Center Sean Couturier, one of the NHL’s premier two-way players, plans to play his entire career with the Flyers based on the eight-year, $62 million contract extension he signed Thursday.
Couturier will be 37 when his new contract — which starts in 2022-23 and carries an annual $7.75 million cap hit — ends.
“This guy is an elite hockey player. He’s extremely good offensively; he’s extremely good defensively. He’s a play driver,” general manager Chuck Fletcher said in a Zoom call with reporters Thursday. “He’s a rare talent. You just can’t find these players.”
Fletcher said he didn’t want the star center’s contract hanging over everyone’s head and becoming a distraction during the upcoming season. The GM hinted Couturier could have signed for more on the open market after the 2021-22 season, but the center worked with the Flyers on the cap hit because he “wants to win.”
By comparison, Los Angeles’ Anze Kopitar, who like Couturier is a past winner of the Selke Trophy as the league’s best defensive forward, is in the midst of an eight-year contract, signed in 2016, that has an annual $10 million cap hit.
Couturier’s contract has a no-movement clause for the first seven years, and a limited trade clause in the final year, Fletcher said.
Assuming he plays until the end of his contract, Couturier will have spent 19 seasons with the Flyers. Bobby Clarke played a franchise-high 15 seasons with the team, and Claude Giroux is entering his 15th year in Philadelphia.
Fletcher called Couturier “the ultimate teammate” in his 10 seasons with the Flyers. “He carries an enormous presence inside our dressing room due to his preparation, determination and drive to win.”
Couturier, 28, said it was exciting to know he would be with the Flyers for nine more seasons.
“I like the way the team is built and the mix of players that we have,” he said, referring to the myriad of offseason moves made by Fletcher. “I’m really looking forward to it, but especially this year. We’ve made a lot of changes, but it’s all positive and very exciting.”
Couturier, the definition of consistency, was named the winner of the Bobby Clarke Trophy for the third straight time last season. The award is given to the team’s MVP.
He became the first Flyer to win the award three straight times since Eric Lindros from 1993-94 to 1995-96.
Last season, Couturier had 18 goals and 23 assists for 41 points in 45 games, putting him on a scoring pace for over 70 points in a full 82-game season. He recorded four scoring streaks of five consecutive games or longer, including an eight-game streak from Feb. 7–March 4.
Couturier has averaged 0.91 points per game over the past four seasons, which is the second-best of any Flyer in that time frame, behind only Giroux’s 0.99 points per game.
“Sean is a cornerstone of this team, and we are thrilled that he’ll be in orange and black for years to come,” said Dave Scott, the Flyers’ chairman and governor.
As for Giroux, who is entering the final year of his contract, Fletcher said he has had discussions with the left winger’s agent, Pat Brisson, but the plan on both sides is to talk about an extension after the season.
Giroux’s contract has an $8.275 million cap hit this season. Couturier’s cap hit this season is a team-friendly $4.333 million.
Brassard believes in Flyers
Derick Brassard, the winger/center who signed an $825,000 one-year deal Wednesday with the Flyers, said he turned down a higher offer from a Western Conference team.
In a Zoom call with reporters Thursday, Brassard, who turns 34 next month, said his familiarity with coach Alain Vigneault (his coach with the Rangers) and being reunited with former teammates Kevin Hayes, Keith Yandle, and Cam Atkinson played a part in his decision to sign with the Flyers. But the main reason, he said, was because “I feel we have a shot” at the Stanley Cup.
With the Flyers missing the playoffs last season, “I feel guys are going to be hungry this year,” Brassard said. “With all the new guys coming in and bringing some good energy, we’re going to have a good season. I’m super excited.”
He said the Flyers fans’ passion also played a role in signing here.
With a condensed schedule, “we’re going to need a lot of bodies,” Fletcher said. “We felt it was important to add to our depth, and any time you can acquire a player like Derick who has over 900 games of experience in the league and still has a good skill set ... it just seemed to make a lot of sense.”
Fletcher said he anticipated Brassard “playing on every line this year as you deal with all the uncertainties and ups and downs of a full regular season.”
Fletcher said the Flyers’ poor showing last season “took years off my life.” ... Based on their projected roster, the Flyers have only about $320,000 in cap space and that will force them to carry 20 to 22 players for the season. ... Centers Morgan Frost and Tanner Laczynski have done well after offseason surgeries and will be ready when training camp opens Sept. 22, per Fletcher. ... Fletcher on all the offseason moves: “At the end of last season, I vowed that we would make changes. It was unacceptable, and I think I was true to my word.” He thinks the team greatly improved its defense and penalty kill and that ”our leadership group will be enhanced.” ... Before starting his news conference, Fletcher extended his condolences to Kevin Hayes and his family. Hayes’ brother, Jimmy, 31, a former NHL player, was found dead in his Massachusetts home Monday. “We’re here to support him and help him in any way possible,” Fletcher said of the Flyers’ center. “It’s just unimaginable what that family is going through right now.”