What the Flyers ‘counted' Shows the Belief Behind Their Offseason

Chuck Fletcher made July 1 less stressful for himself.

As a result, he also made it less entertaining for those who love to see their team jump into the free-agent frenzy and make splashes with the rest of the 30 NHL clubs.

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The Flyers made eight depth signings Monday. Nothing screamed or popped.

It's OK to be quiet on July 1.

Fletcher and the Flyers did their work ahead of the NHL free agency period. They're confident in that work. They acquired Kevin Hayes, Matt Niskanen, Justin Braun and Tyler Pitlick, while parting ways with Radko Gudas, Andrew MacDonald, Ryan Hartman and David Schlemko.

What the Flyers are just as confident in is their youth. Did the Flyers have enough around their young foundation pieces in 2018-19? 

It's a fair question.

Fletcher's offseason was about supplementing the youth and giving it the best chance to take the next step.

However …

"I don't think it's a very smart thing to box these kids out and take on additional cap responsibilities when we're going to have a lot of really good pieces that are just going to mature and grow through the system," the Flyers' general manager said via a conference call Monday.

Remember when everyone loved the Flyers' prospects, too? Some are here and the Flyers need them to grow. Some are coming and the Flyers will need those ones, too.

And that's what 2019-20 will be about.

Hayes, Niskanen and Braun should make the Flyers better, but the pressure is truly on the coaching staff to round everything into shape and the youngsters to prove their mettle.

"We have an exciting future ahead of us," Fletcher said. "We have a lot of very good young players. I'm not just talking about the prospects that participated this past week [in development camp]. You look at our team, we counted today, there are eight players on that NHL roster that haven't come close to hitting their peak and to having their career seasons. That's the exciting thing. That's our growth."

The Flyers' belief in their youth will be challenged against a Metropolitan Division that has gotten deeper.

The Rangers' rebuild has gone into hyperdrive with the acquisitions of Artemi Panarin and Jacob Trouba, and drafting Kaapo Kakko No. 2 overall.

The Devils have added first overall pick Jack Hughes, P.K. Subban and Wayne Simmonds, to join Taylor Hall, Kyle Palmieri, Nico Hischier and company.

The Penguins are still the Penguins and have gotten younger with the trade for Alex Galchenyuk.

The Capitals and Islanders were 1-2 in the Metro last season and should be formidable again, while the Hurricanes are fresh off a run to the Eastern Conference Final.

We identified the players we wanted to get and we went out and got them early. We felt our priorities were adding a No. 2 center, adding a couple quality defensemen and finding a goaltender to play with Carter Hart. 

When we went through the list of all those available players, we quickly realized there were very few centers and defensemen in the free-agent marketplace. Rather than getting into a bidding war over very scarce … in a market where there just weren't a lot of players, we felt if we could get ahead of it and get the guys that we wanted, that would be a smart thing to do.

- Fletcher

The Flyers will need Ivan Provorov to look like the 2017-18 Ivan Provorov. They'll need Shayne Gostisbehere to find consistency. They'll need Nolan Patrick to produce more like a No. 2 overall pick. They'll need Travis Konecny and Oskar Lindblom to take bigger strides, along with Travis Sanheim and Philippe Myers. They may need to trust another prospect (Joel Farabee?) soon. Oh, and they'll need that elusive goalie stability from Hart, who will be 21 years old and entering his first full NHL season.

"We have some high-end talent," Fletcher said. "We not only have to slot them properly but surround them properly, to create the best environment possible - not only to develop them but to win games. I think we accomplished a lot of what we set out to accomplish."

The Flyers never had a problem building from within. Fletcher isn't straying from that philosophy. The Flyers have done more than they have in past summers, even with a quiet July 1. No matter what, it's still about the youth.

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