Flyers

Flyers

The Flyers avoided a potentially messy situation with defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere by re-signing him Friday to a multi-year contract.

It's a six-year, $27 million deal for an AAV of $4.5 million a season, according to a source.

"It's a dream come true to be part of one of the best organizations in hockey," Gostisbehere said of his new contract.

"With everything that's going on here — we've got some young guys coming up and we've already got some key pieces — it's nice to know you're part of the future and part of the plans.

"There are many more steps to come and hopefully it leads to some great things. It's a tremendous honor to realize you're part of the future."

His $4.5 million cap hit is second only to Andrew MacDonald ($5 million) on the Flyers' blue line.

Although Gostisbehere would have been on the Flyers' protected list, because he was a restricted free agent, he could have been signed to the Vegas Golden Knights 48 hours prior to the expansion draft, but the Flyers would have had a chance to match.

"It's important to us to get some cost certainty," general manager Ron Hextall said. "Shayne has a very bright future and certainly fits in with our vision moving forward and we're real excited to have him under contract long term here."

The 24-year-old defenseman was a Calder Trophy finalist two years ago with 17 goals and 46 points.

 

He had a very disappointing season last year — seven goals, 39 points and minus-21 — but in his defense, just like Claude Giroux, he did not recover quickly enough from offseason hip and abdominal surgery. He lacked speed and recovery ability right into the second half of the 2016-17 season before he started to resemble his former self on the ice.

Coach Dave Hakstol benched him five games. Hextall said he did not feel this had a negative impact on Gostisbehere mentally or caused a lack of confidence in his play.

"Shayne and I'll throw Travis (Konecny) in there as well, there are lessons to be learned when you are a young player," Hextall said. "Sometimes, at the time, you don't understand them.

"But I assure you this year, next year, the year after, Shayne will look back on those experiences and [say], 'I learned a lot from that.'

"That whole nurturing and this and that, sometimes there is a little tough love and Shayne got a little tough love last year and I'm sure if you asked him, it's not necessarily a bad thing.

"Every player gets disappointed at some point in their career. You need to learn to deal with it. He'll be a better player and person as a result."

Expectations soared last season after the Union College grad won the Barry Ashbee Trophy as the Flyers' top defenseman in 2015-16. Gostisbehere set a Flyers and NHL record for rookie defensemen with a 15-game scoring streak and made the league's all-rookie team. His point total led all rookie blueliners while his 17 goals established a new Flyers benchmark for rookie defensemen.

Despite this past season's poor showing, Gostisbehere refused to use his injuries as an excuse and vowed he would come back as a better player this fall.

He said he accepted his benchings and had moved on. Hextall said Friday he was not concerned with how Hakstol handled the delicate situation.

"He does have a good rapport with young players," Hextall said of Hakstol. "The most important thing here is to have the respect from your players.

"Sometimes you're doing things that you think are best for the team short term and long term. And what's best for the team is making every individual player better.

"We're not going to nurture young players here. Our young players have to earn it. Players who deserve to be in the lineup 82 games, are going to be in the lineup."

The Flyers expect two roster openings on defense this fall with the departures of Michael Del Zotto and Nick Schultz, both of whom won't be re-signed.

Sam Morin and Robert Hagg could grab those spots. Gostisbehere has played with Morin, a stay-at-home defenseman, in previous training camps. Morin's NHL debut last April in New Jersey saw him paired with Gostisbehere.

 

"I have no idea," Hextall said of a possible permanent pairing. "Those are things you have to see. Ghost is one of those players that can play with different guys. We've got a few guys in the organization that you view.

"You want a stay-at-home defenseman with Ghost because he's going to be up ice. We've got three or four of those guys, as well as the young kids coming. There's a multitude of players that Ghost could play with."

As for timing of the contract, Hextall said he only would have gotten concerned had negotiations dragged deep into the summer.

Weal update
Hextall did not sound optimistic about progress in re-signing winger Jordan Weal, who is unrestricted.

"I have no idea," he said of negotiations, adding there has not been any talks with Weal's camp since last week's NHL Scouting Combine. "I don't have a prediction or anything else."