Offseason analysis: Offense

Contracts of note: Carcillo (RFA), Powe (RFA), Asham (UFA)
Top prospects: Maroon, Legein
Needs: 1st line RW, possible 3rd line RW

According to Sam Carchidi, GM Paul Holmgren stated the other day that it is “highly unlikely” the current roster will remain unchanged in the offseason. At this point, the Flyers have two options up front: Do they sell high on superb postseason performers with high salaries (Gagne, Brière, Hartnell) or do they move Jeff Carter, who struggled throughout parts of the regular season as well as the playoffs and had two fractured feet?

Daniel Brière

Brière is a proven postseason performer who, with the exception of a few seasons, has had somewhat average regular seasons. This playoff run was undoubtedly his best with Philadelphia but he also had a number of positive contributing factors that were not in place in the past: he had consistent line mates, came into the postseason healthy, and was moved back to center. If those factors don’t change, Brière could continue this pace. Each season, his health has continued to be a big “if,” though.

Moving him would provide great long-term financial benefit, as he still has five years left on his contract and he likely won’t be worth his cap hit through the duration of his deal, but it would cost the team the clutch, point per game playoff performer that any team would crave.

Scott Hartnell

The common perception was that Hartnell’s ’09 campaign was going to be the average for his time here in Philly. At this point, it appears that it was more of an outlier. In ’10, his point total dropped off by 16 points (all goals) from the prior year. If you were to take the ’09 season out of the equation, his ’10 total would be around his career average.

Hartnell may have had off-ice issues that affected his play in some ways (poor decision making, taking stupid penalties, lethargic and apathetic play) but the truth of the matter is that he is a component: someone that, in an of himself, has little value, but is capable of increasing the worth of the people around him and is dependent on them to work properly. When he did so well in ’09, he played on a line with Carter and Lupul, who combined for 134 points (194, including Hartnell.) Hartnell/Brière/Leino has the potential to play just as well as that line.

Philly felt the sting of losing Mike Knuble, a big body who can wreak havoc in front of the net, and deflect in pucks. Losing Hartnell would continue that trend. However, Hartnell’s biggest hindrance is himself. He’s a poor skater and far from the smartest player on the ice. If the players around him play well, his elevated point totals could offset his bad blind passes and mindless penalties.

If the Flyers decide to part ways with Hartnell, they will need to replace him with a similar player. One possibility might be — dare I say it — Dustin Byfuglien, who has one more year under contract on the cap-strapped Blackhawks. This would cost the Flyers more draft picks and/or prospects than they’d probably care to give up, as Chicago won’t want to take on salary. At the same time, it’s hard to imagine Hartnell’s value could ever be higher than it is at this point.

Both Hartnell and Brière have high salaries and no trade clauses. This makes the trade equation much more complex. Not only would Holmgren need to find suitors that could take on their high salaries and give back a fair return, but the players would also have to accept a trade to that team.

Jeff Carter

The Flyers need to answer an important question they have been evading for quite some time now: Who will center the middle lines? Although Carter has emerged as the best face off man not named Blair Betts, Brière and Giroux are better suited to be centers and thrive the most in that position. Carter’s injury allowed the rest of the lineup to fall into place logically and left the homegrown talent and former 46 goal/84 point player looking like the odd man out.

Carter, who as been wrongly maligned all year, will likely bounce back from his ’10 campaign but I don’t think it will happen in Philadelphia. Although his trade value is not at its peak right now, he is still a young, smooth skating, 60+ point player with the potential to be one of the league’s top 10 goal scorers each year. He’s also signed to a reasonable deal for his production and will be a RFA when that deal ends. So, why move a guy like that? There’s a simple but unfortunate answer: he doesn’t fit well on the team anymore and it’s easier to trade him to improve in weaker areas than to try to adapt the rest of the team to work around him.

There are also other signs that point towards the likelihood that Carter will be moved. If you look at the trend of players traded in the last few seasons (Umberger, Upshall, Lupul), they were all members of the Flyers’ brat pack. Paul Holmgren has quietly been trading away players that have struggled to mature off of the ice, favoring parties and night clubs over a good night’s rest before game day. It is also important to note that Carter is one of the few top tier Flyers without a no trade clause.

Moving Carter could help fill the team’s biggest need, a first line right winger, by trading with the Ducks for Cherry Hill’s own Bobby Ryan. He could be a natural fit on Anaheim and an upgrade over Koivu on the second line. Carter would be reunited with former line mate Joffrey Lupul. The Ducks are allegedly having difficulty re-signing the right winger. If Ryan hits the trade market, the Flyers could end up in a bidding war with Toronto for him. Ironically, Toronto may be offering Kaberle, who was almost traded to Philadelphia for Carter, as part of a deal for Ryan.

Simon Gagne

Once the future of this franchise, Simon Gagne has suffered a number of injuries over the last handful of seasons that have prevented him from consistently building on good  seasons. He was arguably the player most affected by the loss of Mike Knuble and adding a legitimate first line right winger could help to get him back on track.

Gagne’s strong playoffs helped to increase his trade value but it was already particularly low on account of his recurring injuries and subpar regular season (17G, 40 points in 58GP.) The Flyers should keep him because his contract is up after this season. If he plays well, the Flyers could easily move him at the deadline if they needed to do so. Gagne has expressed great interest in playing his entire career here in Philly. Considering that fact and his recurring injuries and inconsistent play, he should be easy to re-sign at a discounted price. There is guarantee how James van Riemsdyk, who had a mediocre rookie campaign given that he was a second overall draft pick, will continue to develop. Also, Patrick Maroon had a disappointing year in the AHL while the organization expected him to have a breakout season. So, the Flyers are likely not in any rush to weaken the team on the left wing.

Pending Free Agents

After finding a strong scoring touch earlier in the season, Darroll Powe suffered an injury in late November that setback his burgeoning offensive prowess. Regaining this ability would be a nice bonus but Powe’s true value lies in his ability to kill penalties. Powe shined brightly in the playoffs, averaging the second most shorthanded time on ice among Flyers forwards and helped the team to the second best penalty killing percentage in the postseason. His presence on this team is exactly what the team needs to keep players like Richards, Carter, and Gagne rested during shorthanded situations. Re-signing him should be a no brainer.

Whether he is pummeling an opponent or scoring the occasional beautiful goal, Arron Asham’s hands are a thing of beauty. Nonetheless, the Flyers will ask themselves if they can find an upgrade to better complement the JvR/Giroux duo without spending too much money. Asham’s fate may depend on whether or not the Flyers attempt to re-sign Patrick Thoresen, who put up 63 points in 48 games for HC Lugano of Swiss-A two years ago and 57 points in 56 games for Ufa in the KHL this past season, or if they believe a current Phantom like Stefan Legein or Andreas Nodl can get the job done. I think the Flyers will attempt to get younger at this spot so that they can develop a scoring line that will hopefully remain in tact for years, but Asham will surely be missed.

There are as many reasons to sign Dan Carcillo as there are not to re-sign him. He’s versatile in so far as he can play on a number of different lines, can fight, can create energy, is willing to do whatever he needs to do or is told to do, and has become a fan favorite. He’s matured greatly over the course of this season and earned the respect of countless critics. He’s also developed poor on-ice antics, like diving, which lost him the same respect he worked so hard to gain. However, he is not really a first choice to play on any of the lines and he might be too expensive to keep as a spare part. I don’t see him in the Flyers plans going forward and I think he may be packaged up in an offseason deal.