Flyers Extend Sanheim: Is It the Right Decision?
Back on the first day of training camp, GM Chuck Fletcher was asked about Travis Sanheim’s expiring contract and the desire to get him re-signed. Both the player and the team wanted to get a deal done.
The Flyers even set aside a goal for the first day of the regular season, to have Sanheim locked up as part of the team’s long-term future.
Sanheim has his long-term deal with the Flyers, signing an extension for eight years worth $50 million, an average annual value of $6.25 million.
On the surface, the move made plenty of sense. Sanheim was arguably the team’s best defenseman last season – albeit in a dismal year for the blue line – and had shown more consistency in recent years than any player at the position.
But when you consider the state of the franchise and the direction they seem to be heading, was this the right decision?
The Flyers could have Connor McDavid, Cale Makar, or Igor Shesterkin, all arguably the best at their positions, and giving any player an eight-year extension would come with plenty of risks. When you’re in the position the Flyers are, you can’t just continue to throw years and money out to multiple players.
If Sanheim was the first player to sign an extension of this kind, then it would be a smart decision to back one specific player who would be deemed the leader of the group as it grew. But Sanheim follows in the footsteps of Rasmus Ristolainen and Tony DeAngelo. He follows Ivan Provorov’s, whose six-year deal still has three seasons remaining and was the first of the big-money deals for the Flyers blue line.
Next season, when Sanheim’s contract extension kicks in, the Flyers will be spending $23.1 million on their top-four defensemen. And that doesn't even include the injured Ryan Ellis, who ironically also has an AAV of $6.25 million.
That’s a lot of money to spend for two polarizing players, one budding young star who has spent the last two seasons as a shell of himself without a substantial partner, and now Sanheim, who has been consistent, but on a level with second-tier defenders. That’s a lot of money to spend on a top-four of defensemen that doesn’t exactly jump off the page.
But there was also a sense that the Flyers had to do this. If Sanheim was the first defenseman to sign, this deal would actually be very fair based on market value. Sanheim would be making roughly the same amount of money as most second-pair defensemen are starting to see. But Sanheim’s extension now follows re-signing Ristolainen and acquiring DeAngelo.
Those two players are a big part of the reason why signing Sanheim became so necessary. Imagine taking a chance on Ristolainen and seeing just why he is so polarizing to fans based on consistency, then acquiring the offensive-minded DeAngelo and giving him $5 million per season, then being backed into the corner of trading Sanheim with little leverage or letting him walk for nothing. That’s a hard sell for a fan base that can actually look at Sanheim’s progress and see a place for him on the roster in the future.
Is an eight-year extension the right decision for the Flyers? Is it even the right decision for Sanheim? No, it probably isn’t, not unless a whole lot more starts to go the team’s way moving forward and allows Sanheim to come out on the other side of this process.
But if Sanheim wanted to be part of this process, then he deserved to have the Flyers figure out a way to make it work. Now that they have, it’s time to see just how right or wrong the decision to re-sign him becomes.
Kevin Durso is Flyers insider for 97.3 ESPN and Flyers editor for SportsTalkPhilly.com. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin_Durso.
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