Flyers still playing a waiting game with former No. 1 pick Michkov

Matvei Michkov

      VOORHEES, N.J. – While the NHL rumor mill usually gets cranked up pretty high this time of year, the Flyers find themselves answering questions about one bit of speculation that ranks right near the top of professional hockey.

      That is, will the team get its hands on Russian elite prospect Matvei Michkov, the team’s 2023 top draft pick, a couple years earlier than anticipated?

      When then-rookie general manager Daniel Briere swung for the fences and took Michkov with the No. 7 overall selection in last year’s draft at Nashville, the Flyer boss knew the young Russian still had three years remaining on a contract he had signed with the Kontinental Hockey League.

      Briere figured it would take Michkov a few years to grow, mature and be ready for NHL action anyway, so it didn’t seem like such a big deal at the time.

      But after a very good year in the KHL, Michkov and his agent along with an inner circle of advisors believe the player is ready to make the jump to North American hockey and the world’s best league.

      The problem is, the NHL and the KHL have an agreement which provides for honoring of contracts. So if Michkov can be relieved of his KHL duties, it sounds like there’s going to have to be some way of bypassing the rules.

      At Thursday’s press conference at the Flyers Training Center, Briere made it clear that the team is not involved in any arm-twisting.

      All the Flyers can do is wait and see what happens.

      “I don’t have a date,” Briere said. “We’re kind of at the mercy of what they decide to do there with him. If you had asked me (at the end of the season), I would have said we probably should know by the end of June. We’re now getting closer to it. We still don’t know much more. I don’t have much more of an answer. For us, it doesn’t change. If they tell us he’s coming Sept. 1, we’ll jump on it.”

      Right now, the odds of Michkov playing in a Flyer uniform next season seem rather long at best.

      “The mindset for us is we’re going into next season without him,” Briere said. “He has two years left on his contract and if something changes, from today until then, we’ll certainly be happy. I don’t have much news with that. We read what’s going on and we hope for the best.”

      With all that said, the Flyers don’t want to shy away from drafting Russian players in the future. There figure to be a couple very good ones over the next year or two.

      “I mean, it didn’t scare us in the past so I think you have your answer there,” Briere said. “It has to make sense. We’re evaluating the risk and the return. We’ve shown that if does make sense, we will go there. They (the Russians) are certainly at the top of the draft again. The Stanley Cup next year might be a stretch for us. So we have a little bit more time there.

      “Don’t forget, if you draft a guy in juniors — (defenseman Oliver) Bonk (a Flyer prospect) – is almost on the same timeframe. He might need a year in junior/minors. Sometimes you have to be careful with that. Players need time to develop. Development is critical. I’d rather have a guy playing 25, 30 minutes in junior where they become the guy rather than come here, play with the Flyers for eight or 10 minutes a night.”

      >No word on Hart

      The Flyers are also waiting to hear from the NHL about the status of goaltender Carter Hart moving forward.

      Hart is out indefinitely, per the league, along with three other NHL players for their alleged roles in an assault on a woman six years ago.
      The goalie is a pending restricted free agent, so the Flyers have to be careful with how they proceed.

      >Trade talk

      There’s been talk the Flyers might make a trade to move up in the draft. One rumor has Philadelphia eyeing the No. 7 spot.

      “I think it’s normal as we get closer to the draft,” Briere said. “That’s when things heat up. Last year we jumped on something early with Columbus and L.A. (Ivan Provorov trade). We saw yesterday that were a few trades happening. I would say I don’t think there’s anything imminent in our case at this point. But I expect things to keep ramping up. If it makes sense, we’re going to jump on it.”

      Are the Flyers open for business?

      “Yes, absolutely,” Briere said. “It hasn’t changed for us. We’re still looking to acquire assets that are going to help us in the future. We know where we’re at as a team. It was awesome what happened last year. Playing games that mattered all the way to game 82. Even though we missed. But, we realize we’re not a Stanley Cup contender yet. We still have a lot of work and the future is what we are targeting.”

      >Free agency

      The free-agency signing period opens on Monday, July 1. Briere indicated his team probably won’t be that active in the free-agent market but then again he said that last year and signed a bunch of guys, including defenseman Marc Staal and forward Garnet Hathaway among others.

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About Wayne Fish 2473 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.