Last week, we presented the case for the Flyers to extend Ivan Provorov this summer rather than waiting until 2019. Today, we’re looking at fellow 2015 draftee Travis Konecny.
With Provorov and Konecny entering the final years of their entry-level contracts, the Flyers can sign them to new deals when the new NHL calendar year begins on July 1. At his end-of-season news conference, Flyers general manager Ron Hextall did not appear to be in a rush to do so.
That said, Hextall also didn’t shut down the possibility. By studying Hextall’s previous contracts, he likes to sign players before their contracts expire. If a player reaches unrestricted free agency, it’s because the Flyers have decided to move on. Once he identifies a player he wants to re-sign, he has moved fast to lock them up. Provorov and Konecny are a little different.
Both are scheduled to be restricted free agents next summer and it’s fair to say neither will actually reach RFA. They’re both key blocks to what the Flyers are building. With both, it’s just a matter of what type of contract they sign next and whether they do it now or later. Let’s dive in.
What he’s done
After an up-and-down rookie campaign that included benchings, Konecny blossomed into an established scorer in the NHL during his sophomore season. He finished with 24 goals and 47 points in 81 games in 2017-18, but his turning point came Dec. 23 in Columbus when he was elevated to the first line. In his next 46 games, Konecny scored 20 goals and 37 points and saw his plus/minus climb from minus-2 to plus-19. During a 23-game span between Dec. 28 and Feb. 18, Konecny had 11 goals and 24 points with five multi-point games and six game-winners.
Konecny showed improvements defensively from his rookie year to his sophomore season, though further advancement will be required in 2018-19. He learned to reel back the high risks in his game but still showed a willingness to take risks. During his end-of-season news conference, Konecny said he believes high-risk plays are required if he wants to be a high-end player. He also gained the trust of coach Dave Hakstol, who provided the second-year player a longer leash. When Konecny made a mistake, Hakstol wasn’t as quick to staple him to the bench. Konecny wasn’t immune to benchings, though. There were a few games in which Konecny took a bad penalty or a mindless turnover and sat.
Now or later
While re-signing both Provorov and Konecny this summer would be sweet relief for Hextall, there should be more urgency to extend Provorov. He’s the safer bet at this moment, and when we’re talking about extending players still with term on their deals, that's what it is. Both players are still growing, but Provorov is far more polished.
You can be comfortable handing Provorov a big deal — say, $6 million AAV — and come away content with him at that price even if he doesn’t take a huge leap again in Year 3.
Konecny is a little more complicated. His next contract will be a considerable jump from his entry-level contract ($894,167). He came a long way in his development from Year 1 to Year 2, and Hakstol deserves credit, but Konecny still has a lot of room to grow. But there remains untapped potential in Konecny’s game and there's risk his defensive game never fully comes around.
That said, a long-term extension may not make sense for the Flyers now, and it might not even make sense next summer either. Konecny’s next contract has the feel of a bridge deal before his first long-term NHL payday. The CBA states that players cannot hit unrestricted free agency until they’re 27 years old or after seven years of NHL service.
With that in mind, a four-year contract might be what Konecny aims for because it would bring him to seven years. That would align him up to hit UFA at 25. The Flyers might want a three-year contract because it would keep Konecny as a restricted free agent when it expires. That way they still hold his rights when it expires and move the big contract conversation to another day.
Another option is signing Konecny to a long-term deal now. Say for six years and bet Konecny’s all-around game will develop to a point where they can live with the blips here and there.
As a 21-year-old, Konecny is already a 20-goal scorer, which figures to put him between the $3- and-$5 million range. If he continues to round out his overall game, that will only increase.
But this summer, there shouldn't be a rush to extend him. If it happens, it happens. But extending Provorov and adding one or two more pieces that can help out now should be higher on Hextall's to-do list.