Flyers Resign Nicolas Aube-Kubel
The Philadelphia Flyers take care of their first free agent signing of the 2020 offseason, signing right-winger Nicolas Aube-Kubel to a two-year contract with an average annual value (AAV) of $1.075 million. That's a solid raise from his last contract, a one-year deal with a $750K AAV signed last summer.
Aube-Kubel was one of four main restricted free agents the Flyers had to sign (not including Mikhail Vorobyev, who is back in the KHL, and Nathan Noel, who spent basically the whole season in the ECHL and was acquired from Chicago for TJ Brennan in February). Taken with the 48th pick in the 2014 NHL Draft, Aube-Kubel established himself as a full-time NHLer this season. After earning a 9-game cup of coffee in November 2018, Aube-Kubel started this season in the AHL. A plague of injuries in December led to, among others, Aube-Kubel getting a call-up for the last game of a road trip in Winnipeg.
In the midst of a blowout loss, Aube-Kubel recorded his first NHL point, assisting on a goal by Shayne Gostisbehere. While most of the others who were called up around that point were quickly sent down once those injuries subsided, Aube-Kubel played well enough to stay in the show. Part of that was that he was not waiver exempt, but most of it was that Aube-Kubel was playing great. NAK scored his first career NHL goal on December 23, a 5-1 win over the Rangers.
Overall, Aube-Kubel posted seven goals and eight assists for 15 points in 36 games, 34-point pace over a full 82-game regular season. NAK was outstanding from a play-driving standpoint, posting a strong 50.47% Corsi and 54.52% Expected Goals For% at 5-on-5. In the playoffs, Aube-Kubel played through a lower-body injury, putting up three points in 13 games with nearly identical underlying numbers: 50.21% Corsi, 51.43% xGF. The rookie winger showed great tenacity and was one of the best forecheckers on the team.
Signing Aube-Kubel leaves the Flyers with about $7.8 million in cap space, according to CapFriendly. The Flyers still have three major RFAs to sign - Phil Myers, Nolan Patrick, and Robert Hagg. Additionally, the Flyers have five UFAs from their main NHL club - Brian Elliott, Justin Braun, Tyler Pitlick, Derek Grant, and Nate Thompson (maybe six if you count Alex Lyon). NAK's new deal makes him the 10th highest paid Flyers forward.
Honestly, this contract is close to a steal for the Flyers. Aube-Kubel is a tremendous bottom-six forward, and a young one at that, who the Flyers signed for barely over a million dollars. I originally thought he might get the same deal that Michael Raffl signed last year (2 years, $1.6 million AAV). Granted, he didn't have much leverage considering his lack of NHL experience and the fact that he's just a 24-year old RFA with next to no chance of being offer sheeted. He'll be a restricted free agent when the deal expires, ensuring the Flyers maintain his rights when he's due his next contract in 2022 (barring a trade or expansion draft selection, which NAK will be eligible for if he plays 34 plus games next year). NAK is just the first domino to drop in what should be an interesting offseason for Chuck Fletcher and the Flyers, but so far, so good.