Philadelphia Flyers offseason overhaul, part five: Free agent signings

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

Following a busy month of June, the Philadelphia Flyers were content to largely sit out the grand opening of NHL free agency, bringing in only a few players for organizational depth on July 1.

Well, that was pretty underwhelming, but really not surprising.

After the dust settled following the NHL’s July 1 free agent frenzy, the Philadelphia Flyers had only a handful of journeymen to show for their work. And it’s now obvious that the lack of activity was entirely by design.

GM Chuck Fletcher’s relative inaction on Monday confirmed that all of the team’s “big moves” for the offseason were completed last month when they made numerous trades and gave out a huge contract to Kevin Hayes.

While there’s nothing really wrong with that course of action, it’s still disappointing from a fan perspective to see the Flyers sit quietly while the New York Rangers landed top prize Artemi Panarin.

Even more frustrating, it feels downright painful to see Wayne Simmonds sign with the New Jersey Devils.

As Flyers writer Charlie O’Connor correctly points out in his piece for The Athletic, the Flyers’ recent moves confirm the organization’s current philosophy as “doubling down on its young talent.”

By bringing in solid, experienced (albeit unflashy) players like Justin Braun, Matt Niskanen and Hayes, the team is hoping that they will nicely complement the team’s young core and allow it to reach its potential without being forced into positions within the lineup that don’t suit them at this time.

Furthermore, it appears that Fletcher has ticketed a bottom-six winger slot for an internal candidate such as Morgan Frost or Joel Farabee right out of the gate rather than reaching for one in free agency. I can’t decide totally decide if this is a move of confidence or just frugality.

But I’ve buried the lead for far too long. The Flyers did in fact make several signings on July 1. They just aren’t household names. Here’s a quick rundown of some of them.

  • Winger Andy Andreoff played in 159 NHL games over parts of four seasons with the Los Angeles Kings, but he spent all of last year in the AHL. He is basically the second coming of Darroll Powe. He’ll try to hang with the team as a 14th forward since he was signed to a one-way contract.
  • Kurtis Gabriel is a hard-nosed, right wing who got into 22 games with the Devils last season. You may remember him earning a five-minute boarding major for a hit on Nolan Patrick in a game a few months ago. He’ll be deployed with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms unless the Flyers forward group suffers several misfortunes.
  • Defenseman Nate Prosser is 33-years-old and very familiar to Chuck Fletcher from his time in Minnesota. He’ll be on the Phantoms and will probably be the first man called up if an injury strikes the Flyers’ defense.
  • The rest of the guys who the Flyers signed are hockey players. Allegedly.

That seems like it will be a wrap for the team’s offseason moves. But the potential still exists for something big if the Flyers decide to trade someone like Shayne Gostisbehere or even Jakub Voracek and his hefty contract.

Still, you’d have to think that such transactions would have been precursors to the July 1 signing period rather than happening in the days or weeks after.

We’ll continue to monitor the situation to see if a parx six of the “offseason overhaul” will be necessary. But if this is the end of the Flyers’ notable transactions leading up to the 2019-20 season, I’d have to grade out the body of work as being around a C+ at best.

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The team didn’t lose any assets that worry me, but I just wonder if the new additions will make enough of a difference to help the team make the leap from perennial disappointment back into being something relevant.