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5 Telling Quotes: Fletcher-Hayes Conference Calls

GM and newly signed player talk seven-year deal and more

by Bill Meltzer @BillMeltzer / philadelphiaflyers.com

Hours after the Flyers announced a seven-year contract for center Kevin Hayes, the player and general manager Chuck Fletcher conducted back-to-back conference calls with the local media. Both Hayes and Fletcher said that believed there was a mutual fit between the Flyers' needs and Hayes' strengths as a player.

"He checks a lot of boxes we're looking for. We like his size. We like his skill. We like his 200-foot game. We like his age. He's entering the prime of his career. He plays a premium position at center. We think he really rounds out our forward group. We'll give our coaching staff a lot of options going forward. When you combine our signing of him with the acquiring the two right-shot defensemen [Matt Niskanen and Justin Braun] we did in the past week, we think as a group, we're stronger and deeper. We've filled a lot of the holes we identified coming into the summer," Fletcher said.

Here are four other key quotes from the conference call, and what they reflect both about the process of bringing Hayes to Philadelphia and what may be yet to come this offseason.

1. Mutual interest: According to Hayes, even before the Flyers acquired his negotiating rights from the Winnipeg Jets 16 days earlier in June, he and his agent, Bob Murray, viewed the Flyers as one of the teams where there was a potential match; not only in terms of the position he plays but also stylistically within the system employed by new head coach Alain Vigneault.

HAYES: "When I sat down with my agent, we thought about what kind of team I would want to go to and where I would fit in the organization and the team. The Flyers were at the top of the list. Once the season ended, they were on the short list of mine that I was intrigued by. To get traded there from the Jets and kind of get a head start, I got to know the organization and I got to some of the players a little bit. It was kind of a no-brainer. Ultimately, my agent and I wanted to go to a great city, a team that can win and a team that can go for the Stanley Cup. The Flyers are one of those teams, I think."

2. Building the relationship: According to Fletcher, the focus on hammering out contract details took shape over the final few days of the process, and that aspect came together fairly smoothly. On the front end after the Flyers acquired Hayes' rights, the emphasis was on the player building one-on-one relationships with members of the organization. 

FLETCHER: "We really didn't start contract negotiations in earnest until this past weekend. We took the time to get to know Kevin. He came in. He visited Philadelphia. He spent some time with our staff and toured our facilities. We had a chance to get to know him better as a person and for him to get to know us. We felt that we had a great opportunity for him in terms of role. Obviously, we had the argument that we have a very young team that's close to taking a step. We thought we could offer a pretty attractive package deal in terms of the non-financial things. That was the initial focus and just trying to build that relationship," Fletcher said.

In terms of the contract's details, Fletcher confirmed reports that the $50 million deal ($7.14 million average annual value) contains a no-movement clause for the first three years and a partial no-trade clause (with Hayes supplying a list of 12 teams to whom he'd accept a deal) over the remaining four years. 

3. Focus is to win now... and later: Hayes said that the Flyers' acquisitions of minutes-eating veteran defensemen Niskanen and Braun was a sign to him that the Flyers are serious about immediately improving the team's fortunes by adding the types of players who have played prominent roles on winning clubs.

HAYES: "It just shows that they're in a win-now mentality. Those guys are established players. Niskanen has a Cup. They're only going to help the team. I think with the three moves they made in the last couple weeks just shows the team and the organization that they want to win right now. That factored into my decision as well, being able to win."

Both players are known as playoff warriors. Niskanen, for example, shouldered a hefty average workload of 25:23 ice time per game in the playoffs during the Capitals successful run to the 2018 Stanley Cup championship. Braun averaged 20:18 average ice time per game in the 2018-19 regular season and then 21:28 in playoffs for a San Jose Sharks team that reached the Western Conference Finals.

4. Shifting gears (for now): Most of Fletcher's attention so far in the offseason has been on securing the trades that were made and then in working out Hayes' contract. While the GM said he would continue to look for further upgrades, whether via the trade or free agent route, much of his organizational focus on Draft weekend will be internal rather than external.

FLETCHER: "Obviously, we will continue to speak with teams and see what opportunities are out in the trade market. For right now though and for the next couple day, I think our focus will shift to the Draft and to speaking to the agents of our restricted free agents. Those two things will become the priority right now. We'll continue to dialogue with other teams. Once we leave Vancouver, we'll take stock of where we're at and what we may want to accomplish during the [free agent] shopping time."

Fletcher added that, while no deals are imminent with the team's RFAs, planning for their increased salaries in their next contracts was a major part of his off-season cap planning strategy. 

"We have some work with the RFAs. It seems to be a common theme around the league. I think many teams are wrestling with that: how much do you offer the RFAs? These young players are important parts of our futures. I've mentioned it before. Frankly, they're going to be important parts of this year. That is a priority now going forward. If the cap is $81.5 million for next year, there will be several teams with challenges. I still think we are in a good position to deal with what we have to deal with and continue to build our group," Fletcher said.
 

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