Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier’s next contracts had been tied together for years now. Expiring at the same time, the thought was Giroux would end up having to take a pay-cut because Couturier’s next deal would break the bank. Fast forward to present day and time, and we’re looking at the situation a bit differently.
Sean Couturier signed an extension Thursday afternoon worth $62 million over eight years, making his AAV a reasonable $7.75mil per season. At that number, Couturier comes at a discount compared to many projections from earlier in the year. It’s absolutely a welcome sight, and a big win for the Flyers. They have their franchise cornerstone locked up now until the age of 37. While things may get dicey towards the end of the deal, who honestly cares about that right now?
Now our attention shifts to Claude Giroux and his next deal. After all the moves made this offseason, one would think Giroux’s extension would be the next box Chuck Fletcher is looking to check off. According to Bill Meltzer, those plans appear to be in a holding pattern.
So now it appears that Giroux’s extension may have to wait until the Flyers play out the 2021/22 season. That’s fine. It’s totally understandable for someone to want to see how their team’s season goes before re-upping with them, and especially at this point in Claude Giroux’s career. Considering all the changes that have been made to the roster, it makes it even more acceptable. While absolutely within reason, that doesn’t mean it comes without concern.
The “What-if” Game
What if the Flyers suck this year? If Chuck Fletcher’s master plan to flood the locker room with leaders backfires, what does Claude do? Does he tuck tail and run to a true contender? Would Chuck Fletcher try and entice him to come back with more money? Better yet, would Chuck Fletcher have the money to try and entice Giroux to come back? Maybe Claude Giroux has a fantastic year while the team falters. Deservedly so, Giroux commands more money due to his performance this past season. Is that something Fletcher is willing to do to keep him in Philadelphia?
Maybe the Flyers have a banger of a season. Let’s say they make it to the Eastern Conference Finals. Giroux is a big part of that run and is now looking at a deal that would pay him similar to Couturier, if not more. Is it worth it at that point? On the flip-side, let’s say that the team makes it that far and Giroux disappears in the playoffs like all of you “trade Giroux” clowns like to claim in your ridiculous Twitter arguments. Is it fair for Chuck Fletcher to pull in the reins a little and offer Giroux a number well-south of his current $8.275mil?
Maybe the team is just bad. Flat out terrible. Giroux has an abysmal year and now awaits what Chuck Fletcher values him at. Could it be possible that the Flyers get Giroux for something around what Couturier’s current contract is paying him? Would Giroux take that big of a pay cut? Maybe the team is great and Giroux isn’t that good. Him being the captain, he has to have had something to do with the success of the team during the season. Does that equate to a little more money in his next contract?
Ok, let’s wrap up all these questions and find some answers.
What to expect
In principle and in a vacuum, Claude Giroux deserves the money he’s being paid right now. He’s the captain of this team and their go-to guy when they need that extra jolt. Frankly put, Giroux is the heart of this team. That’s not to say that there are other variables that won’t factor into negotiations here.
In the tweet that followed Meltzer’s listed above, he mentions Giroux’s family and how they reside in Philadelphia and always have. A man’s family is the most important part of his life, and it’s incredibly difficult to uproot that and move it somewhere else when you know you only have a few years left. Giroux may look to take a discount in order to keep his family in the place that Giroux has called home since 2007.
Negotiations will likely be centered around money. Giroux and the Flyers both know that a long-term deal is off the table. At the age of 33, there’s no point in the Flyers offering or Claude Giroux looking for an eight-year deal. Unless he’s found the fountain of youth or he’s secretly been on the Jaromir Jagr training regiment, Giroux likely won’t be playing at the age of 41 when that type of deal expires.
In terms of dollar amount, Fletcher may look to do an outright salary swap between Giroux and Couturier. Right or wrong, it would make the most sense financially for the Flyers. You gain very little cap, and lose none in the process which allows Fletcher a little more flexibility in bringing players in to build around the core that is already in place. Whether Giroux’s play this season will allow for that type of switch remains to be seen.
With new pieces in place and a breath of fresh air in the locker room, this could be just what Claude Giroux needs to cement himself as a premier forward in this league. He’s already one of the most talented guys in the NHL, but rarely gets the respect he deserves in many NHL circles. If that’s the case and Giroux averages close to a point per game, even posting around 70 points this season, I don’t think he would give a four million dollar deal the time of day if it was slid across the table to him.
The Sticking Points
This contract is much more difficult to predict than Couturier’s was. Couturier was younger, a former Selke Trophy winner, and was coming off of a giant bargain of a contract. Giroux is coming off of a contract that was paying him the most of any Flyers player. Now at what might be the tail end of his career, it’s likely that if he signs with the Flyers he won’t get that same number on his next deal.
The Flyers will likely harp on his age and mention how Sean Couturier took a team-friendly deal to try and bring a Stanley Cup to the Flyers. That’s all fine and dandy, but what has Flyers management ever done to help Claude Giroux get a Stanley Cup? Given, it’s a different regime, but the same logo he’s always played under.
With Claude Giroux, it’s anyone’s guess. On one hand, you have a guy who’s given this franchise everything he could have possibly given. The man shouldered the load for a franchise that didn’t want to give him any help in that regard for years. He carried this team on multiple occasions but has nothing to show for it because the Flyers always teetered on the line between contender and rebuilder.
On the other hand, you have a man with a wife and two children who have made Philadelphia their home. Are they going to be willing to uproot themselves if Claude Giroux thinks his best chance at a Stanley Cup is outside the city of Philadelphia? This will be Giroux’s biggest decision of his career now with everything accounted for.
The Likely Outcome
Relax, Flyers fans. A lot of the signs point towards Claude Giroux remaining a Flyer until he hangs up his skates. Chuck Fletchers moves this offseason are indicative of a GM who wants to maximize the window he has. Part of maximizing that window is keeping the longest-tenured Flyers captain around. He’s consistently a top-five scorer on the team. He’s a key cog on special teams. He’s a leader on and off the ice. He’s everything this team needs in a captain, and now could be more with the additions Fletcher made this offseason.
While the money will likely be similar regardless of how this season goes, it’s easy to see Giroux get a deal worth at least $5.5mil per season. Fletcher will find a way to make it work. Term-wise, it’s easy to see a deal being signed for about three or four years. The fourth year would be somewhat of a good-faith gesture by Fletcher, but something Giroux has earned for putting up with years of continued mediocrity.
Photo Credit: Alex McIntyre