Chuck Fletcher provided some updates on the Philadelphia Flyers’ restricted free agents on Friday.
Locking up the RFAs is the only thing remaining on his offseason to-do list, and he has already worked toward that by signing Travis Sanheim and holding discussions with the remaining three: Ivan Provorov, Travis Konecny, and Scott Laughton.
The importance of the RFAs are in that order, with a relatively large gap between the young guns Provorov and Konecny and the bottom-six forward Laughton.
“We’ll continue to focus on that and get these players signed as quickly as we can,” Fletcher said.
Provorov is the best defenseman on the Flyers and one of the best young defensemen in the league.
The 22-year-old is coming off of his entry-level contract that carried a cap hit of $894,167 over the past three seasons due to the slide rule. He has proven himself as a top-pair defenseman despite a down year last season and is undoubtedly looking for a big payday.
He has played in all 82 games in each of the past three seasons since making the jump from the WHL to the NHL. He averaged 21:59 per game in his rookie season and that has only gone up (24:09, 25:07) in the past two seasons. He is a bonafide defenseman that can be relied on to play in all situations.
Fletcher said that the discussions with Provorov’s agent, Mark Gandler, are “certainly amicable.”
“Everything’s cordial and amicable, but I think until the market settles out a bit it may be difficult to move forward on Provorov,” Fletcher continued.
The seventh overall pick in the 2015 draft may be waiting for the eighth pick from that year, Zach Werenski, as well as the 14th pick from 2016, Charlie McAvoy, to set the market before he agrees to a deal with the Flyers. Werenski and McAvoy are the best comparisons for Provorov in this year’s RFA class.
Jacob Trouba, the ninth pick in 2012, is also awaiting a contract from the Rangers after being acquired last month. He was on a one-year, $5.5 million contract last season and is an RFA. However, he is much more established than Provorov at 25 years old.
The Flyers may be in a holding pattern with Provorov right now, but a deal will get done.
There is a small chance that Provorov would receive an offer sheet from another team, but it would be an absolute shock if he’s not back with the Flyers for next season and beyond.
The same goes for Konecny, who is down a bit further in the NHL RFA forward pool, but right up there with Provorov in terms of importance to the Flyers.
Konecny emerged as a top-line winger option over the past two seasons and is penciled in alongside Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier for the upcoming season. He, like Provorov, is coming off his entry-level deal.
The 22-year-old forward has scored 24 goals in each of the past two seasons while adding 25 assists last year for 49 points. A near 50-point forward at age 21 is always good to have.
Fletcher said they’ve “had some good conversations and we’ll continue to work at it,” in regards to Konecny’s contract.
Laughton, the Flyers’ least important RFA — but still quite important — may be the first to be signed of the three. That would simply be due to his arbitration date that is set for July 30.
“One way or another, that will get done in the next few weeks here,” Fletcher said. “That’s a little bit more of a front-burner issue just because we have that date scheduled, and when you have tight deadlines like that it certainly leads to more communication.”
The former first-round pick hasn’t lived up to that potential of a top-six forward, but he has carved out a role for himself in the bottom-six and on the penalty kill. He played in all 82 games last season and averaged 14:51 per game, nearly four minutes more than his career up to that point (11:08 per game). He scored 12 goals and added 20 assists for 32 points last season.