Flyers

Does Sean Couturier have the most desirable contract in hockey?

Does Sean Couturier have the most desirable contract in hockey?

Sean Couturier has been money in the bank lately, and in the back of the net.

The Flyers' center has recorded a goal in four straight games and is currently on pace to easily top the 30-goal mark for the second straight season.

It’s the contractual gift that keeps on giving, and along with replenishing the current prospect pool, Couturier’s contract may be one of the best items of business that Ron Hextall gave the Flyers' organization before his ouster.

In the summer of 2015, Hextall extended Couturier for six more years at $26 million, or an average annual value of $4.3 million per season. At the time, it was a sizable raise (over 200 percent) for a third-line center who had yet to top 15 goals in each of his first four NHL seasons.

The conventional wisdom at that time surrounding the Flyers' 2011 first-round pick was how he needed to take another step in his development to justify such a significant pay raise.

Now, it’s a complete steal. 

Couturier’s transformation into a two-way player began last year as he broke through with a 31-goal, 76-point season in 2017-18 and finished second to Los Angeles’ Anze Kopitar in the Selke Trophy voting as the league’s top defensive forward.

The defense has been a constant throughout Couturier’s eight-year NHL career, but his offensive explosion over his last 130-plus games may be why the Flyers have one of the most desirable non entry-level contracts in the entire league. Tampa Bay may have the biggest bargain in Brayden Point, but the Lightning center will see a sizable raise as an RFA this summer.

Among the 54 players with at least 20 goals this season, Couturier ranks fourth in cost per goal, according to CapFriendly.com:
    
Brendan Gallagher (MTL): $170,455/goal

Jeff Skinner (BUF): $173,485/goal

Viktor Arvidsson (NSH): $177,083/goal

Sean Couturier (PHI): $188,406/goal

To put that in perspective, the Flyers also own one the most expensive goal scorers in the NHL within the organization as Jori Lehtera’s lone goal this season has been worth $4.7 million. 

In terms of some of the best all-around centers in the league, Couturier’s $4.33 million is a 37 percent discount over what the Bruins are paying Patrice Bergeron at $6.875 million. It's $1.5 million less than Aleksander Barkov, who is three years younger. And it's more than half of Kopitar’s $10 million that the Kings' center will collect over the next five years on a contract that doesn’t expire until the age of 36. 

Perhaps the only other contract of a franchise center that may be more enticing than Couturier’s is Nathan MacKinnon’s seven-year, $44 million deal at $6.3M AAV with four years remaining.

With Couturier, you also have a team-first star player who puts aside any personal interests and numbers, evidenced by Scott Gordon’s decision to move Couturier off the first power-play unit last week.   

“He could have handled the conversation a lot differently,” Gordon said. “He was nothing but positive about it, and if anything, it made my job easier. Great reaction by one of your leaders. Some guys may have taken it as a slap in the face and he didn’t.”

According to moneypucksystems.com, a website that forecasts a player’s future contract value based on points, Couturier is actually worth $6.9 million based on his recent three-year average, and considerably more depending how he finishes this season. 

Perhaps the best part is that Couturier’s cost-friendly contract is good for three more seasons. He becomes a free agent in the summer of 2021.

That's the year Sean Couturier will likely get paid what he’s actually worth.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Flyers

Flyers recall Brian Elliott from conditioning assignment with Phantoms

Flyers recall Brian Elliott from conditioning assignment with Phantoms

VOORHEES, N.J. — Brian Elliott will be back in a Flyers sweater for the first time since Nov. 15. 

The 33-year-old goaltender was recalled Tuesday from his conditioning assignment with the Phantoms and is expected to back up Carter Hart for Tuesday’s game against the Lightning.

It will be interesting to see what Elliott’s future in Philadelphia is for the remainder of this season with the addition of Cam Talbot, who wasn’t with his new team for Wednesday’s morning skate in Voorhees.

Elliott could be traded to a contending team with no roster restrictions after the Feb. 25 deadline, although NHL teams still have to be compliant with the salary cap.

Once again, the Flyers have three goaltenders on the active roster with Hart, Elliott and Mike McKenna. McKenna could be placed on waivers as soon as Talbot is cleared to join the team.

Elliott played admirably in his 14 games prior to his injury with a 2.59 goals-against average and a .911 save percentage. However, his 6-7-0 record doesn’t reflect that. He appeared in two games for the Phantoms over the weekend.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Flyers

Flyers weekly observations: Wayne Simmonds' trade deadline audition, Cam Talbot deal, more

Flyers weekly observations: Wayne Simmonds' trade deadline audition, Cam Talbot deal, more

The Flyers are 12-1-1 with 25 points and a plus-18 goal differential since Jan. 14.

They have passed 13 teams after residing in the NHL basement on the morning of Jan. 13 with 38 points.

Twenty-three games remain in their playoff pursuit, which had the Flyers six points out of the Eastern Conference's second wild-card spot entering Monday.

With all that said, let's get into our weekly observations:

• It looks like Wayne Simmonds has himself audition time Tuesday night.

TSN's Darren Dreger reported in late January that the NHL-leading Lightning had inquired about Simmonds.

What do you know, here comes Tampa Bay visiting the Wells Fargo Center less than a week before the Feb. 25 trade deadline. The Lightning will get a firsthand look at the 30-year-old power forward who is Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher's biggest decision ahead of next Monday.

A game won't completely sway Tampa Bay one way or the other. However, say Simmonds scores a goal, puts his toughness and net-front prowess on display, it wouldn't hurt the Lightning's interest (and potential offer) to solidify a Stanley Cup run.

Former Lightning and Flyers player Vinny Lecavalier had this to say about Simmonds to The Athletic's Joe Smith:

He protected me in two line brawls. He's just a great teammate. He's not afraid of anybody.

Not a bad quality to have when you'll be the No. 1 target in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

• The Cam Talbot trade made perfect sense for the Flyers.

If Carter Hart is the Flyers' No. 1 of the future, then Anthony Stolarz is at best their backup. The 25-year-old has overcome a lot but his track record of knee injuries was a concern and there would have been challenges in retaining him (see story).

"Obviously there's a decent probability he'll be an unrestricted free agent, or at least would have been if he stayed with us," Fletcher said last Saturday.

So the Flyers capitalized on Stolarz's positive stock by acquiring a 31-year-old goalie with experience as a No. 1 and No. 2, who can help now and possibly down the road. With Talbot compared to Stolarz, they actually have more flexibility (see story).

"Every summer there are goaltenders available," Fletcher said. "I think this is an opportunity for us to evaluate Cam down the stretch and see if there's a fit. As importantly, hopefully give us a boost as we continue to push for a playoff spot."

• The relationship between Talbot and Hart has been well-documented.

Talbot, who has become a mentor for Hart, offered a noteworthy quote last Saturday on the 20-year-old sensation:

It started a couple summers ago, we skated once or twice together. Then this past summer, every time we were on the ice, we were on the ice together. I've been watching Carter do his thing since he has been called up. 

He gave me a call before his first NHL game, just asked a few questions, wanted to pick my brain about a few things. I think that's what makes him as good as he has been — he's willing and eager to learn, he's a hard-worker and he wants to get better, he wants that help and guidance from people, he's not afraid to ask for it. 

I think that's what's making him so successful right now.

• A Sean Couturier appreciation observation:

Since Jan. 8, the 26-year-old center is tied for fourth in the NHL in scoring with 25 points (nine goals, 16 assists) over 17 games. 

Only Patrick Kane (31), Vladimir Tarasenko (27) and Brad Marchand (26) have scored more.

Couturier is projected to finish with a new career-high 34 goals. He'll be up for the Frank J. Selke Trophy (top defensive forward) yet again.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Flyers