For the first time in years, the Flyers actually have cap space to sign an impact free agent this summer. While fans can expect the team to take advantage of the payroll flexibility, General Manager Ron Hextall’s biggest offseason spending splash will likely center on making sure the Flyers retain one of their own players.

Brayden Schenn is set to become a restricted free agent on July 1 — and whether or not he re-signs with the Flyers, the forward will command a hefty raise.

After struggling with consistency through his first five seasons with the Flyers, Schenn, 24, finished with 26 goals and 33 assists — both career highs — while playing on the first line with Claude Giroux and Wayne Simmonds this year. A physical player, he also added 11 power play goals, which ranked him second on the team. He can play all three forward positions.

The timing of his breakout season couldn’t have been better from a financial standpoint. As a restricted free agent, the 2009 fifth overall pick has the option of accepting a deal from the Flyers or signing an offer sheet with another team — that the Flyers would then have three days to match or let him walk.

Schenn, at least, prefers the former.

“I like it here,” he said a few days after the Flyers were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the Capitals. “I think, moving forward, if you look at what’s coming up and what we did this year [of qualifying for the playoffs], I think next year will be even better.”

The decision, and money and years it commits, to re-sign Schenn will play a critical role in future moves the team makes this season and beyond surrounding its forwards. If he stays, the Flyers keep a young player who has the potential to develop into a 30-goal scorer and fills a critical piece in the lineup. If he leaves, the Flyers will have a gaping hole up front and would need to immediately replace him, which won’t be cheap.

Based on players with similar statistics, Schenn could command an average salary of $5 million per year over four-to-six years.

“You want to be here long-term,” said Schenn, who was traded to the Flyers, along with Wayne Simmonds, from the Kings for Mike Richards. “I believe in this team but I guess we will see how it plays out. If they want to go long-term with me, obviously I want to be a part of this team.

“I think I’ve come a long way. I still feel like I can get better.”

The only question is whether or not it will be in a Flyers sweater.