After some surprises in free agency and with trade rumors, the Philadelphia Flyers have to get down to the business of extending forward Brayden Schenn
It was fun watching the free agent frenzy, even though the Philadelphia Flyers were mostly observers. Fun in a different way was tracking rumors, but alas, rumors near and far are dying away as the offseason deepens.
Leaving fantasyland and get back to reality, it’s time for the Flyers to put their own house in order. This offseason, that means getting Brayden Schenn signed, sealed and delivered. Hextall knows this is the team’s top priority. “We’ll start working on that fairly quickly and you know it will get done,” Hextall has said.
The Flyers currently sit with approximately $8.6 million in cap space, with Brayden Schenn, Nick Cousins, Brandon Manning and Jordan Weal. As Weal hardly played last year, the Flyers are almost certain to let him walk away, leaving that $8.6 for Schenn, Cousins and Manning. It is also conceivable that Manning may not be re-signed, but that is not a critical decision at the moment.
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Schenn is coming off a career year, that many might call a breakout season. Schenn scored a career-high 26 goals along with 59 points. This made him #2 in team goal scoring, and #3 points. Most of those accomplishments are due to a red-hot second half of the season. From January 1 onwards, Schenn scored 44 points in 46 games–good enough for 7th in the entire NHL over that time frame.
This is perfect timing for Schenn. He is finishing up a 2-year “bridge” contract that paid him only $2.5 million a year. He will undoubtedly get a significant raise with a long term deal, but how big that raise should be is the million dollar question.
As analyzed in our season review of Schenn, the danger of paying Schenn on the basis of his breakout is that it was boosted by a sky-high shooting percentage. During Schenn’s hot 2016 he shot at over 19%. His previous season career high is 12.4%. It is incredibly rare that such a sudden spike in shooting percentage is sustained.
Before even getting to salary comparables, it is important to fully understand this. If you’re looking for improvement in Schenn’s on-ice, team-relative advanced statistics in this breakout season, you won’t find it. Consider Schenn’s shot generation effect when on the ice.
Furthermore, if you put together his on-ice numbers of team shots and teams shots against, and predict goals by shot location percentages for a luck-neutral “expected” plus-minus, Schenn actually had a bad year at 5v5.
Yes, they still pick the winning team in NHL games by goals, not Corsi shot attempts, so actual goals matter. These “advanced” statistics tell us two things about Schenn’s play, however. One, he doesn’t drive the play. He’s more of a complementary piece. Two, his offensive prowess didn’t take as big a leap last season as his second half points would suggest. In other words, don’t expect him to be a 75-point guy next year.
So all that being said, what kind of pay does Schenn deserve? It would be better to judge Schenn based on the 3 total previous seasons, as his offensive progression actually has been slow and steady despite last season’s “breakout.” Over this time span, Schenn has a points per game of 0.60.
Here is a table of players at a similar age and production.
These values run a pretty wide range, but it’s interesting how many of these guys are working on their next contract as an RFA as we speak. The deals for O’Reilly and Saad are a bit out of whack, but came in extenuating circumstances of a new team trading-for then locking up the player. With Schenn’s contract, the Flyers must shoot for the Kadri/Smith range. They are the most recently signed deals from players whose production is very close.
There are more variables regarding every player’s worth than a simple chart of points per game, but the bottom line for Schenn and the Philadelphia Flyers revolves around an accurate assessment of where Schenn’s game is at the moment. Despite a “breakout” in the second half last season, the Flyers cannot can’t carried away and go much higher than $5 million per season.
As yet, there hasn’t been any indications that this will be a contentious negotiation, but these can change fast. The market value can also change fast based on the all the guys still waiting for a deal, as shown above. Hopefully, Hextall is correct that he can get it done quickly, but he shouldn’t be so anxious to sign Schenn that he throws a Saad or Stepan contract his way.