By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor
At the start of the offseason, the Flyers had a lot of cap space and figured to be big players this weekend as free agency opened. There is still a chance that happens, but it looks likely that the Flyers will have to put a lot of the $15.1 million in remaining cap space on their restricted free agents.
Still, the Flyers enter the weekend without a third-line winger. That spot could be left to an open competition in training camp, but many teams like to fill out the roster and let players earn their spot by beating someone out. That means the Flyers could still be in play for a variety of free agent wingers on the market.
Here are a few targets to watch as July 1 arrives.
Gustav Nyquist – The longtime Red Wing was traded to San Jose last season and scored six goals and had 11 points in 19 games. The Sharks have some cap issues and a lot of players to re-sign, so that could mean Nyquist heads elsewhere. Nyquist has scored 20 goals four times in his career, including each of the last two seasons, but also is coming off a four-year, $19 million contract with an AAV of $4.75 million. That will certainly not work for the Flyers, and if Nyquist is looking for a raise, then forget about Philly.
Brett Connolly – Connolly has been a Flyer killer in recent years, particularly in his time with the Washington Capitals. He has six goals and eight points in 17 career games against the Flyers, with three of them coming this past March. He also is coming off of his best season offensively with 22 goals and 46 points in 81 games. His numbers have been perfect for a bottom six role, but with a 20-goal season now on his resume, could that jack up his price. He’s coming off a two-year, $3 million contract with a $1.5 million AAV. If his price tag is under $3 million AAV, it could work for the Flyers, but it would be close. UPDATE: Connolly will reportedly sign a four-year deal with a $3.5 million AAV with the Florida Panthers.
Joonas Donskoi – If the Flyers are looking for a cost-effective solution, Donskoi may be the best choice. Again, the Sharks have a lot of things on their to-do list and Donskoi may not fit into the plans. He’s coming off his best offensive season, tying a career high with 14 goals and setting a new high with 37 points. His previous contract was also a two-year deal at $3.8 million, a $1.9 million AAV. UPDATE: Donskoi will reportedly sign with the Colorado Avalanche.
Micheal Ferland – For the past three seasons, Ferland has been a consistent depth producer with a total of 53 goals in the last three seasons between Calgary and Carolina. If you’re looking for the gritty, sandpaper type, Ferland is also a fit while still having the skill to be productive and defensive chops to play on the back end. He’s coming off a two-year deal worth $3.5 million, a $1.75 AAV, but could demand a bigger raise.
Alex Chiasson – With the Oilers this past season, Chiasson had his best offensive season with 22 goals and 38 points in 73 games. From a cost standpoint, he might be one of the easier players to work out a deal with, coming off a one-year, $650,000 contract. He figures to get a sizable increase from that, but could still be had for a low cost since there is some risk behind it. This was his highest goal output to date by 11 goals, so it’s reasonable to wonder just how likely it is he replicates it.
Wayne Simmonds – If it comes at the right cost, could the Flyers bring Wayne Simmonds back? We reviewed that possibility earlier in the week, and you have to think that if any UFA on the list takes a hometown discount to be with the Flyers, it will be Simmonds. But if Simmonds is looking for too long a term or too much AAV, forget about a reunion.
Justin Williams – It seems like every season that Justin Williams is a free agent, the possibility of returning to the Flyers comes up. At this point in his career, it may be Carolina or bust for Williams, but what if…? Williams had 23 goals and 53 points, his highest production since a 59-point season in 2011-12. He’s a consummate veteran leader, he’s won the Stanley Cup three times and hovered around another chance to win it twice having spent two seasons with Washington and reaching the conference final with Carolina this season. It would be great to have him back in Orange and Black, but at this stage of his career, that may be more of a pipe dream, especially when his last contract was a two-year, $9 million deal with a $4.5 million AAV.