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While Matvei Michkov is the Future, Travis Konecny Still Represents the Present

(Heather Barry Images, LLC)

Matvei Michkov is more than likely going to be the face of the Philadelphia Flyers moving forward. Whether that’s today, tomorrow, next month, or even five years down the road, the idea is to hand him the keys and see how far he can take you.

While the wheels are in motion for his arrival, how the Flyers handle Travis Konecny and his contract negotiations will show us what path we’re currently on and what to expect from the club in the next 1-3 years.

The Flyers are entering the second year of their rebuild under the motto of “New Era of Orange” that is being headlined by General Manager Daniel Brière, President of Hockey Operations Keith Jones, CEO of Comcast Spectacor Dan Hilferty, and to a degree head coach John Tortorella. It was never going to be a full teardown rebuild like we’ve seen from the Chicago Blackhawks or the San Jose Sharks, but it was also going to be a lot different than Chuck Fletcher’s attempted rebuild.

As we enter a pivotal offseason that is being headlined by the arrival of Michkov, Konecny is due for an extension and while conversations will be had between player and team during the summer and possibly into the regular season, there seems to be a lot of disdain towards his perceived asking price, what the Flyers will eventually have to sign him to should they want to go down that route, and whether or not it’s a worthwhile venture. All acceptable questions but questioning his skillset is a whole different story.

Konecny’s story began with the 2015 NHL Entry Draft when he was selected with the second of two first round picks. The Flyers traded their later pick (28th overall) alongside a second round pick to the Toronto Maple Leafs for the 24th overall pick to select Konecny from of the Ottawa 67’s of the OHL. The 5’10” right-winger put up 29 goals and 68 points in 60 games played before exploding the following year with 30 goals and 101 points in just 60 games split between Ottawa and the Sarnia Sting.

He joined the Philadelphia Flyers ahead of the 2016-17 season, where he added 11 goals and 28 points in 70 games during his rookie season. In the following three seasons between 2017-18 and 2019-20, Konecny would finish with exactly 24 goals scored each year but accumulated 47 points, 49 points, and 61 points, respectively. He slowly became a staple in the offensive game and paced the club in points in 2019-20 before COVID-19 ravaged the league.

When the Flyers came back for the playoff bubble, Konecny went without a goal in 16 games to go along with just 7 assists. 2020-21 wasn’t kind to him either as he tallied just 11 goals and 34 points in 50 games as the Flyers struggled uncharacteristically – at least compared to their 2019-20 regular season.

The beginning of his 2021-22 season resembled the playoff bubble and the 2020-21 campaign as he had just 5 goals and 10 points in his first 22 games, including just 1 goal and 2 points in the final 13 games of Alain Vigneault’s tenure. However, it seemed like Mike Yeo was able to unlock Konecny’s potential as he finished the year with a much more reasonable 11 goals and 42 points in 57 games.

A massive indication of his struggles in 2021-22 was his 7.3 shooting percentage, a number he never came close to reaching in the four years prior or the two years since. In the four seasons between 2017-18 and 2020-21, Konecny had a 13.8 shooting percentage, including a career-high 17.% in 2019-20. In the 2 years since, he’s returned to his career norms with a 14.7% clip while scoring 64 goals in 136 games.

Perhaps it was just Vigneault who stunted his growth after the playoff bubble, but under Yeo and John Tortorella, Konecny not only improved but he looks like a completely different player. Specifically under Tortorella’s tutelage, Konecny has become a two-way force, a penalty-killing maestro, and a team leader before our eyes. In 60 games during the 2022-23 season, Konecny scored a career-high 31 goals and added 30 assists, played 20:07 ATOI, and even added 3 shorthanded goals.

In 2023-24, he took a greater leap with 33 goals and 68 points in 76 games with a +4 rating – his first plus rating since 2017-18 – and scored a league-leading 6 shorthanded tallies. His two-way game expanded as he corralled 53 takeaways to 30 giveaways, had his CF% increase by 7%, CF% rel increase by 4 points, FF% increase by 8%, and FF% rel increase by 4 points. His even-strength percentages also increased by 5-6% as well, he saw almost 120 minutes of shorthanded time, and was one of the few players who was consistently noticeable despite the team’s offensive struggles.

As we enter the summer of 2024, the salary cap is finally seeing a noticeable increase for the first time since 2019. Players will be seeing an increase in their AAVs reflected on their upcoming contracts after a lot of them signed short-term deals over the last few seasons in anticipation of this spike. Furthermore, it looks like the growth will be exponential over the next little while with the cap going from $83.5 million to $88 million this year and then increasing to a projected $92 million in the summer of 2025.

One of the many players that is expected to get a modest raise, not only from his previous contract but from his initial projections, is Konecny. Playing on a downtrodden Flyers offense, he has still put up respectable numbers, including back to back 30-goal seasons. Initial reports had stated that Konecny’s agent started negotiations with a 10 million dollar asking price. Recent rumblings have Konecny essentially receiving anywhere between $9 million-$9.5 million when everything is settled and done. The big question is whether or not that is going to be a problem.

The Flyers find themselves in an interesting situation because they are scheduled to have around $35 million in cap space next summer with a projected salary cap of $92 million. The last time they had that much cash on hand was in 2019 when Fletcher traded for and/or signed Kevin Hayes, Matt Niskanen, and Justin Braun before extending Ivan Provorov and Konecny coming out of their ELCs.

The events of that summer never really panned out in their favour and they’re somewhat paying for those mistakes today. It goes without saying that these next few off-seasons are going to be a very important for the future of the franchise. Next year, Cam York, Tyson Foerster, Morgan Frost, and Noah Cates are expected to be restricted free agents while Cal Petersen, Cam Atkinson, and Ryan Johansen are expected to be off the books – unless otherwise moved this year – and Tony DeAngelo‘s dead cap from his buyout will also no longer count towards their cap.

Then when you look at how things currently stand beyond 2025, Sean Couturier, Owen Tippett, Joel Farabee, Scott Laughton, Ryan Poehling, and Nicolas Deslauriers are the only forwards signed through 2025-26 with Travis Sanheim, Jamie Drysdale, and Nick Seeler on defence. Add in the fact that players like Frost, Farabee, and Laughton have been mentioned in trade talks countless times already, it’s almost anyone’s guess as to how the roster will shape up, almost making the Konecny situation paramount.

Konecny will turn 28 in March and a maximum contract would see him through his age-36 season at the latest. While an 8-year deal is excessive – for almost anyone – players and agents alike always try to secure the most amount of term as possible. 7 years is the max he can receive on the open market but I think a perfect medium for both player and team would be another 6-year contract. That way Konecny would be 34 years old by the end of the deal and he’ll still be in line for one more major contract – whether with the Flyers or not – all while securing a hefty salary in the process.

When listening to Brière speak about Konecny nowadays, you get the idea that they look at him as a vital cog to the present and for the future. Of course, things can change on a dime and if Konecny’s camp decides to out-price themselves then the Flyers will have to make alterations to their plans and look for a trade. To avoid that situation altogether, many are clamouring for a trade as soon as this year’s draft in order to recoup the best possible package.

With one year remaining on his current deal, coming off successive 30-goal seasons, and entering his prime, there will no shortage of suitors for the 27-year-old and with a full summer and training camp to acclimate to his new surroundings, now would be the best time to strike if you’re a competitor. Brière has remained staunch in his dealings and if he doesn’t get what he wants, no dice – which is primarily why a player like Laughton has yet to be moved. Perhaps he’s playing too close to his chest but it does seem like Brière, Konecny, and the Flyers want to get this done.

With Michkov entrenched as your top-line right-winger and Tippett and Foerster in the midst for years to come, is there still room for Konecny and the aforementioned trio to be able to roam free and play their respective games without any limitations? Lack of talent has been a persistent problem in Philadelphia for years and if they’re able to find the right centres to complement the four wingers, then they should be just fine moving forward.

Unless another team blows the doors of it’s hinges, the Flyers should stand pat and look to extend Konecny. Get the negotiations under way as soon as possible to understand where both sides are at and if he does out-price himself you’ll have plenty of time to find the right deal before it’s too late. $9M-$9.5M might look scary today but if and when the cap gets to the mid-to-high 90s and possibly closer to nine figures, it’s going to be rather fair value.

Timo Meier is probably the best comparable contract on the market right now. After being traded to the New Jersey Devils at last year’s trade deadline, the Swiss-international signed an 8-year deal worth $70.4 million at an AAV of $8.8 million per season.

Coming into the 2024-25 season:

Games played: Konecny’s 564 games to Meier’s 541

Goals scored: Konecny’s 174 goals scored to Meier’s 191

Assists and points: Konecny’s 226 assists and 400 points to Meier’s 191 assists and 382 points

Types of goals: Konecny has 29 power play goals, 9 shorthanded goals, and 26 game-winning goals compared to Meier’s 52 power play goals, 0 shorthanded goals, and 26 game-winning goals

Last 3 seasons: Konecny has 80 goals and 181 points in 215 games compared to Meier’s 103 goals and 194 points in 224 games.

Their numbers are eerily similar and not much sets them apart other than size with Meier standing in at 6’1” and 220 pounds to Konecny’s 5’10” stature and 190 pounds.

Considering they’re from the same draft class, they’re the same age, and their numbers are almost the same when stacked together, the comparison should reign supreme from the Flyers end of things. Konecny’s camp will assuredly talk about “inflation” with the salary cap increasing and Meier signing that deal in 2023, but there should very easily be common ground found in the middle.

There is a world where both Michkov and Konecny can play together, succeed together, and both be priced out very fairly and evenly. Brière and company see Konecny as a piece of the core that will lead the Flyers out of the abyss, and now it’s all about finding the right price to keep him in Philadelphia for the foreseeable future.

Flyers fan born in the heart of Leafs nation

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