One down, three to go.
The Flyers have re-signed blossoming defenseman Travis Sanheim, one of their five restricted free agents who is expected to play a key role this coming season, to a two-year contract that has an annual $3.25 million cap hit, general manager Chuck Fletcher announced Monday.
“I’m really excited. It’s a big step in my career,” Sanheim said. “I’m looking forward to another two years with the Flyers, and just really excited with the way the team is moving toward and with the moves we’ve made this offseason.”
Those moves include acquiring veteran defensemen Justin Braun and Matt Niskanen and signing center Kevin Hayes.
Sanheim, 23, was arguably the Flyers’ best defenseman in the second half of last season. In his final 51 games, he averaged 21 minutes, 39 seconds of ice time and collected 25 of his 35 points.
“To be able to sign a two-year deal and have that trust in them" feels good, Sanheim said. “They want me to be a part of the team moving forward. It’s exciting, and now I obviously have to put the work in and prove to them that I’m worth that.”
With the additions the Flyers have made recently, Sanheim said, "we’re a playoff team. Now it’s up to us players to go and show that with the moves Chuck’s made that we’re capable of making the next step. He sees us as a team that can compete for the Stanley Cup.”
Drafted in the first round (17th overall) in 2014, the highly mobile Sanheim finished with nine goals, 35 points, and a minus-4 rating last season, his first full year with the Flyers. The soft-spoken Manitoba native averaged 19:34 of ice time, and toward the end of the season, he was on the top pairing, alongside Ivan Provorov.
“We are very pleased with the progress Travis has made in his young career,” Fletcher said, adding Sanheim was a “big part of our present and our future.”
Provorov, right winger Travis Konecny, and center/winger Scott Laughton, are among the Flyers’ remaining RFAs. Another one, Ryan Hartman, was traded to the Dallas Stars on Monday.
Signing Prorovov will be a little trickier. Provorov, coming off a disappointing season, apparently wants a long-term deal instead of a “bridge” contract like Sanheim’s. Some reports say he is seeking $8 million per season.
The Flyers have 18 players signed for a $64.4 million cap hit. The cap maximum this season is $81.5 million, meaning the Flyers have $17.1 million in available space.
Besides the restricted free agents, the Flyers need to sign a backup goalie, and they would like to add a third-line right winger.
But with the cap space dwindling, adding a quality right winger won’t be easy. Tyler Pitlick, acquired from Dallas for Hartman, could fill that role.