This article is part of our Cap Compliance series.
While the current season remains on hiatus, there is no time like the present to start looking ahead to next year. Over the next several weeks, we'll take a look at the cap situation for all 31 NHL clubs, including restricted free agents, unrestricted free agents and even potential buyouts. Then, we'll play a little armchair General Manager by providing our recommendations for how we would approach the upcoming 2020-21 campaign if we were running the club.
In our last Twitter poll, the Metropolitan Division lost out and will be our final three articles to round out the 31-team Cap Compliance series.
2020-21 Cap Situation
The Flyers currently have nine forwards, five defensemen and one goaltender under contract for next season at a price tag of $67,007,023 and will be on the hook for another $2,516,667 in buyouts for Andrew MacDonald and David Schlemko. With a flat cap of $81.5 million, this leaves the club with $11,976,310 in cap space and eight spots under the 23-man roster to fill.
Restricted Free Agents
AJ Scholz: The Flyers won't have any easy decisions with this group for a variety of reasons, starting with the health of Nolan Patrick. The 21-year-old missed the entire 2019-20 season due to his migraine disorder and has yet to live up to expectations after being selected No. 2 overall in the 2017 NHL Draft. At this point, it would be hard to blame the organization for not offering him any more than a qualifying offer, a one-year $761,250 deal, which will make him prove he can stay healthy and start producing. Lindblom offers similar concerns related to health after undergoing cancer treatments but all indications are the winger will be fully fit heading into 2020-21. While he played in just 30 games, the 23-year-old racked up 11 goals and 18 points and seems poised for a breakout year. By extending him some extra term now, the club could avoid some heartburn down the road if Lindblom continues his upward trajectory. A three-year, $3.6 million deal would be a decent raise and provide him with some long-term security. In the case of NAK, he produced less in more games than Lindblom and could come in as a more cost-effective option, as he's unlikely to command more than $1 million AAV. Still, the 24-year-old would be worth some added term, so a two-year, $1.6 million deal would likely get the job done. On the blue line, Hagg and Myers are both up and coming NHL caliber players who would have both topped the 55-game mark this season and could have pushed for the 20-point threshold. The pair could command matching two-year contracts that retain their RFA rights at the end in the $1-1.5 million range.
Kyle Riley: Aube-Kubel only has 45 NHL career games to his name, having picked up 15 points over that span, so I don't see him getting much (if any) more than his QO. As AJ alluded to, the first few years of Patrick's career have been derailed by health issues, including a chronic migraine disorder that has held him out of the entirety of this season. However, the Flyers are still hopeful he'll be able to overcome those issues in the near future, but I doubt they're willing to give him anything more than his QO at this point. Lindblom also has major health issues to contend with, but he's expected to be ready for the 2020-21 campaign and was playing well with 11 goals and 18 points in 30 games this season prior to his cancer diagnosis. I don't think Philadelphia will be comfortable with offering him anything in terms of term just yet, but I still think he's worth giving a raise, something like a one-year, $1.25 million deal should get it done. Hagg and Myers have both developed into dependable bottom-four blueliners over the past few seasons, but they aren't established enough to warrant multi-year deals at this point. QOs for both skaters should do the trick.
Unrestricted Free Agents
AJ Scholz: With five restricted agents looking for deals and, thus far, proving themselves capable, there is little reason to bring back Thompson, Pitlick, Grant or Braun. These are veterans players who can still fill quality roles for an organization but it won't be with the Flyers considering all the roster spots that figure to be filled by the above RFA group. Elliott figures to be the lone exception to this rule, as he would not only serve as a solid No. 2 goaltender but also as a mentor to the 22-year-old Carter Hart. A modest increase in pay, one-year, $2.25 million would match the deal given to Jaroslav Halak and shore up the position heading into next season.
Kyle Riley: Out of the first four players in this list, I think Braun is the only one worth bringing back, but it'd have to be at a steep discount on a short-term deal. At 33 years old, I don't see him considering that option, so I don't see him back in Philadelphia in 2020-21. Elliott played pretty well as the Flyers' No. 2 netminder, and he's worth keeping around if for nothing more than having a capable vet on the roster to mentor Hart. I think AJ's pretty much on the money with the $2.25 AAV, but I'd actually try to bring him back for two years at that price tag.
Minor-League Free Agents *Who appeared in an NHL game in 2019-20
AJ Scholz: In the case of Vorobyov and Friedman, they still have time to prove they can be NHL talents and could be on the fringe of spots on the 23-man roster, yet that won't change the fact that they shouldn't expect much more than their qualifying offers. In the case of Stewart, he didn't offer enough to warrant keeping around for another kick at the can. Whether to keep Lyon will likely depend on his willingness to accept a two-way contract because he won't be making the 23-man roster at any point, barring an injury. Still, if he'll accept the offer, it would make sense to keeping him around as the No. 3 netminder on the depth chart.
Kyle Riley: Vorobyov is still just 23 years old, but he's only logged 35 top-level appearances over the past two campaigns, so he won't be getting anything more than his QO. Stewart is still a nice veteran presence to have around in the minors, but if he isn't willing to accept a cheap two-way deal, he won't be back. Friedman's only appeared in seven games with the Flyers over the past two campaigns, so again, his QO will get it done. I doubt Lyon will get any one-way offers from any other teams this offseason, and he's still a decent emergency option to have around, so a cheap, two-way deal should be enough to keep him in the fold for another year.
AJ Scholz: Once the organization figures out contracts for the RFA group, it should leave them approximately $2-2.5 million in cap space. The team doesn't have any specific needs in my opinion as it is relatively deep in all three positions. At such, it would make sense to stash the extra cap space away until the trade deadline to bolster any positional needs that crop up during the year. If the Flyers are sold on the development of Samuel Morin, they could consider moving Shayne Gostisbehere, something that has been rumored for some time, in order to free up an extra $4.5 million in cap space. This would allow them to be players in the free-agent market if there are spots they feel need to be filled from outside the organization.
Kyle Riley: With the plan I outlined above, the Flyers would enter the 2020-21 campaign with around $4.5 million in cap space and no glaring holes in their roster. If Lindblom and Patrick are able to come back and contribute in a meaningful fashion, Philadelphia will once again be one of the top teams in the East next season.