Sanheim and Ristolainen Are Crucial to Flyers Future

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

For the Philadelphia Flyers, reshaping the career of Rasmus Ristolainen and agreeing to terms with Travis Sanheim play a crucial role in the defense’s future.

For the most part, the Philadelphia Flyers have it all figured out on defense. Ivan Provorov and Ryan Ellis are the tandem the city needs on the top pair. At the bottom, Keith Yandle and Justin Braun keep a veteran presence.

Following last season, everything feels vastly improved defensively. The Flyers aren’t out of the woods quite yet. They still have to agree to terms on an extension for Travis Sanheim. A stutter in his contract negotiations doesn’t mean well for Philadelphia.

Rasmus Ristolainen is going to make nearly $900k more than Shayne Gostisbehere did. Though he’s on a one-year deal with the Flyers, he’s not necessarily a low risk. He already makes ~$2mil more than Sanheim. Sanheim will want to drive up his price, especially on a one or two-year extension that arbitration rulings allow in reward. Based on how Ristolainen performs, Philadelphia may have to restructure with Sanheim sooner rather than later.

Figuring out what to do with Sanheim and Ristolainen is paramount to the future of the Flyers’ defense. Ideally, Philadelphia only needs to address the bottom pair.

Sanheim and Ristolainen are two of the most important Flyers heading into next season.

An Honest Outlook

A player usually motions for arbitration. Since the Philadelphia Flyers called for it, I don’t foresee an agreement before a hearing. Chuck Fletcher acknowledged that Travis Sanheim is getting a raise. Sanheim may believe he’s worth more than the offer he received. If it’s about the length of the term, arbitration doesn’t help.

Paying the price for Rasmus Ristolainen means the Flyers are relying heavily on the idea that he’s better than he has been for eight seasons with the Buffalo Sabres. Ideally, Fletcher locks down the defensive top four. Ristolainen turns into the physical, sizable defenseman we want, and I eat crow. If all ends well, 2022-2023 should spotlight Ristolainen and Sanheim battling for a long-term role in Philadelphia’s top four.

If Sanheim only agrees to a one-year extension, the Flyers will have five defensemen testing free agency ahead of 2022-2023. It’s crucial to extend him at least two seasons. Even more vital to the future of the defensive core is the invested interest in Ristolainen’s potential.

Alain Vigneault has preached about becoming more sizable and physical. If he can mold Ristolainen, the $5.4mil AAV doesn’t seem as daunting.

Ahead of the 2021-2022 season, the anxiety amongst the Sanheim and Ristolainen combination is reasonable.

The number of contracts that need restructure after 2021-2022 makes up for most of the roster. This upcoming season is a contract year for Philadelphia in general. That’ll only be tougher to navigate in the flat cap era.

Photo Credit: Alex McIntyre