NHL.com is providing in-depth analysis for each of its 31 teams throughout August. Today, three important questions facing the Philadelphia Flyers.
[Flyers 31 IN 31: Season preview | Top prospects | Fantasy breakdown | Behind the Numbers]
1. Who is the third-line center?
Valtteri Filppula was not retained in free agency, leaving a spot the Flyers plan to fill internally. General manager Ron Hextall suggested Jordan Weal could be an option.
Weal, 26, primarily has played on the wing in his three seasons with the Flyers. Last season, he struggled to find a consistent spot in the lineup and had 21 points (eight goals, 13 assists) in 69 games after he had 12 (eight goals, four assists) in 23 games in 2016-17.
"When he gets on a roll, he's a good player," Hextall said. "I suspect Jordan's going to come in really ready to play and focused and ready to show us what he showed us two years ago."
Video: 31 in 31: Philadelphia Flyers 2018-19 season preview
2. What is Wayne Simmonds' future?
Simmonds has developed into an elite power forward, and captain Claude Giroux called him "the heart and soul of our team." But Simmonds, who is coming off his lowest goal output (24) in his six full seasons with the Flyers, will turn 30 on Aug. 26 and can be an unrestricted free agent July 1, 2019.
Last season, Simmonds played through a torn pelvis sustained before training camp, as well as a pulled groin muscle, a broken ankle and torn ligaments in his thumb.
Simmonds said he wants to finish his career in Philadelphia, and talks between his agent and the Flyers are ongoing. It's likely Simmonds wants a sizable raise from the $3.97 million average annual value on the six-year contract extension he signed Aug. 16, 2012.
"We like [Simmonds]," Hextall said. " Whether we can (sign him) or not, I don't have the answer to that."
Video: Taking a look at the future for the Flyers
3. Who are the goalies?
Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth are under contract this season, but each had offseason hip surgery. Elliott's surgery was his second after he had core muscle surgery Feb. 13 that kept him out nearly two months.
It's likely the Flyers start the season with Elliott and Neuvirth in goal, but top prospect Carter Hart, 20, will start his professional career this season.
Hart was named goaltender of the year in the Western Hockey League for the third straight season and was selected as the best goaltender in the Canadian Hockey League for the second time in three seasons in 2017-18.
"I would expect [Hart] to come to camp with nothing less than an absolute drive and a mentality to make our hockey club," coach Dave Hakstol said. "Let's see how training camp goes and where he is as a young goaltender. … We're not ready to skip any steps developmentally along the way. He's done everything right, he's answered every question along the way, he's met every challenge. I want to see him continue doing that. What's right for the young man and his long-term future? Those questions have to be answered on the ice."
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