On August 2, the Philadelphia Flyers completed another piece of offseason business. They avoided arbitration by signing physical right-winger Zack MacEwen to a one-year contract. It’s a one-way deal and carries a cap hit of $925,000 — a shade below the $950,000 he earned in real dollars last season. He’ll be a restricted free agent again next summer.
Acquired on waivers from the Vancouver Canucks last October 13, MacEwen endeared himself to Flyers fans with his rough-and-tumble style. The Prince Edward Island native played a career-high 75 games, putting up nine points. More importantly, his 12 fights ranked him fourth in the NHL last season, and his 110 penalty minutes ranked him ninth overall.
Crowd needed a jolt and Zack MacEwen took it upon himself with a fight. He is a free swinger when he drops the gloves and Philly loved it. pic.twitter.com/1yqXyTAzP2
— Jordan Hall (@JHallNBCS) December 19, 2021
Entertaining and willing to stand up for his teammates, MacEwen received the Gene Hart Memorial Award at the end of the season. That’s presented by the Philadelphia Flyers Fan Club to the player who is determined to have demonstrated the most “heart.”
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Solid Depth On Right Wing
Also last week, Travis Yost of TSN analyzed the depth of all 32 NHL teams on both wings. It’s part of a series that will eventually cover all positions.
With Philadelphia’s opening-night lineup far from certain, Yost has grouped the Flyers’ right wingers into the third of his five tiers, deeming them “solid.”
His right-wing depth chart looks like this:
Now 33, Atkinson is expected to be a linchpin next season. He has the pre-existing positive chemistry with new coach John Tortorella and may need to serve as the bridge between the players and the coaching staff if there are any bumps in the road along the way. In terms of production, Atkinson was solid in his first year in Philadelphia. He posted 50 points in 73 games for his best points-per-game in three seasons.
Konecny could be one of Torts’ biggest projects. Now 25, he finished strong last season, with 21 points in 29 games in March and April. That gave him the team scoring lead, with 52 points in 79 games. But Konecny can be inconsistent. The Flyers need him to get back to the level that he teased in 2019-20, when he put up 61 points in 66 games before the season was paused.
Acquired as the centerpiece of the Claude Giroux trade, Owen Tippett holds down the third-line spot. He had seven points in 21 games after being acquired from the Florida Panthers in March.
Left Wing Is Lacking
Yost’s assessment of the Flyers’ left side is not as kind. He ranks Philadephia in the lowest tier, No. 5 of five. Labeled “In Trouble,” this group also includes the Chicago Blackhawks, Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks.
Here’s how Yost sees the Flyers’ left side:
That list will look a lot different if Joel Farabee is healthy. Alas, the 22-year-old could start his new six-year contract extension on the injured list. He underwent disc replacement surgery in his cervical region in late June. His recovery timeline is officially estimated at three to four months.
Every patient is different, but just two other NHL players have undergone this procedure, both in the last year. Both were back in action right around the three-month mark. Jack Eichel had his surgery on Nov. 12, 2021 and played his first game with the Vegas Golden Knights on Feb. 16, 2022. Tyler Johnson had his procedure on Dec. 3, and played his first game on March 3.
If Farabee follows suit, he could be healthy in time to see some preseason action and take a spot in the top six.
Now 33, James van Riemsdyk comes into the final season of his current contract after leading the Flyers with 24 goals last season. He was also the only player to dress for all 82 games. He struggled on the defensive side of the puck, but can still be an effective scorer, especially from close range.
Laughton, of course, is better known as a center — and will be needed in the middle. With 30 points in 67 games last season, the dependable 28-year-old hit a career-high in points per game last season, in the first year of his new five-year deal.
Deslauriers, of course, was the Flyers’ main free-agent signing — a rugged winger who had even more fights (13) and more penalty minutes (113) than MacEwen last season. He’ll be expected to instill some accountability into the Flyers’ opponents. And it’s expected that he’ll become an immediate favorite of John Tortorella.
In The System
Of course, injuries are a near-certainty when it comes to the Flyers these days. Young players who don’t crack the opening-night roster could get their chance to impress as the season rolls along.
Right winger Bobby Brink is already on the shelf after hip surgery. Next up on the depth chart on the right side is Wade Allison, who has often been injured himself. First-round pick Tyson Foerster could also see his first NHL action this season. Utility center Tanner Laczynski can also play wing.
On the left side, Noah Cates made a nice debut out of Minnesota-Duluth last season, posting nine points in 16 NHL games. Depth free agent Adam Brooks has 43 games of NHL experience and can play center or wing, as can buzzsaw Elliot Desnoyers. Both he and Foerster are set to suit up for favored Team Canada at the summer 2022 World Junior Championship, which gets underway on Tuesday.
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