Come July 1, Flyers general manager Ron Hextall will have the option of checking two boxes off his agenda for next summer. With Ivan Provorov and Travis Konecny entering the final year of their entry-level contracts, the CBA allows the Flyers to sign them to extensions once the new league year begins.
While Hextall noted at his end-of-season news conference that there is no hurry on extending Provorov and Konecny, signing them this summer has its benefits. Provorov and Konecny are two big building blocks to the foundation that Hextall is building with the Flyers. They both were drafted in the same year, both broke into the NHL together and both took enormous leaps in their second years in 2017-18. We’re going to break down whether the Flyers should exercise that option beginning with the Flyers’ No. 1 defenseman.
What he's done
From the second Provorov first stepped foot on Flyers territory, there was something special about him. He quickly established himself as the Flyers’ top defender as a 19-year-old rookie and took a sophomore jump to stardom in 2017-18. He finished tied for the league lead among defensemen with 17 goals. He led the Flyers in ice time, averaging 24:09, and finished as a plus-17. While he had his bumps in his first taste of the playoffs, he also was his normal self. He averaged nearly 25 minutes in six games against the Penguins, including 27:30 in Game 2 and 30:07 in Game 5.
The Doughty situation
Because we’ve used the Drew Doughty comparison in the past and Wayne Simmonds previously used Doughty as a comparable, we’re going to use Doughty as a parameter for what a Provorov extension could look like and what the Flyers can learn from it.
Back in 2011, when Hextall was the assistant GM in Los Angeles, Doughty missed most of the Kings’ training camp because of a contract holdout before striking gold on Sept. 30, 2011, with an eight-year, $56 million extension. Contract disputes are always a messy situation. It’s too early to suggest we could get to that point with Provorov. He’s under contract for another season and it’s fair to say the Flyers know what the 21-year-old is worth. If anything, the Doughty holdout could be a reason why Hextall would want to extend Provorov now.
The Kings and Doughty settled at an AAV of $7 million seven years ago as Doughty enters the final year of his contract in 2018-19.
The 'Ghost' deal
Most of Hextall’s long-term contracts with the Flyers have been with forwards — Sean Couturier, Jakub Voracek and Brayden Schenn — but last summer, he inked Shayne Gostisbehere to a six-year, $27 million ($4.5 million AAV) deal on June 9, 2017. He avoided a potentially tricky situation with “Ghost” and ended up coming away with a favorable deal.
Gostisbehere developed nicely this season as his defensive game benefitted from “a little more snot.” He returned to elite-level production after a slightly bumpy second season and finished with 33 power-play points and 65 points overall. It’s safe to say the Flyers will be extremely pleased with Gostisbehere’s $4.5 million cap hit if he produces consistently at that level.
It’s hard to compare the Provorov situation to Gostisbehere’s because the Flyers waited until a few weeks before restricted free agency opened to sign “Ghost.” Provorov is a different animal. The Russian is a far more polished player all around and the Flyers ride him hard. His next deal will see a larger AAV, and rightfully so.
The main reason why the Flyers should extend Provorov this summer is that by waiting, the price tag increases. Provorov has already established himself as one of the best young defensemen in the league and we can expect him to only grow even more in 2018-19.
Gone are the days where bridge deals with young stars are prominent. Teams are more likely to hand out long-term extensions to their young players, and it’s part of the reason why unrestricted free agency has lost some of its luster. It’s a safe bet Provorov's next contract will be long term. Doing it this summer rather than next opens up the possibility of turning his deal into a team-friendly one.
By kicking the can down the road to next summer, Provorov’s market value will only increase. There are two sides to this. Provorov may want to bet on himself, play this season and see where he stands next summer so he could earn more money, but there’s risk in that. Extending Provorov this summer benefits both the player and the team. Provorov would get his first major NHL contract and the Flyers would lock up their most important piece.