On Thursday evening, TSN’s Bob McKenzie broke the news that the Philadelphia Flyers had signed RFA Ivan Provorov to a six-year, $40.5 million contract, good for a $6.75M average annual value.
The Flyers finally locked up their number one defenseman for six years at a very good price. There are a lot of things to consider when looking at this contract, so let’s backtrack a little.
Provorov has been one of the better young defensemen in the NHL since he entered the league in 2016-17. He immediately became an impact player on the Flyers blue line from game one. While there have been some bumps in the road, it’s more than fair to say that Provorov has been the Flyers number one defenseman for three seasons now.
This didn’t come as a surprise. The young Russian completely dominated the WHL in his Draft+1 year. He collected 73 points in 62 games, CHL Defenseman of the Year honors, a World Juniors Silver medal and a WHL title with the Brandon Wheat Kings. All signs pointed towards him being the cornerstone piece of the Flyers defense.
However, he never grades out when looking at advanced metrics, why is that?
In his first season, he was shackled to Andrew MacDonald for more than 800 minutes, I don’t need to say more. When he wasn’t, he played with an aging Mark Streit or Brandon Manning, both less than ideal partners. It’s only fair to give Provorov a free pass in his rookie campaign due to the quality of partners he played with. And even then, he managed to tally 30 points.
In his sophomore season, we saw what many believed to be the REAL Provorov. His ice time with MacDonald dropped significantly and he was finally paired with a competent defenseman capable of driving play. With Shayne Gostisbehere, the results were outstanding. They managed to dominate every other shift, Provorov was tied for first in goals among defenseman with 17 and established a career-high 41 points. To a certain degree, the advanced metrics agreed with him, too.
Last season, everything fell apart. The 2017-18 version of Provorov disappeared and with it came mistakes, turnovers and overall terrible play that hadn’t been seen since his third career game against Chicago. Needless to say, the advanced metrics did not favor #9 and even the eye test, which always seemed to be kind, failed. When he was finally paired with Sanheim, they had good moments, but overall, they weren’t as good together as we were led to believe.
Nobody, and I mean nobody, could have predicted this hard of a drop off in his game. Was it the pressure of a contract year? Could it be the injury he sustained in the playoffs against Pittsburgh? Provorov will never admit it, but it could have been an issue. After all, he didn’t seem comfortable on the ice, he had 58 fewer shots on goal than the year before and lost countless puck battles that the 2016-17 & 2017-18 versions would have won. We’ll never really know what happened, but one thing is certain, everyone is hoping that this was an off-year rather than a consistent occurrence.
Enter: The Contract.
When negotiations first started, it was reported that Provorov’s camp was asking for a long-term deal with an AAV of around $8 million, sparking controversy amongst the fanbase. The question: is Provorov actually worth this kind of money? To some, yes, to others, no.
As previously mentioned, he established himself as the Flyers number one guy dating back to his rookie season, why not pay him like one? The other side of the argument was that the 2018-19 campaign was so bad that it should have set his demands back quite a bit. Both sides had relatively strong cases for and against paying the 22-year-old blueliner, but one thing everyone agreed on: he needed to be signed for the start of training camp.
Thankfully, that’s exactly what happened. Now, the Flyers have their guy locked up for six years at what many consider to be a bargain of a deal. The next season is going to be very telling for Provorov. Will he go back to his former self? Or was 2018-19 the real product? The offseason additions by Chuck Fletcher should help diminish the heavy workload on his shoulders.
Let’s keep in mind, this is a player that Bob McKenzie said had Norris Trophy potential, and he even doubled down on that statement on his podcast during Provorov’s down year. I believe everyone should have faith in a return to form from #9, this contract could be one of the best in the NHL if the pieces fall into place.
Photos by Kate Frese