Just about the entire core group from last year is back for the Flyers. The division is more difficult and making the playoffs should be a stiffer challenge. Only the top four get in.
Here’s a look at the roster the Flyers will open the season with when Pittsburgh visits on Wednesday (5:30 p.m., NBCSN).
Oskar Lindblom-Sean Couturier-Travis Konecny
Claude Giroux-Kevin Hayes-Joel Farabee
James van Riemsdyk-Nolan Patrick-Jake Voracek
Michael Raffl-Scott Laughton-Nic Aube-Kubel
Notable: Morgan Frost is the extra forward. He had goals in his first two career games last season and then went 18 straight without scoring before being sent back down to the AHL.
Ivan Provorov-Justin Braun
Travis Sanheim-Phil Myers
Robert Hagg-Erik Gustafsson
Notable: Shayne Gostisbehere had been paired with Provorov until he was declared “unfit to play” over the weekend with an unknown ailment. He avoided being placed on the injured list. ... Mark Friedman also is on the roster. ... Coach Alain Vigneault left open the possibility of dressing seven defensemen on given nights.
Notable: Hart started 40 of the Flyers’ 69 regular-season games last year. Elliott made 27 starts and Alex Lyon started twice. In the playoffs, Hart started 14, Elliott two.
Comings & goings
Defenseman Matt Niskanen retired suddenly in October, and Tyler Pitlick, an effective fourth-line grinder, signed with the Coyotes. Veteran centers Derek Grant (Anaheim) and Nate Thompson (Winnipeg), acquired at last season’s trade deadline, also have moved on.
The Flyers signed Erik Gustafsson to a 1-year deal to take Niskanen’s spot among the blueliners, and the healthy returns of Nolan Patrick and Oskar Lindblom give the forward combinations better depth.
Five largest cap hits: Claude Giroux, $8,275,000 (10.2% of salary cap); Jake Voracek, $8,250,000 (10.1%); Kevin Hayes, $7,142,857 (8.8%); James van Riemsdyk, $7,000,000 (8.6%); Ivan Provorov, $6,750,000 (8.3%).
Five best bargains: Carter Hart, $730,833 (0.9%), Joel Farabee, $925,000 (1.1%), Sean Couturier, $4,333,333 (5.3%), Phil Myers, $2,550,000 (3.1%), Brian Elliott, $1,500,000 (1.8%).
After this season
Unrestricted free agents: Brian Elliott, Erik Gustafsson, Scott Laughton, Michael Raffl.
Restricted free agents: Carter Hart, Sam Morin, Nolan Patrick, Travis Sanheim.
Where you from?
Canada (11): Nic Aube-Kubel, Brian Elliott, Morgan Frost, Mark Friedman, Claude Giroux, Carter Hart, Travis Konecny, Scott Laughton, Phil Myers, Nolan Patrick, Travis Sanheim.
United States (6): Justin Braun, Sean Couturier, Joel Farabee, Shayne Gostisbehere, Kevin Hayes, James van Riemsdyk,
Sweden (3): Erik Gustafsson, Robert Hagg, Oskar Lindnlom.
Austria (1): Michael Raffl.
Czech Republic (1): Jake Voracek.
Russia (1): Ivan Provorov,
This & that
Tallest: Kevin Hayes, Phil Myers, 6-5.
Shortest: Travis Konecny, 5-10.
Youngest: Joel Farabee, 20.
Oldest: Brian Elliott, 35.
Has won a Stanley Cup: None.
20 goals last season: Travis Konecny (24), Kevon Hayes (23), Sean Couturier (22), Claude Giroux (21).
30 assists last season: Jake Voracek (44), Sean Couturier (37), Travis Konecny (37), Claude Giroux (32).
Most penalty minutes: Joel Farabee (39).
Most power-play goals: Claude Giroux (7), Ivan Provorov (7).
Short-handed goals: Kevin Hayes (4), Morgan Frost (1), Claude Giroux (1), Matt Niskanen (1), Michael Raffl (1).
Shots on goal: Claude Giroux (197).
Most blocked shots: Ivan Provorov (111).
Most hits: Robert Hagg (136).
They say it’s your birthday
Jan. 12: Claude Giroux (turned 33), Jan. 13: Ivan Provorov (turns 24), Jan. 25: Phil Myers (turns 24).
Feb. 8: Robert Hagg (26), Feb. 10: Justin Braun (34), Feb. 25: Joel Farabee (21).
March 11: Travis Konecny (24), March 14: Erik Gustafsson (29), March 29: Travis Sanheim (25).
April 9: Brian Elliott (36), April 20: Shayne Gostisbehere (28).
May 4: James van Riemsdyk (32), May 8: Kevin Hayes (29), May 10: Nic Aube-Kubel (turns 25), May 14: Morgan Frost (22), May 14: Alain Vigneault (60), May 30: Scott Laughton (27),
Aug. 13: Carter Hart (23), Aug. 15: Oskar Lindblom (25), Aug. 15: Jake Voracek (32).
Sept. 19: Nolan Patrick (23),
Dec. 1: Michael Raffl (33), Dec. 7: Sean Couturier (29), Dec. 25: Mark Friedman (26).
The taxi squad
NHL teams are required to carry a minimum of four reserves (and a maximum of six) who will travel and practice with the club, but not necessarily play. This group must include at least one goalie unless there are three goalies on the NHL roster. Players on this squad would not need to quarantine should any of the regulars test positive for COVID-19.
Forwards (4): Andy Andreoff (C/LW), Connor Bunnaman (C), Sam Morin (LW), Carsen Twarynski (LW).
Defenseman (1): Nate Prosser.
Goaltender (1): Alex Lyon.
Since we’re here, the use of a “taxi squad” dates back to the 1940s when Cleveland Browns coach Paul Brown would keep fringe reserves around by putting them on the payroll of owner Mickey McBride’s taxicab company. The players didn’t “actually drive cabs,” the Cleveland Plain Dealer once reported in a story about McBride’s legacy, “but they worked out with the team daily, ready to step up if someone got hurt.”
Mark the date
Flyers’ longest homestand: 4 games (Jan. 13-19, Jan. 30-Feb. 5)
Flyers’ longest road trip: 5 games (Feb. 26-March 7)
Halfway point of Flyers schedule: Monday, March 15 at N.Y. Rangers, Game No. 29.
Trade deadline: Monday, April 12, 3 p.m. Eastern.
Last Flyers game: Saturday, May 8, at Washington, 7 p.m.
NHL playoffs start: Tuesday, May 11
Latest day of Stanley Cup Final: Friday, July 9 (tentative)
Seattle expansion draft: Wednesday, July 21
NHL Draft: July 23-24
Wednesday, July 28: Free agent signing period opens (12 p.m. Eastern)