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June 26, 2024

5 Flyers thoughts: On Matvei Michkov's impending arrival and what comes next

Michkov is on his way, and the Flyers might be in the early workings on shifting the focus of the team around him.

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Matvei-Michkov-Gary-Bettman-Flyers-NHL-Draft-2023.jpg Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports

Matvei Michkov goes to shake NHL commissioner Gary Bettman's hand after the Flyers called his name at seventh overall during the draft last June.

Matvei Michkov is coming over, the NHL Draft starts on Friday, and the Philadelphia Flyers suddenly have the most hype – and hope – surrounding them in a long, long time. 

They're about to bring in their future superstar, and that might not be the last big wave they make over the next few days. 

Here are a few thoughts ahead of them...

Acknowledge him

Reports started flying in early Sunday that Michkov and his representation were lining up for a jump to North America and the NHL. Then on Tuesday, just after the Stanley Cup Final ended the night before, the major parties involved all began publicly acknowledging that it was true: Matvei Michkov is headed for Philadelphia to join the Flyers

First, SKA St. Petersburg's confirmation that he's leaving the team and the KHL, along with a statement from Michkov on taking the leap:

Then Danny Brière's statement:

Followed by the Flyers' social media team having a field day:

Yeah, Brière's smirk from last week's pre-draft media availability when he was asked about Michkov says everything now. 


It's happening. This is real. 

The next steps

But there's still some work left to do before it's all entirely official. 

Obviously, Michkov needs to actually land over here and sign his entry-level contract, which could take another week or two based on the timeline The Athletic's Pierre LeBrun laid out per his sources:

Then there's what happens once he really is a Flyer. 

Whether they were going to have Michkov for the upcoming 2024-25 season or not, the Flyers still entered the offseason with a to-do list to take care of. At the top of it is Travis Konecy's contract, which seemed headed toward a long-term extension and even with Michkov's impending arrival, likely still is – though you can't put 100 percent certainty on that. 

But keep in mind: Over the past three years, and in the two since John Tortorella has taken over behind the bench, Konecny has taken some major strides, both as a player on the ice and as a leader in the locker room. He dove deep into analytical evaluations with Brière toward the end of a tough 2021-22 season, then went on to set career-highs in goals and points in back-to-back years on an offensive attack that isn't particularly fearsome yet. His share in responsibility also expanded over time, in various on-ice situations and then with the reward of an alternate captaincy, and at age 27, there is logic to the idea that he can fit the Flyers' timeline keeping as an effective top-six winger. 

He's valuable to the Flyers, and that's no secret. It's just a matter of what the number is going to be to keep him on board, which with the cap going up, is probably going to be something a good amount of fans aren't going to be comfortable with, at least at the outset. But with that said, again, the cap is going up, which means there's just going to be a higher cost of doing business league-wide. 

Also on the list is the draft this weekend in Vegas and the various routes the Flyers can take at it. For now, they'll have up to 10 picks, including the 12th and 32nd overall selections, but they've been a team popping up on the rumor mill of late, and with confirmation of Michkov coming over, could be that much bigger of a blip on the radar now. 

On Monday, The Fourth Period's David Pagnotta noted that there's noise around a market for Joel Farabee and that the Carolina Hurricanes have expressed interest in Konecny. 

There was also buzz of talks with Ottawa last week, sparked by TSN's Travis Yost, which could signal an attempt at a move up the draft board – Ottawa has the seventh overall pick – or...

Center of attention

The Flyers could be trying to make a play for a center to put alongside Michkov

Martin Nečas has been believed to be at an impasse with Carolina as the Hurricanes face a serious cap crunch this offseason (more on that here), which might be where their reported interest in Konecny stems from – though note that that last part is purely speculative.

And then there's Anaheim's Trevor Zegras, who Pagnotta also mentioned on Monday that the Flyers were one of at least eight teams to have expressed "serious interest" in, but that, for now, the Ducks are meeting with a pretty high asking price. 

Zegras is interesting in that he's been floating around the Flyers rumor sphere pretty much ever since the Jamie Drysdale-Cutter Gauthier trade happened, and between injuries and stalled development, his past couple of years have been rough enough to put his future in Anaheim in doubt. 

But Zegras is still only 23 with clear skill and potential yet to be realized. There is a sound gamble to be taken there in that he can take that next step with a change of scenery and with a different structure. 

And hey, the Flyers did just take a big dice roll with Michkov at seventh overall last summer, when there was no guarantee that he would play for them within the next few years if ever, and it's paying off now

They've got room, and reason, to get ambitious. 

A true No. 1

For just as much as the Flyers need a center, they also need a true No. 1 defenseman. They definitely don't have one yet, and Florida's victory in the Stanley Cup Final made it painfully clear just how much of a requirement one is if you want to win. 

It took good goaltending, of course. Sergei Bobrovsky was excellent for the Panthers in each of their four wins over the Oilers and throughout the playoffs – congrats to the former Flyer who is now on the fast track to the Hall of Fame. 

But the Panthers also won on a relentlessly hard-checking and defensive-minded playstyle, a style that they wouldn't have been able to get away with if they didn't have a big, smart, and veteran defenseman like Aaron Ekblad leading their blueline at the top. 

Look, those three games the Oilers took down 3-0 to force a Game 7, they happened, they were majorly impressive on Edmonton's part, and had the Panthers looking brutal during them. 

But in the four games Florida took, the latter two of which were won by just one goal, Ekblad was constantly getting his stick in the passing lanes, clearing the puck out of trouble quickly, and bodying Edmonton forecheckers away from it. He completely sold out defensively, the entire team did, to the point where they could close out games by pinning the puck to the boards and daring teams to take it from them. Ekblad did exactly that to Edmonton to beat Edmonton in Game 3 and then the Panthers reverted right back to it at the end of Game 7 to clinch. There was nothing the Oilers could do about it either time.

The Flyers have some good defensive pieces – Cam York is progressing, Drysdale has potential, Travis Sanheim can steer the ship as the veteran for now, Nick Seeler will give you everything he has, and Oliver Bonk has all kinds of promise in the development pipeline. 

But the Flyers don't have that one guy capable of shutting down everything, and they need to find him. 

Stars aligning?

In October, Matvei Michkov is going to debut for the Flyers, the Phillies are looking to be back across the street fighting after a World Series, the Eagles could be at the Linc with a reinvigorated offense kickstarted by Saquon Barkley in the backfield, and the Sixers could be taking a renewed title charge with Joel Embiid, Tyrese Maxey, and maybe Paul George? Or not? – who knows with the Sixers anymore...

Point is, Michkov might be playing into what could stand as one of the craziest months in Philly sports history. Each of the Sports Complex's core four could be going full tilt all at once. 

It's going to be wild...hopefully.

One more...

With the end of this NHL season comes the end of Adidas' jersey deal with the league. The reins have been handed over to Fanatics now, who revealed all of the teams' newly manufactured jerseys on Wednesday.

And...they're all fine, which is a relief given Fanatics' notoriously contentious reputation among sports fans. 

Here's the Flyers' home jersey from Fanatics' reveal video this morning:

A pretty straightforward and safe transition which, granted, has been what rumors have been implying over the past few months. 

The only notable changes in the switch are that the vented shoulders – an Adidas-specific touch – are gone now, and the Adidas tag on the back collar has been swapped out with the Fanatics one.

Other than that, everything else is par for the course, and the NHL game jerseys are still being manufactured at the same Quebec-based factory that's been handling them for decades, from CCM to Reebok, Adidas, and now to Fanatics – a point that Fanatics was sure to emphasize ever since they reached the deal to take over the uniforms. 

Now on the consumer side of things? We're going to have to see how that one works out, but there's already an extensive track record of Fanatics just being atrocious on that front

Anyway, let's end on this jersey unveiling video where Auston Matthews talks about Danny Brière being one of his favorite players growing up:

Do with that information what you will.

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