The Philadelphia Flyers are once again about to come face to face with one of their biggest temptations- signing mediocre players to long-term contracts as soon-to-be-27-year-old defenseman Travis Sanheim is in need of a new deal during the 2023 offseason. With a very bad, very expensive team already locked up for years to come, and the opportunity to add assets heading into the deep 2023 entry draft, re-signing Sanheim comes with plenty of scrutiny.
Log jam at LHD
The Flyers don’t flaunt an abundance of depth these days. Right wing and left-handed defenseman are the exception to that rule and the kids are just about ready to make an NHL impact. Ivan Provorov is under contract for two more seasons, and youngsters Cam York and Egor Zamula are ready to make the jump to the NHL on a full time basis. That’s four bodies at a position with three openings. Sanheim would be the easiest and quickest to move.
Biggest trade chip
The Flyers value the 2023 draft. They just refused to move JVR in the name of keeping their first round pick next summer. With Sanheim being the only noteworthy player on the roster with an expiring contract, you’d think they’d be eager to part ways with him at the deadline and acquire another pick or two in a stacked draft.
Moving on from a long tenured piece
The Flyers’ core has been together forever. Sanheim is entering year six of his NHL career, and that’s actually on the shorter side of tenured roster players. Considering all the rest are already locked up on contracts with multiple years left, this is a chance to walk away from someone who is just as guilty for the team’s lack of success as everyone else.
He seems to finally be figuring it out
“He was their best defenseman last season” feels more like a back handed compliment than a true accolade, but it’s technically a true statement. He did seem to finally figure out his role during the 2021-22 season. The hot and cold nature of his game does throw a bit of doubt as to whether or not he can repeat that kind of success, but there’s natural concern for trading a player who may have just hit his stride.
He may not be the best player in his own zone, which is a problem, but he could very well be the best puck mover on the team, which does account for something. His seven goals and 31 points in 80 games last season were his best output since 2018-19. He may never reach peak Erik Karlsson levels of production, but given how stale the offense is projected to be, Sanheim may be their shot at actually producing a few goals.
They re-signed his partner
The odd couple pairing in Travis Sanheim and Rasmus Ristolainen were hands down the best defensive duo last season. Ristolainen was given a five-year, $25.5 million extension last March, and that move could ultimately draw the Flyers to bring back Sanheim as well. Was their success a one-off or can they replicate that success once again? The 2022-23 season should help answer that question, it’s just a matter of whether the Flyers can contain themselves from re-signing Sanheim that long to get a proper answer.
If you’re a regular Brotherly Puck reader, you know we’ve called for the Flyers to not re-sign him. He’s not a make or break player, he’s not really needed considering their prospect depth, and there’s no easy way to deal with the financial aftermath of him re-signing. But at the end of the day, it’s not even really Sanheim himself that is the deciding factor here, it’s the situation the Flyers find themself in, both from a financial and roster depth perspective.
Do they keep both Provorov and Sanheim? Do they keep Sanheim and undertake the massive task of moving Provorov? Can Sanheim be a true 1D? Can Cam York step up into a top four spot now? All those questions can be easily avoided if they just keep Provorov and promote York and Zamula all while collecting an extra asset of two for possibly the best LHD available at the trade deadline.
You have to weigh the futures of York and Zamula, plus the at least $6 million in cap the team saves, plus any assets they’ll receive trading him at the deadline, versus Sanheim being a kinda decent number three defenseman on a Cup-caliber team. It could be a potential downgrade in the short-term as they wait for York and Zamula to get their bearings at the NHL level, but isn’t the short-term downgrade irrelevant if the team is psudo-tanking anyway? The long-term gain is what is most important right now, and the best chance of future success is parting ways with Travis Sanheim, letting their homegrown talent develop and hoping they get a juicy return for Sanheim from a desperate team at the deadline in March.
The Flyers in part re-signed Ristolainen because of the success he had alongside Sanheim, but trying to justify one mistake like re-signing Ristolainen by also re-signing Sanheim is quite the snowball they’re pushing down a hill.
“Commit even more money and time into yet another player who isn’t worth it because we already made the mistake of re-signing Rasmus Ristolainen? Sounds good to me!” – Chuck Fletcher, probably
Trading Sanheim seems like a no-brainer move, but the Flyers are sure to screw it up. With any luck cooler, smarter heads prevail, but don’t expect to find too many of those lingering around the front office these days.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: nbcsports.com