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September 14, 2019

What they're saying: Are the Flyers getting any closer to signing RFA Travis Konecny?

The Philadelphia Flyers opened up training camp for the 2019-20 season this week, and there was a noticeable absence. 

While the team was able to get a deal done with young defenseman Ivan Provorov (more on that in a bit), they've still been unable to come to terms with restricted free agent forward Travis Konecny. And it doesn't seem like a deal is imminent, meaning Konecny will continue to miss valuable time learning new head coach Alain Vigneault's system. And the Flyers coach didn't mince words on Friday when asked about the absence of the 22-year-old winger. 

It's worth noting that this is not a holdout, like we've seen recently in the NFL with Ezekiel Elliott and Melvin Gordon. Konecny is not yet under contract for the 2019-20 season and therefore cannot be at camp until a deal is reached. Still, it's no surprise that the Flyers coach is disappointed in Konecny's absence. And that absence doesn't seem to be ending any time soon.

In today's edition of What They're Saying, we'll take a look at how Vigneault and general manager Chuck Fletcher are dealing with the Konecny situation, how it could impact the Flyers this season, a look at Provorov's new deal, and more...

'We still have a ways to go'

Dave Isaac | Courier Post

That's how GM Chuck Fletcher characterized the ongoing negotiations with Konecny and his representatives, and while the Flyers say they're flexible on the type of deal they sign — long term or short term — but Konecny, who had 49 points (24 G, 25 A) last season, wants a longer deal.

Konecny is the only player to not report yet, because he doesn’t have a new deal. His RFA counterpart, defenseman Ivan Provorov, agreed to a six-year, $40.5 million contract Thursday night and was on the ice for the team’s first practice. A deal for Konecny did not seem close Friday afternoon.

“We still have a ways to go,” general manager Chuck Fletcher said. “So I don't really know how to characterize it. Both sides are trying. It’s been a little quiet recently so we'll look find a solution to break the impasse.

“They have some specific demands with respect to term and so we’re trying to work with them in that regard. I think we’re a little more flexible. I think we would look at, you know, a two- or three-year deal or a longer-term deal and they prefer a longer-term deal right now. Certainly that makes it a little bit more difficult when you narrow the scope of what length of term you're negotiating on, but hopefully we will continue to work at it.”  []

And when it comes to that longer deal, it seems that where negotiations are really hitting a snag. 

Why a long-term deal makes sense

Jordan Hall | NBC Sports Philadelphia

The Flyers may be hesitant to give Konecny the average value he wants on a longer deal, but that might actually be the best route, because it would allow the Flyers to lock down the young forward before his price tag goes up — which is exactly what's going to happen if he continues to develop into the player the Flyers hope he becomes. 

The entire offseason has passed and Konecny, an important forward to the Flyers' 2019-20 season, remains a restricted free agent. While it's unclear when he'll be in camp, the intricacies to why the Flyers and his representation can't agree to terms on a new contract became a bit clearer Friday.

GM Chuck Fletcher said the Flyers are willing to be flexible but Konecny's camp would "prefer a longer-term deal right now." A longer-term deal might make sense for the Flyers because Konecny is only 22 years old and hasn't fully blossomed yet. Locking up Konecny for more years before he potentially hits a different tier could attract the Flyers.

While a bridge deal may be a good bet for Konecny, long-term security isn't bad, either. There are risks and rewards to both avenues, for both sides. It'll be about compromising.  []

Konecny's absence hurts both sides

Tom Dougherty | CBS Philly

No Konecny is bad news for the Flyers, especially given the role he was expected to take on this season. Add to that the fact that he needs to learn a new coach's system, and you can quickly see why the Flyers would be motivated to get something done sooner rather than later. 

But it might be just as bad for Konecny, as he's not only missing valuable time practicing Vigneault's offense, but could win up losing his spot among the Flyers' top six forwards.

While Konecny’s standoff continues, Vigneault and the Flyers move on without one of their top even-strength goal scorers — and it’s a no-win situation for both.

With a new coaching staff, each day Konecny misses is another day he falls behind in learning Vigneault’s system and what is expected from the new coaches. If Konecny’s dispute costs him considerable training camp time, he’ll put himself in a difficult situation — and could even cost himself a top-six role.

Entering training camp, the Flyers had an open right wing spot on the third line. All the breadcrumbs point to Fletcher wanting a rookie to win the position battle, and all eyes are on Joel Farabee, Morgan Frost and Isaac Ratcliffe. Konecny was expected to be on the top line with Giroux and Couturier. ...

Ultimately, it’s hard to see Konecny’s dispute lasting long into the regular season. There’s too much at risk for both sides for this not to get done before Oct. 4.

The Flyers need Konecny in camp, and the sooner the better. Konecny needs to be in camp to get acclimated of what Vigneault expects of him — the sooner the better.  []

With Konecny out, it was Farabee who got paired with Giroux and Couturier on the top line. And even that could be trouble for the absent forward, as the chemistry developing between those players could cause Vigneault to reconsider his lines and push Konecny down the pecking order. 

MORE: Wells Fargo Center introduces $25 standing room tickets to Flyers games | Here's a first look at the Wells Fargo Center's new 4K kinetic scoreboard

The deal that did get done

Ryan Gilbert | Sons of Penn

While Konecny's absence is stealing a lot of the headlines early on in Flyers training camp, it easy to forget that the Flyers did make a big signing this week, bringing back RFA Ivan Provorov on a six-year, $40.5 million deal. And the price looks right... 

The worst-case scenario for Provorov’s contract is that it becomes an overpay — but not by that much. He is a workhorse that can be relied upon to shoulder the load night in and night out. Even if he completely tanks, the Flyers are not completely locked in as the deal does not include a no-trade clause.

However, the worst-case scenario is rather unlikely to happen. On the other hand, Provorov could continue his progression as a top-pair defenseman in his low-to-mid 20s.

The best-case scenario is that this contract becomes a steal, much like the way we look at Sean Couturier’s deal and Shayne Gostisbehere’s to some extent. It wouldn’t have been surprising to see Provorov ink a contract similar to Trouba’s $8 million cap hit over seven years, so signing him for more than $1 million less than that — while still getting a long-term deal and not a bridge deal — is great for the Flyers.  []

That only strengthen's the argument for the Flyers to sign Konecny to a longer deal, as the back end of his contract could look relatively cheap if he continues to develop. 

Couturier proving Hextall's approach had merits

Mike Sielski |

The Flyers could've parted ways with Sean Couturier as the veteran forward took some time to come into his own. But with some players, it does take time. Instead of shipping him off, Hextall practiced patience, and after asking then-head coach Dave Hakstol for a bigger role on offense, Couturier got his wish, and has thrived as the Flyers' top-line center ever since. 

As Mike Sielski points out, the Flyers are hoping that same approach works on some of their other homegrown talent. And if that happens, it may make the team's quiet trade deadline and offseason a bit more palatable. 

After some discussion and disagreement, Hakstol made what turned out to be perhaps the smartest and bravest decision of his tenure here. He moved Claude Giroux, the Flyers’ captain and No. 1 center, to left wing and elevated Couturier to the team’s top line. Couturier, who had never scored more than 15 goals, had 31 during the 2017-18 regular season, then five more in a six-game playoff series against the Penguins, then another 33 last season. ...

There’s a lesson in Couturier’s career, one that sounds notes of both optimism and caution for the Flyers. The optimism is born not of the moves they made this offseason, but of the moves they didn’t make in previous offseasons. For as frustrated as the team’s fans — and, to a great degree, the team’s ownership — became with the lengthy rebuild that former general manager Ron Hextall rightly believed was necessary, Couturier is evidence that Hextall’s guiding principle was correct. Young players, no matter how talented, no matter how mature, generally need time to develop, and that development won’t always be a smooth, upward-trending line, and an organization gives up on them early at its peril.

Take Couturier. In 2015, he signed a six-year, $26 million contract, and that average annual value of $4.33 million would have made him an attractive trade piece if Hextall had wanted to use him as one. Such a move would have been easily defensible. What had Couturier accomplished until then, and how much longer did everyone have to wait for the Flyers to become contenders?

Hextall was willing to wait as long as it took, and his patience set the Flyers up to have several other players make the same sort of leap that Couturier did: Ivan Provorov, Travis Konecny, Nolan Patrick, Oskar Lindblom, Travis Sanheim. All of them might not make that leap, but it seems far-fetched that none of them will.  []

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