The 2020 NHL Free Agency period is set to open on Friday, wrapping up a busy week in the hockey world.
The Philadelphia Flyers took care of some business earlier in the week — adding five new prospects to their pool through the draft on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Braun Re-signs For 2 Years
We’ll get to them in a moment. But earlier in the week, general manager also re-signed impending unrestricted free agent Justin Braun. Acquired shortly before the 2019 draft from the San Jose Sharks, Fletcher gave up a second and a third-round draft pick to bring him in.
Known as a solid stay-at-home defenseman, Braun put up 16 points in 62 regular-season games, averaging 17:16 of ice time. Shortly before he turned 33 in February, Braun missed six games with a groin injury. He returned on January 18, just as the Flyers were starting their late-season hot streak. They finished the season with a 16-4-1 record in those last 21 games before the pause.
In the postseason, Braun’s ice time slipped slightly, to an average of 16:42. He appeared in all 16 of the Flyers’ games, posting two assists.
Braun’s last contract, signed with San Jose, was a five-year deal that carried a cap hit of $3.8 million per season. He stays in Philadelphia on a new two-year deal that’s worth less than half that amount — $1.8 million per season.
Niskanen Abruptly Retires
The signing was announced on Monday. It’s important because earlier that same day, Matt Niskanen announced his retirement. A 33-year-old like Braun, Niskanen had also just completed a solid first season with the Flyers after being acquired in a trade with the Washington Capitals.
The announcement came as a surprise because Niskanen had one year remaining on a seven-year contract that was set to pay him $5.75 million for the 2020-21 season. The deal was structured simply, with Niskanen’s actual pay being equal to his cap hit, so that $5.75 million is simply wiped off the Flyers’ books.
More cap space — great. But even after Niskanen is removed from the roster, CapFriendly is showing the Flyers with just under $9 million in available space, and five more spots to fill on their 23-man roster.
Myers, Patrick Issued Qualifying Offers
Two of those spots are expected to be earmarked for restricted free agents Philippe Myers and Nolan Patrick — assuming Patrick is healthy enough to return to action next season after missing all of 2019-20 with migraine disorder. Myers and Patrick both received qualifying offers from the Flyers before Wednesday’s deadline. So did 23-year old center Mikhail Vorobyov, a fourth-rounder from 2015 who played 20 games with the Flyers last season but opted to spend this year with Ufa of the KHL. By submitting a qualifying offer, Philadelphia retains Vorobyov’s rights if he should decide to return to North America at a future date.
3 UFAs Due To Hit The Market
The Flyers also have three forwards on their roster who appear to be set to become unrestricted free agents on Friday.
- 28-year-old winger Tyler Pitlick
- 30-year-old utility forward Derek Grant
- 36-year-old center Nate Thompson
Depending on how the UFA market shakes out, any of these players could end up returning to Philadelphia. Barring any last-minute deals, they’re free to sign with any team anytime after noon on Friday.
5 New Faces Selected At The Draft
The Flyers went into the draft with seven picks. They moved up twice by bundling two picks together, so they ended up with just five new prospects in their system.
Here’s a quick recap:
Round 1 – Pick 23 – RW Tyson Foerster
Listed at 6’2″ and 194 pounds, Foerster broke through offensively in the 2019-20 season, with 36 goals and 80 points for the OHL’s Barrie Colts. Foerster turned heads as he season went along, jumping from No. 41 on NHL Central Scouting’s midseason report of North American skaters up to No. 21 on the final rankings.
Round 2 – Pick 54 – D Emil Andrae
A diminutive left-side defenseman, Andrae is listed at 5’9″ and 181 pounds. A product of the HV71 organization in Sweden, Andrae played 10 games at the men’s league level last season. He’s back there this year, with one assist in his first six games.
In a draft that was a bit thin on high-end defensive talent, Andrae slipped a bit in the Central Scouting rankings as last season wore on. He dropped from No. 13 among European skaters at mid-term down to No. 15 in the final rankings.
Round 4 – Pick 94 – RW Zayde Wisdom
Chuck Fletcher dealt picks 116 and 147 to the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for this 94th pick and the opportunity to select Wisdom. He’s a 5’10”, 195-pound winger with the OHL’s Kingston Frontenacs, who catapulted from No. 90 on the mid-term North American rankings all the way up to No. 54 on the final sheet. Wisdom put up 29 goals and 59 points with the Frontenacs last season.
Round 5 – Pick 135 – LW Elliot Desnoyers
After getting his man in Round 4, Fletcher went back to the well in Round 5. He successfully dealt two seventh-round picks, Nos. 202 and 209, to the Nashville Predators in exchange for Pick 135.
Elliot Desnoyers is currently wearing an “A” for the Halifax Mooseheads of the QMJHL. He landed there this season after two years with the Moncton Wildcats. He’s not the biggest forward at 5’10” and 183 pounds, but he plays a high-energy, team-first game.
Desnoyers slipped in the Central Scouting rankings over last season, dropping from No. 141 among North Americans down to No. 175.
Round 6 – Pick 178 – RW Connor McClennon
The Flyers completed their draft by grabbing an undersized winger from the Winnipeg Ice of the Western Hockey League.
Connor McClennon is listed at 5’8″ and 163 pounds, and had 21 goals and 49 points for the Ice last season. He was ranked 43rd among North American skaters at midterm, then slipped to No. 65 in the final Central Scouting rankings.