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NHL Burning Questions: Philadelphia Flyers

Adam Proteau looks at the top questions entering the season for the Flyers, including who needs to step up and where the team goes from here.
Carter Hart

Welcome to this weekend edition of’s Burning Questions series, an ongoing feature in which we pose three key questions for each NHL team. 

In today’s file, we’re posing Three Burning Questions about the Philadelphia Flyers.


1. Is Chuck Fletcher truly deluded enough to see this Flyers team making the playoffs? In nearly four years as Flyers GM, Fletcher has presided over disappointment after disappointment. Some of that can be chalked up to unfortunate luck on the health front, but there is a real disconnect between the optimism with which Fletcher sees his team, and the pessimism many Flyers fans and hockey media has for them this season. Where Fletcher looks at his young players and sees opportunities for them to establish themselves as elite NHLers, skeptics see a team with too many middle-of-the-road veterans and unproven NHL assets, and injuries that are already biting into the roster – including serious injuries to star forward Sean Couturier and Ryan Ellis, neither of whom will be on the ice to start the regular season – give a stark indication of how shallow their talent pool truly is.

Making matters worse in Philly is the Flyers’ salary cap situation – they’re essentially capped-out, although Ellis and Couturier’s absence will free up some space – as well as the idea of, “where do you start with this team? Their main off-season acquisition, defenseman Tony DeAngelo, hardly is going to be a difference-maker for this team night in and night out, and their mix of youngsters and veterans simply isn’t expected to be a playoff contender in the highly-competitive Metropolitan Division. The real question about the Flyers will likely come at the end of the season, when they’re once again on the outside of the post-season picture looking in. That question: is Fletcher going to get yet another season after this one to throw what he can against the wall in the hope that some of it sticks? Frustrated Flyers fans want a new voice, so nobody should expect Fletcher to retain the GM job for the 2023-24 campaign, but stranger things have happened.

2. Which players are most likely to be tossed overboard in trades if, as expected, the Flyers flail and crumble throughout the early portion of the regular season? The Flyers have most of their talent signed through the 2023-24 season, with some notable exceptions: veteran winger James van Riemsdyk and his $7 million annual cap hit expire at the end of the upcoming season, and veteran blueliners Travis Sanheim ($4.675 million) and Justin Braun ($1 million) also will be UFAs, but the 26-year-old Sanheim will probably be kept around.

After that, veteran winger Cam Atkinson (three years left at $5.875 million) is 33 years old; does he want to be part of a long-term rebuild, or would he better serve the Flyers as a trade chip to build for the future? Atkinson has a modified no-trade clause, but that shouldn’t stop Fletcher from finding a fit for him elsewhere. Elsewhere, highest-paid Flyer Kevin Hayes will turn 31 years old in May, and he has three seasons remaining at a $7.14-million cap hit. A change of scenery might be best for the franchise and the player given where both are in their competitive cycles.

Philadelphia has 14 players signed for 2023-24, and only $15.7 million in projected cap space. There will be no easy solutions, which is why Flyers veterans may be willing and able to want a new start.

3. What about Philly’s goaltending? For years, youngster Carter Hart has been penciled in as the Flyers’ starter in net, but as the team has struggled, so too has Hart as an individual. Last season, his numbers (including a 3.16 Goals-Against Average and .905 Save Percentage) were the second-worst of his four-season NHL career, and Philadelphia’s projected understudy, 25-year-old Felix Sandstrom, has just five games of NHL experience.

There aren’t going to be teams lining up to help Philly on the goalie front as the season unfolds, which means it could be another long year between the pipes for Hart and Flyers goalies in general. There seems to be enough potential misery to affect all aspects of the Flyers’ attack this year, and it could be most notable in net.


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