All eyes are on Philadelphia Flyers forward Sean Couturier as he enters the last year of his current contract. The soon-to-be 29-year-old signed his current six-year, $26 million ($4.33 aav) deal back in 2015 and has since racked up quite the list of accolades. He locked down the Flyers’ top line center role in 2017, has two 30-goal, 76-point seasons under his belt, and won a Selke Trophy for his two-way abilities in 2020. Now as the Flyers find themselves on the precipice of a make-or-break season, Sean Couturier and his potential extension are at the forefront of the discussions. While it makes plenty of sense for the Flyers to secure their top guy for the foreseeable future, there are some issues with handing Couturier a blank check.
You lock up your top center and most important player
Plain and simple Sean Couturier is the guy in Philadelphia right now. Sometime over the last few years Claude Giroux handed him the baton for the most important player on the team. He’s their number one center who’s relied upon in ever situation, one of their top point producers, and one of the top two-way forwards in the game today. Handing him a big money, long term deal today in 2021-22 makes sense, the issue is, this contract isn’t just about today, it’ll have shockwaves felt for years to come.
How much longer does Couturier have left as a top guy?
It’s the ultimate question when talking about Couturier’s extension. Couts will more than likely seek not only max dollar value, but max term as well, and therein lies the biggest problem with offering him an extension. How much longer does Couturier have left as a top line center or a top six forward? Two or three years, maybe four if you’re lucky. It’s not a great scenario if Couturier’s play plummets early in his extension.
The contract will bite them
To piggyback off the last entry, there’s a good chance Sean Couturier as a player can play in the bottom six into his late 30’s simply because his hockey IQ is so high, but do you want your third or fourth line center in 2025 to be making 8-9 million dollars for three more years? No thank you.
Can they even afford it?
The Flyers have worked themselves into quite the sticky cap situation and they’ll have to pick and choose who gets the extensions. The rule of thumb has been that Giroux and Couturier will essentially swap cap hits, and while that’s a good starting point, it probably won’t be that precise. Do they re-sign Sean Couturier or do they invest in Joel Farabee and another top defenseman? It may sound like a crazy question, but one that may have to be asked.
Who else is there?
In case you haven’t noticed, the Flyers haven’t exactly been great at drafting centers lately. Nolan Patrick was a bust, Morgan Frost has so far struggled to make the leap to the NHL, and everyone else is either too young or already entering the “bust” category. So as far as leverage goes, Couturier has just about all of it, and rightfully so.
This list is a bit lopsided, but not for a second do I believe Sean Couturier isn’t offered a contract extension by the Flyers. The only possible scenario where it’s even feasible is if they dwell in the basement of the Eastern Conference again, in which case a complete teardown may be necessary. Though that’s an extreme that hopefully won’t happen again. Couturier is a very good hockey player, but there are so many factors working against the entire scenario that’s it’s hard to properly justify offering him a contract that he’s certainly worth.
Between his age, his battle-worn body, the flat cap, the overall cap situation the Flyers are in, and the uncertainty of the future of the organization, it could be one of those deals that it doomed to fail the second the ink dries. Sean Couturier is good right now, but can you bank on him being at this level in a few years, and can you risk having that much money tied up in a player that will essentially be immovable if things go wrong quicker than expected? It’s the dice they’re just going to have to role to retain the services of their top forward.
UPDATE: Couturier was re-signed to a eight-year, $62 million contract.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: nhlrumors.com