A week ago, the Flyers seemed adamant that they weren’t going to be free agent players. They were tight on cap and had limited roster spots to fill and were on their way to running back a similar roster to this season.
When Matt Niskanen announced his retirement on Monday, that changed a lot of the Flyers plans. They suddenly had $5.75 million in cap space available – though they quickly spent $1.8 million of that to bring back Justin Braun.
As free agency begins on Friday at noon, the Flyers have $8.6 million in cap space available, but also still have qualifying offers out and need to sign defenseman Phil Myers and forward Nolan Patrick to new deals. That doesn’t leave the Flyers with much room for signing free agents, but they may explore some low-risk, high-reward deals or choose to allocate most of the remaining cap to as close a replacement for Niskanen as they can find.
With that in mind, here are a few names on the market that are sure to have intrigue.
T.J. Brodie - While Brodie isn’t an exact replacement for Niskanen, he is a left-handed defenseman used to playing on the right side and playing big minutes. He has struggled with his consistency in the past, but if the Flyers are looking for a defenseman that might fit the budget and be able to handle the large load that Niskanen carried, it could be the best option out there.
Alex Pietrangelo - Pietrangelo is the big name on the market and as soon as the Flyers had an opening for a top-pair, right defenseman, all eyes shifted to him. Simply put, he will cost way more than the Flyers can afford. The Flyers may try to reach out or see if they can somehow find the cap space by trading salary, but it’s unlikely that this will actually play out.
Kevin Shattenkirk - Fresh off a Stanley Cup win in Tampa Bay, Shattenkirk is looking like one of the Lightning’s cap casualties. That could help another team land a veteran defenseman that proved he still has plenty in the tank last season. Shattenkirk showed he could still play in big spots and fits the right-handed defenseman spot that the Flyers have.
Chris Tanev - Chances are, free agency will come down to budgeting and if the Flyers are looking for a cheaper option that is a right-handed defenseman, Chris Tanev may be a good one to explore. He may not be the perfect fit at the top of the defensive core, but he’s been a solid player for Vancouver over the years and could be a fit in Philadelphia.
Anthony Duclair - The Flyers would love to add scoring and Anthony Duclair was dropped onto the free agent market late when he was not tendered a qualifying offer by Ottawa. Coming off a season with a career-high 23 goals on a team that finished near the bottom of the standings, perhaps joining the Flyers could help him raise those totals, especially with his finishing ability.
Mikael Granlund - There is a connection here between Granlund and GM Chuck Fletcher’s days in Minnesota. Granlund could be one of the more cost-affordable offensive players in the draft, certainly capable of being part of the Flyers middle-six and adding some scoring. In his last two full seasons in Minnesota, he broke the 20-goal mark and he had 17 goals in the shortened regular season with Nashville last season.
Mikko Koivu - If the Flyers are looking for some buy-low veteran presence, don’t be surprised if Mikko Koivu is a fit. He’s got familiarity with Fletcher from Minnesota and has proven over a long career that he can provide offense and strong two-way play, though his 2019-20 season was one to forget with just four goals and 21 points. He’s two years removed from a season with 14 goals and 45 points and a Top-5 Selke finish, and if he could come anywhere close to that form, it could be a great move for the Flyers to have him in the bottom six.
Bobby Ryan - We already know that Bobby Ryan is interested in a homecoming with the Flyers, his hometown team, but are the Flyers? If they are, this could be an affordable deal for a winger who was a second overall pick and was able to put up solid numbers early in his career and could be looking for a renaissance. Ryan missed most of the 2019-20 season on leave for alcohol abuse, but returned late in the season and had four goals in his last eight games. His previous season with Ottawa, he had 15 goals and 42 points and early in his career he was a four-time 30-goal scorer.