In a surprising day, the Flyers saw one defenseman end his career and decided to keep one around a little longer.
Matt Niskanen informed the Flyers officially of his decision to retire, after 949 career games with 4 teams. He spent one season with the Flyers after spending time with Washington, Pittsburg, and Dallas. This season he played 68 games for the Flyers scoring 8 goals and adding 25 assists for 33 points.
Niskanen was more important to the Flyers than just adding goals and assists though. In playing on the first pair with Ivan Provorov he gave the Flyers #1 defender a reliable partner which allowed Provorov to turn his play around from where it was last season. He was also a fixture on the 2nd powerplay unit and the penalty kill.
Niskanen’s agent, Neil Sheehy, told The Hockey News that “He told me he didn’t want to go through it again,” Sheehy said. “He mentioned COVID to me. I don’t think he wanted to get ready for another season by Nov. 15 and then have to go into isolation and be away from his two kids and his wife. I think he always finish his contract and then stop, but I think because of COVID and his experience of the bubble, he decided now is the time. He basically said, ‘With COVID, I just don’t want to do it. I don’t want to prepare anymore.’ ”
He gave the Flyers a heads up after the playoffs that he was considering the move and after having made over $43 million dollars in his career it doesn’t seem that shocking that he’s making the move to return to life in the wilds of upstate Minnesota.
For Justin Braun, it meant that his services as on defense were needed once again. He signed a two-year, $3.6 million dollar contract which will pay him $1.8 million annually. He was useful on the bottom pairing, chipping in 3 goals and 16 assists for 19 points while playing solid defense night in and out, and playing the penalty kill. It also helps that he’s right-handed, and with Niskanen retiring, being a rightie became instantly in demand.
The Flyers also brought back Brian Elliot on a 1 year, $1.5 million dollar deal. With this and the Robert Hagg deal, GM Chuck Fletcher finds himself in a rather unique position. He now finds himself with an extra $5.75 million in cap space. With a defenseman gone unexpectedly, it might cause the trade rumors surrounding players like Shayne Gostisbehere, Jakub Voracek, and James van Riemsdyk to increase. With the wiggle room, the Flyers now have they could clear some serious space in moving one of these players and suddenly could become contenders for bigger free agents. Of course, Phil Myers still needs to be resigned, the Nolan Patrick question answered (still no contract or any idea on his health status) and it won’t be a shock if the Flyers find room for Tyler Pitlick.
On the eve of the NHL draft, the Flyers had two moves drop on defense, and it spells more to come.