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Flyers' Giroux-Voracek combo has staying power

With lengthy contract extensions, two of the members of the top line are slated to be together through the 2021-22 season.

THIS WAS always the situation the Flyers and their two top-line stars would be in when this offseason started.

Jakub Voracek's 81 points last season and three straight seasons of solid production made it obvious he wasn't going to hit free agency when his four-year deal ran out after next season. The only question that needed an answer was how much the right wing, who turns 26 next Saturday, would command from the Flyers.

That question was answered last week when general manager Ron Hextall locked in the Czech Republic native by extending him through the 2024 season with a salary-cap hit of $8.25 million per year, just under the $8.275 million of his linemate, captain Claude Giroux. Giroux' contract will run through 2022. Voracek's cap hit this year remains at $4.25 million.

So for six years, starting with the 2016-17 season, the Flyers will roll out a tandem on the first line that will command just over $16.5 million per season. That puts the pair, which combined for 154 points last season, in elite company.

Only the duos of Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews ($21 million) in Chicago, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin ($18.2 million) in Pittsburgh, and Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf ($16.9) in Anaheim combine for a higher cap hit.

All of them have something Giroux and Voracek don't and something the Flyers haven't in 40 years: a Stanley Cup. Kane and Toews have three. Crosby and Malkin have hoisted the trophy once and combined for three Hart trophies. Anaheim's Cup was back in 2007, when Perry and Getzlaf were on the brink of becoming stars, and they've been among the league's best combos since.

In the four years Giroux and Voracek have been members of the Flyers, the team has won just one playoff series. A lot of that can be attributed to whom they were surrounded by and perhaps the systems run by Peter Laviolette and Craig Berube. Hextall is doing his best to try to solve those issues.

At the very least, the Flyers are giving new coach Dave Hakstol time to work with this group. While spending a large amount of salary-cap dollars on Giroux and Voracek might appear to be a "win-now" move, the Flyers are still sort of rebuilding.

The goal, once Hextall is able to free up some salary in the coming years, will be to surround Giroux and Voracek with young talent. Sean Couturier is signed through 2022, Wayne Simmonds through 2019 and Matt Read through 2018. Add first-round pick Travis Konecny to the equation along with the slew of defensive prospects on the way, and Hextall will have a young, talented roster while still having money to spend in free agency.

The Flyers are placing a lot of emphasis on developing talent within the organization, but there's no doubting the team's future will rest a lot on the shoulders of their top line.

And that's not a bad thing. Their point totals over recent years stack up well with their peers. Their 154 points last year was good for third among teammates, and their offensive firepower allowed the Flyers' power play to rank third in the league with a conversion percentage of 23.4 percent, behind only Washington and Detroit. The groundwork for long-term success is obviously there.

"I think we can get better because we've gotten better every single year we've played together so far," Voracek said. "So I don't see the reason why we can't get better."

"They're a tandem that when you prepare to play the Philadelphia Flyers, the first thing you're probably looking at is that tandem," Hextall said last week. "And obviously they've been dynamite together and we expect them to continue on. So that was a big part of our emphasis. I think when you're building a team, you look at pairs. And I think the pair of Jake and G is very good and certainly one of the top pairs in the league."

Voracek understands what it's going to take from him and Giroux to get better results and make a run at the playoffs. It starts with consistency.

"I think we had 10-15 games last year when we really didn't produce or play as good as we did in the beginning of the season, and I think it hurt the team a little bit," Voracek said.

"We gotta make sure we stay hot for 82 games because it's really important for the team and really important for the organization."

Really important because it's not just 82 games. At least seven more years of the duo on the top line is 574 games. Think about that.

Holmgren named

Flyers president Paul Holmgren was named assistant general manager of Team USA for the World Cup of Hockey in Toronto in September 2016.

Dean Lombardi, president/ GM of the Los Angeles Kings, will be general manager of Team USA.