Another prominent RFA has put pen to paper, as Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov signed a six-year deal worth an average of $6.7 million a year on Thursday. At first blush, the deal has great potential for the Flyers and good security for Provorov. On the whole, everything hinges on which Provorov we see in the coming years.
Last season was a mixed bag for the young Russian rearguard. Provorov played the most minutes of his career, with an average ice time of 25:07 per contest. That led the Flyers by almost three full minutes. Having said that, Provorov’s decision-making was questionable at times and his offensive contributions dropped from the year prior. He had only 26 points, down from 41 in 2017-18. In fact, Provorov had 30 points as a rookie, so this was his lowest total yet. Possession-wise, Provorov was one of the weakest among Flyers regulars, though he did face a lot of top forwards.
That all sounds negative, but to be fair, the bar is pretty high with Provorov, who burst onto the NHL scene as a fantastic two-way defender in his initial two seasons. Last year may have been a blip, or it may have just been the result of a young guy taking on too much responsibility on a mediocre team that missed the playoffs by 16 points and ended up firing their coach.
So let’s break down the implications of Provorov’s new six-year pact. To begin with, this contract takes Provorov all the way through his RFA years, so he will be eligible for unrestricted free agency when it comes up again in the summer of 2025. At that point he can hit the open market or stay with the Flyers and, if he grows into the kind of top-pairing defenseman he has shown he can be, cash in large.
During the duration of this six-year deal, Provorov gets a healthy salary and the security of knowing he can grow into his prime seasons with the same squad. The only way this contract backfires on Provorov is if he hits another level this year and becomes a Norris candidate in the next three or four seasons (which is not out of the realm of possibility).
A good comparison here is Zach Werenski, who was drafted directly after Provorov went seventh overall in 2015. At the time, I remember noting that those two plus Noah Hanifin (who went fifth to Carolina) all had the potential to be the best blueliner in the class. With the benefit of hindsight, I would put Thomas Chabot in that group, too. But let’s get back to Werenski, who just signed a three-year bridge deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Werenski is only making $5 million per season on that new pact, but once it’s finished, he will undoubtedly re-sign a mammoth deal worth at least $10 million per season (the length will likely be determined by how long he wants to stay with Columbus).
If Provorov can get back on track and be an even better version of the defenseman we saw in his first two seasons, then he’ll definitely be worth $10 million in the future – but now he has to wait longer for that to happen. If his development stalls, however, then he did really well getting six years and more than $40 million.
But you never want to bet against yourself. Naturally the hope here is that Philadelphia pays Provorov a solid salary in the next few years and then has a bargain on their hands for the final years of the contract when Provorov is still leading the team in ice time, but also putting up 50 points and shutting down top lines more efficiently.
We’ve see the top end with Provorov and it’s very possible last season was a blip for him. This contract assumes as much and provides value for both team and player.