“I Don’t Expect Us to be a Major Player in Free Agency” – Notes from Chuck Fletcher’s Season-Ending Press Conference

Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher spoke today via web meeting, wrapping up a successful season that ended on a bitter note. Going out 4-0 to the Islanders in a critical game seven is absolutely disgusting, so obviously we all needed some extra time to swallow that and then come up for air, to take a reasonable look at where the Flyers currently stand.

The overwhelming theme of the presser was about staying the course, and Fletcher reiterated that the club wasn’t going to do a 180 and divert from the philosophy that got them to this point. He likes his young players and admitted that the team won’t be super aggressive in the free agent and trade markets, but who knows? I’m pretty sure Bobby Clarke said the same thing to reporters years ago, then went and made a trade one hour later.

Notes from Fletcher’s media session:

  • He described the bubble as a different season, and noted that the round robins were different than the play-in series: “I don’t think the intensity of those games was the same as the play-in games.” 
  • Nobody is scheduled for surgery in the offseason. “A lot of the exit physicals are being done through telemedicine.” He says many players did not come back to Philadelphia after the playoffs, but went home instead.
  • Michael Raffl has the high ankle sprain and was “able to get back and play pretty well, then he tweaked it again.”
  • Nic Aube-Kubel took that shot off the inside of his knee, and it was a bad bruise, bad swelling, but he was able to come back to mostly full strength. “We were fortunate in that regard.”
  • He thinks the team has come a long way in 17 months and the coaching staff deserves a lot of credit. “We showed a lot of progress and had a lot of young players get better. Our goaltending situation stabilized.”
  • RE: Nolan Patrick – “He’s feeling better, working out, golfing, living mostly a normal life, has made a lot of progress since March.” They need to get him back into a contact situation before they can make a determination from there, but Fletcher is counting on him playing at some point in 2021. He noted that they don’t know when the season will start, which is to Patrick’s benefit.
  • On the power play: “Over the regular season it was better, but I think it was very inconsistent. In the 13 playoff games we struggled to score, there’s no question. The games prior to the pause, I think we were #1 in the league.” It will be one of the questions they need to look at in the offseason.
  • When it comes to taking the next step, he says it doesn’t “make sense to do a 180 and change philosophy,” noting that they’ve valued youth and bringing up their draft picks. They need to manage the cap over 2-3 years and not a 12-month window – “I don’t expect us to be a major player in free agency over the years.
  • The priority is re-signing their own players. They’ll sit down next week as a staff, with the coaches, since this week was about “decompression.” Need to “take the emotion out of it” when discussing the future.
  • They’ve been working on the draft for months and don’t need to put much more work into that.
  • Carter Hart is “a very good young goaltender” and “performed well in the playoffs.” He thinks he’ll be better on the road next year.
  • On positional needs, it became clear to him in the playoffs that “we didn’t get enough production out of our bottom six.” He notes that the bottom six scored two goals in 13 playoff games, and he felt like that part of the team was one of their strengths pre-bubble.
  • He thinks the team needs defensive depth.
  • He notes that the team was on pace to give up 64 goals and thinks they made dramatic improvements across the board.
  • I don’t think we have to do anything in the trade or free agency market,” though Fletcher didn’t rule out those kinds of moves outright.
  • If the salary cap remains flat for three years, he wonders how much liquidity will be left in the system. “We’re one of a group of a teams that has enough room to do our business, but not a ton of room.”
  • Understandably, he didn’t want to talk about individual contracts or grades or team futures.
  • RE: Brian Elliott – a guy who has the respect of his teammates and the organization, “we’ve had a couple of general conversations” with him and his agent
  • He thinks the top line “didn’t produce” in the playoffs, but he thinks they passed the eye test. Talked about zone time and expected goals and other advanced analytics.
  • He felt that the “defensive detail” slipped in the playoffs, which was his biggest disappointment. “When you struggle to score you tend to cheat and force plays. We turned the puck over a lot more in the playoffs than we did prior to the pause.”
  • They’ll be “looking for opportunities in the trade market, but we’re in a pretty good position.” He thinks they can re-sign their players without making dramatic changes, and without having to clear salary.

 

Anthony will have more on this at some point. I don’t know what his story is going to include, so it will be a surprise for you and me both.

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