Flyers ‘open for business’ for trades, plus Michkov update and more from Daniel Briere

Philadelphia Flyers general manager Daniel Briere and coach John Tortorella held their final end-of-season media availabilities on Friday at the team’s training facility.

Let’s get right to the takeaways.

Has the timeline moved up?

The Flyers were better than expected this season. Does that move up their timeline to compete for a playoff spot?

“It’s a good question. It might be a little too early to really have a yes or a no answer. A lot of players have opened our eyes. Realized that they were maybe more ready than we thought,” Briere said, listing Tyson Foerster, Bobby Brink, Cam York, Travis Sanheim, Egor Zamula and Samuel Ersson.

“That’s the exciting part. I still am not quite there, as far as saying that 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 have brought some optimism as far as believing that we’re going in the right direction.”

“I know the expectation next year will be that — oh, we’ve got to get into the playoffs. I don’t even know that we’re there yet. It was a great year, but there’s still a long ways to go. We have to be very careful with that going into next year.”

Tortorella, too, indicated that the roster is still a work in progress.

“I think we still need to add talent to our team. There’s no question on that,” said the coach.

That the Flyers were able to adapt to Tortorella’s preferred style of play was encouraging for the coach, particularly their success in transition and off the rush, but when the games got tighter late in the season, they had trouble generating goals when controlling the puck in the offensive zone.

“When you get to the last quarter or so, things change. That neutral zone shuts down. That’s where I think, and it falls on my shoulders, you can’t play the same style all the time,” Tortorella said. “We weren’t, and won’t, and didn’t get pushed around. But we need to develop more offense within the zone, and the grind of it. That falls on me, that we needed to get more there at the end of the year, because the game changes.”

So, how do they add high-end talent?

The most difficult part of Briere’s job over the next couple of years will be, how does he plan to add high-end pieces when the Flyers clearly aren’t going to have an abundance of top-five draft picks?

One way, of course, is free agency, but Briere made clear that he doesn’t believe the team is currently in a position to be throwing huge dollars at star players this summer. He’s also not going to trade young players or assets for over-30 veterans.

But, might there be a hockey trade or two in the future? Like, something along the lines of the Cutter Gauthier-for-Jamie Drysdale deal in January?


“We’re going to have discussions with different teams. The bulk of it still needs to be done through our young guys, mostly through the draft,” Briere said. “I still believe with the (first-round pick this year) that we can get a very talented player. Outside of that, it’s tough. When teams have talented players they don’t want to trade them away.”

“If there’s a trade that makes sense, that can bring more talent, there’s a way that makes sense, maybe it’s a hockey trade, we’re definitely open for business and we’re going to keep exploring that.”

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Will the Flyers be able to add, as they did with Jamie Drysdale this season? (Charles LeClaire / USA Today)

Power-play problems

Nothing adversely affected the Flyers more than their horrid power play, the worst in the NHL in three seasons at just 12.2 percent.

Assistant coach Rocky Thompson has overseen the power play for two seasons now, including last season, when it was also last in the league at 15.6 percent. But, no coaching changes appear to be forthcoming.

Briere indicated that the answers will have to come from within, and much like the Flyers focused on defense and the penalty kill for this season — both of which were greatly improved — getting the power play going will be a focus for next season.

“We’re not going to go and double that and get to 25 percent. We have to be realistic here. It’s going to be small steps,” Briere said. “It might take a couple years to get to where we want to be. But at the moment, it’s going to start from the inside, and if we have a chance to acquire some talent to come and help us, we’re certainly going to be open to that.”

Tortorella voiced that there’s going to have to be some group-think involved, too, mentioning that Briere was one of the better power-play forwards of his day, while the team also employs guys former NHL scorers Patrick Sharp and Dany Heatley. They could all weigh in at some point.

The bottom line, though, is “it cannot be as bad as it was this year, with the people we had,” Tortorella said. “We’re going to have conversations. I think Rocky has tremendous ideas. I think he thinks out of the box. But Danny and I talk — let’s just bring in some other people. … We’ve got some guys that I think we need to look (to) for different ideas, and discuss it, because it’s that important — and it’s been that bad.”

Ristolainen, Drysdale injuries

The Flyers announced on Thursday that Rasmus Ristolainen had surgery on a ruptured triceps tendon that will require three months of rehab, but he’s expected to be ready for training camp. That surgery was delayed because they were hopeful Ristolainen might be able to return at some point before the season ended.

“If you have a chance to rehab for the longevity of players, it’s just safer to try to rehab,” Briere said.

Drysdale “might need surgery on (his) lower-body, core area,” Briere said. “Jamie was pretty banged up. It was impressive, the character that he showed, coming back from the offseason surgery that he had, being traded, trying to adapt to a new team, couldn’t skate at 100 percent. That’s kind of the key to his game. So I’m excited to see Jamie Drysdale fully healthy next season. I think we’re going to see a different player.”

In 24 games with the Flyers, Drysdale managed just two goals and three assists for five points. As a player who has to be mobile to reach his full potential, it’s safe to say that how he looks in training camp in September will be one of the early storylines.

Atkinson, Johansen decisions forthcoming

The future is hazy for two veteran players with significant salary-cap hits. Cam Atkinson has one season left on his deal at $5.875 million, while Ryan Johansen, whom the Flyers had to take on to extract a 2025 first-round pick out of Colorado in the Sean Walker deal and who did not play after that because of a hip injury, has one year left at $4 million.

Regarding Atkinson, Briere said: “We need more talks internally. … Cam was really good early in the season. I look at him and Sean (Couturier), it’s tough to evaluate them after missing a full year, almost two years for Sean. We have to be careful with that.”

“In Ryan Johansen’s case, all I can tell you is I don’t expect him to be back. … We’re dealing on the medical side with him. I think the No. 1 thing for him is to get him back to being able to play at this time. He doesn’t think he can play hockey.”

If Johansen can’t play, that would open the door for the Flyers to stash him on long-term injured reserve, but would prevent them from buying him out.

An Atkinson buyout would save the Flyers approximately $3.16 million on the cap next season, according to CapFriendly. Atkinson’s dead-money cap hit would be approximately $2.36 million in 2024-25, and $1.76 million in 2025-26.

Atkinson was scoreless in his final 23 games this season. He was a frequent healthy scratch in the second half.

“First half of the season, I had a lot of juice in the tank and was playing good and scoring goals and putting up points,” Atkinson said on Wednesday. “The second half kind of got away from me a little bit as far as the wear and tear and grind. I’m not going to sugarcoat it that way. But, I still think I have a lot of juice left in the tank.”

Goalie tandem set

All indications are that it will be the tandem of Samuel Ersson and Ivan Fedotov when next season begins. Fedotov is a pending free agent, but it’s expected he’ll sign a multi-year deal at some point before July 1.

Tortorella has consistently praised Ersson, who struggled with a heavy workload in March and April but then responded in the Flyers’ final three games of the regular season.

“The way he answered at the end, I’m glad he can hang his hat on that,” Tortorella said of the 24-year-old.

Briere said: “We put Sam Ersson in a really tough position. I was really impressed how he handled it. I know down the stretch it got a little difficult and maybe he got overplayed, but overall, it was an impressive season for him, a young goaltender.”

As for the future of Carter Hart, who was charged with sexual assault in January, Briere said they “haven’t received any direction” from the league about what comes next. Hart is a pending restricted free agent.

Michkov update

Briere was asked if the timeline on Matvei Michkov is still the same as when the Flyers selected Russian winger No. 7 overall in the 2023 draft. Michkov has two years remaining on his KHL contract.

“If there’s an opportunity, we would jump on it to get him here quicker, but as far as I know at the moment, it’s still the same timeline,” Briere said. “He has two years left on his deal. 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.

“Believe me, we keep watching him. We have heavy interest in what he does. He’s had a tremendous year. It was fun to see some of the highlights. But, at this time, I don’t hold too much hope that we’ll be able to get hm out sooner.”

In 47 games with Sochi in the KHL this season, Michkov posted 19 goals (a team-high) and 22 assists for 41 points.

Reaction to Coyotes relocation

It was the first round of the 1996 draft when the then-Phoenix Coyotes selected Briere with the 24th pick of the first round. Briere spent the first six seasons of his career in the desert, posting 70 goals and 76 assists for 146 points in 258 games.

He reacted to that franchise relocating to Utah.

“It’s sad. It’s sad. That’s the team I was drafted by,” Briere said. “I have some special memories there. I started there. I wanted them to stay, I think the fans and the city deserve better. It’s been tough to watch, the way the organization was never able to take a step forward and take it to a different level. I’m sad to see that, especially for the fans in Arizona.”

(Top photo of Samuel Ersson: Len Redkoles / NHLI via Getty Images)

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