PHILADELPHIA – Matt Read isn’t worried about his contract situation. He’s not worried about what line he’s going to play on, or where he falls on the depth chart for special teams.
For now, all Read is concerned about is simply playing hockey.
However, Read would be lying if he told you those things haven’t come up in conversation from time to time - namely his contract situation.
Read is in the final year of his entry-level deal which is paying him $900,000 this season.
Unlike most players coming off their entry-level deal though, Read will not be a restricted free agent next offseason, but rather an unrestricted free agent – because of his age (27) – and can choose to sign anywhere in the NHL if a new deal with the Flyers has not been struck.
Read said there have been talks between his agent and Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren, but nothing has come to fruition just yet.
And that’s likely because Read wants to put together another healthy season to use as a measuring stick for what his next contract should pay.
Until that time, Read holds a good poker hand and plans on playing it.
“I’m just going to take it day-by-day for now,” Read said. “I’ve been looking at possibilities and I would love to be a Flyer next year, but right now all I’m worried about is on the ice and making sure I’m ready and prepared every day for camp.”
As for the talks…
“It’s not me but it’s my agent and [Paul] Holmgren talking and the details get relayed on to me,” Read said. “It’s a long season, so if it comes to it next summer if I have the ability to sign here or whatever the possibilities are, I’m not worrying about it now.
“It’s in my hands [if there’s a new deal] and I can make that decision. But I want to play it out and figure out all the aspects of everything and try to make a good decision that’s right for me.”
And the Flyers hope he chooses to sign with them sooner rather than later.
Holmgren confirmed via email that the negotiations have been taking place for a little while now and that they’ve reached a point where the Flyers would like to get something done before too long.
It’s always an interesting gambit for both sides when it comes to the timing of a new deal. Teams tend to want to lock up players before they have big years so they can have them on the books at a value, while players try to hold out for the big pay day based on a season filled with positive performance and production.
However, there are pratfalls for both ends. If teams don’t reach a term or a dollar figure that the player is comfortable with in advance, they risk losing the player to a competitor in free agency. Meanwhile, the risk the player takes by not accepting an early offer are greater – as they could underperform, or even worse, get hurt, and then not even make what was initially offered to them.
And that’s what Read has to decide now. As a late bloomer, he’s getting his second contract several years later than most players. Usually, it’s the third contract when players make the most money, because that’s when they are in the primes of their careers – between ages 27 and 32.
Read is entering that prime age range, but won’t see his big contract yet, and isn’t sure when he will.
Which is why he’s uncertain at this point what to do.
Should he wait to see how his season progresses before he broaches the matter again? If he has a good, productive season, he can ultimately be rewarded more handsomely – and even possibly be pursued by more suitors in free agency.
Of course, it could go the opposite direction, and end up costing Read in the long run, but he is confident that won’t be the case and that he’ll be part of a productive Flyers lineup.
“Points are points and I feel I can play any forward position on the ice,” Read said. “I can play defensive, I can play offensive. I can play on the first line and I can play on the fourth line. It doesn’t matter to me as long as I’m playing to my potential I can help this team win. That’s all that really matters. It’s not about being a first line guy or anything… it’s about helping this team win and get back to the postseason.”
And if Read does that, if he has a year where he continues to post solid offensive numbers and contributes in all phases of the game, the Flyers will be happy and will continue to try to bring him back.
After all, Read has 35 goals and 36 assists for 71 points in 121 career games, which is definitely equivalent to top-9 forward production.
And his versatility is definitely a plus, but it’s also in demand in the NHL, which is why waiting on getting Read under contract can be deemed a bit precarious.
But the Flyers are sharp when it comes time to recognize and reward talent, and if Read is deserving of a bigger slice of pie, the Flyers are apt to offer it to him.
For now though, he’s going to continue to practice with whomever the coaching staff team’s him with – whether it’s Sean Couturier, as it was in one practice, or it’s Scott Laughton, or it’s Brayden Schenn.
“You come into camp and you really don’t know where you are going to be in the lineup,” Read said. “You hear what the situations could be and all the possibilities, but you are focused on just trying to get used to the systems again and whatever the lineup is and whoever you play with you just have to take it in stride and try to gel with those linemates as quickly as you can.”
And once all the cards are on the table, those poker chips will fall where they should.
To contact Anthony SanFilippo, email email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @AnthonySan37
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