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Provorov’s next contract presents big challenge for Flyers

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Philadelphia Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher has been busy overhauling his roster this summer and still has two big jobs ahead of him when it comes to re-signing restricted free agents Travis Konecny and Ivan Provorov.

With close to $14 million in salary cap space remaining, he should have no problem in getting them signed and keeping the team under the salary cap.

Konecny’s situation seems like it should be pretty simple: He is a top-six forward that has been incredibly consistent throughout the first three years of his career. The Flyers know what they have right now, and they should have a pretty good idea as to what he is going to be in the future. There is not much risk in projecting what he should be able to do for them.

[ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker]

Provorov, on the other hand, presents a far more interesting challenge because he is still somewhat of a mystery whose career seems like it can go in either direction.

Along with Shayne Gostisbehere, Provorov is supposed to be the foundation of the Flyers’ defense for the next decade and entered the league with much fanfare at the start of the 2016-17 season. From the moment he arrived the Flyers have treated him like a top-pairing defender and pretty much thrown him in the deep end of the pool.

At times, he has flashed the potential that made him a top-10 pick in the draft and such a prized piece in the Flyers’ organization.

During his first three years in the league he has not missed a single game, has played more than 20 minutes per game every year, and over the past two seasons has played the fourth most total minutes in the NHL and the third most even-strength minutes. The Flyers have also not gone out of their way to shelter him in terms of where he starts his shifts and who he plays against, regularly sending him over the boards for defensive zone faceoffs and playing against other team’s top players.

In their view, based on his usage, he is their top defender.

Or at least was their top defender over the past two seasons.

Given the performance of the Flyers defensively during those seasons, that may not be much of a statement.

The concern that has to be addressed is that so far in his career Provorov has not always performed like a top-pairing defender in those top-pairing minutes that he has been given.

Just because a player gets a lot of playing time and the toughest assignments does not necessarily mean they are going to handle those minutes or succeed within them. That has been the case at times with Provorov in Philadelphia. This is not like the situation Columbus and Boston are facing with Zach Werenski and Charlie McAvoy this summer where both young players have already demonstrated an ability to play like top-pairing defenders and have already earned what should be significant, long-term commitments from their respective teams.

This is a situation where a young, talented, and still very promising player has been given a huge role, but has not always performed enough to justify that much trust.

He is also coming off of what can probably be described as a down season where his performance regressed from what it was in 2017-18. He not only saw a steep drop in his production offensively, but the Flyers were outshot, outchanced, and outscored by a pretty significant margin when Provorov was on the ice no matter who his partner was.

He struggled alongside Shayne Gostisbehere. He also struggled alongside Travis Sanheim, while Sanheim saw his performance increase dramatically when he was away from Provorov.

The dilemma the Flyers have to face here is how they handle a new contract for him this summer.

On one hand, he does not turn 23 until January and clearly has the talent to be an impact defender. But he has also played three full seasons in the NHL, and even when looked at within the context of his own team, has not yet shown a consistent ability to be that player. Every player develops at a different pace, and just because McAvoy and Werenski have already emerged as stars doesn’t mean every player at the same age has to follow the same rapid path. Because they most certainly will not.

It just makes it difficult for teams like the Flyers when they have to juggle a new contract.

They were in a similar position with Gostisbehere a couple of years ago when they signed him to a six-year, $27 million contract when he came off of his entry-level deal. But while Gostisbehere had regressed offensively, he still posted strong underlying numbers and at least showed the ability to be more of a possession-driving player. His goal-scoring and point production dropped, but there were at least positive signs it might bounce back. That is not necessarily the case with Provorov.

Even though Provorov has played a ton of minutes, put up some decent goal numbers at times, and been one of the biggest minute-eating defenders in the league, this just seems like a situation that screams for a bridge contract to allow the player to continue to develop, while also giving the team an opportunity to figure out what they have.

Provorov still has the potential to be a star and a bonafide top-pairing defender.

He just has not played like one yet or consistently shown any sign that he definitely will be one, despite being given the role.

Related: Werenski, McAvoy should be in line for huge contracts

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Flyers re-sign Scott Laughton for two years

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Philadelphia Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher continued his busy offseason on Friday by re-signing one of his remaining restricted free agents.

The team announced that it has re-signed forward Scott Laughton to a two-year contract that will pay him $2.3 million per season.

The contract runs through the end of the 2020-21 season, at which point Laughton will be eligible for unrestricted free agency.

He had filed for salary arbitration and was scheduled to have a hearing on July 30th. This signing allows both sides to avoid that.

Laughton, a first-round draft pick by the Flyers in 2012, has appeared in 272 games for the Flyers over the past six seasons, scoring 31 goals and 79 total points. The 2018-19 season was his best in the NHL to date, finishing with 12 goals and 32 points. While the raw box-score numbers were an improvement, his underlying numbers, including a dismal 44 percent Corsi mark, were nothing special and among the worst on the team. He figures to play on the team’s third-line this upcoming season.

With Laughton’s deal complete, forward Travis Konecny and defender Ivan Provorov are the team’s remaining unsigned restricted free agents.

They still have more than $12 million in salary cap space remaining.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Flyers executive Paul Holmgren becomes adviser for franchise

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Philadelphia Flyers President Paul Holmgren has stepped down to become a senior adviser for the franchise.

General manager Chuck Fletcher becomes president of hockey operations in a related move. Fletcher reports directly to Comcast Spectacor Chairman and CEO Dave Scott.

Holmgren has been a Flyers player, assistant coach, head coach, general manager and president for 40 years. Scott says Holmgren has earned a place among the organization’s all-time greats.

Philadelphia hired Fletcher seven months to replace the fired Ron Hextall in the hopes of winning the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1975. Fletcher previously was a general manager for the Minnesota Wild and worked for a handful of NHL teams.

More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Five non-playoff teams that could make postseason in 2020

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The New York Islanders, Carolina Hurricanes, St. Louis Blues, Calgary Flames and Dallas Stars all had something in common in 2019. They all went from being non-playoff teams in 2018 to making it to the postseason last year. So if that scenario were to repeat itself next season, who would the new five playoff teams be?

There’s no denying that the current salary cap system has created way too much parity in the NHL over the last few years. It’s not difficult to envision five non-playoff teams sneak into the postseason at all, because a lot of these teams are so evenly matched.

So which non-playoff teams do we expect to make it to the postseason in 2020?

Florida Panthers: The Panthers made a couple of significant acquisitions in free agency this summer, as they added franchise netminder Sergei Bobrovsky and winger Brett Connolly. Signing Bobrovksy was huge because it addressed the team’s biggest need. Roberto Luongo couldn’t stay healthy anymore and James Reimer simply wasn’t getting the job done. The Panthers also have several offensive weapons at their disposal, including Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov, Evgenii Dadonov, Mike Hoffman and Vincent Trocheck. They could make a lot of noise in 2019-20.

Montreal Canadiens: The Canadiens put up 96 points last year and still missed out on the playoffs, but there were plenty of positives for them to build on. First, Max Domi‘s adjustment to Montreal was seamless. He fit like a glove. Secondly, Carey Price and Shea Weber were able to stay healthy down the stretch. That will be the biggest key for the Habs in 2019-20. Getting sophomore forward Jesperi Kotkaniemi to contribute more offensively could also propel them into a playoff spot.

Philadelphia Flyers: The Flyers got off to a bad start last year for a few reasons, but none more obvious than their mediocre goaltending. Once Carter Hart came into the picture, he managed to settle things down between the pipes. Avoiding a sophomore slump will be key for him if the Flyers are going to get back into the postseason, but they clearly have a talented enough roster to get themselves in.

[ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker]

New York Rangers: The Rangers have been incredibly aggressive with their roster since sending a letter out to their fans outlining their plan to rebuild. Not only did they luck into getting Kappo Kakko in the NHL Entry Draft, they also found a way to sign the most dynamic free agent on the market, Artemi Panarin. The biggest question mark on this team is on defense, as they have big money committed to Kevin Shattenkirk, Marc Staal and Brendan Smith. In goal, Henrik Lundqvist isn’t the same player he used to be but Alexandar Georgiev has the ability to fill in whenever King Henrik needs a break.

Chicago Blackhawks: Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman has made tweaks to his roster this summer. He’s added Calvin de Haan, Olli Maatta and Andrew Shaw via trade and he also signed Robin Lehner in free agency. The core group of players is still around and they can still contribute at a high enough level to help the ‘Hawks get into the postseason. But the West is going to be competitive this year, so the Blackhawks will have to stay pretty consistent throughout the year.

Honorable mention: The New Jersey Devils have added P.K. Subban and Jack Hughes to their roster, so seeing them improve by a wide margin wouldn’t be surprising. There’s still big questions surrounding the team’s defense and goaltending, but they were a playoff team two years ago. They could definitely be one of the biggest surprises in 2019-20. For now, they’re the sixth-likeliest team to go from not being in the playoffs to making it again.

MORE: 5 playoff teams that could miss postseason in 2020

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

PHT Morning Skate: Gardiner makes any team better; Hayes takes Flyers to another level

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• Here’s a list of the five strangest signings yet in free agency. (The Hockey News)

• Don Cherry isn’t finished yet. (CBC.ca)

Jake Gardiner will make any team’s backend better. (TSN.ca)

• The growing number of high-end, American draft picks is no fluke. (Seattle Times)

• All of those moves by the Toronto Maple Leafs have taken the team a step back. (Yahoo Sports)

• How Joe Pavelski became the face of San Jose. (Fear the Fin)

• The future is bright in the Big Apple. (BlueSeat Blogs)

Kevin Hayes can take the Philadelphia Flyers to another level. (NBC Sports Philadelphia)

• Do the Edmonton Oilers still have a shot of bringing in a UFA? (Oilers Nation)

• Vegas and mystery team talking to ECHL club about affiliation. (The Journal Gazette)

• Arizona hoping Phil the Thrill will do what Phil the Thrill does: score. (NHL.com)

• The Chicago Blackhawks have improved, but is it enough? (Featurd)

• How could Pavelski, Perry and Gurianov change Dallas’ look up front? (Sportsday Dallas)

• Flames GM Treliving calculating equations with impending contracts for Tkachuk, Rittich, Bennett. (Calgary Sun)

Mitch Marner, from a pure hockey perspective. (FanSided)

• Color of Hockey: Miley launches coaching career with Junior Hurricanes. (NHL.com)

• Welcome to the Golden Age of American hockey talent. (ESPN)

• Five Ducks who will make a comeback in 2019-20. (FanSided)


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck