How will arbitration pan out for Travis Sanheim and the Philadelphia Flyers?

Flyers' Travis Sanheim
Flyers’ Travis Sanheim (Photo Credit: Alex McIntyre)

A season ago, 26 NHL players filed for arbitration. None of them were on the Philadelphia Flyers.

This offseason, the leaguewide numbers for players who filed for arbitration are fewer. Except, this time, there is a Flyers defenseman on the list. How did Philadelphia get here with Travis Sanheim?

Sanheim is coming off of the worst season of his career. Recency bias plays a role in arbitration hearings. Unjustly, he may not receive the value he suggests from his team arbitration hearing. Though last season was poor across the board, Sanheim was one of the best on a bad team.

That may seem like a backhanded compliment, but it isn’t. Chuck Fletcher took a profound interest in Sanheim by protecting him, providing a supporting cast through trades and free agency, then leaving enough cap space for contract extension negotiations. He showed the same aggression in partnering Sanheim with Rasmus Ristolainen as he did with the tandem of Ivan Provorov and Ryan Ellis. Fletcher is letting Sanheim know that he’s a part of the plan. Sanheim wants the commitment on paper.

Will the extension finalize?

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As a qualifying offer, Travis Sanheim would begin negotiations at his current $3.25mil AAV.

Previously, Brandon Montour had an arbitration hearing with the Anaheim Ducks when he made $3.38mil. Soon after, he went to the Buffalo Sabres for Brendan Guhle and the 2019 first-round pick.

Joshua Morrissey, following 2019-2020, agreed to terms with the Winnipeg Jets. For that, he received a pay increase from $3.15mil to $6.25mil AAV. Sanheim was on that pace in 2019-2020 too. Unfortunately, he couldn’t match Morrissey’s performance during a contract season.

Chuck Fletcher should keep an eye on negotiations with the Jets and Neal Pionk. Winnipeg is in a similar scenario with Pionk as the Philadelphia Flyers are with Sanheim. Pionk currently makes $3mil AAV while producing like Morrissey. Realistically, it would be tough for Sanheim to sell himself as high as Pionk in this case. Agreeing after the Jets provide Pionk with a new deal is a sound strategy for Fletcher in negotiations.

Following last season, a generous offer following the arbitration would be a 2yr/$8mil extension, especially when Carter Hart’s contract still needs to be negotiated.

Flyers Elect Arbitration

Often enough, contract arbitration meetings take place in the offseason. Usually, it is the player electing an arbitration hearing. This time, the Philadelphia Flyers ordered the meeting with Travis Sanheim to reach a final agreement.

It’s a situation so unique that just one other team in the league took a player to arbitration.

An arbitration hearing can take place between August 11th to the 26th. Chuck Fletcher can still negotiate with Sanheim, ultimately avoiding the arbitration hearing.

Top pair defensemen like Ivan Provorov and Ryan Ellis make north of $6mil AAV. Beside Sanheim, Rasmus Ristolainen rakes in $5.4mil AAV. That value is an overpayment Fletcher needs to keep away. It would be irresponsible for Sanheim to receive more than ~$4mil AAV. Taking on Ristolainen at $5.4mil AAV is already a gamble.

Aside from negotiations with Sanheim, the Flyers need to agree to terms with Carter Hart. Hart did not file for arbitration and received his qualifying offer. To Hart, the qualifying offer is ~$787k. Fletcher cannot afford to overpay Sanheim.

Photo Credit: Alex McIntyre