BEFORE Andrew MacDonald was even traded to the Flyers on March 4, he identified Philadelphia as a destination he wanted to look into if he ever made it to free agency in July.
Turns out, his 6-week peek at life in a Flyers uniform was enough to make him want to stay here for the considerable future.
On the eve of the Stanley Cup playoffs, MacDonald and the Flyers agreed to a whopping 6-year, $30 million contract extension yesterday. In total terms, the deal will make him the 21st-highest paid defenseman in the NHL, according to CapGeek.com.
The deal will run through the 2019-20 season, and MacDonald will not have a no-trade clause at his disposal.
"You never really know until you get here," MacDonald said. "The passion of the fans, the atmosphere of the rink was something I loved, even coming here as an opponent of the Flyers. Obviously, the [locker] room and the team dynamic is important. The way things are run is top-notch. I couldn't be happier."
The Flyers pushed to sign MacDonald to an extension now rather than wait until after the postseason, when the pull of free agency might be too strong. MacDonald, 27, is coming off a 4-year, $2 million deal with the Islanders. He will earn more next season with the Flyers than he did in his first seven professional seasons combined.
The Flyers needed to pay fair market value now or risk losing MacDonald to free agency. Otherwise, trading a second- and third-round pick, in addition to a low-level prospect, for 19 games and one playoff run would have been a hefty price to pay.
As a puck-moving defenseman, MacDonald will be an important piece on the Flyers' blue line, as they transition from the Kimmo Timonen and Mark Streit era to Shayne Gostisbehere, Samuel Morin, Robert Hagg and other defensemen of the future.
"We started talking a while ago," Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said. "It took a little longer than we thought. We zeroed in on getting close. We just felt if we're going to do it, let's get it done and take it off his plate and let him focus on playing in the playoffs."
While some may view MacDonald's contract as an overpayment, the Flyers seem to have paid fair market value, considering only a few defensemen of his age and ability will be available this summer, such as Pittsburgh's Matt Niskanen (27), New Jersey's Mark Fayne (26) and Columbus' Nikita Nikitin (27).
The Flyers also bought significant cost certainly in MacDonald's lengthy contract ahead of years when the salary cap will rise, perhaps dramatically. Holmgren said the Flyers were even comfortable with going longer than 6 years - even though he does play a grueling position and blocked more shots (242) than anyone else in the NHL this season by a wide margin (31).
"We kind of hashed it out a number of different scenarios, finishing in 6 [years]," MacDonald said. "I felt like it was a big commitment from them and a big commitment from me."
With MacDonald's deal, the Flyers now have $64 million counting against next season's projected $71.1 million cap, not including deals for Ray Emery, Timonen, Brayden Schenn, Steve Downie, Erik Gustafsson and Adam Hall.
With the Flyers, coach Craig Berube has allowed MacDonald to play more efficient minutes (22:00 per night average) than on Long Island, where he was asked to do everything at 25:25 in the absence of Streit this season.
That reduced stress atmosphere on the ice has come full circle off it, where he will finally be properly paid for his services.
"It's nice to get it out of the way, so I can concentrate on making a run," MacDonald said. "I think the Flyers are always a team that is going to spend the money to go for it every year. That's important to every player, I think, to be on a team that is competitive and tries to win it all."
Craig Berube said defenseman Nick Grossmann, who missed the final two games of the regular season to nurse an ankle injury, is fine and will play in Game 1 against the Rangers tomorrow night . . . Steve Downie missed practice with the same "upper-body" injury he's been suffering since November, according to a source. Listed as day-to-day, his status is unknown. Jason Akeson took his spot on line rushes in practice . . . Vinny Lecavalier also sat out practice with a vague maintenance day . . . The Flyers worked their power play in practice. Berube said they will have to tinker, based on "how aggressive [the Rangers'] Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi play" . . . Former Flyers coach Peter Laviolette will be the head coach of the U.S. men's national team at the World Championships next month in Belarus.