When the Flyers replaced maligned former GM Chuck Fletcher with franchise legend Danny Briere, Philadelphia’s hockey faithful collectively sighed in relief. Fletcher had come to represent everything wrong with the organization, constantly searching for the one big acquisition that would send the team over the top while postponing a rebuild. Turns out, Kevin Hayes and Rasmus Ristolainen are not franchise centerpieces. Go figure. Elsewhere, insurance magnate Daniel Hilferty replaced Dave Scott as the team’s CEO and governor; Scott had been the face of Comcast’s ownership group during its bleak post-Ed Snider era. Fletcher, his ill-conceived schemes, and the head of Comcast’s clueless hockey division are all gone. These are positive developments. Hilferty and Briere (whose interim tag is likely a formality) must prove that aside from being new faces, they have a new vision for a stagnant team.
That work starts with replacing Fletcher in earnest. Briere is the GM, but the Flyers are still in line to hire a president of hockey operations. That person will determine the team’s direction while Briere oversees day-to-day operations. If another Fletcher-type (in the desperate sense, not the incompetent one) is hired, panic. Trading picks and leveraging the future for pseudo-stars is the last thing the Flyers need in 2024 and beyond.
Beyond that, the front office needs to rehab the damage Fletcher did to the cap outlook in Philadelphia. The Orange and Black are not only bad but also expensive. Of the seven Flyers making $5.5 million+ next season, only Travis Konecny is highly regarded by the organization. Sean Couturier and Cam Atkinson are still effective, but lost their seasons to injury on the wrong side of 30; Couturier has missed over 100 straight games. Ivan Provorov is a solid top-four defenseman but will be shopped in the offseason thanks to a $6.75 AAV contract he has never quite justified. Ryan Ellis’s career is probably over, Kevin Hayes cannot be traded without the Flyers eating $3 million+ in dead cap, and the Flyers could not give Travis Sanheim away on the money he will make for the next eight seasons. Add another $15 million for the mixed bag of Rasmus Ristolainen, Tony DeAngelo, and Joel Farabee, and the Flyers’ books are a mess. With Carter Hart and Owen Tippett out of contract in 2024, that is an issue.
No matter how Briere and whoever his new boss is will go about it, they need to create breathing room under the cap. Rebuilding a team is hard enough with the ability to take on bad contracts in exchange for picks; without cap flexibility, the task becomes all the more difficult.
After they fix Fletcher’s mistakes, the Flyers must be careful not to repeat them. Lucky for them, attractive top-six options to overpay for no apparent reason in free agency are nonexistent this season. Cheap veterans like Sean Monahan and Alexander Kerfoot could provide coach John Tortorella with an actual NHL forward group; the Flyers are 3rd-last in scoring and essentially play with four checking lines. After that, the Flyers should prioritize young players like Tippett, Noah Cates, Tyson Foerster, and Cam York. Adding to that core of players, which also includes veterans Konecny and Scott Laughton, must be valued over quick fixes. No one trade or player will fix the Flyers. They need to keep their picks, add some more, and develop from within.
The Flyers front office must be proactive to repair the team’s reputation and performance. The previous administration did too much damage for a patient approach to fix anything. That does not mean they should be trying to win any time soon, though. This year’s draft is loaded, Foerster and York have arrived at the NHL level, and the Flyers’ prospect pool is rapidly improving even as Cutter Gauthier returns to Boston College for a second season. Briere must let the best parts of this roster gel under Tortorella while incrementally exorcizing the ghost of failures past. It will take longer than any fan wants to hear, but perpetuating the Clarke-Holmgren-Hextall-Fletcher succession of playoff pretenders would be an infinitely worse option.
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