The NHL offseason has been compelling, but the team the league should really start watching for is the Philadelphia Flyers. With all the signings and acquisitions this offseason, the Flyers have become one of the more intriguing teams in the league. The team has Stanley Cup potential, and fans of the orange and black should be ecstatic about this coming season.
The trade transactions and free-agent signings have shipped some of the best players across the country. Three specific acquisitions have really caught my eye: Martin Jones, Ryan Ellis and Cam Atkinson. Martin Jones has been between the pipes for the San Jose Sharks for the past six seasons. In that time, he has accumulated 18 total shutouts, 8,140 saves off 8,976 shots faced with a total 2.56 GA and a .907 SV%. Not fantastic stats on the grand scheme of things, but it provides much needed depth at the goalie position with a young promising Carter Hart — who had a rather egregious skid last year — and veteran Brian Elliott — who likes to let in a couple soft ones every now and then at the most inopportune times. Martin Jones just might be the essential veteran leadership the Flyers need to assist Hart in his young career and to be a younger viable option in place of Elliott when they need him.
The Flyers also traded winger Jakub Voráček back to the Columbus Blue Jackets — the team that drafted him — for Cam Atkinson. The first big thing this trade did for the Flyers was that it freed up a lot of much needed cap space. Cam Atkinson is a star forward with great stick-handling and puck skills. He provides a spark and a lot of offensive skill to the lineup and is essentially the equivalent of the Flyers hopping in the rocket-powered Delorean to pick up young Voráček again. From the span of 2011, when Voráček joined the Flyers, to start of 2015, Voráček has played in 290 total games, 85 goals scored, 153 assists, 238 total points and a 16 +/-. Atkinson’s stat line in the early part of his career looked nothing like this. After that span, he made big jumps of improvement and became an offensive weapon. Atkinson has a shorter career than Voráček so far, and with a cheaper contract, he will hopefully be able to provide some much-needed offensive firepower to the first line while also giving the organization more cap space to acquire more weapons.
The last big acquisition is defenseman Ryan Ellis from the Nashville Predators. He was acquired from Nashville in a three-way trade with Vegas and Philly for Nolan Patrick and Philippe Myers. Nolan Patrick was a promising young forward who looked for creative ways to score, and Myers provided a very smart, physical defensive approach with potential of being an elite defenseman. While Myers and Patrick are a big loss, Ellis is a great pickup. Ellis is a very sound all-around defender who can cover passing lanes and be physical when he needs to be. He is an above-average offensive weapon as well in the passing game; he has 122 total assists over the past five seasons. He will likely be a first-line defenseman and provide a lot of veteran leadership to the Flyers young defensemen group.
The Flyers have undergone a lot of business transactions this offseason. The organization is clearly going for the cup this year, and they don’t plan on taking their time doing so. Watch. For. This. Team.