The Philadelphia Flyers and Brayden Schenn are almost certainly headed to arbitration.
Earlier this week, it was reported that the 24-year-old forward is asking for $5.5 million per season as he and his team head towards a settlement hearing.
In return, the team is looking to pay substantially less: if their ask is to be believed as a firm one, they’re more interested in a deal that will pay out roughly $4.3 million per season.
That’s over a million between the two asks – and that’s a tough gap to bridge. It’s hard to imagine one party will be happy about conceding before the hearing tomorrow morning.
For Schenn’s sake, though, the avoidance of arbitration is in his best interests.
A former fifth overall pick of the Los Angeles Kings, Schenn was dealt to the Flyers in the swap that sent Wayne Simmonds to the East Coast and Mike Richards out to sunny California back in 2011. He was reunited with his older brother, Luke, although five years later, the older Schenn is now a member of the Arizona Coyotes and the younger brother seems to be struggling to plead his salary case with Flyers management.
He’s coming off a bridge contract already, which saw him make a relatively cheap $2.5 million per season (with a graduated payout) over two years to get him to this summer.
Make no mistake — by no means do the Flyers expect to get him at a discount on this next deal.
He’s coming off of his best season to date, putting up a whopping 26 goals and 59 points to finish third in scoring on the Metropolitan Division club. Only Wayne Simmonds and Claude Giroux had more productive seasons. Only Jakub Voracek, who played a shortened season due to injury, had been projected to have a better season than the restricted free agent.
All things considered, it’s entirely possible that Schenn could improve even more next year, as well. He’s been on the upswing for the last three years, and a healthier Flyers lineup in coming seasons could make him a more attractive asset salary-wise in as little as another season.
His possession impact on the team was somewhat one-dimensional, and he didn’t have the strongest two-way game.
However, assuming that the Flyers are still trending up, though, the possibility of continued improvement puts him in a position to become a quality top-six power forward for the club for years to come. His defensive weaknesses won’t seem like as much of a flaw if he’s putting up 25-30 goals each and every season.
Given the way his career has been trending, though, arbitration, and, as a result, another bridge deal, likely won’t be the best course of action for the winger.
Let’s assume, for the time being, that they’re heading to arbitration because they just haven’t been able to find a middle ground monetarily. The best-case scenario, which has Schenn hoping to find a way to stay with the Flyers long-term, is perfectly reasonable to consider right now.
To start, it’s hard to imagine that the Flyers will have a season as unlucky as they did this year in either of the coming seasons and that could affect whether Schenn would see a considerable raise after a bridge deal.
Players like Sean Couturier and Jakub Voracek aren’t likely to struggle in the future like they did this past year, surpassing Schenn as potential point producers and weakening his argument that he deserves to become the team’s third highest-paid forward.
There’s also money allocation to consider in the coming seasons.
Scott Laughton should take up roughly $2 million per season on his next deal, just assuming he performs similarly next year to this year. Nick Cousins also had a solid season at the NHL level, putting up 11 points in 36 regular season games; he could command an uptick in salary, as well.
The blue line could see salary bumps for both Michael Del Zotto and Shayne Gostisbehere next summer — with Gostisbehere’s next deal likely seeing a significant increase from his current entry-level deal. And with goaltending up in the air after this season, there’s a lot about the Flyers’ finances that could be volatile soon enough.
For Schenn, that makes a long-term deal now his safest option.
The worst case scenario with a long-term deal would be that Schenn outperforms the way he played last year, making any deal he signs now look like a steal as each and every season passes by.
If he underperforms, though — or simply slips relative to his teammates — he’ll know he isn’t at risk of losing money.
That’s not to say, of course, that the offer the Flyers have come into arbitration with is the one Schenn should take.
Ideally, the winger is worth somewhere right in the middle of the two asks; he may not be $5.5 million per season worthy, but he’s certainly worthy of sitting on a deal that touches that $5 million per season marker.
If he can find a way to get the Flyers to agree to that long-term, it would seem foolish not to.