The Philadelphia Flyers have dipped their toes into the college free agent market, signing Jackson Cates to a two-year entry-level contract. The deal will begin right away, meaning Cates will become a restricted free agent after the 2021-22 season. It carries an average annual value of $925K, the highest number the entry-level system allows. Flyers AGM Brent Flahr released a statement on his new player:
Jackson is a player that our staff has followed closely throughout his college career. He’s a tenacious two-way center that has steadily improved his overall game each season. He’s been an integral part of a very successful college program at UMD and we’re excited to see him take his game to the next level.
Cates, 23, was undrafted out of the USHL and has spent the last three seasons playing for the University of Minnesota-Duluth. In 2020-21, he recorded 27 points in 28 games, trailing only Minnesota Wild prospect Nick Swaney in team scoring.
If you’re a Flyers fan wondering where you’ve heard the name Cates before, he is the older of the team’s 2017 fifth-round pick Noah Cates, who captained UMD this season alongside his brother and is still unsigned. Noah, 22, has also been at the school for three years, but it is not clear if he will also be starting his professional career by signing an ELC.
For Jackson, it’s been a long affiliation with the Flyers after participating in the team’s 2019 development camp. He’ll now enter the organization and technically could play for the NHL squad this season after completing any required quarantine procedures.