Flyers avoid arbitration, sign Schenn to four-year, $20.5 million extension

Schenn

The Philadelphia Flyers and Brayden Schenn agreed to terms on a four-year, $20.5 million extension, the team announced Monday morning. The contract will carry a $5.125 million average annual value.

The deal allows both sides to avoid arbitration and any negative consequences associated with the process. Agreeing to the terms of the deal outside of arbitration also allowed for a longer contract because an arbiter would have issued a ruling for a contract with a maximum of two years, which would have also included an option for the Flyers to opt out of one of those years and sign Schenn to a one-year extension.

The extra term at this price point is not only beneficial to the Flyers and to Schenn moving forward, but it also makes him a more valuable trading chip if the Flyers decide to go down that road in the future. Schenn’s previous contract was a two-year, $5 million bridge deal, so the added security on the new contract will allow him to settle in and solidify his role as a key piece of the Flyers’ offense. It also allows management to further evaluate his future with the team, as he has not yet shown that he can be a consistent offensive force.

That being said, Schenn is coming off a stellar season (his best in the NHL) in which he set career highs in goals (26), assists (33), points (59), power-play goals (11) and power-play points (22). He led the team in scoring after January 1 by scoring 44 points in 44 games. He has 84 goals and 193 points in 354 career regular-season games with the Flyers and Kings, as well as three goals and 14 points in 24 career playoff games, all with the Flyers.

In fairness to Schenn, his streaky play is at least in part due to his unstable role in the lineup. He is a natural center and prefers playing up the middle, but he has been used as a winger on both sides on a frequent basis, especially considering the Flyers have a lot of organizational depth at center. It’s unclear what exactly propelled him to have such a strong second half of the season last year. Was it because he finally felt comfortable on the wing? Did he just find another gear and tap into previously-untapped potential? Or was he simply influenced by the trade of his brother, Luke, which coincided with his surge? It’s impossible to know for sure, but the Flyers are banking on Schenn entering the season with the same scoring prowess.

Schenn is confident in his ability to continue to elevate his game moving forward.

“I feel like I’m getting better year by year and I expect nothing else next year,” Schenn said. “… I expect to come in and continue to prove my game in all areas of the ice. When you get the chance to play with good players they make you better as well. We got some good pieces that are part of the Flyers. We have a good team moving forward here. You want to get better individually, but I think the team as a whole will be better this year as well.”

Flyers general manager Ron Hextall echoed those sentiments.

“The good thing for us and Brayden is he’s gotten better every year,” Hextall said. “He’s a hard worker and he’s starting to figure out some of the little intricacies of the game. He had his best year to this point this past season so hopefully he continues to build on that. I believe he will.”

Throughout the offseaosn, there has been a lot of speculation about what Schenn’s new deal would look like.

As it was within 48 hours of the arbitration hearing, it was reported last Friday that Schenn and the Flyers were a little over $1 million apart in negotiations. Schenn was seeking a contract with an average annual value of $5.5 million, whereas the Flyers made an offer that would carry a $4.3 million cap charge. The final contract is more in line with Schenn’s ask, as he came down $375,000 whereas the Flyers upped their offer by $825,000.

For the most part, the widely-accepted spectrum in which Schenn’s cap hit was expected to fall ranged from $4.5 million to $5.25 million. Clearly, the $5.125 million falls within that range.

As such, comparables for Schenn’s deal include offers on the higher end of the spectrum, such as Jaden Schwartz’ five-year deal with a $5.35 million cap hit and Reilly Smith’s five-year deal with an average annual value of $5 million.

Though Schwartz missed more than half of the 2015-2016 season with a fractured ankle, he had already put together two solid campaigns, scoring 25 goals and 56 points in 2013-2014 and 28 goals and 63 points in 2014-2015. After scoring 22 points in 33 regular-season games last year, Schwartz followed up that effort with a very strong postseason performance, scoring four goals and 14 points in 20 playoff games.

Smith has transitioned into the Panthers’ system seamlessly ever since being acquired last offseason in a trade for Jimmy Hayes. Smith finished the year with 25 goals and 50 points, including a dominant stretch in early April in which he scored nine points in four games. He maintained his production in the postseason, scoring four goals and eight points in the six-game first-round series against the Islanders. Like Schenn and Schwartz, Smith also had multiple successful seasons leading up to this past year. As a member of the Bruins, Smith scored 51 points in 2013-2014 and 40 points in 2014-2015.

There are also a few other comparable contracts that have been handed out this offseason. However, recent extensions signed by players like Kyle Palmieri, Chris Kreider and Gustav Nyquist are closer to the lower end of Schenn’s expected cap hit range.

For example, Palmieri was signed to a five-year extension with a $4.65 million cap hit.

Palmieri had a breakout season this past year, scoring 30 goals and 57 points and playing a huge role in his first year with the Devils. Prior to last season, though, Palmieri played a very different role on a top-heavy Ducks offense. He scored 31 points in 2013-2014 and 29 points in 2014-2015. The Devils traded for Palmieri with the intention of giving him a steady top-six role, and Palmieri often earned top-line duties throughout last season. His contract is a reflection of the Devils’ belief in him as well as his impressive season in his first year with the club.

However, at the end of the day, Schenn is simply a more proven player than Palmieri, with three 40-point seasons under his belt. Schenn has always been a highly-touted prospect; in fact, he was considered the top prospect not currently in the NHL when the Flyers acquired him in the 2011 trade that sent Mike Richards to Los Angeles. There isn’t a tremendous difference between Palmieri’s contract and Schenn’s, but the $475,000 yearly difference in Schenn’s favor makes sense considering his previous accomplishments and his trajectory in the NHL.

No matter how this plays out, re-signing Schenn to a four-year deal is a significant move for a Flyers club that is in the process of rebuilding while also remaining competitive. With the addition of players like Travis Konecny and Ivan Provorov over the next few seasons, the Flyers will continue to develop a talented young core, and this new deal allows for Schenn to be a part of it.

 

Featured Image Credit: Yong Kim-Philly.com