PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The Flyers are a better team than they were last year. How much better, and whether or not they’re ready to be tangible contenders for the Stanley Cup, is still anyone’s guess.
The signing of free agent James van Riemsdyk, a former Flyer who is a left winger that scored 36 goals for Toronto last season, makes the Flyers better.
It gives them two capable lines with Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier and Travis Konecny, as van Riemsdyk works the second line, alongside Nolan Patrick and Jake Voracek. Van Riemsdyk’s 36 goals would have made him the Flyers’ leading goal scorer last year, followed by Giroux (34 goals) and Couturier (31).
Van Riemsdyk signed a $35 million, five-year contract with the Flyers on Sunday, which, according to various reports, is the second-richest deal signed by an NHL unrestricted free agent market, behind John Tavares, who left the Islanders for his hometown team Toronto Maple Leafs worth $77 million over seven years.
“Our philosophy four years ago was more to get our cap in order and gather young assets,” Flyers’ general manager Ron Hextall said. “We’ve kind of been through that process now. It’s coming to fruition now in terms of guys we have on our team, and when we can add somewhere to strengthen our team, we want to do it. And we’ll continue to try to do it.”
The Flyers were also outscored 28-15 in their 4-2 first-round playoff loss to Pittsburgh. In two of the four losses, they were outscored 12-0 and they gave up eight goals in the Game 6 series finale. Van Riemsdyk’s signing is helpful. But relying on 33-year-old goaltender Brian Elliott, who had core-muscle surgery in February, and the often-injured Michal Neuvirth, will not get the Flyers any deeper in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Both Elliott and Neuvirth appear to be stopgap goalies, and both of whom are in the last year of their contracts with the Flyers.
With Hextall pushing in to sign van Riemsdyk, maybe it’s time the Flyers take a good, strong look at goalie prospect Carter Hart as the team’s franchise goalie.