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Cates, Flyers don't come close to arbitration, agree to new deal

The 24-year-old rookie played in all 82 games last season

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Noah Cates and the Flyers avoided salary arbitration pretty quickly.

The sides reached a new two-year, $5.25 million contract Monday. The deal has an average annual value of $2.625 million. Cates will also be switching from No. 49 to No. 27 for his jersey, according to his agent Ben Hankinson.

The 24-year-old Cates was a restricted free agent and had elected for arbitration five days ago. He'll be an RFA again when his new contract expires.

Later in the day, the Flyers inked restricted free agent Cam York to a two-year deal.

Morgan Frost and Olle Lycksell are the Flyers' remaining RFAs in line for new contracts.

As a rookie, Cates was one of three Flyers to play in all 82 games last season. He blossomed into the team’s best defensive forward, drawing comparisons to Sean Couturier by his teammates.

"Catesy, it's just really, really impressive what he was able to do," Travis Konecny said at his end-of-the-season press conference in April. "I played with him and I had an opportunity to play, like, half my games with him and just see what he can do. For him to remind me that much of Coots in his first season is really, really impressive."

After getting a taste of the NHL with a 16-game audition at the end of 2021-22, Cates cemented himself as an everyday piece in Year 1 under John Tortorella. The four-year Minnesota Duluth product was on the ice for 17:46 minutes per game, committed just six penalties and had a plus-3 rating on a team that finished with a minus-55 goal differential. He put up 38 points (13 goals, 25 assists) — 28 at even strength, 10 on the power play and two at shorthanded.

Cates received votes for the Calder Trophy (NHL's top rookie) and Selke Trophy (NHL's top defensive forward). Although he projected a little more as a winger coming up, he played center last season and could stick there long term.

"I watch his subtle, little, just couple of strides he takes to put himself in position defensively or to get the puck out of our end zone on a breakout pass. Just subtle, little plays that are hard to teach," Tortorella said in January. "That's the nature of him, that's his strength. Eventually, as he keeps growing, we'll put more pressure on him making more offensive plays and the offensive part of it."

Cates' transformation from a skinny 2017 fifth-round draft pick out of high school into a difference-maker at the NHL level has impressed the entire Flyers hockey operations department.

"My goal is to be an NHL regular as quickly as I can," Cates said in October. "If you make the team Monday, you've got to make it Tuesday, you've got to make it Wednesday, you've got to make it every day of the year. Because things can happen, you can move up and down, you've got to make that team every day, you've got to earn it every day."

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