Travis Sanheim’s Arbitration May Dictate His Flyers Future

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

The Philadelphia Flyers filed for arbitration against Travis Sanheim. If no settlement is reached, is it unlikely Sanheim soon tests free agency?

Of the nineteen players with scheduled arbitration hearings, Travis Sanheim is one of two players yet to settle.

His arbitration hearing, curated by the Philadelphia Flyers, is scheduled for August 26th, 2021. A franchise filing for arbitration is less common amongst scheduled hearings. Sanheim didn’t make the call for arbitration to haggle a raise. If it were a player who filed for a hearing, that would be the likely purpose. Instead, the Flyers organization could be negotiating the length of the deal.

Sanheim should avoid the arbitration hearing if he wants a contract with adequate length. Following the hearing, the term of the extension maxes out at two years.

Philadelphia brings Sanheim to arbitration with an odor of uncertainty concerning the faith the front office has. Featured on a bad defense, he proved to be worth protecting at the expansion draft. Last season was the worst of his career, but he missed just a game against the Washington Capitals due to an undisclosed reason. He was still performing at a high enough level, comparably to his teammates, where Alain Vigneault felt he was the best option on the left side of the second pair.

The flat cap doesn’t provide much breathing room for a raise. Negotiations meet a deadline in eight days. Sanheim could accept a minimal raise on the Flyers’ terms, or this could begin to travel down a road where the only exit is making a trade or letting him test free agency.

Unfortunately for the Philadelphia Flyers, Sanheim will want every bit of the ~$4.03mil left in team cap space. The other remaining player with an arbitration hearing, Nikita Zadorov of the Calgary Flames, had a similar contract to Sanheim in 2020-2021. Another on a similar deal was Neal Pionk, who now makes $5.875mil.

Previously, Fletcher acknowledged that Sanheim would receive a raise, but could that be another red herring from another press conference? What are the chances that Sanheim receives exactly $3.25mil for one more year?

A difference between Sanheim and Zadorov is Zadorov’s arbitration hearing didn’t come from the Flames. Zadorov also has a case to make for a raise and a steady term. He called for his arbitration hearing because he has leverage in negotiations with Calgary. Sanheim does not command that leverage with the Flyers.

Bringing Sanheim to arbitration presents a lot of context regarding his future in Philadelphia.

He’ll play next to Rasmus Ristolainen in 2021-2022. You can bet that if he comes back to form, he’ll want to test free agency once his arbitration contract is honored, as he should. The situation is fragile, and no single detail can be left unturned. Fletcher must keep his finger on the pulse of his relationship with Sanheim. Ideally, Sanheim performs to standard and receives a restructured contract extension from the Flyers, but that means another heavy contract needs unloading.

Keep an eye open for James van Riemsdyk on the block in 2021-2022. The flat cap isn’t for the weak of heart. Fletcher was aggressive in moving heavy contracts this offseason, which will become a lifestyle more than a mood across the league.

If history serves as a guide, Philadelphia shouldn’t be a surprise team to bounce back in 2021-2022. In cadence, Sanheim will likely improve after his career-worst season. All hands are on deck. Looking ahead to the number of Flyers players who will be due a new contract before 2022-2023, Fletcher must monitor and prioritize Sanheim before he vanishes to a market with deeper pockets.

Photo Credit: Alex McIntyre