Well, gang, we’re past the midpoint of the month of July, and Ivan Provorov still doesn’t have a contract. This probably isn’t what we were expecting--the initial hope by both player and team was that they would have a contract done by May, and then Provorov would go to join the Russian team to play in the World Championships. And then the deadline to report passed. And then the end of the playoffs. And the start of free agency. The summer’s rolled on, and we seem to be at a standstill. And now, the plot thickens:
People seem to be thirsty for hockey news. While on vacation, I’m just thirsty. I laughed at someone who said, “Report Marner.” Now, I could be wrong but I’ll bet the vast majority of currently unsigned RFAs will still be unsigned when I report back for duty after Labour Day.— Bobby Margarita (@TSNBobMcKenzie) July 15, 2019
Now, it’s worth noting that this is just Bob McKenzie (vacation edition) sort of reading the room, but he is a person that we’ve come to expect Knows Things, so there may well be some smoke here. Which means we have to take a moment to take stock of where we are, and prepare ourselves for what may be coming. We expected this to be resolved relatively quickly, but this may not wind up being the case. We’ve been figuring that whatever Zach Werenski and Charlie McAvoy sign for will sort of set the market, and they don’t seem to be close to signing either. So it’s a standstill that we’re looking at, and it may well stretch out for a while longer. Let’s run through a few scenarios.
Scenario one: Uncle Bob is a liar
Or, more precisely, the statement made above doesn’t prove entirely true, maybe we see a flurry of RFAs having their contracts ironed out. Maybe not. Maybe it is just a couple and one of them happens to be Provorov. Maybe something clicks and both player and team come to an agreement that all of us will or will not like, who knows, we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. And that feels like the best case scenario—the contract gets signed and we can all move on with our lives, and Provorov can go back to just doing hockey things, and he doesn’t miss any time.
Scenario two: Near panic, but resolution
This one plays out something like this: we’re winding through August and nothing’s changed. We’re still hearing that the two sides are at a standstill. And we start to sweat because we’re staring down mere weeks, days even, before the start of training camp and the Flyers are short a top pair defenseman. What are we going to do, what are we going to DO, we ask!
And then just before camp starts, the Flyers announce that they’ve made the signing, and Provorov will report for camp as regularly scheduled. And assuming that he still kept up his normal training regimen while the negotiations were going on, he should be able to slide right in and it’ll be like nothing ever happened. We’d never know, based on the on-ice product, that the hold-out almost reached hockey time.
Scenario three: Chaos
There’s only one thing that could be. If we’re talking chaos, it would be in the form of Provorov holding out into the preseason and potentially also the regular season. And, while, implicitly, this doesn’t seem like a terribly likely scenario--we know that Provorov is positively hockey obsessed and it’s hard to imagine him missing playing time when he has the opportunity to not do that, but it still is a possibility. And this is where things could get ugly for the team.
Because starting the season without Provorov means, well, starting the season without Provorov. It means that the opening night lineup may well look something like this:
Sanheim – Niskanen
Gostisbehere – Braun
Morin – Myers
And that doesn’t look pretty. The right side stays, well, what it is, but the shuffling up of the left side has things looking a little less than stellar. A Travis Sanheim and Matt Niskanen pair would probably be fine enough. But then we lose the possibility of having a very exciting third pair of Shayne Gostisbehere and Philippe Myers just running straight through the average third pair, because Chuck Fletcher made it clear that he envisions Myers starting the season on the third pair. Or maybe you keep that one intact and then bump one of Samuel Morin or Robert Hagg up to the second pair and then… you know what I’ll just stop right there. That’s a bad idea. But you get the point, here, that without Provorov, the defense starts to look much thinner.
We should also add that, even if he doesn’t sit out the whole season, that it would take some time for him to work himself back up to game speed. We saw it with William Nylander last season, that it took him until March to really get going again, even though he had been training and practicing with a team overseas. The integration isn’t seamless. So we might expect even more of a delay, after Provorov’s actual return from him to be back to old form and having a real positive on the ice. Either way, the team is hurt.
Scenario four: The sun explodes and consumes us all
Okay. Maybe we’re not weighing this one equally with the last three scenarios. Let’s move on here.
The point we want to get at is that, while Provorov’s contract situation may well all be resolved by the time we get to the start of the season and everything works out just fine, but we do have to address the fact that the longer negotiations stretch on, and the longer we hear that no headway has been made, the more we have to prepare ourselves for the possibility of a hold-out, and all of the implications it has on the rest of the roster. Hope for the best, prepare yourself for the worst. Something like that.