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.
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