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Fletcher and Flahr Transcript: On Draft, Hayes, RFAs and More

June 10, 2019, 10:04 PM ET [285 Comments]
Bill Meltzer
Philadelphia Flyers Blogger •NHL.com • RSSArchiveCONTACT
Courtesy of the Flyers, here is a full transcription of Cliff Fletcher and Brent Flahr's press conference in Voorhees on Monday morning. For a synopsis of five key quotes, click here. An article pertaining to the Kevin Hayes negotiations will be published tomorrow.

Are there any overarching themes to the first round, particularly the first half that you want to address in terms of what’s available. It looks like pretty forward heavy. Some people have [consensus top-ranked goaltender] Spencer Knight in there.

Flahr: Yeah, this draft is a little unique. The top two guys, well, the media have talked about them enough. This draft, especially the top 15, I think there are a number of different types of players, which is interesting. Some power wingers, some smaller scoring wingers, centermen, A number of D, goaltenders. Obviously picking 11, some of that is taken out for us. We’ve identified probably 5 or 6 guys who we think have a chance to be there at 11 and probably some of the teams in front of us will dictate that. We are really confident we are going to get a good player at 11.

If you take away the goalie position, what position do you think needs upgrading more than any other position in the system, and you can combine left and right wing together, center, wing or defense?

Flahr: I think the way we look at it, we will take the best player at 11. I think as we go in the draft, we have some young defensemen that are in the NHL right now, and a couple coming, but we probably like to add defensemen depth to our organization going forward, whether it’s at 11 or the second or third round, we will see. But again, if the best player is a left winger, we will address that. Centremen are hard to get, if they’re there, they typically don’t last very long in the first round, the top ones anyway. But we will see how it plays out and go from there.

Chuck, where do things stand with Kevin Hayes?

Fletcher: Well, nothing to announce at this point. We had some good, I guess, preliminary conversations with Kevin and his representation [agent Bob Murray]. This week I expect to follow up with Kevin and his camp this week, and we will see how it goes. I don’t know how to characterize it, other than we’ve had good conversation and we are hopeful we can make something work.

Do you get a vibe one way or another? Because, I would imagine, that’s something on the front burner If it doesn’t work out with him, that’s something that you need to address to fill that same void at the draft.

Fletcher: Exactly. I don’t have a vibe, other than he’s certainly open minded. You have to remember he’s two weeks away from getting to July 1, so that’s a nice status to obtain in this league. Certainly, he’s earned that right and we are respectful of that. I think we have a lot to offer in Philly. So, we will continue to speak to him, and I think he’s open minded to conversations, at least that is what his camp has said to us and obviously we have strong interest in him.

Has he been here yet?

Fletcher: No.

Have you gone this route before, acquiring the right to someone?

Fletcher: No, I’ve never done that before. In this case, there are not a lot of centermen in the marketplace and Kevin is a quality hockey player. He plays a stronger 200-foot game. He’s a guy who can play both specialty teams. He’s familiar with our coach and our coach is familiar with him. So, we just thought it made sense to try to get ahead of it. There are no promises it’s going to work out, but certainly we felt if we had an extra couple week to speak to him and present our case, it would be better than just maybe having a couple of days at the end of the month. We feel this gives us the best chance of landing him and again, there are no guarantees. It may work, it may not work, but it's certainly a risk we are taking.

Chuck, Homer has done it before [to acquire impending UFAs rights to gain an advanced negotiating window]. Did he suggest it to you?

Fletcher: No. We were in our meetings last week, and I think it was a consensus of the group that this would be the right approach.

Are there plans for Hayes to come in and tour the facilities and the area, or just going to do it all by phone?

Fletcher: We are hoping to get together here in the near future. I guess I can leave it at that. Certainly, we will have a lot more dialogue this week. Next week is the week of the draft. This week will be an important week. I will certainly have more time [this week] to meet with him face to face.

How much do you think Alain will be a selling point to him, giving he’s played for Alain?

Fletcher: That’s tough for me to say. I know Alain has a lot of respect for him and I know in speaking to Kevin that he enjoyed playing for him. I’m sure that will help, but I don't know that it’s fair for me to characterize how much it will help.

Chuck, can you give us an update on the RFAs? Are you making progress with any of them?

Fletcher: It’s an interesting market, I will say that. In fact, even looking around the league, there have been very few signings to date. It seems that [RFA] market is becoming, I don’t know how to say it, it’s becoming a little bit more aggressively priced, I guess is the way to put it based on the last couple of years. We’ve had good conversations with the representation for all of those players. We will meet with some agents at the draft in Vancouver a couple of those days and try to get together and talk. My sense is everyone is trying to wait for somebody else to do something first. I don’t think anything is going to happen quickly, but we are hopeful we will get everything done.

Konecny and Provorov: Would you prefer long term deals with those two?

Fletcher: We’ve talked about both to all the players to be honest with you. If we can get the right deal, we are happy to go long term because we believe all of those players will be great players for us. I’m certainly not opposed to doing shorter term. I’ve done both though the past. Some players like to go short and be able to jump back in the market in a couple of years and other players like that security. If the price is right, we will do either.

Do you think that generally speaking that that bridge deal is going away? Not just for your guys, but prices going up for RFAs?

Fletcher: "That’s hard to say. This will be an interesting summer to see. Certainly, I remember a few years ago, it seemed the majority of players of 50/50, half would do bridge and half would do 5 and 6 yeas deals. Last year there seemed to be more longer-term deals. This year we will see. It’s really a function of cap space. It’s hard to commit to everybody long term and still have the flexibility to do what you want to do. But these kids are important players, really important parts of our future. Frankly, they’re going to be really important parts of next year."

Does it make it tougher going into the next few weeks? Obviously, you guys are going to be looking to potentially make upgrades outside of the organization, does it make it tougher to do that without having cost certainty with the RFAs right now, or do you have a pretty good idea how much money you’re going to spend in whole on the RFAs?

Fletcher: Yeah, but I think what you do is you try to project. You look at the market and try to put numbers in as place holders for what you feel each player will cost and then you work around it. The other uncertainty is we don’t know what next year’s cap number is going to be. Is it 82, 82.5, 83, is it more than 83? So there is a lot of variables and that does make it more difficult, but we still have more cap space than most teams. We feel we will be able to add from outside our organization, but certainly signing the RFAs are a priority.

Brent, if you had to give the entire draft a grade, would grade would you give it and what do you think are the strengths of the draft specifically?

Flahr: I would say it’s a B+. It’s a good draft. I think there’s good depth to it. You look at the first round, there are a number of different types of players, especially early in the draft. I think our guys have identified guys that we can potentially get in the second and third round that they are very excited about getting. There are some years when you get to a point, probably last year after about 15-16 there was a significant drop off. This year I think it goes deeper than that and then we have a grouping of players probably through 25-50 that are still quality players that we are confident we are going to get a good player in the second and third round that our guys are excited about.

Obviously, you guys this is your first draft with the Flyers, but the scouting department largely is intact, do you envision what has past been priorities with the types of players the Flyers have drafted, do you envision that staying pretty much the same or do you envision that changing with you guys now in charge?

Fletcher: I’ll start and then Brent can finish. I think it’s similar. I’ve been very, very impressed with the amateur scouting staff. It’s a strong group, a lot of experience. I think we all recognize the way the game is going. For me, hockey sense has always been a very important part of what you look for in a hockey player. You obviously want the biggest, fastest, most skill player you can get. But the players with those intangibles, with the hockey sense, and the drive and the work ethic are extremely important, and I think that has been a priority here through the years. It’s a good staff, though. There are differing opinions. It’s not group think as I call it. Guys challenge each other in the room, and we work hard at the list, and we worked very hard the last couple of weeks at the list. I’ve been very impressed with the group, but I don’t think there will be a lot of changes. You’re always going for the upside in the first round and finding the most talented player that you can, regardless of position. And whoever you think has the highest upside is who you are trying to land. And as Brent mentioned at 11, I think somebody will fall to us. Teams may order the top two differently, I don’t know. But I think most teams probably have consensus on who the top two players are. After that I think from 3-15, it will be a lot of the same names, but teams will have them ordered differently, and I think that bodes well for us.

Look at two teams in the finals now. You have Boston, who in the last nine years, have basically gotten to the finals once every three years or so, and been consistently excellent in that time. Then you have the other extreme with St. Louis. You have a team that isn’t playing well, makes a coaching and a goaltender change and kind of takes off. How do you view those two approaches? It would seem someone in your position might be tempted to say all we need to do is make one fix and maybe a fire will get lit. Is one approach better than the other? How do you philosophically view that?

Fletcher: St. Louis has had a lot of stability, too. Doug Armstrong made a lot of changes last summer. They brought in some new players, but there’s still several players on that team that have been part of that core for a few years. It’s hard. Every year it seems like there are different attributes that win. Typically, you need a goaltender playing well and you need to have good depth. Both those teams are built a little differently, but they have a pretty good mix of youth and experience. If you go through, both those teams have four lines that can contribute and actually more than six D, as you can see with some of the guys getting banged up. They don’t really have any weak links. I think that’s when it shows you how important depth really is and obviously, your goaltending. It’s hard. Not every year it’s going to break for you. You got to give both those teams credit. They faced a lot of adversity. I’ve just been really impressed with the depth of both teams. That’s certainly something I’ve mentioned before. I think we just need to get a little bit deeper here. We have good players. We need more of them. We have some good kids coming, but we certainly have a few holes we need to fill. I think if we can fill a few holes, our depth will be certainly greatly enhanced. Then we just have to keep building and hope our young guys can keep maturing. We’re all very close in this league.

A couple weeks ago, you said you would at least listen to any offers for the first pick. Now that a couple weeks have gone by, have you gotten a sense, have you gotten enough calls to decide is this really in play or off the table, or you’re not going to get what you want? Is it still too early for that?

Fletcher: It still might be a bit early. I’ve certainly mentioned it to teams that we’re open to any concepts. There hasn’t really been a big push for the pick, I will admit. At this point, as you get closer, things can change. We’ll see. If we keep our pick and stay at 11, we are still going to get a really good player. It is a pretty good chip. In certain scenarios, I would not hesitate to move it if it can really help our team. In most of our conversations, it hasn’t really involved the pick at this point. In speaking to teams, and obviously in a couple weeks, we can speak to agents about free agents. We’ll get a better sense there. We’ll see what happens in the next couple weeks.

Can you talk about the development of Nolan Patrick and where he is at? And if you sign Kevin [Hayes], does that create a healthy competition for that possible 2nd line spot?

Fletcher: I don’t get caught up as much in the labels. I know we love talking about second line center or third line center. I got to admit as the years have go on, I’ve come more confused on who’s a second line center and who’s a third line center. You need depth as we’re seeing now in the Stanley Cup Finals. You need players that can play. You certainly need all four lines to contribute, but you need certainly three lines that can score and defend. What I see with Nolan Patrick. I was very impressed with Nolan. I thought he had a strong second half. He’s a mature player in terms of his 200-foot game for a kid that’s just 20 years old. He plays well away from the puck. He angles. I thought his completeness was very good last year. He’s a kid that I would love to see grow into a bigger with the respect to the PK. Obviously he has a powerplay role. He’s a player that we really like and has a very good future. Trying to sign Kevin Hayes really has nothing to do with Nolan Patrick. We are just trying to improve our team and improve our depth. Be a team that when we go on the road we have multiple lines. When you go on the road, you don’t have last change, so several centers that can be one the ice for the face-off and to not worry about it. They can defend that shift. They can compete that shift. They have a chance to if not win that shift, at least tie it and live to fight another day. That’s our goal. Depth is everything.

What about Kevin Hayes wasn’t there with your team last year? If you sign him, what can he bring exactly?

Fletcher: He brings a solid 200-foot game. He has been a very good penalty killer in this league. That’s a scenario we would like to improve. He plays well away from the puck. He understands the game. He has hockey sense. He can contribute offensively. We gave up 281 goals last year, we have to get better. We have to have more players that play a strong 200-foot game. I’d like to improve the penalty kill. Having depth through the middle of the ice will make us harder to play against. I think he’s a guy who’s familiar with our coach and our coach is familiar with him. If he signs, that will help. There shouldn’t be any learning curve. He should step in seamlessly if we’re able to sign him. I don’t think there is anything more to say that that that he helps us on both ends of the ice.

What about in the physical aspect? In your view, were you guys too small last year?

Fletcher: I don’t know if we’re too small. I think our size is right in there with most teams. Again, he’s a guy who contributes offensively and is strong defensively. He can play powerplay and penalty kill. He’s 27 years old. We’re looking through depth in the middle of the ice. He’s a player we feel fits the mold.

Are you more optimistic that you can sign Hayes now than you were when you acquired him?

Fletcher: That’s tough to say. Again, I just thought that by acquiring his rights early we just give ourselves the best chance to make our case to him, to get to know him, to have discussion with him. Clearly, our organization and the city have a lot to offer and the more time you have the better off you are.

You mentioned in April, you might potentially look into buyouts. That window starts at the end of the week, do you think that’s something you might explore?

Fletcher: I don’t think we’ve made any decisions yet. It’s certainly that’s something we could look at. There are different ways to doing things depending how discussions go with teams. It’s hard to speculate because it’s a little bit early in the process. We’re having conversations every day. I’m sure I’ll speak to several more GMs this week and have a better sense of how things might break for us.

Any news on the goalie front? Someone to play with Carter?

Fletcher: No. We had some pretty good meetings last week. I think we have a pretty good idea of what we want to accomplish. We’ll see what we can do here.

Is that safe to say you’re willing to move on from the two guys you had here at the end of the season?

Fletcher: That’s not necessarily the case. I think, like anything, you put lists together and you have priorities. You go about it. There’s a lot of teams competing for similar players throughout the league. We have our list and we know how we rate players. We’ll see what we are able to put together.
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