When Chuck Fletcher assumed the role of GM of the Flyers on Dec. 3, he said that there weren’t many situations like the one the Flyers were in where a GM had tools to work with. The Flyers have a wealth of prospects. They have some solid pieces already playing at the NHL level, many of them just starting their professional careers. And they have cap space, and lots of it.
That trio of factors makes the approach to the offseason an easy one for Fletcher and the Flyers. If there is a trade possibility or if there is a free agent on the market, the Flyers are going to be looking into it, taking the offseason head-on with aggression.
"I think we're going to be very aggressive in the trade and free agent markets in the sense of looking into every possible situation that can help us," Fletcher said in an interview with Adam Kimelman of NHL.com. "The unfortunate part is the vast majority of things you look into don't work out. So we're going to be very aggressive in trying to fill the holes we feel we have. I don't know if I can say we'll be able to fill all of them."
What is the greatest need for the Flyers? That’s the burning question. The Flyers are going to be looking to add defensively, trying to acquire a Top-4 defenseman. They also need a No. 2 center and could also use a pure goal scorer on the wing. With every area being a priority, the Flyers have no reason to hold back from looking at every option.
"We need help everywhere,” Fletcher said. “We need help on defense, at center and on the wing. And obviously, we need another goaltender at least, if not two. We have a lot of needs. We'll be able to plug some of those holes, whether we're plugging them with players on six-year deals or players on one-year deals as placeholders to buy more time to find the right fit. We'll certainly have our roster upgraded next year and hopefully we can find three or four players at 26 years old that we can plug in there for the next 6-7 years. I don't know if that's likely.”
Outside of bolstering the blue line and adding some key forwards, the Flyers do need to add another goaltender. They currently have Cam Talbot and Brian Elliott as pending free agents. Both are candidates to be on the 2019-20 roster with Carter Hart. Based on his rookie season, it sure seems like Hart will go into next season as the team’s top netminder, but Fletcher hopes that Hart will take a similar approach to past training camps.
“He's 20 years old, he'll be 21 in August, and I still believe there's going to be obstacles he's going to have to overcome in the next couple seasons. He certainly looks like he's going to be a very good goaltender for a very long time,” Fletcher said. “In the short term, can he be our No. 1 goalie coming out of camp next year? He certainly could be. I don't mean this as a threat, but like everybody else, he's going to have to earn that.
“It's a tough league for 20- and 21-year-old kids. He certainly looks to be a remarkable young player. Over time, I think his talent is going to shine through and he will be our guy for a long time. But I don't want to put all the pressure in the world on him that he has to be our guy coming out of training camp. We'll let his play dictate it and we'll hopefully have some other good options in goal so we have great depth, and that's the way we want to approach it."
As for the rest of the lineup, Fletcher noted that solutions to the other parts of the lineup can come in a variety of forms. While Fletcher noted that he would love to find a bunch of 26-year-old players who are ready to sign for the long-term, sometimes a short-term option is a Plan B.
Fletcher added that the team is going to be aggressive on the trade market and will deal with agents of free agents when the time is right. He mentioned both older players -- players in their 30s on a one or two-year deal -- and younger players as options.
“I think the odds would be against them making our team coming out of camp,” Fletcher said of the prospects in the system. “But I don't like cutting players before training camp. I say that because I think our expectation is we'll find a player or two to come in. For 20-year-old kids, in [Joel] Farabee's case 19, to get some playing time in the AHL is always a preferable option. But if they come in and they earn it, and there's been players every year that seem to do it around the League, then certainly we won't hold them back."
Fletcher also has to consider the futures of a lot of other players, notably restricted free agents Ivan Provorov, Travis Konecny, Travis Sanheim and Scott Laughton. Fletcher said he has been in preliminary discussions with most of the team’s free agents, but the process this season might be slower with players waiting to see the value the market dictates. He added that his assumption is that none of the deals will be done quickly, but “it will get done.”
It is a crucial offseason for the Flyers, who need to emerge as playoff contenders again. It was clear with the successes of the other teams in the city that interest was waning for the Flyers. But with a new head coach in place and a lot of possibilities for the offseason, the Flyers can make their mark on the city sports scene.
“The good thing is we've got the assets and the cap space,” Fletcher said. “Sometime in the near future, we'll make some good things happen, and hopefully sooner rather than later.”