The Chuck Fletcher era in Philadelphia began on December 3rd of 2018. He was tasked with cleaning up the mess that Ron Hextall left in his wake. While it wasn’t a complete disaster, there was absolutely work to be done. From a few glaringly bad contracts, to an NHL roster that had been all-but neglected for four years, Fletcher had his work cut out for him.
He made short work of cleaning up the Flyers roster. By the end of the season, he was tasked with retaining some key names on the Flyers. He added a few names, including a head coach, and entered the 2019/20 season with varying expectations. To this point, the Flyers are one of the better teams in the league, and Chuck Fletcher is a major reason why.
Finishing the 2018/19 Season
Fletchers’ first order of business when taking office was figuring out what to do with Dave Hakstol. Surprise, he fired him. The former Flyers bench boss was 134-101-42 in three and a half seasons with the Flyers. He was ousted twice in the first round of the playoffs. Those performances just weren’t going to cut it under Fletcher.
So Scott Gordon assumed the head coaching responsibilities for the Flyers, and Fletcher decided to bring his goalie with him. Carter Hart was called up on December 17 of that year, and made his debut one night later against Detroit. The rest is history, still being written.
One month later, Fletcher waived embattled forward Dale Weise. 12 days after being waived, Weise was sent down to Lehigh Valley. On February 9th, he was traded along with Christian Folin to Montreal. Jori Lehtera was demoted two days prior, and his contract was left to expire at the end of the year.
On the same day as the Weise trade, Fletcher called up a key piece to the future of the blue-line, Phil Myers. Myers finished out the season with the Flyers, gaining some valuable NHL experience.
On March 25, Fletcher signed 2018 first-round pick Joel Farabee to an entry-level deal. While the ink had barely dried on Farabee’s deal, Fletcher extended Michael Raffl for two years at $1.6 million per year. About a month and a half later, Fletcher signed MHL goaltending prospect Kirill Ustimenko to an entry-level deal as well.
Oh yea, and Chuck Fletcher bought out Andrew MacDonald that summer as well. Solid body of work to this point.
Fletcher’s first draft had a “Boom-or-Bust” type feel to it. His first round pick, Cam York, was a solid choice, albeit controversial after trading out of their initial spot in the draft. The second round choice of Bobby Brink was made after a trade with Nashville, and the Flyers got their “Cole Caufield Light.”
Ronnie Attard was chosen by Fletcher in the third round. In his draft year, Attard was named Defensive Player of the Year and Player of the Year in the USHL, posting 64 points in 48 games for the Tri-City Storm. Fletcher chose Mason Millman with his fourth round selection, another defenseman, from the Saginaw Spirit of the OHL. One year prior to his draft year, he was named Most Outstanding First-Year Defenseman in the GOJHL, and was named to the All-Rookie team in the GOJHL as well.
Fletcher’s sixth-round picks flashed some serious potential during their draft years as well. Forward Egor Serdyuk led all rookie scorers in the QMJHL during his draft year, posting 65 points in 63 games. Roddy Ross joined the WHL’s Seattle Thunderbirds mid-way through the year, and lifted his team into a playoff spot after a sub-par first half of the season.
With his final selection, Fletcher chose Minnesota’s own Bryce Brodzinski. Brodzinski averaged over three points per game with Blaine High in his senior year, and took home the honors of USHS All-USA Hockey 1st Team, USHS Minnesota Mr. Hockey, and USHS All-USA Player of the Year.
Free agency started with a bang for Fletcher. He acquired Kevin Hayes’ negotiating rights from the Winnipeg Jets for a 5th round pick in the 2019 draft. He then signed Hayes to a seven year, $50 million deal. What seemed like an overpayment has turned into a key cog in the Flyer machine.
Aside from the Flyers, the Phantoms entered free agency with only four defensemen. Fletcher fixed that problem. He added Nate Prosser, Andy Welinski, Chris Bigras, and Tyler Wotherspoon, all experienced AHL talent. He added forwards Kurtis Gabriel and Andy Andreoff to solidify the forward group, and brought back Brian Elliott for $2 million, and that move has paid off in spades.
Restricted Free Agents
The Flyers were set to negotiate with four restricted free agents last offseason. Scott Laughton, Travis Sanheim, Travis Konecny, and Ivan Provorov all needed new deals. This would be no walk in the park, but Fletcher made it look like one.
The market for a defender had yet to be set, but Fletcher signed Sanheim to a two year deal worth $3.25 million per year. After avoiding arbitration, Fletcher signed Scott Laughton to a two year deal as well, this one worth $2.3 million per year.
The big fish remained, with Travis Konecny and Ivan Provorov deals still looming. With Charlie McAvoy and Zach Werenski still un-signed, Fletcher solidified one half of the Flyers’ top defensive pairing by signing Provorov to a six year deal at $6.75 million per year. With rumors of an 8×8 deal swirling, Fletcher came out looking like a wizard.
Four days after Provorov signed, the Flyers inked Travis Konecny to his new contract (six years, $5.5 million per year.) After discussions that allegedly revolved around usage and ice time, Fletcher signed his premier young forward to a somewhat team-friendly deal. Given Konecny’s performance so far this year, he looks like a genius.
Commonly referred to as “Chucky Two-Trades,” Fletcher has made a few more trades than this monicker would suggest since taking office with Philadelphia. Most notably, Fletcher dealt defenseman Radko Gudas to Washington for veteran blue-liner Matt Niskanen, retaining roughly $1 million in salary for Gudas in the process. The deal was a tough one to swallow, with Gudas being somewhat of a fan favorite. Niskanen’s performance and influence on Provorov has made it a much easier pill to swallow.
Fletcher followed that move with another four days later, acquiring another veteran defenseman in Justin Braun. He gave up a second and third rounder, but that was the going rate for defensemen at the time. Together, Niskanen and Braun make up one third of a vastly improved defense from last year.
Fletcher also flipped RFA Ryan Hartman for Tyler Pitlick. Likely a cap move, Pitlick came with a price tag of one million dollars, and has been well worth the investment.
Fletcher followed up his offseason showing with a trade deadline that addressed needs instead of going after the flashy names. He acquired Montreal’s Nate Thompson and Anaheim’s Derek Grant, only giving up two mid-late round picks and Lehigh Valley forward Kyle Criscuolo. Both add some much needed depth and stability to the bottom six.
With uncertainty surrounding whether the season will start back up, Fletcher has still been a busy man. So far, Wyatte Wylie, Tanner Laczynski, and Wade Allison have all signed their ELC’s. Fletcher knew what he had in the young talent, and went out and signed them. All were on the cusp of becoming free agents at years end, Fletcher made sure to lock them up before that happened.
Hiring Alain Vigneault
The icing on the cake, but not necessarily the last move Fletcher made, is the hiring of AV. Vigneault came with a proven track record. He’s won the Jack Adams award, been to the Stanley Cup a few times, but never quite reached the pinnacle. With the Flyers, they were well on their way to a potential berth in the playoffs, and were full-steam ahead.
Vigneault brought a sense of accountability to a team that apparently lacked it. He made sure each player did what they were tasked with, and made sure they knew it. He was a breath of fresh air after a stone-faced Dave Hakstol wandered behind the bench previously. While Chuck Fletcher won’t get all the credit, any credit he does get for this hire is well-deserved.
While Chuck Fletcher’s tenure with the Flyers may be in its infancy, he’s already leaving a very positive mark on the team. Depending on what happens to the rest of the 2019/20 season, the 2020 offseason could go a long way in defining Fletcher’s legacy in Philadelphia. Whether he continues to build upon the previous years success, or takes a step back remains to be seen. One thing is for sure, he’s pushed all the right buttons so far.
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