Ivan Provorov’s six-year deal could soon look like a steal for Flyers

Ivan Provorov got paid.

After waiting all summer the Philadelphia Flyers locked up one of their most important pieces. Restricted free agent defenseman Ivan Provorov agreed to terms on a six-year contract worth $6.75 million annually, the Flyers announced on Friday.

Provorov has been a mainstay on the Flyers’ blue line since breaking into the league in the 2016-17 season. He had one final season in the WHL with the Brandon Wheat Kings after being drafted with the No. 7 pick in the 2015 NHL Draft.

“We’re pleased to have Ivan locked up for the next six years,” Chuck Fletcher said. “Over the course of his young career, he has developed into one of the top young defensemen in the NHL. His commitment to the game and his teammates is second to none. He will be an important part of our success for years to come.”

Fletcher is absolutely correct that Provorov has become one of the best young defensemen in the league. He was one of the few top RFA defensemen this summer.

In fact, Provorov’s contract came just days after Zach Werenski, who was drafted one pick after the Flyers defenseman, signed a three-year bridge deal ($5 million AAV) with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Provorov and the Flyers opted to avoid the bridge deal, instead signing a long-term contract with a higher cap hit.

Provorov has been a top-pair defenseman since coming into the league and that won’t change anytime soon. Provorov is a warrior; he hasn’t missed a game in his three NHL seasons. He even played a playoff game with a separated shoulder.

Last season, Provorov averaged just over 25 minutes of ice time per game. No other Flyers defenseman played more than 20 minutes per game. His ice time has continued to increase in every season, and he should see around 25 minutes per game again in the 2019-20 season.

There were some worries about Provorov last year, as he struggled a bit throughout the course of the season, but those should soon be silenced. He claimed to be fully healthy coming into training camp last year, and he may have thought he was, but he dealt with that aforementioned shoulder separation over the summer. That likely limited his offseason activities, which likely impacted his play on the ice. Now, heading into a new season with a new defensive partner, Provorov is ready to go.

Looking ahead with Provorov under his new six-year deal, it seems that both sides got what they wanted in the deal. The Flyers locked up Provorov for six years at a palatable cap hit, while Provorov got the pay and security to go with it.

“I’m happy here for six years,” Provorov said. We have a great organization, great players, great coaching staff and I’m really excited to get going and be here for six more years and try to win and get to the playoffs and go as far as possible and hopefully win the cup.

Provorov has proven that he is worth the cap hit that the Flyers gave him. In his first two seasons, Provorov was just under 50% corsi for (49.23% and 49.37% respectively), while typically receiving more difficult zone starts (45.35% and 48.35% offensive zone start percentage) than the typical rookie or sophomore defenseman. He has also played more minutes with Andrew MacDonald than anyone else during his career, so that’s bound to bring him down.

In his three-year career, Provorov played 1,248 minutes at 5v5 with MacDonald. Those minutes yielded a 46.39% CF and 45.15% xGF with an offensive-zone start percentage of 39.77%. In 2,153 minutes without MacDonald, those numbers bump up to 48.01% CF and 48.75% xGF, with some help from more offensive zone starts (43.97%).

Andrew MacDonald is (finally) gone, and everything can’t be blamed on him, but that’s just a sample of what Provorov can do with a good — or even league-replacement — defensive partner.

Provorov was one of several RFA defensemen to sign in the past four months. Esa Lindell got the party started early on May 16 with a six-year, $5.8 million AAV contract (after a two-year bridge deal); Jacob Trouba signed a seven-year, $8 million AAV deal after helping facilitate a trade to the Rangers, and then Werenski, Provorov, and Josh Morrissey all signed this past week.

Josh Morrisey signed an eight-year, $6.25 million AAV deal just hours before Provorov’s deal was reported, and Werenski signed the three-year, $5 million AAV contract mentioned above. However, Morrisey’s deal, like Lindell’s, came after a two-year bridge deal.

Out of those three deals, Provorov’s may be the most appealing. Werenski’s deal is great for these next three years, but he’ll want a much bigger payday when that contract expires and he’s a UFA in his prime. Morrissey isn’t quite at Provorov’s level, but the eight years is nice. Provorov’s deal gives him the higher cap hit of $6.75 million, but also carries him through the 2024-25 season. That is (hopefully) when the Flyers’ currently aim to be in the midst (or latter stages) of their Stanley Cup window.

The worst-case scenario for Provorov’s contract is that it becomes an overpay — but not by that much. He is a workhorse that can be relied upon to shoulder the load night in and night out. Even if he completely tanks, the Flyers are not completely locked in as the deal does not include a no-trade clause.

However, the worst-case scenario is rather unlikely to happen. On the other hand, Provorov could continue his progression as a top-pair defenseman in his low-to-mid 20s.

The best-case scenario is that this contract becomes a steal, much like the way we look at Sean Couturier’s deal and Shayne Gostisbehere’s to some extent. It wouldn’t have been surprising to see Provorov ink a contract similar to Trouba’s $8 million cap hit over seven years, so signing him for more than $1 million less than that — while still getting a long-term deal and not a bridge deal — is great for the Flyers.

The most realistic scenario for this contract is that it’ll be in the middle a bit. It could very well be a slight overpay in the first year or two of the deal, making the Werenski option more appealing, but by Year 3 or 4, we should be praising Fletcher for the work he did this offseason — at least in terms of the Provorov deal.

Chuck Fletcher still has to sign the Flyers’ lone remaining restricted free agent, Travis Konecny, but the deal with Provorov is a great way to mark the end of the offseason and beginning of training camp.

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