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When (if?) NHL resumes, expect Flyers’ momentum to carry into playoffs | Sam Carchidi

Some Flyers questions answered, including pending free agency, Oskar Lindblom's status, and who might be Carter Hart's backup next season.

The Flyers' Justin Braun (61), preventing New Jersey's Wayne Simmonds from getting a rebound earlier this season, will be an unrestricted free agent. He has bolstered the Flyers' defense.
The Flyers' Justin Braun (61), preventing New Jersey's Wayne Simmonds from getting a rebound earlier this season, will be an unrestricted free agent. He has bolstered the Flyers' defense.Read moreELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer

Some questions, some answers, some hope that the 2019-20 NHL season will resume.

Here are some questions submitted by Flyers fans on Twitter:

Question: Do you think the Flyers would have burned out in the playoffs? @SonoftheTree

I assume you mean if the schedule had not been interrupted. If that was the case, I think they were peaking at just the right time -- they had won nine of 10 when the season was suspended March 12 because of the coronavirus outbreak -- and would have carried the momentum into the playoffs.

That said, if the season resumes -- and the NHL believes it will at some point -- the Flyers will get some important injured players back in the lineup, most notably James van Riemsdyk (fractured right index finger) and Phil Myers (fractured right kneecap), so there’s no reason why they can’t make a strong postseason run.

Yes, like all teams, there will be a little rust at the start, but the Flyers shouldn’t take long to regain the form that had all four lines and three defensive pairings in sync, and goalie Carter Hart playing like an All-Star.

Question: If Brian Elliott walks, who are the preferred and realistic backup options? @sean_r_moore

I don’t believe Elliott will walk. He fits in well here and his pedestrian numbers (2.87 GAA, .899 save percentage) are misleading because of a handful of rough outings.

Elliott has been very steady and has been a good mentor to Hart.

But if they can’t come to terms with Elliott -- who has a $2 million cap hit this season -- Corey Crawford, Thomas Greiss, and Cam Talbot are among the free-agent possibilities. Their salary demands, of course, will be key.

Anton Khudobin has had a terrific season in Dallas and would be a great backup, but he will probably be too expensive.

Question: How big of an impact has Kevin Hayes had on the team this season? @smoyer_eric

It cannot be overstated how much he has improved the team.

Yes, the Flyers paid more than expected ($50 million over seven years), but at the time, GM Chuck Fletcher knew Nolan Patrick was having migraine issues, though he certainly wasn’t aware he would be sidelined for the entire season (so far).

That puts the signing in its proper context, and Hayes has delivered -- on and off the ice. Not only has he given the Flyers a bonafide No. 2 center who has scored 23 goals and made a big difference on the penalty kill, but he has livened up a somewhat-stale locker room with his outgoing personality.

It’s been a win-win for the Flyers.

Question: Do you know what Oskar Lindblom’s timetable is? Not just to play, but just to start skating and be back with the team? @sreedy10

From all accounts, Lindblom is making very good progress from his cancer treatments. The Flyers are not putting a timetable on his return and are leaving that up to the medical experts and Lindblom.

I’m told he has started to do some light workouts, which is a great sign. The 23-year-old left winger has been through a lot, and he has kept a positive mindset throughout the whole ordeal, say those close to the situation.

Question: How bad will the salary cap be affected next season since it was supposed to rise a healthy amount? @NickLyn85820162

No one knows, but it would be shocking if it rose, given the astronomical amount of money teams and the league will lose because of the shutdown this season. There is even a possibility games could be played without fans next season.

The salary cap ceiling was $81.5 million this season, and in early March, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said it would probably rise to between $84 million and $88.2 million in 2020-21. That was about a week before the season was suspended and the future salary-cap situation changed.

The Flyers have $69.5 million committed to 14 players (nine forwards, four defensemen, one goalie) for next season, according to Cap Friendly. That gives them little wiggle room if, say, the cap remains frozen at $81.5 million.

Because of the unusual circumstances, there is a possibility the NHL offers teams a compliance buyout on a player or two.

In the past, these buyouts allowed teams to release players without their contacts counting against the cap. Those players had to be paid two-thirds of their salary over twice the length of the time left of their deals.

In 2013, the Flyers used compliance buyouts on Ilya Bryzgalov and Danny Briere.

Question: What are your thoughts on Flyers UFAs/RFAs next season? @mikejanis

As mentioned above, there isn’t going to be a lot of cap space, so Fletcher may have to trade a player to open room.

Here are the Flyers’ potential restricted and unrestricted free agents:

  1. RFAs: Lindblom, Patrick, Nic Aube-Kubel, Robert Hagg, and Myers.

  2. UFAs: Tyler Pitlick, Nate Thompson, Derek Grant, Justin Braun, and Elliott.

It gets tricky because the Flyers don’t know the health status of Patrick and Lindblom, or if they can petition the league for a medical exemption that may affect their contracts. In any event, I see all of their RFAs coming back.

As for UFAs, Pitlick fit in quite well and the Flyers will try to re-sign him. Ditto Elliott. Whether they re-sign Grant figures to be determined by the health of Patrick and Lindblom, and I don’t see Thompson coming back.

Braun, 33, who had a $3.8 million cap hit this season, figures to return if the sides can work out a reasonable deal. Veterans Matt Niskanen and Braun have contributed to a much-improved defense this season. The Flyers have allowed 2.77 goals per game (tied for seventh in the NHL), compared to 3.41 (29th) last season.

Among key players on the Phantoms, center Mikhail Vorobyev (RFA) and defenseman Mark Friedman (RFA) should return, and goalie Alex Lyon (UFA) is on the bubble. Look for veteran defenseman Andy Welinski (UFA) to be signed as an insurance policy.