Philadelphia Flyers: Looking at 2018 offseason scenarios

(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

The upcoming offseason for the Philadelphia Flyers has massive potential in both good and bad ways. This could be an offseason to make a shakeup or to do nothing, so why not start guessing now?

As heartbreaking as it was to see the Philadelphia Flyers lose early on in the playoffs to the Pittsburgh Penguins, the good news is this team is going to have quite the busy offseason. In fact, when looking at some of the uncertainties surrounding this team, the Flyers will provide fans with plenty to talk about over the next few months.

To help pass the time, we’ll look at three possible scenarios for the offseason when it comes to Philadelphia. Each scenario is a guess at two factors that will impact the team going forward, such as what Ron Hextall will do with one or both of the first-round draft picks that the Flyers currently have, or what will happen with the coaching staff.

On the surface, the comments Hextall made during his exit interview seem pretty straight forward, and there really isn’t a reason to think that he would be lying. But also, general managers lie sometimes. It’s easy to take comments at face value, but it’s more fun to really get stressed out about other possibilities that seem far-fetched.

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So without wasting anymore time, let’s take a look at some possible scenarios surrounding the Flyers for fans to keep an eye on over the next few months in the offseason.

Scenario 1: The Dud

  • Hextall uses one or more first-round picks to trade back
  • Full coaching staff returns
  • Flyers bring back Valtteri Filppula

The scenario that will yield the most boring result, and possibly the most frustrating. The feeling among the fan base is that this is the offseason where the Flyers can finally step up and solidify themselves as real contenders.

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Using the extra first-round draft pick to move up, getting rid of all the bottom six veterans, and signing a skilled free agent (cough, John Tavares, cough), are all moves that fans would love to see the Flyers make. So in the most boring case scenario, Hextall does none of that.

If you remember, last season Hextall packaged Brayden Schenn to the St. Louis Blues to get a second pick in the first round (27th overall). Contrary to what Blues fans will tell you, the trade was not a one-for-one deal for Jori Lehtera. A move back would be the most conservative option, and would make more than a few fans frustrated.

From a regular season standpoint, most NHL teams would view Dave Hakstol‘s season as a success. Despite barely pulling out of a nosedive towards the end of the season, the Flyers made the playoffs. They made the playoffs after going on a 10-game losing streak earlier in the season. Add that to a bounce-back season from Claude Giroux, a career year from Sean Couturier and improvements from young players like Travis Konecny and Ivan Provorov, there are a number of reasons for Hextall to back his head coach.

With multiple unrestricted free agents leaving the team, there will be room for younger players and Hextall still trusts Hakstol to develop those young players into competent NHL players. However, the team does need some proven talent to bolster the lineup, specifically at the third-line center position.

Hextall stated that he will be looking for a third line center, but in the event that free agency doesn’t provide an answer, he is willing to go back to Filppula.

Scenario 2: Mild

  • The Flyers keep both first-round picks
  • Coaching staff roles change
  • The Flyers add a useful third liner

If teams above them in the draft are asking just a little too much for one of the Flyers first-round picks, there’s a strong chance Hextall won’t pull the trigger. If you can’t get into the top five, trading up may not be worth it for a team like the Flyers, who are already pretty set with prospects. And Hextall is not a man who likes to give up a lot of assets.

In his exit interview, Hextall mentioned that the coaching staff might have different roles next season. That doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. The only change that could be made besides firing an assistant is that Ian Laperriere and Kris Knoblauch switch assignments. Knoblauch would run the penalty kill and Laperriere would run the power play.

In his breakdown of Hextall’s exit interview, the Athletic’s Charlie O’Connor notes that the GM wants to address the exact issues that fans are worried about.

"For really the first time in an exit interview setting, the Flyers GM spoke of targeting specific players in free agency to address weak points on the roster. Hextall and Hakstol were on the same page with regards to accelerating the youth movement, now that the first wave of “kids” are turning into veterans themselves. And as for the bottom-of-the-lineup veterans who failed to provide the necessary support to the high-powered core of the team? It sounds like a good few of them will not be wearing Orange & Black come October."

Filppula should be let go and Hextall will need to add a replacement on the third line. Broad Street Hockey’s Brad Keffer put together a little list of depth players around the league that you don’t hear a lot about. With Hextall’s pension for saving cap space, this might be a good list to look through.

Scenario 3: Spicy

This scenario may not be too crazy, as Dave Issac points out, during his exit interviews, Hextall mentioned the possibility of trading up saying, ” If you want to move up, you certainly have … I would envision having a chance to move up.” He continues saying that the Flyers fully stocked prospect pool gives them an option to draft a player for a positional weakness.

In the past, there have been rumors that the Montreal Canadiens were asking about defensive prospect Samuel Morin. Now that the Canadiens have the No. 3 overall draft pick, it’s possible that, in an attempt to trade up, Hextall checks in with Montreal to see if there’s still interest there.

Under Ian Laperierre, the Flyers penalty kill has been close to the bottom of the league for four seasons. This season they ended up with ranked 29th in penalty kill. Hextall made it a point to say that the full coaching staff would return for next season, but maybe looking at the past results convinces Hextall to make a change.

Knoblauch hasn’t been on the coaching staff long enough to really know if he deserves the same level of criticism that Laperierre gets.

Wayne Simmonds didn’t have a great season. As we learned, Simmonds played the whole season with a number of injuries that limited his effectiveness. The most likely move for the Flyers is keeping the power forward through next season to see if he can properly recover from offseason surgery and have a rebound season.

Better yet, Hextall could try to get the best return for Simmonds, who may be on the decline. There are certainly teams that would find a net-front presence like Simmonds useful.

Scenario 4: Wild card

  • Flyers fire most of the coaching staff
  • The Flyers package a first-round pick and a player to move up in the draft
  • The Flyers sign a big name free agent

Let’s be honest, Hextall has a plan and he will absolutely die on the hill that is his plan for the Flyers going into the future. But wouldn’t it be wild if the general manager had an absolute blockbuster offseason?

In this scenario, both Ian Laperierre and Kris Knoblauch get the boot. Even in the most unorthodox situation, it’s hard to imagine Hextall firing Hakstol.

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This trade scenario lets the Flyers keep one of their draft picks, but they would also lose a player in the deal. The Simmonds or Sam Morin scenarios could be a part of this theoretical trade. The Flyers would ideally move into at least the top five in the draft and retain a later pick.

Improving the lineup with a highly skilled addition like Tavares would be a power move by the GM. If the Flyers want to assert themselves as a real contender, a big name addition is one way to do it, and it will be interesting to see if it happens.