Flyers

Chuck Fletcher, Alain Vigneault don't mince words over Travis Konecny's absence from Flyers training camp

Chuck Fletcher, Alain Vigneault don't mince words over Travis Konecny's absence from Flyers training camp

Updated: 5:30 p.m.

VOORHEES, N.J. — Travis Konecny was nowhere to be seen Friday at Flyers Skate Zone as 2019 training camp got underway.

And the vibes from his general manager and head coach regarding his absence weren't exactly rosy.

"I'm very disappointed that T.K. is not here," Alain Vigneault said after his first practice leading the Flyers. "It's the start of a new era, a new group, I felt that it was very important for everybody to be here. 

"With my time in the NHL, my experience, anybody that falls behind — whether it's injury or in T.K.'s situation not coming to camp — usually it takes them a little bit of time to get back at it, especially at this time with a new coaching staff and new way of doing things. 

"It's unfortunate, but I'm going to work with the players that are here and going to work extremely hard with those players."

The entire offseason has passed and Konecny, an important forward to the Flyers' 2019-20 season, remains a restricted free agent. While it's unclear when he'll be in camp, the intricacies to why the Flyers and his representation can't agree to terms on a new contract became a bit clearer Friday.

GM Chuck Fletcher said the Flyers are willing to be flexible but Konecny's camp would "prefer a longer-term deal right now." A longer-term deal might make sense for the Flyers because Konecny is only 22 years old and hasn't fully blossomed yet. Locking up Konecny for more years before he potentially hits a different tier could attract the Flyers.

While a bridge deal may be a good bet for Konecny, long-term security isn't bad, either. There are risks and rewards to both avenues, for both sides. It'll be about compromising.

"I honestly don't know what to say," Fletcher said. "I've been doing this 25 years, I think we go about it the right way, but we just can't seem to get to the same language on this one.

"Still have a ways to go. I don't really know how to characterize it, both sides are trying. It's been a little quiet recently, so we'll look to find a solution that will break the impasse."

Are the sides differing on years or money?

"Both," Fletcher said. "They have some specific demands with respect to term. We're trying to work with them in that regard. We're a little more flexible, I think we would look at a two- or three-year deal or a longer-term deal, and they prefer a longer-term deal right now, so certainly that makes it a little bit more difficult when you narrow the scope of length of term you're negotiating on. We'll continue to work at it."

For now, the Flyers have to practice, prepare and move forward without Konecny. Negotiations can change quickly, but nothing sounds promising at the moment and the Flyers have a preseason game on Monday. There's a new head coach and two new assistant coaches. There's no doubt time is precious in camp.

"It certainly doesn't help him," Fletcher said. "For us, he's a good player and can help our team. For now, you guys hear these clichés all the time, but it's no different than when you get an injury during the season, you don't have a player. We believe we have good depth, we like our depth, there's opportunity now for other players to step up and show what they can do. We'd rather Travis was here, but he's not, so we just have to move on without him and hopefully at some point he gets in."

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What it was like to go back to work at Flyers training camp

What it was like to go back to work at Flyers training camp

These are different times; or the new norm as many like to call it.

Everyone is tasked with adjusting to these times. For me, on Monday, July 13, I was tasked with my own adjustments ... in order to watch and report on hockey. Suffice it to say, for me, life — and my simple adjustments, considering all things — could be much worse. I was happy to return to Virtua Center Flyers Skate Zone in Voorhees, New Jersey, for the first time since March 11, a span of 124 days.

The Flyers were back to work at their practice facility with the opening of training camp in preparation for the NHL's return-to-play 24-team tournament.

Monday, July 13, was different — and that's OK. I'm going to enjoy as we adjust.

Here was a different day at Flyers practice (with plenty of hand sanitizer and wearing my mask):

Checking in

I arrived to the facility at 9:23 a.m. and hung tight in my air-conditioned car. Not too bad, right?

Gritty was probably back inside on the elliptical and hitting the bench press. Respect the grind.

Typically, I would walk in through the front doors of Virtua Center Flyers Skate Zone at my own leisure, head upstairs, get situated and prepare for the day at hand.

On Monday, though, media members permitted back to the facility had to enter between 10-10:30 a.m. for a temperature and symptom check. Wearing a mask (as all were in the facility), I passed my temperature check, filled out a form answering symptom questions, and was on my way upstairs.


Watching practice

There is a ton of space in the common area upstairs. Instead of all reporters cozying up in the more confined media room on that level, the Flyers and Skate Zone set up separate workstations for each writer in the common area with proper social distance.

Very safe and very nice of them.

At one point, I think I nearly drank my coffee through my mask; we made it work.

But I digress.

When the morning and afternoon practices were held, we could stand and watch from the media room, which has windows that overlook the ice. We were asked to maintain social distance when doing so ... no biggie at all. When practices wrapped up (or whenever we needed to), we could head back to our individual and assigned workstations.

During development or training camps, entering the rink area and watching along the boards is an awesome luxury. It provides a terrific vantage point to shoot video, take notes, snap pictures, analyze drills and gain a greater insight of the competition.

Currently, no media members are allowed to enter either of the two practice rinks and understandably so. Not the end of the world as we can still observe from upstairs with a great view.


Good to see faces, even on video

Normally with practice, whenever the first skater heads off the ice following a practice, we all scurry downstairs and toward the Flyers' dressing room for access to interview players and head coach Alain Vigneault.

Conversing with players in person and 1-on-1 is what I've missed greatly during the coronavirus pandemic. Building relationships and telling stories are what make our jobs special. Access to a locker room is so beneficial because it offers you an emotional sense for the story, allows you to see and feel beyond the score of a game and what happened on the ice.

Right now, having close interactions in media scrums or tight quarters is not feasible or logical. But it's still great to see faces of colleagues or Flyers personnel from a distance or via video.

From our workstations using Webex, we were able to interview Vigneault, general manager Chuck Fletcher and players Matt Niskanen, Claude Giroux, Shayne Gostisbehere and Travis Konecny.

Raising your hand virtually ain't so bad. It's like a supremely organized way to work in your question. And everyone could hear us through our masks.


Stick taps to all those involved

So many deserve a ton of credit for creating a safe environment in uncharted waters.

Three folks who are always helping and have made these waters as smooth as possible for us media: Flyers senior director of communications Zack Hill, director of public relations Joe Siville and manager of broadcasting and media services Brian Smith.

Following the final interview around 3:30 p.m., it was time to pack up and hit the road. We usually can stay as long as we'd like to write and work but the Flyers have asked media members to exit the premises approximately 15 minutes after the last virtual press conference. Again, completely understandable.

I've always liked staying at the facility to work. It's pretty quiet and there's a rink. Then I can drive home at a calmer hour.

But these are different times and we all need to adjust. Like a hockey team, everyone plays a part.

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Flyers sign Mark Friedman to 2-year contract extension

Flyers sign Mark Friedman to 2-year contract extension

VOORHEES, N.J. — Mark Friedman took the ice Monday afternoon with a new contract for the next two seasons.

The Flyers signed the 24-year-old defenseman to a two-year, one-way contract extension with an average annual value of $725,000. Friedman was set to become a restricted free agent in the offseason.

Friedman has given the Flyers good depth to their crowded blue line. Head coach Alain Vigneault liked what he saw from Friedman in the 2014 third-round pick's six games with the club during the regular season.

The 5-foot-10, 185-pounder is reliable, quick on his feet and plays with purpose. Friedman looks like he'll be the Flyers' eighth defenseman during the NHL's return-to-play 24-team tournament. He was a part of the afternoon session Monday at Virtua Center Flyers Skate Zone as the team opened training camp in preparation for the resumption of the season.

Friedman will compete for a roster spot next season and serve as a dependable call-up option if he's with AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley.

In the offseason, the Flyers will have to decide if they want to re-sign veteran Justin Braun, who has been good for them and can become an unrestricted agent. The Flyers' defense will get only more intriguing in 2020-21. The blue line is an area of strength for the Flyers, who are young at the position and have prospects nearing, as well.

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Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

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