Flyers’ Defense Must “Aggressively Retool” Around Provorov

Flyers' Ivan Provorov
Flyers’ Ivan Provorov (Photo Credit: Alex McIntyre)

Incredibly, Dave Scott didn’t mention Ivan Provorov as a core member of the Philadelphia Flyers. He noted Ryan Ellis. Ellis, when healthy, is a star defenseman. The 31-year-old, the eldest of the players mentioned by Scott, has played in four total games as a Flyer. That is an out-of-touch assessment of the team you own, Dave.

Philadelphia acquired Ellis to play with Provorov, in fact. Provorov is 25-years-old, and if it weren’t for COVID protocol, he would still have an ironman record of his own greater than four hundred. He’s the core that you invest around on defense. It should be a goal to mold RDs into the kind of defenseman that complements him.

Unless a trade is executed for an “aggressive retool,” the left side of the defense is set for 2022-2023. There are Provorov, Travis Sanheim, and Cam York. Ellis fits with Provorov if healthy; the plan is to extend Ristolainen and Justin Braun links to the trade deadline rumor mill.

Whoever replaces Braun must be as sound defensively. Braun is a valuable asset because of his versatility to feature on the top pair, complementing Provorov.

Before Chuck Fletcher gets a “blank check,” the front office leadership must understand that Provorov is absolutely a part of the core; but cannot be the backbone in every facet of hockey.

Minding Defensemen Contracts

Here are the defensemen locked into the Flyers lineup for 2022-2023:

Provorov-Ellis
Sanheim-?
York-?

Ristolainen is a buzzing topic. Philadelphia wants to extend him, but his only season on this team ended up featuring the worst stretch of hockey in franchise history. Will Ristolainen test the market instead?

Ristolainen won’t likely be a part of a trade, but Braun makes sense. He’s a third-pair commodity for contending teams, and the Flyers could exchange for a third-round pick.

Fletcher and Ristolainen should already be discussing their plan. Currently, $5.4mil is an overpay, but another franchise could bite if he tests the open market. A reasonable price drops considerably. Around ~$4.5mil/AAV is a sensible price to put on his extension. If he doesn’t, Fletcher will lose his investment at the deadline.

There aren’t any realistic options to recall at RD. Ronnie Attard and John St. Ivany aren’t on the radar but are noticeable within the prospect pool. An “aggressive retool” means going to free agency or acquiring pieces in trades to fit the current mold. If Ristolainen and Braun aren’t locked in place for next season, Fletcher is in the market for a right-handed defensive and two-way defenseman, with an allowance of ~$5.5mil-$6mil/AAV.

Complementing Provorov

The overall makeup of the defense leans heavily into an offensive philosophy. Overly aggressive defensemen in the OZ leave Philadelphia out to dry. Focusing on a defensive or two-way defenseman on second and third-pair to complement Travis Sanheim and Cam York simultaneously supports Provorov.

Ellis hasn’t proven to be healthy. The plan isn’t just about securing any second and third-pair defensemen that fit the correct makeup; they should compete with and balance Provorov.

Targeting an “Aggressive Retool”

Remember, Ristolainen and Braun are not guarantees for next season.

Some free agents would fit perfectly in their place. Actively striving to get younger while remaining cap-friendly is the aim. Braun played his way onto a 2022-2023 NHL roster. If his days as a Flyer are limited, Jan Rutta is my target for 3RD.

Rutta receives $1.3AAV with the Tampa Bay Lightning. He’s been consistent on the Lightning and is careful with the puck, which complements York at 3LD and Provorov.

Another defenseman to consider is Ethan Bear. Bear is going to be the tougher of the two to snag. He will be a restricted free agent; the asking price could include steep draft capital. There are times when Sanheim and Ristolainen are impressive, showing promise. That same stability would be more consistent with Bear next to Sanheim.

These two acquisitions would add a former two-time Stanley Cup winner and a 25-year-old finding his groove. Bear wouldn’t be more expensive than Ristolainen, and that’s considering the draft capital and the contract expended to attract. Most importantly, everyone on the right side complements Provorov, the pinnacle of this defense.

(Photo Credit: Alex McIntyre)

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