Flyers

Flyers, Ivan Provorov agree to 6-year contract

Flyers, Ivan Provorov agree to 6-year contract

Updated: Friday, 9:36 a.m.

It is finally over.

Well, one at least.

On the night before 2019 training camp, Ivan Provorov and the Flyers agreed to a six-year contract with an average annual value of $6.75 million.

"We're pleased to have Ivan locked up for the next six years," Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher said in a statement released by the team Friday. "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."

Provorov, a restricted free agent, had remained unsigned all offseason. Travis Konecny is the team's lone remaining RFA.

Provorov's agent Mark Gandler did well earning his client just shy of a $7 million AAV. Blue Jackets defenseman Zach Werenski, a player comparable to Provorov, signed a three-year, $15 million ($5 million AAV) contract on Monday. Werenski is 22 years old, was drafted eighth overall in 2015 and is coming off a 44-point season. Provorov is also 22 years old, was drafted seventh overall in 2015 and is coming off a 26-point season.

However, Provorov has not missed a game throughout his three-year NHL career, has been tasked with No. 1 defenseman responsibilities and delivered in 2017-18, putting up 17 goals, 41 points and a plus-17 mark. Among all NHL defensemen over the past two seasons, Provorov has played the 11th-most minutes per game (24:38), the ninth-most shorthanded minutes (449:51) and has scored the 18th-most goals (24).

It seemed Provorov's camp did not want to go the bridge route and understandably so when you look at the durability above. There's also no reason to think Provorov won't be better in 2019-20 and only improve over the course of the contract. Look at Sean Couturier for example. He came into the league at 19 years old and had his breakout season in Year 7 at 25 years old.

Provorov, an expected pillar to the Flyers' defense, is now locked up through the 2024-25 season. He will be the highest-paid Flyers blueliner, ahead of Matt Niskanen ($5.75 million) and Shayne Gostisbehere ($4.5 million). Provorov will be 28 years old at the end of his contract.

Last season, Provorov said he was healthy but admitted to pressing at times throughout a difficult season for the entire club. The Flyers were asking a lot of Provorov and Gostisbehere, who were confident and fresh off career seasons. Provorov, though, turned 22 years old in January and Gostisbehere was only 25 last season.

"There have been times where I've tried a little too much from a personal standpoint, from the team standpoint, and trying to do everything I can to help the team win," Provorov said in April. "We're not perfect, none of us are perfect."

Ironically, despite the new deal, some pressure should be relieved off Provorov's shoulders in 2019-20. The additions of veterans Niskanen and Justin Braun will aid in those efforts, while many anticipate a rebound season from Gostisbehere, along with bigger strides from Travis Sanheim and Philippe Myers. Robert Hagg (82 games last season) and Samuel Morin (2013 first-round pick) are big bodies and in the picture, as well.

Here's a look at the Flyers' potential defensive pairings:

Ivan Provorov-Matt Niskanen

Travis Sanheim-Justin Braun

Shayne Gostisbehere-Philippe Myers

The Flyers will need Provorov and just about everyone to be better in 2019-20 if they want to reach the playoffs. Last season, the team allowed the NHL's third-most goals per game at 3.41 and finished with a minus-37 goal differential.

Meanwhile, another important piece to 2019-20 puzzle may not be present for Day 1 of training camp Friday. Konecny, a 22-year-old that could bolster the team's depth at forward, does not have a new contract.

Once Konecny does, Fletcher's first offseason as Flyers general manager will be complete.

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Matt Niskanen's fine balance of saying hello and cutting the cord

Matt Niskanen's fine balance of saying hello and cutting the cord

Matt Niskanen will never forget his time with the Capitals.

When you give hundreds of thousands of fans a parade in a city craving a championship, it would be impossible to move on with no sentimental feelings for the past.

But Niskanen is now a Flyer and playing for a city that hasn't seen its hockey team win a Stanley Cup since 1975. Performing in orange and black is his focus, as hard as that is when facing his former teammates for the first time since being traded during June.

Niskanen won the 2018 Stanley Cup in Washington, the city's first major championship since 1992. The Capitals visited Philadelphia to play the Flyers Wednesday night and held a morning skate at the Wells Fargo Center.

The 32-year-old defenseman hadn't yet caught up with his old buddies. Following the game might be a better time for Niskanen.

"There’s that kind of special connection that you get when you have that kind of success with a team," he said Wednesday morning.

"There’s a fine balance of wanting to say hi to these guys and also you’ve got to cut the cord a bit, too. My focus is playing well with the Flyers right now. But I’m not that far removed from playing with these guys, so if I see somebody, I’ll chat and say hi.”

Niskanen has been excellent for the Flyers, impacting the club's improved goal prevention, special teams units and young defensemen. Some of his new, younger teammates have asked him about winning a Stanley Cup.

"A bit," the unassuming Niskanen said. "It’s not something that comes up all the time, or usually not in front of a big group. I try not to bring it up too much. On occasion, a few times they have.”

Alain Vigneault knew about Niskanen from coaching against him in the Metropolitan Division. The Flyers' head coach also heard from Scott Arniel — one of the Capitals' assistant coaches who was on Vigneault's staff in New York — about Niskanen.

“He told me that I was going to have a real solid leader, quiet leadership, but great role model and that’s exactly what we have," Vigneault said.

“Just by the way he conducts himself. If you watch him in practice, he’s always doing things the right way and he pays a lot of attention to details. When he talks to, whether it be a teammate or coaches, it’s soft-spoken but right to the point. We’ve got a great person there and we’ve got a defenseman that’s really helping us out.”

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Flyers vs. Capitals: Live stream, storylines, game time and more

Flyers vs. Capitals: Live stream, storylines, game time and more

Two of the NHL's hottest teams clash Wednesday night in Philadelphia.

The Flyers (10-5-2) welcome the Capitals (13-2-4) for the first of four regular-season matchups between the Metropolitan Division clubs.

Let's get into the essentials:

When: 7:30 p.m. ET
Where: Wells Fargo Center
Broadcast: NBC Sports Network
Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com

• Flyers-Capitals games are always intense and this one will have a different feeling for Matt Niskanen, even though the defenseman was reserved Tuesday when talking about the matchup.

"I was aware of who we're playing," Niskanen said.

The 32-year-old played 390 games for Washington and won the 2018 Stanley Cup with the Capitals. Wednesday will be his first game against his former club since being traded to the Flyers in June (see story).

Niskanen put up 29 goals, 127 asssists and a plus-58 rating in Washington, where he played 70 playoff games.

"We had a good group in my time there, won a lot of games," he said. "Two years ago was pretty special. Good group. ... I’m guessing it’s going to feel weird once I see them on the other side in warmups. For now, try to win the game.”

Niskanen has been excellent for the Flyers, who are off to their best start since the 2011-12 season.

Was Niskanen a go-to guy in the Flyers' pre-scout of the Capitals?

"There are some things that aren't really a secret," Niskanen said. "How their power play runs, for example, I think everybody in the country knows what they're going to do. But there's a tip here or there maybe."

• The Flyers made a statement last weekend by sweeping a back-to-back road set against the Maple Leafs and Bruins.

Things do not get easier as they return home.

The Capitals lead the NHL with 30 points and are on a 12-game point streak (10-0-2) in which they've outscored the opposition 54-35.

Washington is scoring four goals per game, most in hockey, and is 8-1-1 on the road.

Head coach Alain Vigneault sounded excited to see how the Flyers stack up against the Capitals. Vigneault's team is playing well, too, as the Flyers are on a six-game point streak (5-0-1) and have gone 8-2-1 since Oct. 21.

"We talked to Nisky about them this morning and we’ve got quite a task ahead of us," Vigneault said Tuesday. "Not only are they playing extremely well, but they’re a team that knows how to win. I’m looking forward to this game. It’s going to be a good matchup for us, we’re playing some good hockey lately. We’ll be tested and I’m anxious to see how we’re going to respond.”

• At home, the Flyers are 6-1-1, scoring four goals per game and haven't allowed a power play goal since Oct. 21.

• Capitals defenseman John Carlson leads all NHL blueliners in points with 29 (eight goals, 21 assists).

Quotable

Great guy, great teammate. It’s going to be different playing against him. Obviously going to have to keep our head up, we know what he’s able to do.

- Sean Couturier on playing against former Flyer and current Capital Radko Gudas

Projected lineup

Forwards

James van Riemsdyk-Claude Giroux-Joel Farabee
Oskar Lindblom-Sean Couturier-Travis Konecny
Carsen Twarynski-Kevin Hayes-Jakub Voracek
Andy Andreoff-Michael Raffl-Tyler Pitlick

Defensemen

Ivan Provorov-Matt Niskanen
Shayne Gostisbehere-Justin Braun
Travis Sanheim-Philippe Myers

Goalies

Carter Hart
Brian Elliott

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