Chuck Fletcher only has a few things left on his to-do list this summer, but those things are rather important. The Philadelphia Flyers have two restricted free agents, Carter Hart and Travis Sanheim, who need new contracts. One of them may be going to arbitration.
Neither Hart nor Sanheim filed for salary arbitration by Sunday’s deadline. However, the Flyers used the rare team-elected salary arbitration for Sanheim, according to Elliotte Friedman.
Players going to salary arbitration isn’t a rare occurrence as there were 17 players that elected it this year. However, a team deciding to file for salary arbitration is rare. Only the Flyers and Minnesota Wild (Kevin Fiala) filed for salary arbitration this year. This was the first instance since 2019 when the St. Louis Blues filed team-elected salary arbitration for Ville Husso.
It’s worth noting that both Fiala and Sanheim, the only two players whose teams filed for arbitration, have Craig Oster of Newport Sports Management as their agent.
Sanheim’s up-and-down performance
Travis Sanheim signed a two-year bridge deal with a cap hit of $3.25 million in the 2019 offseason. Now, he’s a restricted free agent and due for a pay raise.
The 25-year-old defenseman is in a unique situation. Two seasons ago, he looked like a sure thing for the Flyers on the blue line. He was one of their best defensemen and was trending upward. However, he stumbled a bit last season and the numbers show it. After recording 25 points (eight goals, 17 assists) with a plus-4 rating in 69 games in the 2019-20 season, Sanheim had just 15 points (three goals, 12 assists) with a whopping minus-22 rating in 55 games last season.
After the 2019-20 season, it sure looked like the Flyers would want to lock Sanheim up long-term –– and they likely still do. However, last season’s performance may give the Flyers some wiggle room in contract negotiations, particularly in arbitration. But it gives Sanheim some leverage as well.
If the Flyers and Sanheim go through arbitration, it’s up to the player to decide on a one- or two-year contract. A one-year contract would make Sanheim a restricted free agent again next summer. A two-year contract would put Sanheim into unrestricted free agency in 2023, where he may walk away if arbitration leaves him with a sour taste in his mouth.
The Flyers and Sanheim can still settle on a contract outside of arbitration. They can negotiate up until the arbitration hearing, which will be scheduled for between August 11th and 26th.
Flyers still want to lock up Travis Sanheim
Despite this rare team-elected salary arbitration, all signs point to the Flyers getting a deal done with Sanheim. Chuck Fletcher mentioned Sanheim by name various times throughout his summer press conferences.
“That time of the year is sort of coming,” Fletcher said of RFAs Sanheim and Carter Hart prior to the NHL Draft. “We’ll get a feel for what their preferences are, what the price point would be and different term lengths, like you always do, and see what makes sense.”
After trading for Rasmus Ristolainen, Fletcher also specifically mentioned Sanheim as someone they wanted to get a right-shot defenseman to pair with this offseason.
“To get more competitive, we felt we needed to add some right-shot defenseman to our club this year to complement Provorov and Sanheim,” he said.
Finally, Fletcher noted that locking up Sanheim and Hart is top of mind after free agency.
“We’re going to engage a little bit more assertively in negotiations with Travis Sanheim’s camp and with Carter Hart’s camp. They’re obviously two very important parts of our team,” he said last week. “We’d like to lock those guys up, and then we’ll see.”
We’ll see how things shake out between Sanheim and the Flyers. They’ll likely get a deal done before arbitration, but anything is possible. Stay tuned for updates as this story develops.
Photo: Heather Barry Images