One thing you can say about Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher: He wasn’t afraid to spend money to improve the league’s worst defense.
When Travis Sanheim signs, the Flyers’ cap hit for their seven defensemen will be a little higher than Vegas’ for its top seven defenders. The Golden Knights had the best defense in the NHL last season, allowing 2.18 goals per game. The Flyers surrendered a league-worst 3.52 goals per game.
The Flyers also will be in line with what two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay will pay its seven defensemen.
So if money equates to victories, the rebuilt Flyers should be much improved in 2021-22.
For seven defensemen, Vegas is projected to have a $24.3 million cap hit, while Tampa’s is projected to be $25.375 million. (San Jose’s projected cap hit for its seven defensemen, including the overrated Erik Karlsson: $31.4 million.)
If you include Samuel Morin as the extra defenseman, the Flyers have $21.85 million in cap hits committed to six defenders. Sanheim, 25, will push that total higher, probably higher than the Lightning’s figure.
In the offseason, the Flyers have made a dramatic defensive makeover, adding Ryan Ellis ($6.25 annual cap hit), Rasmus Ristolainen ($5.4 million), and Keith Yandle ($900,000) and subtracting Shayne Gostisbehere ($4.5 million), Phil Myers ($2.55 million), and Robert Hagg ($1.6 million). That has hiked their defense’s annual cap hit by about $4 million.
Sanheim, who had a $3.25 million cap hit during each of the last two years, slipped dramatically last season (15 points, minus-22). It was his worst season in his three full years with the Flyers. The Flyers are taking him to salary arbitration Aug. 26, though the two sides could agree on a deal before it reaches an independent arbitrator.
Sanheim’s point totals have dropped the last three years — from 35 points in 82 games, to 25 points in 69 games, to 15 points in 55 games. His goals have gone from nine to eight to three in that span.
The soft-spoken Manitoba native and the since-traded Myers struggled mightily as a duo in 2021, and the Flyers hope Sanheim and his new partner, Ristolainen, will find chemistry and play a big part in the defense’s revitalization.
Last season’s defensive struggles, of course, were a team effort, with the goaltenders and forwards sharing blame with the defensemen.
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Things to know
Will the “win-now” Flyers be a legit Stanley Cup contender? Probably not. But hopes are high after a smart summer remake. My column.
A look at the top 250 players in fantasy hockey, per NHL.com. The top Flyer? Sean Couturier ... at No. 110. Ellis (140), Ivan Provorov (141), Carter Hart (155), Cam Atkinson (186), Claude Giroux (189), Travis Konecny (220), and Joel Farabee (221) are the other ranked Flyers.
For teams that still have cap room, there are some intriguing free agents available. The Hockey Writers have the story.
No respect for Hart
Hart is coming off an awful year, but if you look at his pedigree, he should bounce back and be productive for the Flyers this season — especially with a redone defense in front of him.
Yet, Hart is getting little respect outside of Philadelphia.
NHL.com, for instance, listed him (gulp) 29th among fantasy goalies for 2021-22. It listed 37 goalies overall, and Martin Jones, the Flyers’ new backup, was not among the large group.
Late August: Flyers development camp in Voorhees; dates to be determined.
Sept. 22: Tentative date for the start of training camp in Voorhees.
Sept. 28: Flyers start their preseason schedule by facing the New York Islanders at the Wells Fargo Center.
Oct. 15: Flyers open the regular season by hosting Vancouver.
From the mailbag
Question: If either Carter Hart or Martin Jones stumble or get injured, which goalie in the Flyers’ system has the best shot at getting a call-up? — Bill (@BillFlyersFan) via Twitter
Answer: Thanks for the question, Bill. I would say Felix Sandstrom would be the guy, though he could benefit from more time with the Phantoms. Sandstrom’s numbers in 11 AHL games last season (3.19 GAA, .903 save percentage) are not impressive, but he excelled late in the season, going 3-1-2 with a 2.02 GAA and .943 save percentage in his last six starts.
Send questions by email or on Twitter (@broadstbull), and they could be answered in a future edition.