The Philadelphia Flyers struggled from start to finish in 2020-21, but there were some bright spots along the way. Defensive forward Sean Couturier was one of those bright spots thanks to his leadership and defensive abilities.
Coming off a Selke Trophy-winning season in 2019-20, Couturier struggled through the first half of this season after dealing with an injury that held him out for the first two weeks and missing nine games. He jumped back into the pace of play a few weeks later and finished the season with 18 goals, 23 assists, which put him fourth on the team in points. While the injury was tough to deal with, he did not allow it to stop him from being on top of his game.
After coming back from the injury, Couturier was always setting an example for the young talent on the Flyers roster. From embracing the difficulty of struggling through a season to stepping up as a leader in the locker room, it seemed like he was always the guy to step up first.
Couturier Is Always Consistent
After winning the Selke, 2020-21 might be considered a disappointing season, but Couturier was one of the team’s most consistent players and was again one of the best defensive forwards in the league, despite not being named a finalist for the trophy. He was effective in big moments and stood up when the team needed him most, especially in key defensive situations.
Since he was drafted eighth overall by the Flyers in the 2011 NHL Draft, Couturier has always been a reliably strong offensive player. In 10 seasons with the team, he has put up 443 points (174G,269A) in 692 games, and as he approaches 700 games and 500 points, he should solidify his name among the Flyers’ greats.
Couturier on the 2020-21 Season
While no player wants to talk about a disappointing season, Couturier was more than willing to discuss his play with the media in his exit interview. He took full responsibility for his play in this past season and even set goals to be better in the next.
“I only played 45 (games), I think. And it was a grind, especially when I missed that game there on the Island, and I came back, took me probably 7 to 10 days to kind of get my legs going again, and I wasn’t feeling as good as before that injury. But yeah, it was tough to recover from any sort of little injuries. So it was a grind, but as I said, every team went through that schedule. It might have been a little tougher because COVID-19 hit us, but we needed to be better, and we weren’t good enough,” said Couturier in the interview.
With an already shortened season, the Flyers and Couturier fully understood how much of a grind the season was going to be. In those moments where the team was being weighed down, the team tried their best to bounce back, but it seemed like one problem after another. He embraced that grind, but the shortened season and COVID-19 ran its course on the team.
Couturier’s contract expires after next season when he becomes an unrestricted free agent. The Flyers have not yet discussed re-signing him, but I expect talks have already started. General manager Chuck Fletcher knows how important Couturier is to the team and will want to keep one of the best and most consistent defensive forwards in the league. Night after night, he defends Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, Artemi Panarin, which is not an easy task, but he makes it look easy on some nights. Any team would be happy to sign him if they had the chance.
He is currently on a six-year, $26 million ($4.3 million AAV) contract, signed after his rookie deal. He has done everything and more for the Flyers, so he can expect a nice raise. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him make $8 million per year or more. Claude Giroux and Kevin Hayes make around the same amount currently, so it would not be out of the ordinary for the team to pay him this much.
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While it might be a bit of a struggle to get Couturier at that price, the Flyers would more than likely have to make a move or two to retain one of their best forwards. The team currently has less than $1 million in cap space, so signing him at this time is not an option. The team has $47 million committed to their roster for the 2022-23 season, so a move is more likely before the end of next year.
Sean Couturier is one of the most valuable players on the Philadelphia Flyers roster and he proves it season after season. In a year where he battled an injury and the difficulties of a shortened season, Couturier had no problem stepping up and leading the team through a difficult time. The Flyers could not ask more from their Selke-winning forward and should look to reward him with a nice contract at the conclusion of next season. He is one of those players that the team can not let slip away.