The Philadelphia Flyers season ended on Monday night with a 4-2 win against the Devils.
After a long and disappointing 56-game season, the focus can shift solely to the offseason. Most of the focus has been there since the middle of March anyway, but the offseason is now finally here.
The Flyers need to make changes this offseason. The media knows it. The fans know it. Even the organization knows it.
Chuck Fletcher and the rest of the Flyers brass have their work cut out for them.
Here are five players –– in alphabetical order –– that may have played their final game with the Flyers on Monday night.
Brian Elliott comes first alphabetically, and he’s also the player that’s most likely to have played in his last game with the Flyers. Elliott is one of the Flyers’ few pending free agents remaining after the trade deadline and likely won’t be brought back next season.
Elliott, 36, has no plans to retire after this season.
“I plan to play. I feel like I have a lot left to give,” Elliott said on Monday night. “I feel like I’m playing really good hockey and health-wise I had another really good year where I didn’t really see the training room once. It’s nice to feel that way.”
Elliott has been around the game a lot and he knows that a return to the Flyers may not be in the cards. The door hasn’t closed, but after the Flyers had the goalie struggles that they did this season, they may want to bring in a better backup goalie for Carter Hart.
“Whatever happens, happens. This league, whenever you don’t make the playoffs there’s going to be changes through your lineup or staff or whatever. You just have to roll with the punches,” Elliott continued. “I’d love to stay here, obviously, and keep searching for that Cup. That’s kind of out of my control and I just try to let my play kind of speak for itself.”
Elliott finished this season with a 15-9-2 record in 30 games (26 starts). He had a career-worst save percentage of .889, down 10 points from last season’s .899, and a goals against average of 3.06 –– his first GAA over three in 10 years.
Elliott has been a consummate professional since joining the Flyers for the 2017-18 season. His play has declined, however, and that should lead the Flyers to look elsewhere for a backup goalie this offseason.
Shayne Gostisbehere has had a rollercoaster of a career with the Flyers. He finished second to 24-year-old Artemi Panarin in the Calder Trophy race his rookie season, which unfortunately turned out to be the high point for Gostisbehere.
He showed flashes of that rookie season two years later in the 2017-18 campaign but hasn’t been the same since. Whether it’s been injuries, a few too many mistakes costing him, or whathaveyou, Gostisbehere has fallen out of favor in Philadelphia.
Gostisbehere’s name has been in the trade rumors for over a year now and it wouldn’t be surprising if the Flyers moved him this summer. Yes, he cleared waivers this season, but teams are much more likely to take a chance on a guy like Gostisbehere when they have a full offseason to set their roster up.
There’s also the possibility of Gostisbehere being selected by the Seattle Kraken in the expansion draft. His cap hit of $4.5 million for two more seasons shouldn’t be of too much concern for an expansion team. Perhaps Seattle can unlock Gostisbehere and a change of scenery might do well for him.
He’s not what he once was –– or was projected to be ––, but Gostisbehere can still be a power-play specialist and third-pairing defenseman for a contending team. Whether that team is the Flyers remains to be seen.
The Flyers are in an interesting position with Nolan Patrick. The second overall pick in the 2017 NHL Draft has not been close to meeting those expectations in the NHL.
Patrick has dealt with more than his fair share of injuries, including concussions and a migraine disorder, which have certainly hampered his development.
Patrick is a guy that could use a change of scenery as well and he came briefly came up in trade rumors this season. The Flyers shouldn’t necessarily give him away for nothing or a late-round pick, but a swap with another underperforming player with potential could work. If a team values Patrick in a trade for a bigger piece, the Flyers should pull the trigger.
This was Patrick’s first full season back after missing the entirety of the 2019-20 campaign. He was given a chance in the top-six at times but found himself toward the bottom of the lineup as the fourth-line center at the tail end of the season. Patrick finished the season with just nine points (four goals, five assists) in 52 games.
Seattle could take a chance on him, but that seems less likely.
This is where it starts to get really interesting. Jakub Voracek is the name that gets floated around the most when people want the Flyers to make a big splash in the trade market.
Well, Voracek may not be mentioned specifically or as the only one, but Voracek is a piece of the “core” that doesn’t have a no-trade clause. The Flyers aren’t trading Claude Giroux or Sean Couturier, and Kevin Hayes has a no-movement clause.
Voracek, 31, tied for the team lead with 43 points (nine goals, 34 assists) in 53 games this season. The most troublesome about Voracek is his contract. He has an $8.25 million cap hit through the 2023-24 season.
The Seattle Kraken may think about taking Voracek off the Flyers’ hands, which could be a huge favor.
There may not be many top-line (or top-six) forwards like Voracek available in the expansion draft. He’s a guy that Seattle could use as a key piece in their forward group and they’d be able to swallow the cap hit. However, the Kraken may worry about his cap hit down the road which would cause them pause.
From the Flyers’ perspective, they’d have $8 million more in cap space to add a top-pair defenseman if the Kraken take Voracek. The Flyers may also use Voracek as a trade chip this offseason to change the makeup of the team or to simply move some cap space around for that aforementioned top-pair defenseman.
Voracek has been a key piece of the Flyers’ core for nearly a decade. It’s been Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek leading the way. It’d be weird to see him go, but it may end up happening after the Flyers’ disappointing season.
Lastly, we have another guy in the Jakub Voracek bucket in James van Riemsdyk. JVR has a similar contract to Voracek at $7 million per year through the 2022-23 season.
Many people were ready to write van Riemsdyk off after last season. He was pencilled in as the player the Flyers would lose in the expansion draft –– and that still might be the case ––, but he bounced back in a big way this season.
JVR finished in a three-way tie with Voracek and Claude Giroux for the team lead in points with 43 (17 goals, 26 assists). He got some puck luck, but also created some luck himself by going to the dirty areas.
Everything I just said about Voracek can be applied to van Riemsdyk. Seattle may look at him as a 20-to-25-goal scorer that’s available to them, and there won’t be many of them out there. JVR is probably the player most likely to be taken by the Kraken.
If JVR survives the expansion draft, the Flyers may consider trading him. As with Voracek, trading JVR would constitute as a “shakeup” of sorts and a semi-big move, especially if it clears the way for someone like Dougie Hamilton or another top defenseman.
Photo: Heather Barry Images