Photo by Frank Fimmano/Fimmano Photography
When Sean Couturier and the Flyers agreed to a 6 year, 26 million dollar contract this summer, we talked about how the contract was a calculated gamble for Ron Hextall. The Flyers GM was wagering some money on the fact that his 22 year old defensively proven center would find a way to prove himself offensively as well. While this move was generally praised by Flyers fans and hockey analysts, some criticized Hextall, noting that Couturier’s production had not yet suggested that he was worth that amount of money. With a full year to go until he would reach Restricted Free Agency, Hextall could have made Couturier prove his offensive capabilities before getting out his checkbook.
With 44 games gone in the 2015-16 season, it’s looking like that would have been a costly decision for Hextall. Over the course of 38 games, Sean Couturier has taken his game to the next level in almost every way possible. Let’s look at his resume from the current season. (All data from Puckalytics)
- He currently sits at 4th on the team in points, despite having played fewer games than any of the guys ahead of him.
- Furthermore, he leads all Flyers in both 5v5 points/60 (2.02) and raw possession statistics (55% CF).
- He has worked his way into the top 40 league-wide in 5v5 points/60, ahead of guys named Ovechkin, Sharp, Sedin and Backstrom.
- He has taken all of these steps while remaining strong defensively, as his CA60/relTM (defensive impact) is -5.67 CA/60.
- After starting the season with just 3 points in his first 14 games, Couturier has scored 19 points in 24 games since: a 65 point pace over 82 games.
The below charts will show just how significant of a step forward Couturier has taken in comparison to his career numbers. (All data from Puckalytics.com)
Couturier has also started to emerge as a legitimate candidate for the Selke Trophy, awarded to the best defensive forward in hockey. And yes, that is serious. A great project by MannyElk from War-On-Ice identifies the closest comparable seasons to a player based on production, usage, possession stats, time on ice and a number of other variables. Here are the closest comparables for Sean Couturier this season.
You might recognize some of the names on there.
When the extension was signed in July, we used the following chart to estimate (yes, estimate) what certain levels of production might have done to Couturier’s price tag.
Couturier’s current level of production is roughly a 48 point pace over 82 games, meaning he almost certainly would have cost around 5 million dollars per year over the same term. An AAV of 5 million would cost the Flyers an extra 4 million over the course of the extension. Taking into consideration the pace at which he has scored over the last couple months, it’s highly likely that he could finish the season on a 50 or even 55 point pace while scoring at a 60 point pace for a large part of the season. It’s terrifying to think about what that would have done to his price tag.
With this extension, Ron Hextall demonstrated the wisdom with which he is viewing contract negotiations thus far. After a season that saw Couturier’s usage and linemates keep him from reaching his full offensive potential, Hextall bought low on a player that he believed was capable of more. His wisdom will be saving the Flyers some significant money over the next 6 years. Because Sean Couturier is not only proving that he’s worth the money he signed for; he’s proving that he’s worth way more.