On Thursday, Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher crossed off a name from his list of restricted free agents.
The Flyers signed Nicolas Aube-Kubel to a two-year, $2.15 million contract extension ($1.075 million average annual value).
During the 2019-20 season, the 24-year-old was an effective, north-south winger for the Flyers, who summoned Aube-Kubel from AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley in mid-December out of sheer necessity as the club was stricken with injuries.
The rookie was motivated for opportunity after a nine-game stint last season in which he played only 5:35 minutes per night. This season, head coach Alain Vigneault gave him early opportunity and Aube-Kubel jumped on it. He gave the Flyers no reason to send him back down and over 36 regular-season games, the 2014 second-round pick recorded seven goals and eight assists in 11:17 minutes per night. He even earned power play time, while the Flyers went 24-11-2 since his call-up.
Vigneault and the coaching staff knew how to keep Aube-Kubel pushing for more.
“It’s pretty hard, especially when you spend some 15 minutes without playing, 10 minutes without playing, so it’s really hard for the legs," Aube-Kubel said in February about the limited minutes last season. "When you’re out there, you’re just so stressed about not making a mistake that you don’t really show anything.
“Last year, I didn’t really get a good chance to show what I could do. I’m glad this year … even in my first game, I got put in a good situation with good players and it worked out for me.
"I know I have to give 100 percent. I can’t have a bad game. Even if I was on the second line, third line, fourth line, that’s my mindset — can’t have an off game.”
In the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Aube-Kubel had three points (two goals, one assist) over 13 games. He missed three games with a badly bruised and swollen knee after blocking a shot.
"I’d say the first three days it was hard to walk, it was a big bone bruise," Aube-Kubel said Friday in a video interview. "We didn’t know much about the diagnosis, but there was less swelling after a few days. I could skate and I felt comfortable the first few skates. It wasn’t hurting that much but maybe just a little less power in that leg through the games."
He will have to continue to compete for his playing time and role during 2020-21, but he made a serious imprint this season.
“I didn’t really know a lot about him,” Vigneault said in late February. “I saw him a little bit in training camp, we didn’t keep him obviously because we felt at the time there were some other players that were performing better. But ever since we’ve called him up, I think he’s felt better. In my sense, he’s improving. You see the speed, the size, the physicality, big body that can go in the tough areas. Can he put it all together and become an effective NHL player? Time will well. I do know in this span, so far for us, he’s been good and we need him to continue to be good.”
Aube-Kubel was eligible for arbitration but clearly neither side needed it.
With Aube-Kubel's deal, the club now has eight players set to hit free agency — Brian Elliott (unrestricted), Justin Braun (unrestricted), Tyler Pitlick (unrestricted), Derek Grant (unrestricted), Nate Thompson (unrestricted), Robert Hagg (restricted, arbitration eligible), Philippe Myers (restricted) and Nolan Patrick (restricted).
Free agency opens Oct. 9 at noon ET.
Teams have until Oct. 7 at 5 p.m. ET to submit qualifying offers to their restricted free agents and those offers expire Oct. 18 at 5 p.m. ET. The deadline for player-elected arbitration is Oct. 10 at 5 p.m. ET. The deadline for club-elected arbitration is Oct. 11 at 5 p.m. ET.