“Why isn’t Konecny done yet?”
At around the 27:56 mark of the most recent episode of BSH Radio, Kelly, Steph, and I pondered Travis Konecny’s contract status ahead of a fast-approaching training camp.
Of the Philadelphia Flyers’ two most notable restricted free agents, Ivan Provorov had been viewed as the tougher obstacle, in terms of coming to a contractual agreement following his third NHL season.
Provorov, drafted 17 spots ahead of TK in 2015, has been utilized as Philly’s number one defenseman since he made the roster in 2016. While the results have been mixed in terms of on-ice production, it is clear how the previous administration viewed the crown jewel of their rebuilding effort.
The possession metrics haven’t been the kindest to Provorov early in his career. In his first three regular seasons combined, he has posted a (slightly) negative Corsi rating, relative to his teammates.
While much of that can be attributed to the quality of his defensive partners, as well as his quality of his competition since making the team, the fact still remains that while he has shown flashes of his potential, his categorization among the league’s elite back-enders remains “potential.”
But utilization is the crux of Provy’s claim to being paid as a number one defenseman.
Provorov has played in all 246 regular season games of his three season career, and averaged 23:45 TOI over that time. In 2018, in his sole postseason appearance thus far, he averaged 25 minutes per game, bum shoulder and all. And he hardly came off the ice in his team’s two wins that series, playing 27:30 in game two, and 30:07 in game five.
Last season, Provorov was one of eight defensemen, league-wide, who averaged 25 minutes per game, and his 682:10 worth of ice-time played short-handed was the sixth-most among the NHL’s blueliners.
So it only made sense that the showdown between the previous regime’s top prospect-turned-contributor and new front office would bleed into the preseason. But when Chuck Fletcher was able to lockdown Provorov to a fairly reasonable long-term deal, all eyes turned to Konecny.
I talked on BSH Radio about who Konecny isn’t, in relation to his peers- the remaining RFA forwards. I wrote a note to myself in the show’s outline to compare TK to the other youngsters who out-scored him last season who are also looking for contracts in order to illustrate the point that his contract should be completed by now.
Mitch Marner. Brayden Point. Mikko Rantanen. Matthew Tkachuk. Kyle Connor. Brock Boeser. Patrik Laine. These guys are on another level, and comparatively, Konecny’s contract should be simple.
But as I looked into who Konecny isn’t, it started to become more apparent who he is. While Provorov’s usage makes him a tough comparable, Konecny’s production numbers against his career games played put him in a unique category.
In 233 career games, Konecny has scored 59 goals and 124 points.
There are 263 players, all-time, who have reached at least those totals in their first three seasons as NHL players.
That sounds like a huge list, but we’re talking about the history of the league here.
Through his first three seasons, TK has matched the goal total of both Brendan Shanahan and Nathan MacKinnon, and has as many points as did Petr Nedved, and only two fewer points than Phil Kessel and Evander Kane.
And therein lies the issue with figuring out Konecny’s deal.
TK is in this weird middle, where he could end up being a legitimate star, like many of the names ahead of him based on the statistical criteria I’ve presented. Or he could be Nikolai Kulemin, who put up two more goals and two fewer assists than Konecny over his first 233 games played, and then averaged 0.35 points/game through his next six seasons.
You see Pat LaFontaine’s name near Konecny’s here, and then see Adam Deadmarsh as the guy in between them, and realize there are a lot of directions this kid’s career could go.
I make this long, convoluted point to show that: 1- I do research. I don’t just make this crap up. I spend more time on Hockey Reference than I do with my family. But, more importantly, 2- Travis Konecny is a lot tougher to classify than I originally thought.
Has Konecny put up the numbers of his peers still waiting to be paid for the 2019-20 season? He hasn’t.
But outside of the guys still waiting for contracts along with No. 11, it’s not like there’s a huge list of comparable players for Philadelphia’s brass to point to and say, “this is what you’ve done, so this is who you’re gonna be, so this is what you’re worth.”
And because of that, Konecny is stuck in a holding pattern, waiting for the players ahead of him on that list to set the market. He’s not quite as good as them, but he’s close enough that he should wait and see what they’re worth before coming to any conclusions about his own worth.
Say, for argument’s sake, TK is worth half of Marner. It doesn’t make sense for Konecny to sign until he knows whether that half is 50% of $9 million or $11 million. Nor does it make sense for the Flyers to cave and give him a $6 million AAV if Marner or Rantanen sign for $8.5 million.
And so, here we sit. It’s about 4 AM on the Friday training camp opens, and as somebody who earns his paycheck by making declarative statements about the National Hockey League, I have no idea what kind of contract Travis Konecny should sign.
I don’t know what’s good for the player, and I don’t know what’s good for the team.
“Why isn’t Konecny done yet?”
It’s because there isn’t really a guideline for his deal to be set.
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