Flyers

End to End: Breaking down Shayne Gostisbehere's contract extension

End to End: Breaking down Shayne Gostisbehere's contract extension

Throughout the offseason, we'll ask questions about the Flyers to our resident hockey analysts and see what they have to say.

Going End to End today are CSNPhilly.com producers/reporters Tom Dougherty, Jordan Hall and Greg Paone.

The topic: Breaking down Shayne Gostisbehere's contract extension.

Dougherty
Well, this isn't six years, $30 million. Or nine years, $51 million. Or 14 years, $110 million.

The Flyers on Friday re-signed Gostisbehere to a six-year, $27 million contract with a $4.5 million AAV before the 24-year-old hit restricted free agency.

First thoughts on the deal? Yeah, it's a really team-friendly contract.

The defenseman endured some ups and downs in his second year in the NHL this past season and dealt with a few benchings by head coach Dave Hakstol. His offensive output decreased from his eye-popping rookie campaign and he had some defensive hiccups.

There were some growing pains with Gostisbehere in Year 2, but realistically, we should have expected that. Broad Street Hockey's Charlie O'Connor did an excellent job breaking down Gostisbehere's sophomore season through the lens of advanced stats, but let's take a look at the Year 1 and 2 barebone numbers:

Year 1: 17 goals, 29 assists, 46 points, 22 power-play points.

Year 2: 7 goals, 32 assists, 39 points, 23 power-play points. 

We can compare Gostisbehere's contract to similar extensions — Stars defenseman John Klingberg is a good example — but for me, the Flyers are paying Gostisbehere as a second-pair defenseman, which I believe is a realistic endgame for "Ghost."

The cap hit is manageable and the term takes Gostisbehere to 30 years old. It's a clear message that general manager Ron Hextall views him as a core piece going forward, but it's also a sign that Hextall doesn't overvalue Gostisbehere based on his rookie season.

It's a safe bet on a young defenseman who's working hard to improve his defensive deficiencies and has already proven he can be a 40-plus point producer from the blue line.

At $4.5 million for six years, sign me up.

Hall
Job well done, Ron Hextall.

Like the GM said Friday, Gostisbehere fits the organization's vision moving forward. He is undoubtedly a major piece of the Flyers' future and the deal cements that.

The six years and $4.5 million a season are just fine for me. In fact, those figures could be bargains down the road when you look at other offensive defensemen.

Gostisbehere's mobility and playmaking at the point are game-changers in the NHL. His sophomore slump was more of an aberration and a product of a few things. Although he wouldn't make any excuses at the end of the season, I believe Gostisbehere's offseason hip/abdominal surgeries plagued him early and, as a result, his confidence suffered. That, along with being benched five times and the pressure to produce, forced him into overthinking.

"I know you guys want me to admit it's my surgeries, my injuries, but it's honestly not," Gostisbehere said in April on cleanout day. "You can tell who doesn't have confidence on the ice when they have the puck — you can tell. If it's a guy who's bringing it up and he's looking everywhere and he doesn't have confidence, then you can tell it's confidence. 

"I make plays on the blue line, there are plays that I have to do quick, I have to react and I have to have the confidence to do them. I can't do them if I'm thinking like, 'Oh, what if his stick goes there,' I can't. You just have to have a free mind and you have to go out there and play and let your abilities take over. That's what I was learning more and more as the season went on, realizing I had the skills, I just have to trust my abilities."

Once Gostisbehere was himself, his game showed. A play that really stuck out to me was in the season finale when he set up a Wayne Simmonds goal. You can watch it here. This was a confident, free-playing Gostisbehere the Flyers should see in the future — if they allow him to play to his strengths — now that he's locked up for six years.

Paone
The new deal between Gostisbehere and the Flyers is a win-win for all parties involved. 

"Ghost" not only gets a hefty raise from the $925,000 he was making, but he now has the ever-important long-term security every player wants.

The Flyers, meanwhile, lock up a 24-year-old blue-line cornerstone for the next six years at a very fair price. 

Since the start of the 2016 calendar year, Pittsburgh's Olli Maatta, Buffalo's Rasmus Ristolainen, Anaheim's Hampus Lindholm, Toronto's Morgan Reilly and Nikita Zaitsev, Detroit's Danny DeKeyser and Edmonton's Adam Larsson (then with New Jersey) have all signed similar deals as RFAs. And you can make a legitimate argument that Gostisbehere is more valuable to the Flyers than any of those players are to their respective teams. And that's no disrespect to any of those players.

Gostisbehere, with his mobility, puck-moving skills, shifty finesse and laser beam of a shot from the point, is such a key part of the Flyers' offensive engine. He's not a shutdown pair player, and that's perfectly fine. That's not what his skill set is and he shouldn't be forced to play that way. He's an offensive firecracker for a team that desperately needs scoring punch. And as Gostisbehere's recovery from offseason hip surgery lingered last season, the Flyers' offense sputtered more often than not. Sure, there were other factors involved with that, but Gostisbehere's struggles were a major reason.

Now, with a full summer of rest and training and a year of tough-to-swallow experience under his belt, there are very few reasons not to believe "Ghost" will find that familiar form from his Calder-nominee rookie season. Heck, he clearly found it toward the end of last season when he was the dynamic player we all recalled.

And if he stays healthy, he can be that familiar "Ghost" for the Flyers for the next six years.

Sean Couturier proving he belongs in Selke Trophy conversation

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AP Images

Sean Couturier proving he belongs in Selke Trophy conversation

VOORHEES, N.J. — By definition, the Frank J. Selke Memorial Trophy is awarded to the NHL forward who demonstrates the most skill in the defensive component of the game.

Since the day Sean Couturier arrived in the league as an 18-year-old rookie straight out of the June draft in 2011, the defensive element has always been part of his game. He was tasked with shutting down one of the league’s premier centers in Evgeni Malkin as a teenager and a fourth-line center. His commitment to defense was the primary reason the Flyers drafted Couturier eighth overall in 2011.

Of all the NHL’s major postseason awards presented in Las Vegas next summer, the Selke may be the one piece of hardware the Flyers have the greatest chance at claiming, as Couturier has refined his all-around game. The paradox of the award is how winners typically need respectable offensive numbers to receive serious consideration for what’s regarded as a defensive accolade.

The last 21 winners have all scored at least 20 goals, while 11 of the last 12 winners have racked up 50 or more points. Couturier has never reached either scoring plateau, which probably explains why he’s never finished higher than eighth in the voting. He’s currently on pace this season for 41 goals and 82 points.

“It would be a nice recognition,” Couturier said Wednesday. “Obviously, just getting your name thrown out there with those guys that are there every year, it’s kind of nice. It gives you that extra boost to kind of push yourself and try to be as good as you can.” 

This season, Couturier has proven he belongs in that elite conversation. Tuesday’s game against the Maple Leafs was a vintage Selke effort: winning faceoffs, including draws that led to goals, staying committed defensively while playing 1:35 of the final 2:12, preserving a one-goal lead.

Over his last 50 games dating back to last season, Couturier also owns an impressive plus-32 rating.

“I know some people don’t like the plus/minus. Five-on-five, if you’re in the plus, it's usually a good thing and you’re helping your team win," Couturier said. "My mentality is still the same: being solid, taking care of details and like I said, if you take care of details defensively, the offense will come and that’s always the thought process I’ve had.”

Another Selke measurable is faceoffs — an area in which Couturier has improved greatly over the past two years from a 48 percent success rate to winning 55 percent from the beginning of last season.

“It’s the one area of his game that he’s taken a lot of pride in,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “I think if you look at the numbers in both faceoff dots, he’s done a real good job, as well as the neutral zone."

For an award voted on by the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association, there’s almost no way to accurately assess the defensive play of 300-plus forwards without extensive video review, as most writers are solely covering the team in their city. So faceoffs, plus/minus, consistency on the penalty kill coupled with shorthanded goals can be areas that separate Selke candidates.

Currently, Boston’s Patrice Bergeron is the Selke gold standard as a four-time winner, and he’s finished first or second in voting in each of the past six seasons. Fair or not, Bergeron’s reputation alone will likely land him in the top three once again barring injury.

“When you look at (Anze) Kopitar, Bergeron and (Jonathan) Toews, I think Coots is up there with those guys,” Jakub Voracek said. “Without a doubt [Couturier is a Selke candidate]. He’s got 15 goals in 30 games. His stick is very good and he’s always one step ahead defensively. He doesn’t over-backcheck. He just knows what kind of responsibility that he has. You can see it on the PK, it’s really hard to get a puck through him. Those kind of players are very hard to find.”

Just ask the Flyers' organization. They haven’t had a Selke winner since Dave Poulin 30 years ago. 

With new identity, Flyers need to use Leafs win as home turning point

With new identity, Flyers need to use Leafs win as home turning point

When the Flyers last skated off the ice at the Wells Fargo Center 11 days ago, they did so while being serenaded with boos from above, after losing their 10th straight game. This time, to the Bruins with another lethargic effort. The game prior, on Nov. 28 against the Sharks, the fans, like the angry mob from The Simpsons, were calling for the firing of the head coach with “Fire Hakstol” chants. The only thing missing were the pitchforks. (Public service announcement: Leave the pitchforks at home.)

On Tuesday night, the Flyers returned home from a three-game Western Canada road gauntlet with their fortunes changed and beginning a five-game homestand. They had won their previous three games and entered Tuesday’s showdown with the NHL’s hottest team, the Toronto Maple Leafs, six points behind the New York Rangers for the Eastern Conference’s second wild-card spot.

For a team in a competitive rebuild that, at times, looked like one waiting for its coach to get fired, the Flyers returned home having stopped the bleeding away from their own building. Now, they had to bandage it there.

The Flyers did just that, with one of their most complete, 60-minute efforts of the season (see story). They dispatched the Maple Leafs, 4-2, to win their fourth straight and end a six-game home losing streak. It was their first home win since Nov. 9.

They took one penalty, albeit a costly one that would have sunk this team 11 days ago.

They outshot Toronto, 39-22, and threw 32 shots on net in the final 40 minutes.

They dominated puck possession and every metric proves it.

“We were playing some good hockey and I think our identity changed a little bit with that road trip,” Flyers captain Claude Giroux said. “We’re excited right now in the room. We played a lot of good hockey games when we lost, but we didn’t get the results and now we're playing some good hockey and we’re getting the results so we gotta keep building on this."

Now they’re getting the results.

The Flyers are on their longest winning streak of the season. They twice faced adversity Tuesday against the Maple Leafs and didn’t buckle.

Giroux scored the game’s first goal at 9:21 of the first period, but Patrick Marleau answered back for the Leafs just 27 seconds later. Eleven days ago, that would be game over.

Instead, the Flyers kept playing and closed out the period strong. Then, after dominating the second period, Jakub Voracek was whistled for a tripping penalty at 16:11, and James van Riemsdyk tallied his 15th goal of the season to give the Leafs a 2-1 lead. It was a potential killer goal, one that would have deflated the Flyers 11 days ago, no questions asked. It came late in a period that they dominated. It felt like typical Flyers.

But the Flyers survived it. They escaped the period, went into the locker room and came back out in the third period right where they left off. Travis Konecny, who played just 7:20 through two periods, tied it at 2-2 at 5:36. The Flyers kept pushing and pushing. They were rewarded too. Sean Couturier tied his career high with his 15th goal at 17:05 for the game-winner and then Scott Laughton iced it with an empty-netter at 19:44. It was the Flyers’ first third-period comeback of the season.

“We’re working hard and we haven’t stopped working hard,” Konecny, who scored his second goal in his last 20 games, said, “even through [that] tough stretch of games and it’s finally paying off.”

This Flyers team is a lot looser right now. Winning does that. During their 10-game free fall into irrelevance, they swore they weren't playing poorly.

And once more, they echoed that Tuesday night, even after a win. Now, they're just taking advantage of the breaks, getting the bounces, insert tired cliché here.

“I don’t think there’s much difference at all,” Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said. “If you want to look back, I thought there were one or two nights where we looked tight. I thought on the last night here at home, I thought we looked like a tired and a little bit tight hockey team.

“We've taken advantage of a break or two, but I think most importantly, guys just kept their foot on the gas and found ways to win games here over the past few games."

Credit goes to the Flyers, the coaching staff and general manager Ron Hextall. They didn't panic when things were falling apart. Hakstol remained positive, harped on the positives. He promised they would get through it.

Hextall did the same. The GM, on several occasions, praised the way the Flyers were playing during their losing streak. For as much heat as Hakstol and Hextall caught at the time, they deserve recognition for their managing styles in times of dismay.

The Flyers' win Tuesday kicked off a five-game homestand that features three games against Eastern Conference opponents, and perhaps set the tone for the home swing.

The homestand continues Thursday when the Buffalo Sabres visit. If the Flyers play with the same effort they did Tuesday, the winning streak will reach five.

They’re taking fewer penalties, averaging 1.75 penalties during their current four-game winning streak. That’s a good thing for a team that’s penalty kill ranks 29th.

But what might matter most, is they're not chasing the game anymore. They're owning the puck and they're spending more time on the attack, and that’s a recipe for success.

“We’ve had the puck a little bit more,” Hakstol said, "and that’s probably the first place to look. We had a stretch there where stick penalties were getting us.

“Those kinds of penalties happen when you’re chasing a game, when you’re defending a little bit too much. It’s not necessarily the discipline side of it. We’ve had the puck a little bit more. We haven’t had to defend as much in our own zone.”