VOORHEES, N.J. - Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher and assistant general manager Brent Flahr addressed the media Monday morning ahead of the June 21-22 NHL entry draft.
Much more than the draft was discussed.
Let's get into five takeaways from the gathering:
1. What to say about Hayes
Fletcher said there was no update on the Flyers' negotiations with soon-to-be unrestricted free agent Kevin Hayes, who they acquired in a trade last week (see story). Hayes has not visited Philadelphia yet but Fletcher said they're "hoping to get together here in the near future."
"I've had some good preliminary conversations with Kevin and his representation," Fletcher said. "This week, I expect to follow up with Kevin and his camp and we'll see where it goes. I don't know how to characterize it other than we've had good conversations and we're hopeful we can find a way to make something work."
The Flyers are in a strong spot. They can present their sales pitch before any other clubs have the chance to and they "have more cap space than most teams," as Fletcher said. Hayes is a Northeast guy (he's from Dorchester, Massachusetts) and his former coach from 2014-18 with the Rangers is now the Flyers' bench boss.
There's a lot to like and the Flyers know it. Now, they're ahead of the game.
"I don't have a vibe other than he's certainly open-minded," Fletcher said. "You have to remember, it's also two or three weeks away from getting to July 1. That's a nice status to attain in this league. Certainly he's earned that right and we're respectful of that, but I think we have a lot to offer here in Philly. We'll continue to speak to him and he's open-minded to conversations, or at least that's what his camp has said to us and obviously we have strong interest in him."
2. Draft philosophy
With the 11th overall pick in the draft, the Flyers will take the best player available and the most upside. However, Flahr did mention the Flyers would like to replenish at defensemen.
The 2019 draft is heavy with forwards, which could allow some of the crop's top blueliners to drop to the Flyers. This draft also has good depth and the Flyers have nine picks.
"We have some young defensemen that are in the NHL right now and a couple coming, but we'd probably like to add defensemen depth to our organization going forward," Flahr said. "Whether that's at 11 or in the second or third rounds, we'll see. But if the best player is a left winger, we'll address that. Centermen are hard to get and if they're there, typically they don't last very long in the first round, the top ones anyway. We'll see how it plays out and we'll go from there."
Some of the draft's best defensemen are Bowen Byram (not likely to fall to the Flyers), Philip Broberg, Victor Soderstrom, Thomas Harley and Cam York.
"We have a couple of defensemen in our top 10 that we like," Flahr said.
"We've identified probably five or six guys that we think have a chance to be there at 11 and probably some of the other teams in front of us will dictate that. But we're really confident we're going to get a good player."
3. Trading No. 11?
Fletcher has a large focus on improving the Flyers now, so trading the No. 11 pick is definitely an option.
"It still may be a bit early," Fletcher said. "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 at this point. As you get closer, things can change."
A ton can change, especially on draft night when talks heat up and teams have a clearer focus on what they want. Just think of the Brayden Schenn trade in 2017.
"If we keep our pick and stay at 11, we're going to get a really good player," Fletcher said. "It is a pretty good chip and in certain scenarios, I wouldn't hesitate to move it if it could really help our team."
What does Flahr think of dealing the first-rounder?
"It always hurts for me," he said with a laugh.
"If we're going to trade 11, it's going to be for a significant piece and it won't be a rental, it'll be a younger play realistically."
4. Feeling restricted?
It sounds like it could take some time for the Flyers to sign their restricted free agents as there's a bit of a stalemate across the NHL.
"It's an interesting market, I will say that," Fletcher said. "In fact, even looking around the league, there's been very few signings to date. It seems that market is becoming … a little bit more aggressively priced, I guess is the way to put it, based on the last couple of years."
The Flyers' RFAs are Scott Laughton, Travis Konecny, Ryan Hartman, Justin Bailey, Ivan Provorov and Travis Sanheim. Three of the most notables are Konecny, Provorov and Sanheim, younger players who could see bridge deals or longer-term contracts. That will all play into the length of negotiations and the Flyers' other avenues to improve.
"We've had good conversations with the representations for all of those players and we will meet with some agents at the draft in Vancouver a couple of those days and try to get together and talk," Fletcher said. "My sense is everybody [around the league] is kind of waiting for somebody else to do something. I don't think anything is going to happen quickly, but we're hopeful we'll get everything done."
5. Scout's honor
With Fletcher's arrival, he has not made changes to the Flyers' scouting staff. After all, the club has impressively rebuilt the farm system behind its efforts.
"I've been very, very impressed with the amateur scouting staff," Fletcher said. "It's a strong group, a lot of experience. We all recognize the way the game is going.
"There are differing opinions, there's not group think, guys challenge each other in the room and we work hard at the list and we've worked very hard the last couple weeks at the list."
Flahr, who worked for Fletcher in Minnesota, has had a rather smooth transition given he's known the staff from working in the field and with some members in the past. When it comes to the draft, Fletcher puts his trust in Flahr and the staff.
"Chuck's been good, he lets me make our decisions," Flahr said. "He has some input, but he doesn't get a lot of time to spend out there watching. He'll go watch the top guys sometimes and watch on video. But we have a good staff, an experienced staff.
"I was really happy with the meetings, you didn't have guys sitting on their hands with the new group coming in. We had lots of tough conversations and hopefully at the end of the day, we'll come to a list that we're happy with. But Chuck always lets us do our job."
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