Believe in Us: Reviewing and Re-signing the Flyers’ Restricted Free Agents.

The 2019 Flyers offseason should bring a lot of change. I know, I know, we say that every year, but this year is different. There were high expectations but the Flyers started really slow, picked it up during the second half of the season and almost made the playoffs. Actually, nevermind it’s not that different. Jokes aside, there is one difference: the man in charge, Chuck Fletcher. For the first time since the 2013 offseason, Ron Hextall will not be the general manager. This is Fletcher’s time to shine, a young, deep team with talent. Talent that has been misused under former head coaches but hopefully will be used correctly by newly hired head coach Alain Vigneault. Some of that talent is not under a contract, but is still technically under team control. Welcome to restricted free agency. These 8 players are the Flyers’ restricted free agents, here is what I think they should do with each of them:

Nicolas Aubé-Kubel, Right Wing

NAK played was drafted 48th overall by the Flyers in 2014, and did literally nothing other than skate in his 9 games with the Flyers this past year. I personally liked him more than most players that were on the fourth line last year. In the AHL however, he had 30 points in 54 games with 69 (nice) penalty minutes. At just 22, there is room for improvement, and I’d like to see him back on a one year, cheap deal. He can either be a good AHLer or maybe even crack the fourth line in the NHL. Either way, still way too early to give up on him yet.

Justin Bailey, Right Wing

Justin Bailey, who was acquired from the Buffalo Sabres this past year in exchange for Taylor Leier in a huge blockbuster deal that completely shook both franchises. Bailey played in 11 games for the Flyers and had 1 assist and 2 penalty minutes. He had 6 goals and 8 points in 17 games for the Phantoms. He is essentially in the same boat as Aubé-Kubel, although I’d rather keep NAK because we drafted him. Even so, a cheap one year deal should suffice.

Jacob Graves, Defenseman

Who? I actually had to look this guy up to make sure he existed, anyway, he’s 24 and played in the ECHL which is one step below the AHL. Don’t think whether we resign him or not will make or break the franchise, if it does, feel free to call me out on that.

Ryan Hartman, Winger

Ah, finally, some consistent NHLers. Ryan Hartman was acquired in the deal that sent Wayne Simmonds to the Predators. While nobody could replace the Wayne Train’s embodiment of this fabulous city, Hartman showed up and played with some “hart”, both puns intended. Hartman is 24, and produced 12 goals and 26 points in 83 NHL games last year, a rare occurrence. Hartman was a solid bottom 6 forward and he has shown promise before, scoring 19 goals in 76 games in his rookie season which means he would’ve most likely hit 20 if he played all 82. Scoring 20 goals as a rookie is no joke, and he could pop and provide some much needed depth scoring. I think he will be back on a two to three year deal between two to three million per year.  

Travis Konecny, Winger

Selected 24th overall in the 2015 draft, Travis Konecny has proved he belongs in the NHL for good with his second straight 45+ point season. He’s entering his fourth NHL season and at just 22 years old, could really improve and show some promise. I personally liked him most when he was on the first line with Couturier and Giroux. I think Vigneault should give him the shot. Should he get the shot, he could eclipse maybe even 60 points, and that would be very good because scoring goals is a good thing. He will be back, most likely on a 2-3 year deal between 4 to 4.5 million.

Scott Laughton, Winger (I think)

Scott Laughton doesn’t even know his own position I feel like. Previous coaching staffs have used him as a center and winger in the past two years. I like him as a winger because of his speed, but the option to use him as a center is there. With 12 goals and 32 points last season, he is a decent bottom 6 option. I think he stays on a 1-2 year deal worth 1.5 million at the most.

Ivan Provorov, Defenseman

In 2017-18, Provorov emerged as the Flyers’ best all around defenseman by far. He had 17 goals, which is very good for a defenseman, and 41 points in 82 games, and consistently shut down the opponent’s best players. 2018-19 however, was different. He was still good, but not the stud we all know he can be. Now, I have no doubt that he’ll bounce back to the 2017-18 version of himself, but it does confuse his contract situation a bit. After 2017-18, people were saying he could make 8 million per season, now he’s looking around the 6.5 to 7.5 million range. I think that’s fair for both sides as long as the deal is for 6 years. That’ll take him to 28 years old and unrestricted free agency where he can get a huge payday. So a 6 year, 6.5-7 million dollar deal should see Provorov in the orange and black for at least the next half decade.

Travis Sanheim, Defenseman

One of my favorite players, Travis Sanheim exploded this past year. Gone are the days where Dave Hakstol would play him less than Andrew freaking McDonald. Sanheim got his chance on the first defense pair, and showed he was the real deal. He’s got scoring punch, and plays solid defense, and most importantly, HE CAN MAKE A CLEAN ZONE EXIT. Whether it’s a pass or he skates it out, Sanheim is very good at getting possession of the puck, and keeping it until the Flyers are in the opponent’s zone. To me, that’s the most important thing a defenseman can do. What good is playing defense if you can’t get it out of your zone? Sanheim deserves at least 5 million in my eyes, but he’ll probably get just under that for 3-4 years. OR, the more fun option, the Flyers lock him up long term. An 8 year deal would cost about 5.5 million per season, and I think he’s almost already worth that. The incentive for Sanheim to sign such a deal would be: he gets more money guaranteed. It would be hard for him to look at a contract that’ll pay him at least 40 million and turn it down, although he might want to bet on himself and take a shorter deal. Either way, he’ll be a Flyer.

This offseason has the potential to be franchise altering if Fletcher wants it to be. Resigning these players is a key first step.

Photo Credits: pattisonave.com, puck prose.com, tripa.com

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