With the NHL in the midst of its offseason, we're going to take a fun look at one thing Flyers fans can be thankful for on Thanksgiving 2020. On Thursday, we'll provide something to not be thankful for.
Flyers fans can give thanks to former general manager Ron Hextall for locking up Sean Couturier on a six-year, $26 million deal back in July 2015.
Kudos to Hextall and the Flyers for their steadfastness in Couturier's upside. They valued patience and the person, believing Couturier had all the makings for an eventual breakout. Banking on Couturier taking big strides, the Flyers extended him the years to get him at what has turned into a bargain $4.33 million cap hit per season.
The contract has become one of the more team-friendly ones in hockey thanks to Couturier becoming a put-it-all-on-my-plate player and jumping into the top-20 echelon of NHL centers.
In 2017-18, his seventh NHL season, the 2011 first-round pick shattered his previous career highs of 15 goals and 39 points by recording 31 goals and 45 assists for 76 points. The next season, he topped his goal total with 33 markers and put up 76 points again. Then, this past season, Couturier won his first Frank J. Selke Trophy.
According to CapFriendly.com's contract figures, Couturier had the lowest cap hit in a Selke Trophy-winning season since Rod Brind'Amour took home the award in 2006-07 with a cap hit of $3.6 million. In 2019-20, Couturier was one of 15 centers to score 20 or more goals, 50 or more points and play 19 or more minutes per game. Among those 15, Couturier was the only player to make fewer than $5 million last season.
He has earned a future payday and the Flyers will be cognizant of it as they work through these flat cap times.
"For me, what’s important for a hockey player is the hockey IQ and he's right there, that’s why he’s playing against top players, game in and game out — it’s demanding," Flyers assistant coach Michel Therrien said about Couturier in July. "Regarding the rest of the league and the rest of the players, you’ve got guys like Patrice Bergeron that could be a role model. But you know what, Sean Couturier’s right there with him. It’s a luxury for us to have a player like that on our team."
In this flat cap era that could have a two- to three-year lifespan, the Flyers have the luxury of their team MVP holding the club's eighth-highest cap hit in 2020-21 and still under contract for two more years.
Everyone can thank Hextall.
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