With each passing big contract extension of recent vintage, the Flyers seem to be saying: “In our young players, we trust.’’
That became even more evident on Thursday when the team announced it had signed left wing Joel Farabee to a six-year contract extension with an average payout of $5-million per season.
The extension kicks in at the start of the 2022-23 season.
Farabee, still just 21 years old, led the team last year with 20 goals in the pandemic-shortened 56-game (he played in 55) season. That made him the second-youngest player in team history (Eric Lindros leads the list) to top the Flyers in scoring.
Of late, in addition to Farabee, the Flyers have now signed extensions with goaltender Carter Hart (22 years old), defenseman Travis Sanheim (25) and center Sean Couturier (28).
Given the talent level of these players, it might not exactly be a big leap of faith to keep the youth core of this team in place for the forseeable future.
But it’s gratifying nonetheless to know the Flyers believe in what they have now. If you throw in established young players such as Ivan Provorov and Travis Konecny, the Flyers’ future should look bright for years to come.
“Just looking at some big names like ‘Coots’ (Couturier) and ‘Sanny’ (Sanheim), it just shows the core we have going forward,’’ Farabee said during a media Zoom call from the Skate Zone. “I think it sets a really good core. We have good leadership with ‘G’ (Claude Giroux) and Coots, plus we have some older guys coming in. On paper we look really good but at the end of the day we have to perform and have a much better year than last year.’’
General manager Chuck Fletcher has always been a big believer in Farabee, so it’s no surprise he wants to keep the intelligent player in the fold.
“We consider Joel to be a key piece of our core moving forward and we’re very happy to have him signed to a long-term extension,” said Fletcher. “In a short amount of time, Joel has proven to be one of the brightest young talents in the NHL. His hockey IQ, skill set, and passion for the game have all contributed to his early success and we feel that there is tremendous upside to his game yet. He plays a 200-foot game and has earned the trust and respect of his coaches, management and all of his teammates.”
Stability from year to year makes for a much better operation, especially with the salary cap being such a factor.
“You look at some of the signings, guys want to be here,’’ Farabee said. “They want to play for the Flyers. The future looks bright for a lot of us. This year we have to step it up a bit, push the pace.’’
It’s somewhat unusual to hand a 21-year-old with only one big season under his belt such a big pile of money and the show of confidence is appreciated by Farabee.
“Since Chuck (Fletcher) has come in, everything has been so smooth,’’ Farabee said. “They’ve been so good to me. For them to believe in me is really awesome. I’m really excited to prove I can get better. Hopefully I can stay in Philly my whole career.’’
Farabee said both sides wanted to get this deal done.
“I think it was kind of mutual that we were going to talk throughout the summer,’’ Farabee said. “That was kind of understood. I’m happy everything worked out before the season started. I came off a pretty good year last year, I definitely wanted to get things rolling. I’m glad both sides came to an agreement, I’m really excited to be in Philly for the next seven years.’’
Just a few years ago, Farabee (6-foot-0, 184 pounds) was just a freshman at Boston University. He turned pro after his first collegiate season and it’s been a whirlwind ever since.
“Just being drafted by Philly (14th overall in 2018) was probably the best thing for me,’’ said Farabee. “I’m not far from home. I was able to pop in here (Cicero, N.Y. a suburb of Syracuse) the last few summers. I definitely feel good about the people we have here. I think the next few years are really going to be some good years for Philly.’’
Farabee said he’s been working on building his strength to avoid some of those four- or five-game scoring gaps.
“I’m looking forward to a more normal year,’’ he said. “In this offseason I put a lot more strength in my legs to get me through the season. For me, I’m just trying to eliminate those stretches where I’m a little inconsistent. Clean up some things, be the most consistent player I can be.’’
Of Farabee’s 20 goals last season, 17 were scored at even strength (leading the team, top 15 in NHL). At the end of the season, he was awarded the Pelle Lindbergh Memorial Trophy as the “Most Improved” player in a vote by his teammates.
Farabee has three goals/five points in 12 Stanley Cup playoff games.
Internationally, Farabee has represented the United States on several occasions. He helped the U.S. win a silver medal at the 2019 World Junior Championships, a silver medal at the 2018 U-18 Championships and a gold medal at the 2017 U-18 Championships.