There’s a bleak scenario where the Flyers would panic about Claude Giroux‘s contract year. A foolish GM might believe that the Flyers either need to trade Giroux before he walks for nothing, or sign him to a contract extension.
Luckily, Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher indicated he’ll take a more cautious approach regarding Giroux’s future contract status.
“I’ve had good conversations with Claude and with Pat Brisson, his agent, and at this point our plan is to play the season out and we’ll talk at the end of the season,” Fletcher said, via NHL.com’s Adam Kimelman. “We’re both comfortable with that. Claude’s our captain, he’s a great player, and I anticipate that we’ll find a way to continue that relationship going forward.
With all other Flyers’ risks, a Giroux contract extension would be dicey
On Thursday, the Flyers rolled the dice by signing Sean Couturier to an eight-year contract extension. There are scenarios where Couturier’s $7.75 million cap hit could be very team-friendly, especially early on.
Still, Couturier turns 29 on Dec. 7, months before his eight-year extension even kicks in. It could work out, but it can also go really bad.
As this post details, Couturier is far from the only risky contract for Philly. Some risks are muted (Carter Hart could be a short-term bargain if he rebounds), others are mixed (Ivan Provorov), and some are just rough (Kevin Hayes‘ deal).
But you stack all of that up, and it seems like a lot of gambling for a team that missed the playoffs by a heavy margin. Fletcher saying the 2020-21 season took “a year off of his life” only makes you wonder more about how willing this franchise might be to gamble even more.
Fletcher, on the Flyers, but could apply to the entire pandemic: "I can't live through another year like last year. It took years off my life and everybody else's. It's not worth it."
— Stephen Whyno (@SWhyno) August 26, 2021
So, overall, it’s a relief that the Flyers are at least being cautious with Claude Giroux, who turns 34 in January.
Again, some might view trading Giroux as “proactive.” That ignores something that must be stated: Giroux can still play.
We’re no longer in a time when even Giroux’s own coach would call him “the best in the world,” but Giroux’s all-around impact might actually sneak up on some.
Along with those underlying stats, Giroux still puts up pretty impressive offense. That includes last season, when the Flyers’ captain scored 43 points in 54 games. Heck, by Evolving Hockey’s GAR metric, Giroux might have even been the Flyers’ best player.
(If you prefer xGAR, Giroux finished second only to Couturier in the expected version of that metric.)
So … you could pretty comfortably argue that Giroux remains an $8.25M player to the Flyers, even at this stage of his career.
With that in mind, it would be foolish for a Flyers team to trade Giroux unless they know they’ll be out of the mix. If they’re able to prove last season was a mere glitch in the system, then Giroux would be a big part of such a rebound. If not, his veteran savvy and all-around usefulness could make him a serious 2022 NHL Trade Deadline target.
And, if the Flyers want to stick with Giroux after 2021-22, maybe he’d take a Tuukka Rask-type discount? Like Rask, Giroux’s only played for one team his entire career (in his case, since 2007-08). With 943 regular-season games under his belt, Giroux could pass 1,000 games with the Flyers this season. It would be understandable if he didn’t want to leave all of that behind, especially if Philly trends back up in 2021-22.
One similar decision the Flyers should make
So far, the Flyers haven’t tipped their hands about Ristolainen’s contract future, as he could sign an extension, or play out at least part of his contract year. (Ristolainen’s cap hit will be $5.4 million for this season, then he can become a UFA.)
Consider this a quick point/counterpoint for the Flyers when it comes to a Ristolainen extension.
Point: The Flyers already gave up a surprisingly strong trade package to land Ristolainen from the Sabres.
Counterpoint: We’ve seen teams burned by signing midrange defensemen to contract extensions right after trading for them. Merely ask the Blues and their fans if that was the right call with Justin Faulk.
Point: Fletcher & Co. likely believe that they’re right about Ristolainen, while the “fancy stats” are wrong. Or if they’re right, maybe Philly can provide a nuturing atmosphere as opposed to Buffalo. The 26-year-old is a pending UFA, so if they’re right, maybe they should get out in front of this? Just look at some of the wild defensemen deals from this offseason.
Counterpoint: What if they’re wrong?
If the Flyers don’t sign Ristolainen to a contract extension, then they can walk away. Sometimes you take a chance on a player, and it doesn’t work out. It could be a mistake that costs a year and some picks. If you sign him longer, though, then you risk a mistake that stings you year after year.
(Flyers fans have an uncomfortably long list of examples of such contracts.)
Considering their age, positions, and diverging analytical profiles, Giroux and Ristolainen present very different contract extension questions for the Flyers. Even so, they both inspire the same answer: wait and see.