Today I’m going to go over the current roster and who I think should stay and who should go just based on my observations from the past few seasons.
The Flyers have a decent core to build around to become a contender in the future. Obviously we begin with Captain Claude Giroux who finished 13th in the league in pts (25G 48A). He is the center piece for the team. He was able to help his line mate Jakub Voracek breakout into a career year finishing 5th overall in NHL pts with 81. Those two, are our Crosby/Malkin or our Towes/Kane. Neither of them are those players, and I’m not comparing them but each team has a top duo you must rely on and G/Jake are those for the Flyers.
But let us take a look at the rest of the team.
Wayne Simmonds, led the team with 28 Goals, however missed the final 7 games due to injury. He's done a fantastic job at replacing Hartnell as the guy in front of the net, and has been a PP specialist. He also stands up for his team mates and is never afraid to get his hands dirty. He's easily become my favorite.
Sean Couturier who is only 23, also had a career season with 37 pts. He’s more known as a shutdown forward, but the team wanted him to produce more offensively. “Coots” feels he can produce more offensively and publicly called out former Head Coach Craig Berube for playing him strictly as a defensive forward and criticized his offensive play. That left a lot of fans, writers and I’m sure players scratching their heads. Here, Coots has a career year offensively but was still thrown under the bus for not offensively producing. That may have been just one of the many factors that led to Berube’s dismissal.
Michael Raffl who played his sophomore season in the NHL is proving that he’s a quality left winger that provides good depth. Raffl is productive on all 3 Flyers’ lines however, the Flyers are going to need a much better winger for the top line if they want improve their offense and be more consistent.
Scott Laughton came up early in the season as the result of an injury to Vinny Lecavalier. Laughton showed speed, strength, poise and some offensive ability. He suffered a concussion and wasn’t the same when he came back. However, he played very well in the AHL and should have a spot come training camp.
Vinny Lecavalier is a name that everyone loves to hear prior to two years ago. Vinny had a productive first year with the Flyers, but he flattened during his second year in the orange and black. Vinny spent 17 games as a healthy scratch as was used as a 4th line winger much of the season which led to his lack or production as well as his public dislike for Craig Berube. Personally, I really believe Vinny was misused under Berube. Vinny is absolutely a future Hall of Famer. He’s not the same player as he was with the Lightning, but he can still be useful. He’s a former captain and a leader. He never really had speed, so for those to say his speed is gone, is really misleading because he never had much of it to begin with.
I think if used correctly Vinny can be an asset to the Flyers. I think he can be productive and produce decent offensive numbers. His contract is less desirable as a result of former GM Paul Holmgren who signed him to a ridiculous contract with a cap hit of 4.2million. The contract really is bad for everyone. It makes it near impossible to trade and it handcuffs the Flyers. The Flyers bought out center Danny Briere who had a very similar cap hit for only one more season before his cap hit went down to 3mil. Buying Briere out was supposed to give some relief for the Flyers, instead they signed Vinny for virtually the same cap hit and for more years. That was one of Homer’s boneheaded moves that current GM Ron Hextall has to now deal with. If the Flyers could move Vinny, I’m all for it. If not, I hope the Dave Hakstol can use him correctly and he can provide some of the offense the Flyers lacked.
The Flyers have spent years struggling to find a starting Goalie to actually play more than two seasons in a Flyers uniform. Luckily, that isn’t their issue.
Steve Mason, has done nothing but prove that he really is the Goalie that he was projected to be after his rookie season. Despite is record of 18-18-11 this season, Mason finished 8th in the NHL is GAA and 3rd in the NHL in Save %. That’s quite remarkable. It goes to show that the Flyers really lacked offense. Mason’s saves were also quality saves. Mason stood on his head in all 18 of those wins and majority off his games. It’s a shame is record doesn’t show it. But if Mason is finishing in the Top 10 in those categories over starters like Pekke Rinne, Holtby and Rask the Flyers are solid for goaltending and that’s what they need for a deep playoff run.
Mark Streit played solid for the Flyers as their number 1 defenseman this year. He also tallied 52 pts. His age is a concern, but there’s no reason to be worried because he seems like one of those defenseman that can still play hard and be solid for your defense.
Michael Del Zotto proved he is a valuable defenseman. He finished 2nd among defenseman with 32pts. He’s RFA, however he most likely will be signed. I see him being the Flyers 2nd Dman next season along with Streit.
With the exception of Vinny, I consider the rest of those Flyers untradeable and those are the building blocks they need. The Flyers need to rid themselves of several players because of money and or overall lack of productivity.
RJ Umberger is the first on my list. Umberger was expected to produce better than he did. He wasn’t expected to replace the void for Scott Hartnell as the move was strictly a cap space move that will pay off sooner rather than later. However Umberger played horribly. It took 67 games for Berube to actually healthy scratch him. It was later revealed that he needed hip surgery, but who knows if he’ll come back next season and be productive. If RJ could be moved, I’d try to move him. Buying him out is not an option as it would cost more money in the long run against the cap for the Flyers.
Brayden Schenn: Schenn, put on an impressive run during the end of the season, but he was very inconsistent much of the year. He spent nearly a month on the first line and it actually brought down the production of G and Jake. Schenn is expendable. He had a lot of potential, but hasn’t shown much promise of being labeled the top prospect that was already drafted. He has a friendly bridge contract and if it were possible to move him, I’d do it in a heartbeat. ( I wrote this prior to the Flyers naming a new head coach. If the Flyers can move Schenn for a good return, do it. However I’m interested in seeing what this new coach can do to get Schenn’s potential out of him.)
Luke Schenn can tag along with his brother. Schenn was brought in on probably the worst move in Homer’s stint as GM and one of the worst trades in Flyers history. We all know JVR (2nd overall pick behind Patrick Kane) was going to take some time to grow, but the Flyers needed defensive and gave up on him way too soon. JVR has since had a few years of success and has been part of the thriving offense that Toronto does have. (They lack defense.) Schenn has been labeled a parking cone due to his speed. His lack of defensive ability has also led to a lot of frustration with the Flyers fan base. The only thing Luke brings to the table is his size and his ability to hit. Schenn is a 5/6 or even a 7th defenseman. Some teams do need that depth and with the Flyers prospects getting ready to make the big jump, Schenn could be packaged.
Nicklas Grossman is also someone who is probably an ideal candidate to be traded. He has a friendly cap hit and is a pretty reliable defenseman. However, with the addition of Gudas and the extension of Nick Shultz, Grossman is also expendable and could land us a 3rd/4th round draft pick.
Andrew MacDonald is someone I wish would simply just go away. MacDonald was quickly brought in and extended for an unreal amount of money for someone who’s specialty is shot blocking. Another one of Homer’s head scratching moves that has crippled the Flyers’ front office and leaves them with very little options. His cap hit is 5 Million. MacDonald had 12 pts last year and was minus 5 (+/-). That’s not the salary of this type of defenseman. Through nine NHL seasons, MacDonald is a Minus 19 and has 105 pts. His contract is one of the worst I’ve seen in a long time. His cap hit is more than Jagr’s. Think about that. If the Flyers can find some miracle to remove this contract from the books, Hextall will be perceived as genus.
Zac Rinaldo has worn out his welcome with me. I used to just watch him when he was on the ice. He brought a lot of energy and delivered hits. However, his lack of discipline has gotten old. He delivers cheap-shots, that has this fan base calling for his head. He has zero offensive ability and played much of this season on the third line which infuriated me. Ryan White is the replacement for the role of “Enforcer” if such a title still exists. White can actually provide offense, is more disciplined and I personally believe is a much better overall player than Rinaldo.
In a perfect world I’d trade MacDonald, Grossman, both the Schenns, Umberger and Rinaldo. Let’s face it, trading all of them at once or even at all would only work in NHL 15. Umberger is likely here to stay until that contract is up. I don’t think there is a GM in the NHL that would take on MacDonald and who could blame them? The Flyers need a LW and bad. That void on that first line is noticeable. Where they can find one is anyone’s guess. There isn’t really a first line LW in Free Agency this year and if the Flyers were to obtain one, they’ll most like have to go via trade. Doing this would probably cost a young player and or draft picks which is something Hextall said he will not do.
My guess is that it’s possible that we could see Laughton on the first line as a winger. It’s hard to do line projections when the draft hasn’t happened yet and today’s roster isn’t going to be October’s Roster. Any one of the younger players who are a center could find themselves filling that role. Hell, we may find Lecavalier on that line, although I don’t see it. You never know, if Vinny is here come Oct, I guess the option is possible. He has long reach, can skate around the boards nicely and is a gifted passer. Don’t expect him to be on the breakout with G and Jake if one happens, but as a set up guy, Vinny could be a viable option. But then I’d be going against my own words by saying he was misused as a winger. If the Flyers can’t find a LW for the first line by camp, I would try it to see if it could work. If it doesn’t at least it is only training camp and preseason to find this all out.
I’m not going to talk about who the Flyers could trade for because there’s way too much to put into it. We all know a trade for what we need may cost us a core player and draft picks and that’s something that I don’t see happening unless it’s a trade that we couldn’t refuse. Then who to trade for what and compare cap space and trade value, it’s all something that I’m not interested in doing.
Instead I’ll worry about getting defense up here and a left winger.
That brings me to the draft to which I will go over tomorrow in part III.
For all intents and purposes my keeps are: Giroux, Voracek, Simmonds, Raffl, Couturier, Mason, Del Zotto, Streit, Laughton, Shultz.
Should go: MacDonald, Luke Schenn, Rinaldo, Grossman, Umberger,
Could go either way: Lecavalier, Read, Brayden Schenn, White, Bellemare. (Which is why I didn't bother to speak about Bellemare, White and Read, who I see as part of next season's roster for sure.)
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