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June 22, 2024

Danny Brière is keeping the Flyers on the long-term plan: 'We know where we're at'

The Flyers still aren't letting the near-playoff push distract them. They're rebuilding, and this draft – plus the next couple to follow – are critical.

Flyers NHL
Flyers-NHL-Draft-2023-Michkov-Pick.jpg Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports

Last summer and the pick of Matvei Michkov at seventh overall was a start, but the Flyers still have a long ways to go.

The NHL Draft is at the end of this coming week, quickly following a season that – by some Edmonton-fueled miracle – will run all the way into Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday night. 

For the Philadelphia Flyers, there's next to nothing for them to do about the latter, other than wait to see if their first-round pick coming from the Florida Panthers will be 31st or 32nd overall.

But for the former, they're doing their homework and putting together their plans, with general manager Danny Brière quite possibly working the phones ahead of Friday night in Vegas to see if there's a move up (or back) to be made like recent rumors have been implying

He's definitely heard them. 

"It was nice and quiet, and I could enjoy my days until yesterday," Brière joked Thursday morning from the Flyers Training Center in Voorhees for his pre-draft media availability. "You guys kind of changed that all of a sudden."

But he didn't exactly deny them either. 

For now, the Flyers have the 12th overall pick in the draft, with an expected array of diverse prospects to choose from, along with one more late one before the first is up.

With those, the Flyers need to chart the next steps, and establish the next piece, to their long-term future. 

Ahead of it, here is what else stood out from Brière's availability on Thursday...

'We know where we're at'

The messaging hasn't changed. 

Last summer, when Brière officially took over as the full-time GM, he stated that the Flyers were "open for business" and would be listening to any offer. 

If they were truly going to rebuild, they had to. 

But then the team on the ice played far better than most expected for much of the season, taking an ultimately failed playoff push all the way down to the final regular season game. 

Yet, that hasn't seemed to trick the Flyers' front office into thinking they're further along than originally thought. 

They're sticking to the plan – Brière, president of hockey ops Keith Jones, and team governor Dan Hilferty have each maintained that in the couple months since the season ended. 

The Philadelphia Flyers still have a ways to go, and a lot of assets they want to continue to try to pile up. So they're still out there listening. 

"It hasn't changed for us," Brière said Thursday. "We're still looking to acquire assets that are going to help us in the future. We know where we're at as a team. 

"It was awesome what happened last year, playing games that mattered all the way to game 82, even though we missed [the playoffs]. But we realized we're not a Stanley Cup contender yet. We still have lots of work and the future is still what we're targeting."

And there's another immediate factor feeding into that...

They know they're cap strapped

The Flyers are still retaining salary on Kevin Hayes' trade and Tony DeAngelo's buyout from last summer, along with eating the final year of cap hit on goaltender Cal Petersen's contract, which is expected to stay stashed away in the AHL. 

Cam Atkinson could be in buyout consideration also, and then there's the matter of Travis Konecny's last year and the extension the Flyers seem to be heading toward giving him. 

They're up against it salary cap-wise, which is going to bar them from doing much of anything when free agency opens immediately after the draft on July 1.

But they already knew that. 

To clear out the old that needed to get out of here this time last year – Hayes, DeAngelo, and Ivan Provorov – and to start stockpiling assets again, Brière and the Flyers knew they needed to do other teams favors and take on dead money to get the ball rolling. 

They're living with the reality of that now, and will over the next 12 months. But it's part of the process.

"The reality is we have a lot of dead money going into year two of my tenure," Brière said. "But that was the plan also. We acquired assets to help us for the future, like picks and stuff. So this summer is going to be tough. Next summer should ease up a little bit, but we're still going to be in a little bit of a crunch. 

"But looking further towards the future, I think it's going to hopefully get easier. And as the cap rises, hopefully again next summer, know that that's going to help us."

They know these next few drafts are crucial, too

The 2024 draft is going to be important for the Flyers, but won't make or break the organization's long-term vision, at least not on its own. 

They got Matvei Michkov, Oliver Bonk, Denver Barkey, and goalies Carson Bjarnason and Yegor Zavragin on the way to making 10 picks in total last summer. 

Right now, they're looking at up to 10 picks for this coming weekend – depending on Columbus' call on the conditional second from the Provorov trade – and have another 10 selections lined up for 2025

Those are a lot of shots at nailing down a young team for the future, or chips to be used to take a gamble on something greater as they navigate the next couple of years.

"Everything's on the table for us," Brière said. We're looking at all kinds of options. When I talk to teams, we're not stuck in just one mode of trying to move up or trying to move back. I know there's teams that have called and said ‘Look, we want more picks. So, we're looking to move back and just get more shots.' But we have the picks, so it gives us more possibilities to do either or for us. 

"But again, the three drafts – 23, 24 and 25 – are going to be critical for our future."

But there is a plan lining up

And the Flyers are giving themselves the time to see it through, even if, from the outside looking in, the light at the end of the tunnel is a long ways off, and the bus is only slowly rolling toward it. 

Of course, Matvei Michkov is there as the big piece at the center of it all, but defenseman Oliver Bonk is there, too, and has been lighting it up in juniors with the OHL's London Knights. They both could be lining up to join the team at the same time in a couple of years. 

All the while, the Flyers might not be afraid of a wait on a Russian prospect again – in the slim likelihood that someone like Ivan Demidov or Anton Silayev falls to them – if it presents another home run swing on another potential star. 

There's a goal here, and the early steps of a path to get there. It's just going to take time.

"We're trying to build the best hockey team, and where we're at, it might be a little bit more feasible for us at the moment because of our timeline and what we're trying to do," Brière said. "We're aware that the Stanley Cup right away next year might be a stretch for us, so we have a little bit more time there. 

"Don't forget too if you draft a guy in juniors, we'll take Oliver Bonk, for example. Now people made a big stink of Matvei Michkov, but Oliver Bonk is almost on the same timeframe. He is most likely going to play another year of juniors.He might need one year of minor league. So, they might come up here with the Flyers right around the same time."


What about that Michkov deadline?

The end of June is coming. Michkov is still over in Russia hanging out in Flyers gear

Is that decision coming?

"As far as I know, I don't have a date," Brière said holding back a laugh. "We're kind of at the mercy of what [SKA St. Petersburg and the KHL] decide to do over there with him.

"If you would have asked me, and you probably did at the end of the season – maybe that wasn't out there, but maybe a couple of weeks after the season when those rumors started swirling, I’d probably say ‘Well, we should know by the end of June,' and here we are now getting closer to it and we still don't know much more. So I don't have much more of an answer. 

"But for us, it doesn't change. If they tell us he's coming on September 1, we'll jump on it. The mindset for us is still we're going into next season without him. He has two years left on his contract. If something changes from today until then, we'll certainly be happy. But I don't have much news on that. We read what's going on and we hope for the best."

So business as usual...until it isn't.

One more on Lappy

Ian Laperrière got a two-year extension earlier this week to remain on as the Lehigh Valley Phantoms' head coach down in the AHL. 

The Phantoms have made the Calder Cup Playoffs in each of the past two seasons since he has taken them over behind the bench, and key names on the Flyers now – like Cam York, Tyson Foerster, Egor Zamula, and Sam Ersson – have all spent time over in Allentown and came up (or back up) to the NHL much better for it. 

The Flyers clearly see Laperrière as having played a huge role in that, with a playing career where he has had to earn every last bit of it to lean back on and pull from.

"He earned everything throughout his career, and to have a guy like that, he can walk into a room as a coach and he can look at someone and say ‘You know what, that next shot, you better get on your knees and stop it with your face,’ because he's done it," Brière said. "Not a lot of people can do that. I think he gets a lot of respect from his players because he's one of those guys who did everything possible to be the best player he could be. 

"He was the one that was always there to protect his teammates. So having a guy like Lappy for the development of our players is a big asset."

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