The Philadelphia Flyers will have Nolan Patrick’s services for at least one more season. Last week, Patrick accepted the Flyers’ one-year, $874,125 qualifying offer.
Patrick held little leverage in these negotiations, as he was a restricted free agent and ineligible for arbitration. Having missed the entire 2019-20 season with a migraine disorder, he did not have any recent success to command a more lucrative contract.
Still, this is not a worst-case scenario for Patrick, as he only has to play at this modest salary for one season. This contract will give him the opportunity to prove that he was worth the second overall pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. If all goes well, he will be able to sign a more impressive contract next summer when he is a restricted free agent once again.
As for the franchise, general manager Chuck Fletcher will have one more season to evaluate Patrick. With the NHL Expansion Draft on the horizon, Fletcher will determine whether Patrick is a part of the team’s long-term future.
Patrick Can Prove He Belongs
Before anything else, Patrick must get healthy. Fortunately, this matter seems to be trending in the right direction, as Fletcher recently provided an encouraging update.
“Right now, he’s doing well. He continues to feel better. You can’t predict the future, but certainly all signs are progressing the right way.”
At this point, it is still a major assumption that Patrick will be healthy enough to play next season. But if this is the case, then he should be a factor on this talented Flyers team.
Before developing his migraine disorder, Patrick registered two NHL seasons and recorded at least 30 points in each. The impressive part is that he completed both seasons before being old enough to legally buy a beer in Philadelphia. Patrick has already established a strong floor for himself, and given that he is still just 22 years old, his ceiling is growing.
If healthy, he will benefit from playing with skillful linemates. In all likelihood, Patrick would slot in as the third center behind Sean Couturier and Kevin Hayes. That could potentially give him rising star Joel Farabee and former 30-goal scorer James van Riemsdyk as linemates. Such a combination could help him rack up points. But no matter how Coach Alain Vigneault configures his lines, Patrick could expect to skate alongside some strong playmakers on this deep Flyers team.
Patrick could have a great 2020-21 season, as he has the skills to succeed in the NHL and he is part of an excellent team. He just needs to stay healthy. But if he can have this great season, then he could cement his future in Philadelphia.
Expansion Draft Considerations
Unfortunately, one matter that could complicate Patrick’s future in Philadelphia is the NHL Expansion Draft. An issue with this talented Flyers team is that Fletcher will not be able to protect everyone from the draft. It’s no secret that the Flyers will lose a key player. The only question is who.
With Fletcher likely being able to protect just seven forwards, he will have some difficult choices to make. Due to no-movement clauses, he will need to protect Hayes and Claude Giroux. He is also going to protect Travis Konecny, Sean Couturier, and perhaps, Jakub Voracek. That leaves him with two spots left, but a lot more deserving candidates.
Fletcher could very well have to choose among van Riemsdyk, Farabee, Oskar Lindblom, Scott Laughton, and of course, Patrick. Therefore, Patrick will need to record a strong season to prove he deserves one of these spots.
If he does not receive a spot, Patrick could still remain a Flyer if the Seattle Kraken decide to pass on him. Also, the Flyers could make a trade with the Kraken to ensure they pass on him. And of course, this all assumes Patrick will even have a new contract with the Flyers through the 2021-22 season.
Regardless, these decisions will be for Fletcher to figure out in the future. For now, Patrick can only think about getting healthy and having a strong season. He is fortunate to have a prove-it season before he hits free agency next summer. Now, he just needs to go out and prove it.