Radko Gudas' first season in Philadelphia was an eventful one. After finding himself a healthy scratch for the first two games of the season, he checked in on October 12th versus the Florida Panthers and proved to be a lineup staple for the next seven months.
He formed the stay-at-home half of an effective duo with Michael Del Zotto through the season's first half, posting a strong 54.8% Corsi For percentage and receiving even strength minutes appropriate for a team's top pairing. Gudas' season changed for the worse in early February, after he delivered a number of questionable hits that earned him scorn among league observers even if it didn't result in discipline from the league office.
But following the injury to Del Zotto in mid-February, Gudas righted the ship, this time paired with Brandon Manning. Gudas' play-driving metrics were actually better with Manning than with Del Zotto, as the physical defenseman posted a stellar 56.8% Corsi For percentage with his new partner. Gudas actually proved to be the team's best possession defenseman over the full regular season. The result was that Dave Hakstol used the Gudas and Manning pairing more than any other at 5-on-5 against the Washington Capitals in the playoffs.
But with the season over, the Flyers will need to make a decision regarding the future of Gudas. The soon-to-be-26-year old defenseman is a restricted free agent, meaning that he is not under contract for next season but the Flyers will retain exclusive negotiating rights with him so long as they extend him a qualifying offer by late June. Still, Philadelphia could choose to open talks for a long-term extension with Gudas, rather than merely resorting to a one-year qualifying offer contract.
If Flyers general manager Ron Hextall's comments on Wednesday are any indication, the team has a great deal of interest in locking up Gudas for the long haul.
"We like Radko, we'd like to keep him long-term, so we'll see. Restricted free agents... there's not a whole lot of urgency there for us. I mean, would we like to get him done? Yes, and we'll get him done at some point. Long-term? Yeah, I'd like to get him done more long-term than short-term."
Gudas only has one more year of RFA status, so he would become an unrestricted free agent during the 2017 offseason without a long-term extension. As a result, it makes some sense for Hextall to be interested in discussing a longer contract if he wants to keep Gudas' cap hit under control by not letting the defenseman hit the open market.
His low point production numbers (14 points in 76 games) would likely serve to keep the cap hit of a long-term contract manageable, in addition to his relatively low amount of extensive NHL experience despite his age (202 regular season games at age 25).
A high-end price comparable would probably be the four-year, $14 million contract ($3.5 million AAV) that the Flyers gave to pending UFA defenseman Nicklas Grossmann in 2012, while a low-end comparable could be Ian Cole, who received a three-year, $6.3 million contract ($2.1 million AAV) from Pittsburgh last offseason with one year of RFA status remaining.
Considering Hextall's comments today, it appears that negotiations between the two sides will begin sometime in the summer.