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NHL free agency: Flyers re-sign Mike Vecchione to two-year, $1.8 million deal, sign pair of AHL forwards

He’ll compete for an NHL spot in training camp, but is the Union graduate destined for Allentown this season?

Philadelphia Flyers v New Jersey Devils Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

A July 1 that figures to be low-key for the Flyers began about an hour before unrestricted free agency opened, as college free agent signing Mike Vecchione has reached a two-year deal to stay within the organization.

Vecchione, who was a restricted free agent, was always going to be coming back to the team this year. The former (and now current!) teammate of Shayne Gostisbehere became one of the most sought-after college free agents of this past season after a 63-point senior year with the Flying Dutchmen before reaching a deal with the Flyers. The team then immediately burned the first and only year of that deal by playing him in two NHL games at the end of the season, setting Vecchione up for a new contract in the summer.

That contract has now been agreed-upon, though at this moment we don’t know whether it’s a one-way or two-way deal (a one-way deal seems more likely) and it’s a one-way deal via the Courier-Post’s Dave Isaac, meaning he’ll make $900,000 per year whether he’s in Allentown or Philadelphia. That amount is below the $1,025,000 threshold under which teams can send players to the AHL with no penalty against the salary cap, so this doesn’t promise Vecchione anything regarding a spot on the roster for the 2017-18 season.

What is the chance he gets one of those spots, then? We discussed the fight for the last forward spot on the roster on Thursday, and from what we know now it seems most likely that there’s one spot available that’s up for grabs between Vecchione, Scott Laughton, and Taylor Leier. Vecchione probably has the edge over Leier, but given his waiver-exempt status and the fact that the Flyers just protected Laughton in the expansion draft, it seems most likely as of now that Vecchione will head to Allentown to start the season unless he has such a good camp that the team can’t possibly say no to keeping him up. (There are some who believe that Vecchione was “promised” a spot on the roster this year by the Flyers in order to convince him to sign here, but there’s no actual reporting to suggest that that’s the case.)

So that’s one loose end tied up. We’ll likely see other young guys like Laughton and Leier signed pretty soon, too.

The Flyers also gave out a pair of two-year contracts to a pair of likely Phantoms, forwards Corban Knight and Phil Varone. Knight, a 26-year old University of North Dakota graduate who played under Dave Hakstol in college, is returning after spending last year on an AHL contract with the Phantoms. He posted 11 goals and 29 assists in 72 games.

Varone, meanwhile, is another AHL lifer, as he’s been in the league since the 2011-12 season. He’s regularly put up solid point totals during his time in the Buffalo and Ottawa organizations, and even has been able to play a few games at the NHL level during that time. He posted 15 goals and 36 assists in 65 games in Binghamton last year, but became a Rule 6 unrestricted free agent (the same rule that led Jordan Weal to be a UFA rather than a RFA).

Knight and Varone, via Highland Park Hockey’s Tony Androckitis, are on NHL contracts (likely two-way deals) rather than AHL-only deals, so they’ll both count towards the 50-contract limit and will, in theory, have a chance to make the Flyers in camp. (The odds of either one breaking camp with the team seem very slim at this time.) In any case, this is the second straight summer where Ron Hextall has looked to add strong AHL-level talent to help the Phantoms. Between these signings and some of the young guys that will be joining the Phantoms for the first time this fall (such as Mikhail Vorobyov), it should be another fun season in Allentown.