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Bailey: Potential Matvei Michkov Arrival Cannot Change Flyers’ Future Plans

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Matvei Michkov

We learned earlier this week that there was a genuine, nonzero chance that star prospect Matvei Michkov would join the Philadelphia Flyers as early as this summer. And because Michkov’s KHL contract with SKA St Petersburg runs through 2026, everybody has been operating under the assumption that the 19-year-old won’t join the Flyers until his contract is up.

Whether Michkov joins the Flyers earlier than 2026 cannot and must not change the organization’s future plans or otherwise alter its team-building strategy.

Take the 2023-24 season as an example or reason as to why. The Flyers do not have a de facto No. 1 center that they can rely on for several years. Flyers captain Sean Couturier is 31 years old and completely fell apart down the stretch in his first season back from two back surgeries. He’ll turn 34 in what will likely be Michkov’s first full season in the NHL.

Morgan Frost, though impressive at times, is still not consistent enough to lead the charge for a contending team, and might never be. He’s still young, but Frost is probably better suited to be a middle-six playmaker who can add some puck movement to a competent power play.

Speaking of the power play, throwing Michkov into the lineup at 19 years old is not going to magically transform the Flyers’ power play that was dead last for the third year running. The whole process is bad. The Flyers suffer from talent deficiency, run a terrible power play scheme, and don’t even trust the wingers they do have to shoot one-timers.

That’s something players like Tyson Foerster, Owen Tippett, and possibly Travis Konecny and Joel Farabee will have to work on, and it’s up to the coaching staff to have them playing at the appropriate level in all situations. Just because Michkov was able to do the scoring himself at HC Sochi doesn’t mean he can do the same at the NHL level, teenager or not.

If the Flyers stay put and do not move up or down in the draft lottery, they’ll have the 12th pick in the 2024 NHL Draft, as well as the Florida Panthers’ first-round pick which will likely be in the late 20s or early 30s. The hope is that the Flyers can land at least one No. 1 center or a top-line winger that they can pair with Michkov for a decade, rather than marketing their draft picks for a player who might give them half of that while costing exponentially more against the cap.

Further to that point, it’s imperative the Flyers keep shooting to draft the stars of tomorrow because they have a graveyard full of ghosts of the NHL’s past. Currently on the team’s books are players like Cam Atkinson, Cal Petersen, Ryan Johansen, and Ryan Ellis. These are players who are either not healthy enough to continue playing or are greatly underperforming their respective salaries.

When young Flyers stars come in on their cheap entry-level contracts and the aforementioned players go their separate ways, the Flyers will be able to leverage their newly found cap space to build a Stanley Cup-contending roster.

While it sounds simple, there will always be the temptation to jump the gun. The Flyers cannot afford to make that mistake to try and enjoy two extra years of Michkov.

For more Flyers news and up-to-date coverage, visit Philly Hockey Now and like our Facebook page.
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