Philadelphia Flyers face tough roster decisions on their blue line

Ivan Provorov #9, Philadelphia Flyers (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Ivan Provorov #9, Philadelphia Flyers (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

The Philadelphia Flyers will have to make some tough decisions this summer.

Once the 2019-20 NHL season officially concludes, Philadelphia Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher will be faced with some tough decisions on the back end. With only workhorse defensemen Ivan Provorov and Shayne Gostisbehere signed passed 2020-21, Fletcher will be forced to make some decisions between now and then.

Let’s start with restricted free-agent defensemen Robert Hagg who made $1,500,000 this season, and rookie defensemen Phil Myers who played out the last year of his entry-level contract at $678,889.

Hagg, who was drafted in round 2 of the 2013 NHL Draft, was having arguably his best season as a Philadelphia Flyers defensemen as he recorded 3 goals and 10 assists in just 49 games while also being a plus defender with a +14 goal differential. One would assume he’s due for a decent raise in pay and potentially a multi-year deal having only signed for one season last year.

Phil Myers is a 23 year old undrafted free agent signing by former GM Ron Hextall who has the potential to be a top pairing defensemen for the Flyers. Myers is a 6’5″, 210 pound, right handed defensemen who in my opinion will be a cornerstone for the franchise for many years to come. Having said that I believe it would behoove GM Chuck Fletcher to hammer out a deal similar to what Hextall gave to Shayne Gostisbehere a few years ago (six years and $27 million).

Next we have two players signed through 2020-21 in veteran defensemen Matt Niskanen and 2014 1st round pick, 24 year old Travis Sanheim. Niskanen is a right-handed shot while the latter is a left-handed shot.

Let’s start out with Travis Sanheim who we all assume is another cornerstone of the defense corps. Sanheim’s current contract is a two year deal worth $3,250,000 per season. Sanheim really impressed towards the end of 2018-19, proving his worth on the Flyers top power-play unit and showing off his offensive skill in 3v3 overtime situations.

One would assume Sanheim will receive a significant raise and hopefully a longer term contract when his current contract is up if he continues to progress.

As for Matt Niskanen who will be 34 when his current deal expires, his future with the Flyers may not be as certain. Niskanen showed he still has plenty in the tank as he bounced back from a disappointing last season with Washington as he scored the most points in a season (33) since 2016-17 in just 68 games played.

Niskanen will be a tougher decision for GM Chuck Fletcher to make as by the time Niskanen’s contract is up there could be some youth pressing to make the Flyers roster in Yegor Zamula, Cam York, and potentially Wyatte Wylie. Will the Flyers have a player to replace Niskanen’s leadership and guidance? My hope is Ivan Provorov can step up and take on this role as he’s appeared to show maturity and drive beyond his years.

Now for my controversial players, obviously Shayne Gostisbehere who is signed into 2022-23 can play offensively as a defenseman as he proved during his first couple of seasons but his play has significantly dropped in the last year or so. Some believe he’s still capable of producing, which leads me to believe he could be the odd man out and potentially traded over this current off-season.

If “Ghost” were to be moved it would free up a significant amount of cap space to re sign younger players. Though not one of the aforementioned younger players but a player I believe can still be useful for at least another season or so is stay-at-home defensemen, Justin Braun.

Braun had a rocky start to his Flyers career but really found his groove after a few weeks and had played a huge role in steadying the defensive ship for Philly. Though his presence is not always seen while watching games because he isn’t the flashiest or most noticeable player on the ice, these reasons are precisely why I feel he should be brought back.

Justin Braun is the perfect veteran complimentary player for a young and evolving defensemen, like Travis Sanheim, Phil Myers, Robert Hagg, even Yegor Zamula. Justin Braun plays the tough minutes in the defensive zone and on the penalty kill. Saving offensive zone playing time for the more talented and skilled offensive defensemen the Flyers have.

If GM Chuck Fletcher can find a way to bring back Justin Braun for at least a season or preferably two and to a relatively team friendly deal, I think it’s one he has to make.

All this and I haven’t mentioned former first round pick Samuel Morin who has missed the last couple seasons due to ACL surgeries, Morin has already said numerous times his goal is to play in the NHL. If that will be with the Flyers remains to be seen.

Or how about 2014 3rd round pick Mark Friedman? Friedman impressed in his stint with the Flyers this year, filling in seamlessly when called upon and proving capable to hold down a 6 or 7 spot at the very least.

I would assume players who have recently signed entry-level deals like Zamula, Wylie, and Hogberg will be challenging to make the Flyers roster in another year or so which is when things will start to really take shape. Zamula is a player in which I believe makes Shayne Gostisbehere expendable now as “Ghost” was limited to third lines minutes and played the second power play this season.

Next. Top 5 Dynasties. dark

One thing that can’t be questioned is the Flyers undeniable defensive depth, the question will be who will be around to fill out the roster within the next couple seasons?