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Carchidi: Flyers’ Pres. on Future and Getting ‘Premier Free Agent’

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Keith Jones, the Flyers' president, is looking forward to the day when his team is not cap-strapped and can make some big moves. Photo: AP.

Keith Jones, the first-year president of the Philadelphia Flyers, thinks the franchise is moving in the right direction.

Yes, the Flyers missed the playoffs because of a late-season, eight-game losing streak.

Yes, they have the second-longest streak of futility in franchise history, having not made the playoffs in four straight seasons.

But the Flyers made strides this year, playing a meaningful game on the last day of the regular season.

For a team in a massive rebuild, the progress was a positive step.

“We wanted it to be an environment where people felt good about what they were doing and where we were headed, Jones said Wednesday, when he and club chairman Dan Hilferty held a news conference at the team’s practice facility in Voorhees. “I do think that that’s something that has occurred over the last year. I would echo what ‘Hilf’ said.  We still obviously have a long way to go. We’re keeping our eye on that prize, but it does start within. I do think there’s been a lot of progress made on the team coming together and the players enjoying playing here again.”

Michkov situation

Jones said the Flyers don’t know yet if 19-year-old phenom Matvei Michkov will make his way to Philadelphia this season — contractually, he’s still obligated to play in Russia’s KHL for two more years, but there are rumblings he may come to North America early.

If he does, it would expedite the free-agent process.  That won’t happen for at least another year because the Philadelphia Flyers are cap-strapped until then.

“When we’re in a position to go out and you know, get a premier player through free agency, this is going to be a destination that they want to come to again.” Jones said. “I do think that’s part of the process here starting last year and over this season as well before we flip and start to be a team that’s in a different situation after removing a lot of the money off our cap and getting rid of some of the contracts that we had to get rid of.”

When last season started,  “I was hoping we would outperform what the projections were,” Hilferty said. ” I go into this next year feeling the same way. Every game, I feel like we can win. I’m always going to be that way. I’m always going to have that fan perspective. But in the role as chairman, I’m very comfortable that there’s got to be a level of patience around this.”

Florida formula

Hilferty said he’s “started to study other franchises. Mainly, as Jonesy and I talk and understand, how did (Cup finalist) Florida do it? What’s the mixture of young guys, seasoned pros and the seasoned pros that create this formula that works? I’m to the point now. I’m going to continue to be a fan, I’m going to cheer for us to win every game. I’m not going to worry about the wins and losses. Yes, you want to be respectable, you want to be in a playoff hunt. I’m not going to worry that it’s got to be this coming year that we make the playoffs. I just want to see continued progress, the development of the younger players. ”

Jones was asked about his timeline for the Flyers becoming a contender.

“The one indicator on the timeline that’s out there for everyone to see is the money that we have tied up right now for players that aren’t playing for our team,” he said. “A lot of that is going to start to come off the cap. I do think that if you’re looking further down the line, that is where we’re going to start to have some real key decisions to make. We have to get them right.”
Decisions like signing the right free agents.

‘No room for error’

“There’s no room for error on whatever players we add to the mix in a couple of years.” Jones said. “Those are things that we have to pay a lot of attention to right now. And that’s something that we’re really focused on. Some of that is growth from within, some of our younger players, and whoever we draft with the two first round picks we have this year, and then the multiple first round picks next year. That’s going to be key. At the same time, the removal of money off the cap, the dead money, is something that we’re going to be able to use to our benefit, as long as we do everything right and make sure that this is a place that people want to play.”

Jones said it’s “really important for us to get that message out. It’s important for us to continue to communicate with our fans; it’s important for us to show off our fan base. Players say, ‘Yeah, man, I watched the Phillies in the playoffs last (year). That crowd was incredible.’ I’d like to experience that playing for a hockey team like the Philadelphia Flyers.”

Added Jones: “All of those things are part of our thinking and we’re going to have to execute. It’s not gonna be easy. We threaded a needle last year. I don’t think it’s threading the needle (this season); I think there’s a blueprint out there that we can maximize and hit on, but we’ve got to do it right. I’m pretty confident that we have a group of people around with Dan’s support and Danny Briere, you know, pounding the pavement to find those type of players. I think we’re going to be in a position to get things to a point where we’re playing in the playoffs, not just for one year, but for multiple seasons trying to contend and win a Stanley Cup.”

Sam Carchidi writes a weekly column for Philly Hockey Now. He and Jeff Hare are working on a TV series on the Flyers’ glory days, tentatively called “Bullies.” Carchidi can be reached at samcarchidi55@gmail.com.

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