Flyers

If not contract situation, could anything be weighing on Ivan Provorov?

If not contract situation, could anything be weighing on Ivan Provorov?

Before watching his first game as general manager, Chuck Fletcher already had his mind made up regarding defenseman Ivan Provorov. 

"I'm convinced he's a very good player,” Fletcher said after his introductory press conference Wednesday. 

Fletcher undoubtedly understands how rare it is to find that anchor on the blue line. As GM of the Wild, he secured Ryan Suter on a 13-year, $98 million contract, locking him up until the age of 39.

Aside from determining Wayne Simmonds' future, another order of business high on Fletcher’s list of priorities is devising the framework of a deal with Provorov’s agent, Mark Gandler of International Sports Advisors. Gandler also represents Capitals defenseman Dimitry Orlov, who signed a six-year, $30 million contract on the day before free agency this past summer.

“I have a good relationship with the agency that represents [Provorov] and I'm sure we'll have some conversations and we'll just see how things go,” Fletcher said. “It's certainly not a project for this week, let's put it that way. I'll reach out to the agent this week, but it's not a project to get anything done right away."

Former GM Ron Hextall had just started to lay out the foundation with Provorov’s entry-level deal expiring at the end of the season. The two sides spoke “probably 10 to 15 times” going back to last summer, Hextall said, but neither side felt comfortable throwing out a number as it pertains to the cap.

“We worked at Provy all summer — three months on and off and we couldn’t come to middle ground," Hextall said. "It was absolutely no animosity."

Fletcher may be better off waiting as long as possible. Provorov has struggled to minimize turnovers in the defensive end of the ice in the first two months of the season, and his current projection of six goals and 28 points would be a sharp drop-off from the league-leading 17 goals among defensemen and 41 points he scored in his sophomore season.

All of which has left the hockey world wondering if these looming negotiations have affected Provorov’s performance on the ice. Both Hextall and Fletcher couldn’t say for certain.   

“I don’t know. That’s a hard one to figure out because you see other guys,” Hextall said. “I don’t think so. Provy is really strong mentally. If I had to pick one guy on our team that I didn’t think would be affected by this, he’d be the first guy."

"I don't know whether that is or not, but it's not unusual to see young players have outside things affect them and affect play,” Fletcher said. “Whether that's true with Ivan, I don't know, but we'll get to know him.”

When I caught up with Provorov earlier this week, he believed his pending (restricted) free agency hadn't had any bearing on his performance.   

“It’s not hard for me,” Provorov said. “I wasn’t really getting involved. I love hockey for everything it brings. When I came back here, I was just happy to be back with the boys and get the season going. Whatever happens, happens — and it happens for a reason. But I love playing here.”

Sources tell me that if anything has bothered Provorov, it has been two-fold: Differing opinions with former assistant coach Gord Murphy, and secondly, not having anyone outside the organization to confide in with his immediate family all living in Russia.

Even with Provorov’s degree of maturity, sometimes it’s easy to forget he’s still just a 21-year-old kid living independently on foreign soil while battling through a rough offseason, which included his recovery from a Grade 3 shoulder separation.   

Provorov will eventually figure out the hockey side, while Fletcher and Provorov’s agent will hammer out the financial side.

It’s all a reminder that it just takes a little bit of time.

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Travis Konecny sets new career high as Flyers beat Blue Jackets to climb in NHL playoff race

Travis Konecny sets new career high as Flyers beat Blue Jackets to climb in NHL playoff race

BOX SCORE

The Flyers picked up a huge win in their playoff push with a 5-1 decision Tuesday night over the Blue Jackets at the Wells Fargo Center.

Kevin Hayes, Sean Couturier, Philippe Myers, Travis Konecny and Jakub Voracek all scored goals for the Flyers (33-20-7), who notched their 20th home win of 2019-20. They won only 19 games in Philly last season.

More impressively, the Flyers improved to 7-0-2 against the Capitals, Hurricanes and Blue Jackets. In 2018-19, they were 0-10-2 against those divisional foes.

Major improvements.

The Flyers also rebounded from another defeat as they haven't dropped consecutive outings since Jan. 4-7. In games after their last seven losses, the Flyers are 7-0-0 and have outscored the opposition 36-16.

The Blue Jackets (30-19-12) have allowed 15 goals to the Flyers through three matchups.

• Big, big win for the Flyers.

They’ve now jumped the Blue Jackets and Islanders to take over third place in the Metropolitan Division, although New York has two games in hand on the Flyers.

One of the more noticeable aspects of this win was the contributions from players who were not here in 2018-19. Hayes got things started, Myers (played only 21 games last season) was strong, Joel Farabee added two assists and Nicolas Aube-Kubel was reliable yet again.

• Thanks to a goal and two assists, Konecny set a new career high in points as he now has 51.

There are 22 games left in the Flyers’ season and the 22-year-old forward has already delivered in the first year of his six-year, $33 million deal.

• An impressive franchise record for captain Claude Giroux.

• Carter Hart improved to 15-2-2 with a 1.62 goals-against average at home.

Columbus goalie Elvis Merzlikins, who came in leading the NHL with five shutouts, was pulled during the third period after allowing four goals on 12 shots.

• During the second period, everyone saw why there’s so much potential and excitement behind the Travis Sanheim-Myers defensive pairing.

Some serious size, skating and skill — and both are only 23 years old.

• The Flyers’ 200-foot forces set the tone.

During the first period, Hayes and Couturier jumped on the Blue Jackets, who were allowing the NHL's second-fewest goals per game at 2.45.

From a crazy angle, Hayes scored his 18th goal of the season. The 27-year-old center has a great chance to break his career high of 25 goals set in 2017-18.

Couturier might finish the season as the Flyers’ leading scorer. He has 48 points and a plus-27 rating over his last 50 games.

• The Flyers fly to Columbus Wednesday afternoon ahead of another matchup with the Blue Jackets Thursday (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP).

The Flyers then play three straight games at home against teams not in playoff position — Jets on Saturday (1 p.m. ET/NBCSP), Sharks next Tuesday (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP) and Rangers next Friday (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP).

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NHL trade rumors: Jeff Carter, Flyers buzz is picking back up

NHL trade rumors: Jeff Carter, Flyers buzz is picking back up

The Jeff Carter-Flyers buzz is back.

It started humming in January when Carter and the Kings visited the Flyers. It picked back up Tuesday with the latest 31 Thoughts article from Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman, always a must-read.

Per Friedman:

It might come down to Nolan Patrick’s health, but I think Philadelphia is considering Jeff Carter.

That would not be terribly surprising, as we noted in January. The Kings are at the bottom of the Western Conference and selling with Monday's NHL trade deadline on the horizon. As they retool, being open to moving an older player like Carter would make sense. The 35-year-old has a cap hit of $5,272,727, according to CapFriendly.com, and is under contract for 2020-21 and 2021-22.

That is most significant as it relates to the possibility of the Flyers adding Carter for their playoff push. The Flyers have just over $2 million in cap space. Even with Los Angeles retaining 50 percent of Carter's cap hit, the Flyers would have to do some juggling. And then the fact that Carter has two more years left on his deal might make things less appealing for the Flyers.

However, there are reasons why the Flyers are probably peeking in at Carter's availability. The center is a two-time Stanley Cup champion, four-time 30-plus goal-scorer and understands the pressure of playing in Philly. Returning to the city during a playoff race would only rejuvenate Carter, who could help the Flyers' depth down the middle and be a positive influence on the team's younger bottom-six forwards. Not to mention the former Flyer has 17 goals this season and is projected to finish with 24.

The Flyers could interest the Kings with a prospect and/or a draft pick. But what would they be willing to give up from a prospect pool that will build the future? And how do they make it work for the roster moving forward?

Those are big questions for a 35-year-old center with a big contract.

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