October 13, 2022. Opening night for the Philadelphia Flyers, who were gearing up to take on the New Jersey Devils. Just hours before puck drop, 26-year-old Travis Sanheim re-signed with the club for a wopping eight-years and $50 million ($6.25 million per season). He had a career season during 2021-22, finally adding defensive consistency to his game while embracing his offensive capabilities.
As the 2022-23 season has progressed, Sanheim has regressed to a concerning level which makes the fact that his extension doesn’t kick in until the start on next season a real bad look on general manager Chuck Fletcher.
Now they’re stuck with an ugly deal with no way out. Sanheim’s fate is sealed and he’s stuck in Philadelphia for years to come.
But what if it’s not?
Travis Sanheim isn’t the only defenseman on a long-term contract on the trade block around the league, and thanks to the flat cap still crippling the NHL for at least one more offseason, teams are going to have to get creative to move some of their own problem deals around.
The best way to do that is player-for-player swaps; “hockey trades” as they’re more affectionately known. Trades meant to shake things up from a roster perspective through the moving of a less than desirable contract in exchange for another team’s less than desirable contract.
Mackenzie Weeger, a 29-year-old right-handed defenseman of the Calgary Flames is in a similar boat to Travis Sanheim. He signed an identical eight-year, $50 million contract that doesn’t kick in to next season. He has not been able to replicate the success he had in Florida after being acquired during the blockbuster Jonathan Huberdeau for Matthew Tkachuk trade last summer.
What if the Flyers and Flames made a trade to get both players new scenery and a fresh start even with their respective contracts in tow?
Weegar is just over two years older than Sanheim, though he’s got 30 less games under his belt with 365 to Sanheim’s 395. He typically hovers around six goals and 40 points and his analytics are favorable as well.
Both contracts contain matching no-trade clauses, something that may not end up being much of an issue. Sanheim played his junior hockey with the Calgary Hitmen, so he’s familiar with the area. He drew headlines a few weeks ago when John Tortorella scratched him during the Flyers’ trip to Calgary in mid-February when he had friends and family at the game to watch him play.
For Weegar, there may be nothing that directly ties him to Philly, but after a rough season in Calgary on a team that’s only slightly less ugly than the Flyers, a change back to the east coast could do him well.
The most intriguing part of this trade is the fact that Weegar is a right-shot defenseman while Sanheim is a left-shot. Both have experience playing on either side, but Weeger as a natural righty could help the Flyers big time.
After yet another attempt at trying to find a right-handed defenseman failed as Tony DeAngelo has been nothing short of a disaster, Chuck Fletcher and the Flyers may once again have to enter the RHD market in the summer in their endless attempt to fill that hole.
But Weegar fills that hole, and creates a spot for Cam York on the left side behind Ivan Provorov. A win-win for the Flyers’ blueline.
Is this an avenue the Flyers explore? It should be. It made absolutely no sense at the time to re-sign Sanheim and with almost instant buyers remorse, finding a team stuck in a similar situation may be their only way out of it. If it’s not MacKenzie Weegar they circle, there are other options out there. Colton Parayko in St. Louis and there will surely be at least another player or two that becomes available during the summer that can be considered. It may not be a blockbuster home run type of deal, but taking a chance on someone new working out may be a better option than continuing to fail at something they’ve tried time and again.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: nhl.com