It’s an interesting time in terms of the Flyers and their situation in regards to on-ice play and their cap situation. The Flyers shed a little bit of cap space at the trade deadline after shipping out Michael Raffl and Erik Gustafsson V.2. They then used some of it to re-sign Scott Laughton to his five year, $15 million deal. As it stands according to CapFriendly, the Flyers currently have a shade under five million dollars in cap space. After all contracts expire, buyouts and retained salary are gone, the Flyers will have just under $18 million entering the 2021 offseason. This offseason also begins the running clock of figuring out what to do with Sean Couturier.
This offseason isn’t nearly as daunting as the next will be. Nolan Patrick comes off the books, as well as Sanheim, Hart and Elliott. Sure, the Flyers will have to sign more than one goalie if they let Alex Lyon walk, but their signings will be in-house. Samuel Ersson could potentially make the jump and the Felix Sandstrom/Kirill Ustimenko tandem are likely staying on board. Sanheim’s next contract likely won’t be the worry most initially thought. Who knows what’s happening with Nolan Patrick and his next deal.
The biggest question mark is what’s going to happen with Sean Couturier. There are many variables that play into the looming decision. Will the Flyers be in a position to retain him? What’s it going to cost to keep him around, and at what term? Couturier will be 29 years old when his current deal expires. Would the Flyers be wise to give him an extension that he likely will be looking for? Eight years seems to be the norm, but that would keep him under wraps until the ripe age of 37. The question then becomes would he be worth his AAV at that age, or even the years leading up to 37.
Not to mention, the Flyers will have their hands full next offseason with several entry-level deals coming off the books. Wade Allison, Tanner Laczynski, and Joel Farabee will be in need of new deals the same time Sean Couturier’s contract expires. The Flyers have a difficult decision to make in terms of keeping Couturier or trading him away. If they decide to keep him, Chuck Fletcher will need to perform some intense cap-gymnastics to make sure he can afford Coots’ next extension. Why may that be? Two players over the past eight seasons signed deals shortly after, or just before they won the Selke Award. Those contracts may likely hold the key to predicting Couturier’s next deal.
So Pavel Datsyuk won the Selke for three years in a row, from 2008 to 2010. Four years passed, and he signed his new deal. That deal won’t be used as a comparison here. The situation is totally different, and it just doesn’t hold any weight in comparing it to what Couturier’s deal could look like.
Ryan Kesler’s deal came before winning the Selke Award in 2011, but off the heels of finishing in second place to Datsyuk in 2010. For the simple reason of signing his deal before winning the award, his contract won’t be used as a comparable to what Couturier’s may look like.
Ryan O’Reilly won the Selke in 2019, but hasn’t signed a contract since. Obviously, not comparable.
Now, with the obvious out of the way, we take a look at a few players whose deals could be used as a comparison to what Sean Couturier’s next deal might look like.
Jonathan Toews (8yr, $84mil, $10.5mil annually)
Jonathan Toews Selke Award win came after the 2012/13 season. He paired that with his second Stanley Cup victory in three seasons. It’s a bit of a stretch considering Couturier hasn’t won a Stanley Cup. All things considered, Toews signed his deal two years after winning his Selke Award. He was ultimately rewarded for helping lead his team to two Stanley Cups, so the $10.5 mil accounts for that. Time wise, it lines right up with Sean Couturier and when he can sign an extension. Money wise, Couturier will likely command just south of what Toews’ deal looks like.
Accounting for inflation, Toews’ deal in July of 2014 is now worth around $11.5 million today. Any way you cut it, Couturier will get less than Toews. The big question is how much less? Term-wise, there’s a common theme among the players that remain and Toews that surely is easy to pick up.
Toews played one season between winning the Selke and signing his extension. During that season, Toews recorded 28 goals and 40 assists in 76 games. He was also the second runner-up for the Selke Award. With one year remaining on his current deal worth $31.5 million over five years, the Chicago Blackhawks extended Toews, tacking on another eight years at $10.5 million per. Surely a reward for the individual achievements and the pair of Stanley Cups he helped bring to Chicago.
Anze Kopitar (8yr, $80mil, $10mil annually)
Anze Kopitar’s Selke Award winning season came during the 2015/16 campaign. Likewise, his extension came midway through that season. Like Toews, Kopitar had helped lead the Los Angeles Kings to two Stanley Cup victories in 2012 and 2014. While some may question the deal at the time, the eight year deal worth $10 million annually was definitely earned. In the three years leading up to Kopitar’s Selke Award-winning campaign, he was a top-five finisher each year. While on the cusp for three straight seasons, Los Angeles saw what Kopitar was doing and rewarded him for his play.
Up until Kopitar signed his new deal, he had played 43 games before signing the extension. In those 43 games, Kopitar posted 12 goals and 24 assists for 36 points. Kopitar played the second half of the season on his deal worth $6.8 million until the extension kicked in. Now, Kopitar is making $10 million annually, has two Stanley Cups to his resume, and a Selke win to-boot.
Patrice Bergeron (8yr, $55mil, $6.875mil annually)
Patrice Bergeron is in a league of his own when discussing his credentials. One Stanley Cup victory in 2011, four Selke Awards, and a King Clancy Award as well. Why is he even being compared to Sean Couturier when Coots hasn’t sniffed the level of success that Bergeron has attained? Look back to when Bergeron won his first Selke Trophy, and you’ll see that they weren’t so different at that stage in their respective careers.
When Bergeron signed his eight year extension worth $6.875 million annually, he was coming off three straight years of being a top-five Selke finisher, winning in 2012. He also helped Boston to their first Stanley Cup victory since 1972. He had one year remaining on his three year deal worth $15 million when Boston decided to re-up with the now captain of the Bruins.
During the year between his Selke win and signing his extension, Bergeron had 10 goals and 22 assists in the shortened 2012/13 campaign’s 42 games. Boston re-upped with Bergeron just before his second Selke-winning campaign, inking maybe the biggest bargain deal in the NHL right now. One of if not the premier two-way centers in the league, Bergeron is the 56th highest paid player in the NHL currently. That’s a steal no matter which way you look at it.
Sean Couturier (?yr, ?mil, ?mil annually)
So we get to everyone’s favorite toothless grin. While Couturier was runner-up in Selke voting during the 2017/18 season, he hasn’t been in the top-five in voting aside from his runner-up and Selke-winning years. No Stanley Cups to his resume, no other awards to speak of. What exactly does that spell for the Flyers top-line center?
His current numbers this season are better than Bergeron, Kopitar, even Toews’ numbers in the season leading up to being extended. He’s just short of being a point-per-game player this season, with 31 points in 34 contests. While he missed a chunk of games at the beginning of the season, he picked up right where he left off upon returning. His point totals are among the best on his team. The Flyers began their downward spiral early on when Couturier was out with a Costochondral separation. He’s obviously a key asset to the Flyers. But how much is that worth?
With major players needing new contracts around the same time as Sean, where do Chuck Fletchers priorities lie? Would dealing the veteran center present a bigger positive than signing him to a potential long-term deal? As evidenced by the three comparable players above, it looks like Couturier could command eight years in term, putting him at 37 years of age when that contract would expire.
His cap hit will likely be expensive as well. Take into account the $10 million Kopitar is getting and the $10.5 million Toews is getting. Could Couturier command that type of money? It’s unlikely, but it wouldn’t come as a surprise if he signed a deal worth around nine million dollars per year. Is that a cap hit worthy of his play as he prepares to enter potentially the downward trajectory of his career?
The Flyers have a very difficult decision on their hands. Sean Couturier won’t come cheap. The hometown discount went out the door when he took home some hardware at last year’s awards. The former seventh overall pick will get a big-money deal, it’s just a matter of who will be paying him. Will the Flyers view him as the centerpiece to their re-tool and pay him as such? If they do, the deals for Toews, Kopitar, and Bergeron will likely lay the groundwork for what that deal could look like.
Photo Credit – Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire