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Patrick Accepts QO, Fletcher Talks Gus and Ghost, Quick Hits

October 17, 2020, 8:15 AM ET [85 Comments]
Bill Meltzer
Philadelphia Flyers Blogger •NHL.com • RSSArchiveCONTACT

Flyers center Nolan Patrick, a 10.2(c) restricted free agent this offseason, has accepted his qualifying offer from the organization for $874,265 for the 2020-21 season. He is eligible to become a restricted free agent again next summer.

By virtue of missing the entire 2019-20 season, Patrick was classified as 10.2(c) player despite his entry-level contract having expired after the campaign. A 10.2(c) restricted free agent is one who is ineligible to negotiate with any other teams or to sign an offer sheet elsewhere. The Flyers held his exclusive negotiating rights.

"I'm very excited to be a part of the Flyers organization for another year and am looking forward to being back on the ice," Patrick said in a statement released by the team.

Patrick has been skating and scrimmaging in Manitoba with a group led by former Flyers player Ryan White.



1) Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher spoke the media yesterday via video conference. He discussed, among other topics, the recent signing of Erik Gustafsson, his belief that Gustafsson and Shayne Gostisbehere could both be part of the starting six on the blueline, the need for long-term planning against a flat salary cap, and more. The interview was conducted several hours before the announcement of Nolan Patrick accepting his qualifying offer.

For an overview of the main points of the Fletcher press conference, click here for the synopsis. If you prefer the full transcript, it follows below, courtesy of the Flyers.

Are you still trying to add a defenseman or do you look at Erik Gustafsson as the final piece? Do you think he has a capability of playing on the first pair [with Ivan Provorov]?

I think we’re still actively talking to teams and agents to see what may be out there. We do have a little bit of cap space left. We’re focusing on trying to re-sign Phil Myers and Nolan Patrick. We can certainly start the year the way we are now, but if there’s a way to improve our team, we’ll continue to look at ways.

With the respect to the second part of the question, certainly that’ll be up to the coaches where Erik plays. A couple seasons ago, he played very well on the right side with Duncan Keith. Last year he played with Connor Murphy and then with Derek Forbort once he got to Calgary. He’s been used in different situations. We think his skillset meshes really well with what we need. We think we have a lot of strong defenders on our team and we’re very structured defensively as a group. His skillset and his ability to go back for pucks, make good decisions and transition the puck up the ice is a very important element to add to our group.

With Gustafsson, do you have an idea of what his role is going to be or is that more of a case of adding a talented guy and letting the coaches figure that out?

As I mentioned when we spoke about Matt Niskanen a few weeks ago, it’s going to be very difficult to replace Matt Niskanen. There wasn’t a defenseman in our opinion in the marketplace that was anywhere near as complete the player as Niskanen with the obvious exception of Pietrangelo. Whoever we were going to bring in was not going to fill the same role or have the same stylistic fit that Matt did.

Essentially, we were able to bring back Justin Braun on a two-year deal. Justin in our opinion is an elite penalty killer and has that ability to defend and shut down in certain situations. Erik is a player that at least the last three seasons, has had a high impact offense at 5-on-5. Of all the defensemen in the game, I think he’s 10th at even strength points per 60 (minutes) over the last three seasons, which is a remarkable number. He has tremendous deception with the puck. Tremendous poise. We don’t have a defenseman that sees the ice like he does. He can play on the power play obviously. It’s a different type of skillset than Matt certainly, but as I mentioned a few weeks ago, there wasn’t going to be that ability to replace Matt per se with the same style.

Would you characterize the Myers and Patrick negotiations as progress being made? Do you get any update on Patrick and how he did in a scrimmage yesterday?

I did not get an update on how he did in the scrimmage. Jim McCrossin keeps in constant communication with him and I speak to him probably every two to three weeks just to see how he’s doing. Certainly no negative news or anything like that. We’ve spoken with the agents for both Phil and Nolan. Hopefully in the near future we’ll have something done.

Given that Gustafsson and Gostisbehere play similar roles, would you be comfortable in a situation with both Gustafsson and Gostisbehere are in the starting lineup?

Absolutely. They’re both real good players. I’m not sure stylistically they are as similar as you make it seem. Gustafsson’s just got tremendous deception and vision. I think he generates offense a little bit differently than Ghost. Ghost has probably got the best shot of anybody on our team. Phil Myers has the velocity maybe but right now I’d say Gostisbehere is an elite shooter. I think they’re a little bit different. They are both better offensively than defensively probably, but I think both of them actually defend pretty well. Why not? I think Provorov’s elite defensively. Sanheim and Myers in my opinion will become elite shutdown defensemen in this league. Justin Braun is an elite defender. Hägg is a good defender. So why not have a couple guys that can spring your offense? If we can defend less, that would be a great thing.

Should fans kind of expect that the busy part of the offseason is finished and this is more or less the roster you are going to start the season with?

I can’t speak for you or for the fans but certainly who knows, we’ll see. This is certainly a different offseason than I’ve ever seen. There’s a high number of high-salaried players available, which probably hasn’t happened to this extent before. We’re entering a fascinating time, the flat cap era. As crazy as it is right now out there, I think next summer could even be worse, in terms of having some paralysis in the market and just having too many teams having to move money.

It’s going to be interesting to see how things get resolved here over the next little while for certain teams. I think we’ve been extremely cognizant of the flat cap in all the decisions we’ve made. We have some young players that we certainly want to re-sign over the next two off-seasons. I think everything we’ve done has certainly been with trying to improve our team in the present, but also with an eye towards the future. It’s going to be more and more difficult to move money. We’re already starting to see some trades where the value of the player has been diminished substantially. Clearly we’re seeing a time in the NHL where cap space and flexibility is more important than actual players.

Is there a trade-off there where you would trade one year of cap space if it meant bringing in a guy who was still available on the market that can help?

I think that’s the preferred approach in this environment because obviously a one-year deal allows you to have that cap space open up again in the next off-season, so you can reallocate it or re-sign the player. I think having flexibility is so important right now. Our team, I think we got a pretty good look at it last year about how unpredictable it can be, how things can change. Things that you don’t expect to happen can happen. You don’t know where you’re going to be in a year.

We’re certainly aware of the players we need to re-sign, the players we would like to re-sign and how we would like to build our team. Flexibility is everything and I think basically every move we’ve made this offseason has been with making our team better for the 20-21 season, but also maintaining as much flexibility as possible going forward.

How high are you and the staff on Linus Sandin? Do you value him as an off-season acquisition that happened months and months ago?

Not just Linus, certainly Wade Allison and Tanner Laczynski and last year we added a bunch of young players that were first year pros. We have an awful lot of forwards in our system that can compete for spots and have earned the opportunity to compete for spots. Whether they will be ready, time will tell. Certainly over the next season or two, we could have a lot of young players that will push for spots on our team. Linus is a mature player, he’s developed in Sweden. He’s a good player already in Sweden. He has a lot of pro experience. He’s a player that should certainly have a much shorter runway than the typical 20 year old kids we’re bringing in.

Are those young prospects a reason to not pursue a free agent forward? Have you closed the door on the free agent market and will lean on the kids and give them a spot?

I haven’t closed the door on anything. Maybe I like our forward group more than you or more than some people. I think we’re really deep on the wing. I think we’re as deep as any team on the wing. Anybody you bring in has to be an upgrade on what you have and has to be a fit in the roster. I said last week and even before that, I think our forward group right now is more talented and deeper than it was at any point last year. I think we have pretty good depth on defense now and we have good depth in goal. We have a good team. We can always make it better. We’ll continue to find ways to make it better, but again we have a pretty strong group of forwards in my opinion.

When you signed Gustafsson, how much did next year’s expansion draft weigh into that decision? Is the expansion draft a big factor on if you do sign or add somebody else?

I don’t think it had a big impact at all. The most important thing is to improve your team for this season and maybe as important is making sure you maintain some salary cap flexibility for the off-seasons of 21 and 22. I’ll just keep repeating this and hopefully everybody will recognize how much importance we are putting into that. We have a lot of big decisions to make over the next couple of off-seasons. We have some players that will be in line for substantial pay increases.

If you go back to last summer, we signed Kevin Hayes. If you go back to the summer before that, we signed James van Riemsdyk. I think as an organization, there’s only so many multi-year contracts you can either acquire via trade or sign in free agency with AAV’s of five, six, seven, eight, nine million. There’s just a limit in the flat cap era. Everybody has the ability to go to CapFriendly and look. It is very difficult to move money right now. It’s only going to get harder in my opinion. Salary cap flexibility is 1B to the 1A of improving your team for next year. The expansion draft is something that we can figure out and work around. We’re in good shape now. That’s not a major part of our decision.

A question on player development. With the ECHL aiming to start their season ahead of the AHL, is the ECHL a possible destination for some of your ELC guys who are not on loan [to European teams]? In other words, just sending those players to ECHL until the AHL starts up.

I guess I take all these start dates with a grain of salt. We’ve seen leagues start and then stop. We’ll have to work through that. I’m sure we’ll get some guidance from the NHL at some point as to what we can do from a development standpoint. I’m not sure that the reported start dates for various leagues that they’re set in stone, let’s put it that way. There’s still a lot of things that could happen and we’re going to have to stay pretty nimble on how we respond.

Will the absence of Rookie Camp make it more challenging to evaluate some of these young guys or do you feel like you will have enough time during the regular camp?

We don’t know how long regular training camp could be and how many preseason games we’ll have. It’s probably going to be more difficult than usual to evaluate young players. In any training camp, you often start a certain way then you make adjustments as player performance dictates changes. I don’t think that part will change. Certainly there will be less time for players to adjust.


Quick Hits: Oct. 17, 2020

1) KHL update: German Rubtsov (9GP, 1G, 1A) and HC Sochi will go head-to-head on Monday against former Flyers/Phantoms teammate Mikhail Vorobyev (18 GP, 4G, 5A). Rubtsov has dealt with recovering from an on-ice injury in which he got hit in the face with the puck. He returned with a cage attached to his helmet. Leaguewide, the circuit is dealing with a coronavirus outbreak that saw 87 players test positive, including a wave of cases on Dinamo Minsk (Maksim Sushko's team).

2) Extraliga: David Kase's HC Karlovy Vary club is currently slated to return to play on Oct. 30. The team has had to postpone five games due to a reported COVID-19 outbreak.

3) Flyers Alumni in memoriam: Alum defenseman Rick "Jumbo" Lapointe passed away at age 44 on this day in 1999 after suffering a fatal heart attack. He was survived by wife, Rhonda, and their three children. Rick and Rhonda's son, Danny, later played minor league hockey in the now-defunct International Hockey League. Rick Lapointe, a veteran of 664 NHL games, spent two-and-a-half seasons with the Flyers in the latter part of 1970s. He came over from Detroit in the deal that sent Terry Murray, Bob Ritchie, Steve Coates and Dave Kelly to the Detroit organization.
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