With three restricted free agents to sign and an uncertain salary-cap situation, Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher bypassed adding an established NHL player Monday.
Even if he did have a lot of cap space, which he won’t after he signs restricted free agents Ivan Provorov, Travis Konecny, and Scott Laughton, Fletcher doesn’t want to give out any unnecessary long-term contracts and doesn’t want to block young prospects like Joel Farabee, Morgan Frost or Isaac Ratcliffe down the road.
For that reason, Fletcher didn’t try to trade a player to free cap room so he could join Monday’s annual free-agent frenzy, one that saw over $700 million shelled out to 125 unrestricted free agents in the first 24 hours, according to the CapFriendly.com.
Besides his trio of remaining restricted free agents this year, Fletcher pointed out that the Flyers will have several more in the next two summers.
“Those are top young players that our staff has worked hard to draft and develop,” Fletcher said Monday in a conference call with reporters after he signed eight free agents who should help the AHL’s Phantoms. “They are high priorities for us. You have to be mindful of your future obligations when you go through a day like today.”
The Flyers will have four restricted free agents next summer (Nolan Patrick, Oskar Lindblom, Phil Myers, Robert Hagg) and three (Carter Hart, Travis Sanheim, Samuel Morin) in the summer of 2021.
Like his predecessor, Ron Hextall, Fletcher believes the way to win a Stanley Cup is through the draft.
“I don’t think July 1 is the day you should be building your team,” he said, referring to the opening of free agency. “I think it’s a day to supplement your roster. We added some pieces we thought we needed to add prior to July 1. Really the best teams, the teams that win Stanley Cups, draft and develop the key parts of their team. Our staff has worked hard the past several seasons to accumulate a lot of top young talent. I think it’s incumbent upon everyone in our organization to make sure we do our best to develop those players.”
The Flyers will have a nice mixture of youth and experience this season, and several prospects are close to reaching the NHL.
“We have a lot of good young players," Fletcher said. "Again, I am not just talking about the prospects that participated this past week [in development camp]. You look at our team, we counted today, there’s eight players on that NHL roster that haven’t come close to hitting their peak and to having their career season.”
He didn’t name those players, but he was probably referring to Patrick, Lindblom, Hart, Konecny, Provorov, Myers, Sanheim, and Morin. If you include on-the-rise prospects like Frost, Farabee, and Ratcliffe, you can see why Fletcher feels good about the future.
“That’s our exciting thing. That’s our growth,” Fletcher said. “I think we’ve added some quality pieces that will help our team. Make no mistake, our future success is going to depend in a large part on how far these young players do, how much they develop, and that’s the exciting part of the group.”