2 Veterans the Flyers Need to Keep This Offseason

There is always speculation and the urge to move pieces around when a team rebuilds or retools. More often than not, that includes veterans who have worth. The Philadelphia Flyers moved on from Claude Giroux and Justin Braun at the deadline after being with the team for some time. But the players that management would be wise to keep around are the next likely captain, Sean Couturier, and newly acquired Cam Atkinson.

Sean Couturier

Starting with the longest-tenured member of the Flyers, Couturier just signed an eight-year, $62 million contract to keep him in Philadelphia until he is 37 (from “Couturier gets well-earned raise as Flyers sign him to big extension,” NBC Sports Philadelphia, 8/26/21). He is going nowhere, and fans shouldn’t want him to.

Couturier is a former Selke Trophy winner (2019-20) – awarded to the forward who best excels at the defensive side of the game – and finished second in voting in 2017-18. He has also received votes in every season of his career except his sophomore campaign. It is critical to have an impactful forward who plays very well defensively for many reasons.

On the penalty kill, Couturier gives the Flyers that rare weapon, a player who can turn defense into offense. He also excels in the faceoff circle and can be counted on to win an important draw near the end of the game at either end while giving his team possession of the puck on the power play or shorthanded. He has won over 55 percent of his draws in five of the past six seasons.

Sean Couturier Philadelphia Flyers
Sean Couturier, Philadelphia Flyers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Players who generally in up in the Selke race each season include Aleksander Barkov, Patrice Bergeron, Anze Kopitar, and Mark Stone, all of whom can get the job done at both ends. All of them have also had great careers and have made their team better.

The Flyers are fortunate that their top player is making just $7.75 million a season so that the rest of the team can benefit from the extra cap space. Couturier’s contract will look good for at least four to five years, which gives the team time to build around him. So he will not be going anywhere anytime soon, especially when he is the top candidate for the next captaincy of the Flyers.

Cam Atkinson

Atkinson is a few years older than Couturier but has three years remaining on his contract, again with good value. He is making $5.875 million a season and was good for the Flyers, scoring over 20 goals and 50 points, and had one of the best plus/minuses on the team. He is a top-line winger, ad a consistent scorer who logged the most minutes by a forward behind Couturier last season (among players who are still with the team).

The Flyers acquired Atkinson before the season for Jakub Voracek. He did his job and provided the team with goals and solid all-around play. Like Couturier, Atkinson plays in all situations, and management would do well to have him finish out his contract with the team; he should continue to provide good numbers as he moves out of his prime.

Cam Atkinson Philadelphia Flyers
Cam Atkinson, Philadelphia Flyers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Atkinson will also be able to guide the young, talented players breaking into the NHL and show them how to play a more complete game. Prospects are impressionable and every team needs good leaders to help their future. There are other options to change things up aside from moving on from Atkinson so soon after his commitment to the team.

Players the Flyers Should Consider Moving

James van Riemsdyk

James van Riemsdyk has one year left on his contract and he could be moved before it ends. It would cost the Flyers to rid themselves of a $7 million contract, which is why the decision hasn’t been made yet. He is on the back nine of his career and has regressed since returning to the Flyers. If the team could find a deal that doesn’t cost them too much, they may take it to free up space with big free agent names likely available this offseason.

Kevin Hayes

Kevin Hayes‘ no-trade clause kicks will become a modified no-trade clause next season where he will be able to give the Flyers 12 teams he doesn’t want to go to, which will give management options to move him and his hefty contract. He is signed for four more years at $7,142,857 and plays in a middle-six center role. At age 30, his lack of offensive contribution and cap hit, make him worth moving before the end of his deal. Whether it’s this offseason or later, the contract will look worse moving forward and that’s not ideal for a team trying to rise in the standings.

Ryan Ellis

Ryan Ellis has only played four games for the Flyers, but the decision to move on from him already would be warranted. He has had known injury issues throughout his career and provided next to nothing for the Flyers when they and Ivan Provorov sorely needed him. He was supposed to be their top-pairing defensive stud in 2021-22 and onward, but I don’t know how long they are going to stick with an injury-prone 31-year-old defenseman who makes $6.25 million a season.

Related: 3 Flyers Who Likely Won’t Return for 2022-23 Season

The Flyers likely won’t bring back Martin Jones with the options that will be available in free agency, while Keith Yandle has definitely played his last game in a Flyers uniform. Changes have been promised, it’s just a matter of time until we see how they play out. Another season of failures could spell the end for Check Fletcher as general manager, but Atkinson and Couturier should stick around.


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