The Philadelphia Flyers took an unexpected turn in the first season of their announced rebuild under new front office leadership. They exceeded expectations on the ice for long stretches but fell just short of a surprise playoff appearance.

They also found themselves in the headlines locally and around the NHL throughout the 2023-24 season.

Storylines of the Flyers Rebuild

Two key subtractions will leave a lasting impact on the Flyers and their long-term efforts during the rebuild.

Cutter Gauthier drew the attention of the league and the venom of the Philadelphia fan base after a stunning blockbuster trade in January. Carter Hart took a leave of absence later in the month, and he likely has no future with the organization.

The John Tortorella show became the focus of conversations late in the season. The fiery head coach couldn’t seem to stay out of the spotlight. His demand for accountability and a new standard for performance on and off the ice has helped move the Flyers in a better big-picture direction.

Questions Facing the Flyers

Danny Briere has repeatedly insisted the players will determine the timeline of the rebuild. Can internal development outweigh the lack of top-end talent?

Is Tortorella the right coach to develop young talent and handle a new generation of athletes?

Arguably the most important factor in the Flyers rebuild rests on a complicated international issue. Will Matvei Michkov come from Russia to play in North America and become a major part of Philadelphia’s future?

A strong season in the standings still leaves plenty of questions as the Flyers enter the 2024 offseason.

“There’s a lot of good strides that were made from a lot of different players this season… I’m proud of how our guys battled, the way they were torn apart before the season, being told that they didn’t have a chance to compete… (I’m) very proud that they didn’t let that affect them. They went out. They got together. They were a team. They battled together, and that’s what I’m really proud of our guys for.” -Danny Briere


  • Development of Young Players

    The disaster of the previous three seasons fueled virtually all analysts to pick the Flyers to finish toward the bottom of the NHL in 2023-24. The team exceeded expectations drastically without making significant personnel changes after the preceding dismal seasons.

    The internal development of young players became the major root of their success. Owen Tippett proved himself as a powerful offensive threat with a career high 28 goals. Cam York progressed throughout the season to handle the role of a top-pair defenseman during a playoff chase.

    Tyson Foerster entered the season with minimal NHL experience and a reputation as a talented but raw shooter. He impressed the coaching staff with a well-rounded game to begin the season, and his second-half hot streak helped him become one of only four NHL rookies to score 20 goals.

    It wasn’t just the youngest group either. Travis Konecny and Travis Sanheim made improvements in their late 20s. Both players look like they’ll remain with the Flyers as long-term building blocks after strong seasons.

    The outlook on in-house young players improved drastically throughout the season. The improvement reflects well on Philadelphia’s emphasis on putting a respectable product on the ice instead of “tanking” to begin the rebuild.

    “A lot of players have opened our eyes, and (we) realized that they were maybe more ready than we thought. There’s obviously guys that jump out at you when I say that. Tyson Foerster – the way he’s taken his game – we didn’t think he’d have as big of an impact. I don’t think we expected Bobby Brink to be a regular for most of the season… Cam York – the way he’s taken his game to an extra level. Travis Sanheim – how he’s stepped up big time after being challenged last summer.” -Danny Briere

    Verdict: BETTER

    Owen Tippett, Philadelphia Flyers

  • Prospect Pool

    The Flyers picked fifth and seventh in the first rounds of consecutive drafts. It logically improved the scouting evaluations of their prospect pool. The Athletic ranked them sixth in the NHL midseason while The Daily Faceoff ranked them eighth.

    Cutter Gauthier almost unanimously ranked as their second best prospect behind Michkov, and most estimations still rank him in the NHL’s overall top 10. When a high-caliber prospect forces an organization’s hand in a trade, prospect rankings will naturally slip.

    The acquisition of Jamie Drysdale, an NHL-ready player, helps the Flyers in an overall sense that isn’t reflected in any prospect rankings.

    Oliver Bonk, the 22nd-overall pick in 2023, and Denver Barkey, Philadelphia’s third-round pick in 2023, made significant strides in the Ontario Hockey League this season.

    Goaltenders Alexei Kolosov and Egor Zavragin also shot up the scouting boards. Kolosov will likely start with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms in 2024-25. The Flyers drafted Zavragin in 2023. The 18-year old Russian likely won’t play in the NHL in the upcoming seasons.

    “There’s really interesting prospects that are developing, but I don’t see anyone being ready to push right away next year… I think it’s probably done a little more internally with the Flyers roster. We’re going to need some guys to keep taking a step forward for us to keep advancing.” -Danny Briere

    A considerable amount of prospects provide hope for the future. However, there are greater reasons for optimism concerning how the prospect pool has changed since last offseason.

    The Flyers picked twice in the first round in 2023, and they currently own two projected first-round draft picks in both 2024 and 2025. Selling at four consecutive trade deadlines has also increased their draft capital in later rounds.

    The addition of Drysdale in the Gauthier trade and the stockpile of draft picks helps the overall outlook on the future in ways that won’t factor into any prospect rankings.

    However, Michkov is the organization’s only prospect projected to play at the top of an NHL lineup. The upcoming draft picks most likely won’t come in the top 10.

    The Flyers could land future top-liners outside the top 10 or make a blockbuster trade. It would take unexpected luck for the current prospect pool to produce the biggest need of the rebuild, however.

    Verdict: WORSE

    Cutter Gauthier, Anaheim Ducks

  • NHL Salary Cap

    The NHL salary cap will likely increase from $83.5 million to $87.5 million next season.  However, the front office has their hands tied with certain unfavorable long-term contracts.

    Chuck Fletcher mishandled the salary cap during his tenure in Philadelphia from 2018-2023. Keith Jones immediately prioritized improving the cap situation last summer.

    The Flyers shed Kevin Hayes and retained $3.57 million of his annual cap hit through 2026-27. They’ll face additionally tricky situations with Ryan Johansen and Cam Atkinson this offseason. Cal Petersen will likely play out the final year of his deal in the AHL.

    Sean Couturier and Travis Sanheim hold value on the current roster, but it’s fair to wonder if they can justify their salaries with equal value on the ice. Rasmus Ristolainen will come up in trade rumors throughout the summer, but his contract certainly impacts his market.

    The Flyers will place Ryan Ellis on long-term injured reserve for the next three seasons. It won’t affect their in-season plans, but the use of LTIR impacts their ability to accrue cap space. 

    Jones and the new front office can see their way through the salary cap nightmare they inherited. Some of the albatross contracts are nearing the end, and others don’t look as bad as they did one year ago.

    However, the Flyers still have significant work to do to earn the flexibility to spend in free agency down the line when they regain their footing as Stanley Cup contenders.

    Johansen, Couturier, and Atkinson haven’t made the situation look much easier.

    Verdict: WORSE

    Keith Jones, Philadelphia Flyers

  • John Tortorella

    The Flyers pride themselves on a hard-nosed attitude that dates back to the origins of the franchise under Ed Snider. John Tortorella embodies that attitude, which is a significant reason why the front office trusts his role in restoring a winning culture in Philadelphia.

    Say what you want about Tortorella, but he deserves credit for helping a team that lacks talent exceed expectations and land in the thick of the playoff race until the final game of the season.

    He would’ve been a favorite to win his third Jack Adams Award as the NHL’s coach of the year if the Flyers snuck into the playoffs.

    The veteran head coach has adapted to elements of the modern game despite his superficially old school approach. He’s played a major hand in the internal development of young players.

    Tortorella has challenged Tippett to aggressively attack opponents as a power forward. His decision to send York to the AHL to begin the 2022-23 season appears to have helped the young blueliner’s long-term attitude and approach. His patience with Foerster through a scoring drought allowed the 22-year-old to eventually break out on the stat sheet. 

    Tortorella has two years left on his contract. The 65-year-old has pushed aside rumors about his future in a front office role. Make no mistake about it. Hilferty, Jones, and Briere fully trust the direction that John Tortorella has taken the team on and off the ice.

    The former Stanley Cup winner is a valuable element to the organizational rebuild and a major factor in moving the Flyers back in the right direction the past two seasons.

    Verdict: BETTER

  • Matvei Michkov

    The Flyers took a risk drafting a player with the seventh-overall pick who most likely won’t play in the NHL until at least 2026-27. They opted for long-term upside, and they’re accepting the short-term consequences.

    Matvei Michkov didn’t start the season on the most positive note. SKA St. Petersburg loaned him to HK Sochi, which was essentially a demotion. The talented Russian winger scored 19 goals and added 22 assists in 47 games throughout the remainder of the KHL season.

    Flyers fans will continue to see highlight reels of “The Mad Russian” in the KHL, widely considered the second best hockey league in the world.

    Danny Briere didn’t provide any new information about Michkov during his end-of-season press conference. However, the wily young GM pulled a major trick out of his sleeve by bringing Ivan Fedotov to North America late in the 2023-24 season. 

    “On his end, he would have to find a way out of his deal before we can do anything, so that’s kind of out of our control. As far as I know, we have to wait two more years.” -Danny Briere

    The status of Matvei Michkov and the judgment of the controversial draft decision didn’t progress to any significant lengths in 20233-24. He still has the potential to become an NHL superstar, but Flyers fans still have to wait and see.

    Verdict: NEUTRAL

  • Progress of Flyers Rebuild

    The Flyers stayed in the playoff race until the end of the 2023-24 season. An appearance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs was never their ultimate goal, however. 

    Danny Briere and the new front office looked to stock the pipeline with potential gamebreaking talent and rebuild the organizational culture to set the Flyers up for future Stanley Cup contention.

    Entering the season, Cutter Gauthier and Carter Hart looked like two of the most integral pieces of the rebuild. The organization shouldn’t shoulder much blame for the changing circumstances, but they must deal with the reality of a major setback in their quest to acquire impact talent.

    John Tortorella works to put substance behind the subjective concept of culture. He’s substantially improved elements of the organization already. The development of young talent and the surprisingly solid on-ice product are tangible results of intangible improvements.

    However, the Flyers must continue to pursue big-picture goals like acquiring more potential NHL stars to build on the short-term progress. They’ve maneuvered themselves into a better position to do that, but the surprisingly good position in the standings doesn’t do much to change the fact that they still have a long way to go.  

    “I still am not quite there as far as saying we’re a contender. I don’t believe we’re at the point where it’s time to let some young assets go to try to get better quicker. We’re not there yet, but there’s certainly a lot of players that brought some optimism  as far as believing that we’re going in the right direction.” -Danny Briere

    Verdict: BETTER

    Travis Konecny, Philadelphia Flyers

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