Sean Couturier Contract Extension: Details, Comparables, and Analysis

6 more years in Philly!
6 more years in Philly at 26 million is something to smile about, Coots!

Sean Couturier has agreed to a contract extension with the Philadelphia Flyers for 6 years worth 26 million dollars.

Couturier’s contract breaks down to an average annual value (AAV, otherwise known as cap hit,) of 4.33 million per season for the next 6 seasons after the conclusion of the upcoming 2015-16 campaign.  Coots will earn 2 million this year, and the 4.33 million cap figure is a nice increase over his previous contract’s 1.75 million figure.  Couturier’s yearly salaries for the 6 years on his deal go like this (Credit: General Fanager):

Year NHL Salary Cap Hit Performance Bonus Signing Bonus
2016-17 $3,750,000 $4,333,333 $1,000,000
2017-18 $4,000,000 $4,333,333 $1,000,000
2018-19 $4,250,000 $4,333,333 $1,000,000
2019-20 $4,500,000 $4,333,333
2020-21 $4,750,000 $4,333,333
2021-22 $4,750,000 $4,333,333

Now that the contract details are out of the way, it’s time to analyze this sucker up and down.  Initial reaction: big win for the Flyers.  Not only did Philadelphia lock up one of their core pieces for the long term, they did it on a club-friendly deal.  Couturier posted 15 goals last year, a career high, and was good for 37 points while playing a very solid defensive role.  Couturier’s career high in points is only 39, which may not seem like it is worthy of a $4.33 million yearly salary.  But his defensive role is so important on the Flyers.  There isn’t anyone else on the roster that can do what Couturier can do defensively, maybe not even on the defense corps. itself.

But how much does a defensive specialist make in the NHL?  Not much.  But it is important to realize that Couturier is not a defensive specialist. He is a unique and rare talent that can excel on all 210 feet of ice.  Couturier is good for almost 50% faceoff wins, a solid figure, he is a rare Flyer that will finish “Plus” in the “Plus-Minus” category, he is the focal point of the penalty kill, and he is a power play contributer.  This is an insanely valuable player.  There have been people who have called for the Flyers to give up on Couturier because he his a 40 point player when his potential could be a 50-60 point man.  The Flyers though, stuck Couturier in a defensive role in every situation last year.  No regular Flyer had fewer offensive zone starts than Couturier, yet he was still able to produce nearly 40 points last year.  And to those who still want Couturier gone, ask yourself who is going to take on Couturier’s role as top PK center, PP man, and second-line center? Lest we forget, Sean is just 22 years old.

A player that has all these good qualities is sure to get a $5 million cap hit on the open market.  So the Flyers were able to pump out a team-friendly contract before Couturier reached restricted free agency next summer, which was another big plus.  However, the biggest contribution of getting this contract done early and at a team-friendly price was because next summer, Jake Voracek, Brayden Schenn, Michael Raffl, Sam Gagner, Evgeni Medvedev, Luke Schenn, and Radko Gudas will all be free agents.  There is a case to be made for keeping all of these players, and the first 3 will absolutely be re-signed.  By next summer, Voracek’s cap hit is likely to increase by $2.5-3 million a year into the $7 million range, Schenn’s could double from $2.5 million to $5 million, and Raffl is also due for a sizable raise from his $1.1 million figure, maybe in the $3.5 million range.  Also, don’t forget that Couturier’s cap hit increases next summer.  These moves will cost the Flyers around $10 million in cap space, so while Couturier is also obviously getting a raise, he was going to get it next summer anyway, and the fact that the Flyers already know what he will cost helps them in their quest to re-sign their other key pieces.

Today, the Flyers have $583,000 in cap space.  By next summer, they will be adding $10 million to their total.  If the cap increases again (fingers crossed), the Flyers will still be over by quite a bit.  They will have to ship out guys like Vinny Lecavalier, R.J. Umberger, and Andrew MacDonald through trades or buyouts.  They will also have to let a large chunk of their defense leave this summer, including Medvedev, Schenn, or Gudas.  This is all in order to save money and to make room for the defensive prospects.  If everything works out perfectly, the Flyers could be looking at the 2017 season with a roster chock full of the young prospects we have heard so much about over the last 3 seasons.  And that roster will almost certainly be a playoff squad by 2018, and perhaps a championship team by 2020.

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