The March 1 acquisition of second-line center Valtteri Filppula gave the Flyers' lines much more balance, greatly improved their five-on-five play, and jump-started Sean Couturier during the team's final 20 games.
For those reasons, it wouldn't be surprising if general manager Ron Hextall bypassed the free-agent market, which isn't exactly overflowing with the Flyers' biggest offseason need: proven scorers.
Winger T.J. Oshie, who played for Flyers coach Dave Hakstol at North Dakota, will be the best free agent in an underwhelming class. But it's doubtful the Flyers will be able to afford Oshie, who scored a career-high 33 goals (cha-ching) for Washington this season.
After Filppula arrived, the Flyers went 10-7-3 and outscored opponents, 43-29, in even-strength situations. They were outscored by a 127-88 margin before Filppula was acquired with fourth- and seventh-round draft picks in the deal that sent Mark Streit to Tampa Bay. Streit was then dealt to Pittsburgh.
For the most part, Filppula centered a line that had Wayne Simmonds and Jordan Weal as his wingers. Weal was impressive after being recalled from the AHL's Phantoms, collecting eight goals and 12 points in 23 games.
The additions of Weal and Filppula gave the Flyers some much-needed offensive depth.
"It allowed us to spread the lines out and bring more to our attack," said Simmonds, who led the Flyers with 31 goals. "Both of those guys have been able to fill multiple roles, and I've had the pleasure of playing with them for the last couple weeks. They added a lot of skill while playing well defensively, hard on the puck. They allowed us to do different things and tinker with the lineup."
The Flyers also formed a solid third line for the last 14 games: Couturier centering Dale Weise and Brayden Schenn. Weise, signed as a free agent in the offseason, struggled mightily for most of the season, but he scored six of his eight goals in the final 14 games.
"That's the player I know I can be," Weise said.
Simmonds said it's "different coming to a new team, trying to learn a new system, trying to learn new guys and stuff like that. I thought at the end [Weise] did a heck of a job. He slotted in beside [Schenn] and [Couturier] and that line was probably our best line for the time it was together. Those guys were great, and I thought [Weise] brought a straightforward mentality. He's got some sandpaper, he was up and down and he's got a good shot, he can make plays, but he can simplify if he needs to."
Couturier had the NHL's best plus/minus figure (plus-19) in his last 21 games, and he had four goals and 12 assists in that span.
Was the Flyers' late-season offensive improvement because of the additions of Filppula and Weal and how it gave more balance to the top three lines? Or was it because many of those games were meaningless and the pressure was off?
Those are questions Hextall must ponder as he retools the Flyers in the offseason.
Jake Voracek led the Flyers with 15 even-strength goals. . . . The Flyers had an 8.2 shooting percentage, placing them 24th among 30 teams. . . . The Flyers returned Anthony Stolarz and Robert Hagg to the Phantoms. . . . Flyers players will clear out their lockers and meet with the coaches Tuesday at their Voorhees practice facility. . . . The team finished 25-11-5 (55 points) at home and 14-22-5 (33 points) on the road.