternoon, and there are lots of teams interested in his services. One of those teams appears to be Philadelphia.
I’ll lead with this: it’s not likely that the Flyers get Justin Williams, and they should not get into a bidding war for him. Given that he’s a UFA and that there are lots of teams with interest, he’s probably going to get overpaid by somebody. I am confident that, given his track record, Ron Hextall won’t be that guy.
But with that said, despite being 35 years old, Williams is still a very useful player who I would not hate to see back in Philadelphia. The Hockey News has him as their 6th-best free agent this offseason, and with 24 goals and 24 assist last season, he compares very favorably to your typical second-line winger, as Own The Puck shows below. In the same ice time as your average second-liner last year, Williams had more favorable goal numbers and was more favorable in both shot generation and shot suppression. He was only below average in primary assists.
Now, some of that could of course be the team he played on. The Capitals were absolutely stacked last season — and yet no Cup, such a shame -- but the reality is that even at age 35, Williams is a valuable player. Here’s a bit from our friends down in Washington at Japers’ Rink:
Williams didn’t just score goals; he made people around him better. Every forward on the Caps’ roster who skated at least 50 minutes with him this year saw their even-strength CF% jump when alongside Williams compared to when they were apart. His own CF% was up from last year, as well (although his RelCF was down slightly - a product of his team being better at even strength, most likely, as opposed to anything he did in particular).
If the Flyers feel they need a veteran presence who can score and fill a role in the middle-six, you could do a lot worst than Justin Williams.
That said, the Flyers are absolutely flooded with forwards heading into next year. Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds, Jakub Voracek, Sean Couturier, Michael Raffl, Jori Lehtera, Nolan Patrick, Oscar Lindblom, Matt Read, Scott Laughton, Valterri Filppula, Travis Konecny, Roman Lyubimov, Dale Weise and Mike Vecchione all have legitimate, maybe better than 50 percent chances of making the Flyers out of camp. Jordan Weal seems to still be in the mix to return as well, depending on what happens in free agency.
If you sign Williams, where does he fit? I’m of the opinion that you can never have too many players competing for jobs, but adding a second-line winger to this mix gets a bit messy doesn’t it?