Sean Couturier is the Flyers’ most important player and he might just finish his career in Philadelphia.
While this offseason was important to reshape the team, next offseason was shaping up to be just as –– if not more –– important. Both Sean Couturier and Claude Giroux were set to become free agents in 2022. That is no longer the case for Couturier.
The Flyers locked up Sean Couturier with an eight-year, $62 million ($7.75 million AAV) contract extension on Thursday. It’s a contract that works well for both sides.
From the Flyers’ perspective, a $7.75 million cap hit for Couturier is more than manageable. The first-line center is already on an extremely team-friendly deal at a $4.33 million cap hit signed in 2015. His new contract kicks in for the 2022-23 season at more than a 75% raise, but the Flyers are more than happy with the deal.
“Sean is our best hockey player right now. If he had left, it would have significantly changed the direction of our team,” Chuck Fletcher said. “It’s a challenge to stay cap compliant and make it the best team you can make it. We know the numbers now and we can build accordingly.”
Fletcher said it best. Sean Couturier is the Flyers’ best player right now. He’s the reigning three-time team MVP, earning the Bobby Clarke Trophy in each of the past three seasons. Only Claude Giroux (five) and Eric Lindros (four) won the Bobby Clarke Trophy more than three times since its unveiling in 1984.
On top of being the Flyers’ best player, Couturier is one of the best centers in the league. Period. He won the Selke Trophy in the 2019-20 season and has been on the National radar for a few years now. Couturier finished second in Selke Trophy voting in the 2017-18 season, his breakout campaign.
Since the 2017-18 season, Couturier has 252 points (104 goals, 148 assists) in 276 games, placing him 30th in the league. A whopping 197 of those points (81 goals, 116 assists) came at even strength, good for 14th in the league.
Mind you, Couturier is also one of the best defensive forwards in the league. For reference, one of Couturier’s comparables, Patrice Bergeron, has 246 points in 244 games since the 2017-18 season, but only 150 of them came at even strength. Bergeron has placed top five in Selke Trophy voting in each of the past 12 seasons, including four first-place finishes, so he’s not a bad guy to be compared to.
If Sean Couturier was to hit the open market, he’d easily be offered at least $9 million per season. The Flyers got quite the discount on Couturier after developing him over the past decade. Locking him up for the next decade was a great move by Fletcher and the Flyers.
Couturier will be on the decline in his final years of the deal, just as all players are, but he should still be an effective center. His game isn’t built on his speed, quick hands, shot, or amazing skillset. He’s a very intelligent hockey player that plays the game the right way. Couturier will be the Flyers’ first-line center until someone usurps him in a few years. After that, he should still be able to be a solid middle-six center in the mid-to-late 2020s.
Having Couturier on a longer deal with a slightly lower cap hit is very beneficial for the Flyers. It allows them to build around Couturier in the coming years by being able to pay their up-and-coming youngsters and add outside help if needed. That is exactly what Couturier is hoping for.
“We’re ready to win,” Couturier said. “I’m happy to be in Philly. I grew up and came up here as a teenager pretty much. My daughter was born there. For my family and I to call Philly home for the next nine years, it’s nice. I’m excited about the team now and in the future.”
By signing an extension with the Flyers, Couturier has stability, familiarity with the team and city, and a chance to win the Stanley Cup with the team that drafted him. The cap hit may be a team-friendly one, but that doesn’t mean that Couturier isn’t getting paid his due.
Couturier will earn $62 million over the course of the eight-year contract through 2029. At that point, Couturier will be 36 and quite possibly near retirement. He may get a short-term deal at that point, but nothing is guaranteed.
If Couturier went to free agency, he’d likely get a contract worth a similar total amount. The maximum that he would’ve realistically received is around $70 million ($10 million for a max seven-year deal). It’s more likely that he’d fetch closer to the $62 million number, perhaps $63 million at 7x$9. Even then, Couturier would be 35 when that contract expires and only have a few good years left in him.
Couturier may have left money on the table by signing an extension now rather than testing free agency, but he’s still getting paid quite well and the intangibles of familiarity and stability are priceless.
Photo: Heather Barry Images