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Kalynuk becomes a free agent, can still sign with Flyers

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Although the franchise lost exclusive negotiating rights with the defenseman, the team can still sign him.

COLLEGE HOCKEY: NOV 24 Wisconsin at Michigan Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

According to Charlie O’Connor of The Athletic, the Philadelphia Flyers’ lost their exclusive negotiation rights with prospect Wyatt Kalynuk on Thursday. The 23-year-old left-handed defenseman had recently completed his third season at the University of Wisconsin and his first as the Badgers’ captain.

Kalynuk is a 23-year-old defenseman the Flyers took 196th overall in the seventh round of the 2017 NHL Draft. After he posted back-to-back 25-point campaigns in 2017-18 and 2018-19 (three goals and 22 assists in 2017-18, 9 goals and 16 assists in 2018-19), the Manitoba native potted seven goals and provided 21 helpers in 36 games in his first and lone season as the club’s captain. He finished second on the team in scoring with 28 points and shots on goal with 112, as he trailed only Montreal Canadiens’ 2019 first-round pick Cole Caufield in both categories. The Badgers may have finished 14-20-2 to finish last in the Big Ten this season, but it wasn’t because of Kalynuk’s presence or leadership on the blue line.

When the Flyers selected Kalynuk back in 2017 they originally had until August 15, 2021 to sign him to an entry-level deal since he was becoming a collegiate player. However, as Kurt explained thoroughly about a month ago now, since Kalynuk was a 20-year-old collegiate player when selected and we’re past June 1, 2019 (the second June 1 following his selection) the blue liner had the option to inform the NHL Central Registry they were no longer a bona fide college student before waiting 30 days to become a free agent. While reporting the news about a month ago that Arizona Coyotes’ prospect Ty Emberson was going to be the Badgers’ next captain, Todd D. Milewski of The Wisconsin State Journal also shared that University of Wisconsin’s head coach Tony Granato said Kalynuk was planning on signing professionally. Since then the Flyers and their fans knew they had limited time to sign Kalynuk to a deal, they just weren’t sure of the exact day (which was evidently Thursday).

This decision could mean absolutely nothing, but the question is why would Kalynuk choose this route if he wanted to play for the Flyers and the team had his rights until August of 2021? If both he and the organization felt as though it was right for him to go to Lehigh Valley next season to play for the Phantoms he could have just signed a deal without the team losing his exclusive signing rights. The option to sign with Philly is still on the table, but given this development and the fact Kalynuk turned down an offer to sign with the team (as Milewski points out in his article) it feels like Kalynuk may want to test the free agent market.

There are some reasons a player would want to wait out their exclusive rights with a certain club to sign with another team, but those reasons aren’t perfectly clear in Kalynuk’s case. There’s no indication Kalynuk is unhappy with the Flyers and there’s no indication general manager Chuck Fletcher is unwilling to work with the rearguard towards a contract even if he wasn’t his own pick.

The Flyers’ blue line and its prospects on the back end are deep but they aren’t necessarily deep enough for Kalynuk, who has had his stock rise while at the University of Wisconsin, to think he shouldn’t have a shot of seeing the NHL if he were to stay with the franchise. Ivan Provorov and Travis Sanheim aren’t going anywhere, but there’s no guarantee the rest of the d-men currently with the NHL roster will be here in two years. Cam York and Egor Zamula seem like locks to play in the NHL one day, but skaters like Mark Friedman, Sam Morin, Wyatte Wylie, and Linus Hogberg aren’t as clear slam dunks to conserve future roster spots. With that said perhaps Kalynuk is looking at it differently and assuming a bunch of the defense actually is locked in for several seasons and he wants the chance to play for some team’s top four. No matter what the case is we’ll just have to wait and see where he signs.