The Flyers on Monday filed for salary arbitration in negotiations with restricted free-agent defenseman Travis Sanheim.
The deadline for club-elected arbitration was 5 p.m. ET Monday, while the deadline for player-elected arbitration was 5 p.m. ET Sunday. Sanheim, Carter Hart and Connor Bunnaman are the Flyers' notable restricted free agents this offseason. As expected, all three were extended their qualifying offers last Monday. Only Sanheim was eligible for arbitration.
With the Flyers filing for arbitration, the club and Sanheim's representation can go to a hearing overseen by an independent arbitrator to settle on a salary. Arbitration hearings are set to begin Aug. 11. The Flyers-Sanheim hearing date is Aug. 26, the last day for arbitration hearings. General manager Chuck Fletcher and Sanheim's side can still negotiate and strike a deal before then. That oftentimes happens, but every case is different and a club-elected filing is much less common than player-elected arbitration.
Despite a challenging 2020-21 season, Sanheim is an important piece to the Flyers' present and future on the back end. The 25-year-old was a first-round pick in 2014 and has the ability to play in all situations. Before last season, Sanheim had made positives strides in consecutive years as more was put on his plate.
Sanheim's previous deal was a two-year, $6.5 million bridge contract. The Flyers have revamped their defense this offseason with the acquisitions of Ryan Ellis, Rasmus Ristolainen and Keith Yandle.
"We feel it's important to make our team more competitive. To get more competitive, we felt we needed to add some right-shot defensemen to our club this year to complement [Ivan] Provorov and Sanheim and to kind of slot everybody in the right spot," Fletcher said last month after the club traded for Ristolainen. "We feel if that group can improve, then our team will improve."
Operating in the NHL's flat-cap world, much of the Flyers' busy offseason has had to revolve around salary flexibility. Projecting around RFAs is required every offseason. The Shayne Gostisbehere trade was a move made solely about cap relief in return. In adding players this summer, the club has had to subtract.
"The environment’s tough," Fletcher said July 22 about the stagnant cap. "Shayne played really well for us, not just last year, but for many years. He was a model citizen, he was at Skate Zone today working out on his own and training — he’s a true professional, he was a very good Flyer, so I really want to thank him for that.
"But our reality was pretty simple: when you factor in the expected raises that Sanheim and Carter Hart will receive, and we very much want to sign those two players, we didn't have a lot of space left to fill the holes we needed to fill."
The story was updated Thursday when the NHLPA announced the hearing dates.
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