With a new 4-year deal, the Philadelphia Flyers paid a high price for Brayden Schenn’s services
So now we know. It’s been a year since Hextall declined to sign Brayden Schenn to a long-term deal as he did with Sean Couturier last summer, but Schenn finally has his deal. With his shiny, new 4-year deal paying him $5.125 per season, Schenn is probably a very happy man.
An arbitration hearing was imminent today. In fact, it appears arbitration was supposed to have already started.
Whatever the process, Schenn has to be very, very pleased with the deal today. He is going to be paid near the top of his peer group while it’s not at all clear that he is one of the best players in that group. Personally, I have stated a few times that I’d really like the Flyers to keep it below $5 million for Schenn.
There are a few reasons for this, but first, let’s start with why did Schenn get paid over $5 million a year. The simple answer is that this was his going market rate. The market pays for simple goals and points, and prefers high-end skill. Schenn does fairly well in these categories.
His 5v5 points rate is pretty good, and he’s don’t a lot of damage on the power play. Of course it didn’t hurt that he finished last season on such a tear, topping the Flyers in points and being top-10 in the entire in NHL since January 1.
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Schenn was certainly selling the idea of slow but steady improvement. His point totals the last 3 seasons have been steadily rising, going from 41, to 47, to 59. It’s perfect timing to hit a new career high in goals as well, with 26.
On this last point, however, is where opinions begin to diverge. For starters, his even-strength 5v5 goals have tracked as 16, 11, and 15. That’s not exactly a steady growth pattern, so some of his “growth” is simply more opportunities with the top player play unit after Hartnell left.
The second point underlying his growth claims are his (lack of) ability to drive 5v5 shots and possession statistics. On the count of possession, he’s really never been very good. Let’s consider his last 4 years at 5v5.
At first glance you might say, “man, this chart is a mess.” This would be an accurate statement, and its messiness IS the point. His points “Production” line (primary points per 60) is slowly trending upward, but his relative shot production (teammate relative Corsi For per 60), shot suppression (teammate relative Corsi Against per 60), and expected relative goal differential are all over the place. That mess indicates the ABSENCE of conspicuous growth and improvement from year to year.
The chart does show that he’s always leaked shots against (lower is better on that line, and negative points would indicate actually limiting shots against compared to teammates). Meanwhile, his on-ice shot production from season to season has been completely unpredictable in that time.
This could be called inconsistency, but it’s probably more accurately called generally so-so performance. For me, this puts Schenn outside of the central core of the Philadelphia Flyers forwards group. Speaking of guys I would consider central, we can compare the progress of Schenn to those guys in terms of 5v5 shot generation at the same ages.
For one thing, I find it incredibly bizarre that every player had a down year at age 22. That aside, you see Schenn hasn’t actually taken anywhere near the offensive strides Giroux and Voracek did in their 23 and 24-year old seasons. Schenn’s shot production is actually closer to Simmonds and Couturier–guys who at that point of their career were very much considered defensive forwards. The takeaway for me is that we already know Schenn doesn’t have the defensive chops of a Simmonds or Couturier, but there’s little performance evidence that he is on track to progress into a real offensive force either.
The basic fact here is that the Flyers paid the going market rate for Schenn. No more, no less–but signing a guy for the going market rate doesn’t make it a good deal for the team. It was just better to sign him at that rate than face the alternative, however.
Schenn is now the 3rd highest paid forward on the team. He will make more than Simmonds for the next 3 years, and more than Couturier for the next 4. Whether that is an indictment of Schenn’s deal, or praise for the deals the Flyers signed Simmonds and Couturier to, you can decide.
At the end of the day, so long as Schenn scores 60 points or so every year, the deal will turn out okay. That production from Schenn is not a foregone conclusion, however, and he will have to improve his overall offense to produce at that level when he’s not shooting at 15%, as he did this last season. Hextall really had no choice but to sign Schenn, so either way, here’s hoping for the best.