Analyzing the Travis Sanheim Deal

PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 28: Travis Sanheim #6 of the Philadelphia Flyers looks on against the Washington Capitals during the preseason game at the Wells Fargo Center on September 28, 2022 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 28: Travis Sanheim #6 of the Philadelphia Flyers looks on against the Washington Capitals during the preseason game at the Wells Fargo Center on September 28, 2022 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

Just before the Philadelphia Flyers kicked their season off with a smashing victory against their divisional rivals, the New Jersey Devils, they made one final roster move. Defenseman Travis Sanheim inked an 8 year extension to stay with the Flyers, theoretically, until the 2030-31 season.

The deal locks him up for $6.25 million a year and kicks in at the end of this season as Sanheim’s current contract would’ve run out. And while the Flyers are quite cash strapped. they will have some money left over as James van Riemsdyk’s $7 million contract will come off the books at the end of the season.

But is it a good deal? Should the Flyers have done it? Let’s take a look at it:

It’s a great deal!!!

Sanheim was the only consistent blueliner last season….check that….the only consistently good blueliner. He finished the year with seven goals and 24 assists, the second highest totals of his career and his best since his first full season in 2018-19. He also had a +/- ratio of +9. He did this on a team that was terrible and giving up goals like parents give out candy on Halloween.

Sanheim is a smooth skater who can advance the puck. He hasn’t put up many points in his career on the power play (two goals and seven assists in six years), but offense is not his strongpoint. He is a good defensive minded defender who can help in the transition. He is not super physical, but he can make a hit when needed. He also blocked 142 shots last year, a career high.

Overall, he is one of the team’s best defenders. He’s more reliable than Ivan Provorov and Rasmus Ristolainen. He’s 26 years old and might not have entered his prime yet. Maybe the best is yet to come.

It’s a terrible deal!!!

That’s a lot of money to lock up for a player that is an average defender. Sanheim is good, but he isn’t great. The closest this team has to a “great’ defender is Tony DeAngelo, but that is based more on what he did with Carolina last year. We’ll have to see what he does this season.

Speaking of money, between Sanheim’s new $6.25 million deal, the Flyers will have close to $23 million locked up with DeAngelo ($5 million), Provorov ($6.75 million), and Ristolainen ($5.1 million). While a good defense is something every team in the NHL needs, these four are kind of sketchy. Provy and Risto are very up and down in their play. DeAngelo is, as of yet, an unknown commodity here in Philly.  Is that money being well spent on these guys? We’ll have to see. Perhaps that money could’ve been better spent on a top line scorer…someone like a Johnny Gaudreau this past off season or a David Pasternak this upcoming offseason.

And while opening night was awesome, let’s remember that last year’s team started off 6-2-2 before completely falling apart. We still have most of the same players. It’s not going to be an easy road back to being competitive. Sanheim was one of the few pieces we could’ve traded at the trade deadline and flipped for prospects/draft picks. And if both sides wanted to reunite, we could’ve re-signed him in the offseason. Heck, we did that with Justin Braun!

Plus, eight years is a lonnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnng time. A lot can change in eight games. Looking at last year, the Flyers were a top team after 10 games. It took them four games to win two more. Then it took them 11 games before they won another. The Flyers have struggled with long term deals. Ryan Ellis is hurt and most likely done for his career. Claude Giroux was here forever, but the team could never advance far in the playoffs.

van Riemsdyk, Jeff Carter, and Mike Richards were all given long term deals and then dumped soon after.  If Sanheim gets hurt and becomes injury prone, the Flyers are stuck with all that money on their books and are further strained by the salary cap.

In Conclusion

Overall, this is a good deal, but it does carry some valid concerns. Did the team overpay for Sanheim? Perhaps. Could he have gotten that much more, or more, on the open market? Maybe. Maybe not. We’ll never know.

But as we have seen the last few years, this team needs a solid defense. Carter Hart’s struggles in net are directly linked to a leaky, porous defense in front of him. When the defense is strong, he is strong. When the defense is awful, he is left out to dry and the goals start pouring in. John Tortorella is a defensive minded coach. Perhaps this is a system that Sanheim, and by default Hart, will thrive in.

This team needs consistency. Sanheim provides that. Maybe eight years from now, this will be a slam dunk no-brainer. Maybe it won’t. The thing with sports is that you never know. You only know what is in the here and now. You can’t tell what the future will bring.

For now, Sanheim is ours. He’s played well and he’s worth hanging onto. In 2030, we can debate how well this went for the Flyers. Hopefully it turns out well and hopefully he can be a cog in this team that will bring them back to their rightful place atop the Metropolian Division.