(Will we be invoking Betteridge’s Law? Let’s find out.)
As the NHL stares down the end of its weird offseason, the Flyers put an end to the transactional portion of their own offseason on Tuesday evening, as they signed the last remaining unsigned regular from their 2019-20 lineup, defenseman Phil Myers, to a three-year contract worth $2.55 million per season against the salary cap. The move leaves the Flyers, courtesy of CapFriendly, with $2.26 million in cap space available, and other than one more forward that will be added to the roster (probably two if Nolan Patrick isn’t ready), what we see here is pretty much what we should expect to get when training camp gets going.
That extra forward is probably going to end up being one of the team’s young forwards currently slated to be on the Phantoms — maybe Morgan Frost if he can make the team out of camp, and maybe a depth guy like Connor Bunnaman or Linus Sandin if he doesn’t. That forward, whoever he is, is probably not going to be a guy making much money against the salary cap. At most, the guy in question would probably be making the entry-level max of $925,000, which would leave the Flyers still with about $1.33 million in cap room. That’s not a tremendous amount of wiggle room, but it’s more than a lot of teams are going to have.
Knowing that the Flyers were going into negotiations with Myers with nearly $4 million in 2020-21 cap to spare, I had been wondering (prior to the signing becoming official on Tuesday) if the two sides were in negotiations on a longer-term deal. It’s not hard to find comparables for a short-term deal for a defenseman with about a year’s worth of NHL experience to his name, so the fact that one hadn’t been reached yet, along with the fact that the Flyers had the room to spend a bit of money here, made a long-term deal look like a possibility.
Upon hearing about the deal, my first instinct was that that long-term deal hadn’t quite materialized. A three-year deal is nice, and it crucially gives the Flyers the security of having Myers under contract at a reasonable rate during the 2022 offseason when they’re going to have some very tough decisions to make, but the deal doesn’t eat up any unrestricted free agent years, which was what I had in mind.
The thing is, reaching a long-term deal with Myers would’ve been difficult. because guys with track records as short as his don’t really get those kinds of long-term deals. In fact, looking at his contemporaries, Myers managed to get himself paid pretty nicely for a second deal.
A quick look at the default set of comparables on CapFriendly for Myers’ deal, which is based on a combination of Myers’ profile and the details of the contract, shows a lot of guys in similar situations — i.e. signing their second contract somewhere between ages 22 and 24 — and it’s notable that most of those deals don’t go beyond two years, and very few of them go beyond three. If you ignore players that were arbitration-eligible, which Myers is not, you’re only left with the following players that signed deals of at least three years in that group:
- Steven Santini (75 NHL GP to that point): Three years, $1.417M per year with the Devils in 2018.
- Adam Pelech (53 GP): Four years, $1.6M per year with the Islanders in 2018.
- Jake McCabe (86 GP): Three years, $1.6M per year with the Sabres in 2016.
- Calvin de Haan (52 GP): Three years, $1.967M per year with the Islanders in 2014.
- Michael Stone (53 GP): Three years, $1.15M per year with the Coyotes in 2013.
Indeed, there just aren’t a ton of guys with fairly limited on-ice track records like Myers’ (just 71 regular-season NHL games to this point) that really go on to sign long deals right out of their ELC. And really, that makes sense. It takes a combination of a team willing to go out on a limb for a player who hasn’t quite proven it yet at the NHL level, and a player that decides he’d rather take whatever semblance of long-term security the team puts in front of him over a chance to bet on himself and get a bigger deal down the road (not to mention, to get to arbitration rights sooner). A “long” deal, one that bought out a UFA year or even one that just walked him to UFA status, was probably never really in the cards, even if it likely at least came up in conversation between Chuck Fletcher and Myers’ representation.
Myers’ deal, really, is on the expensive side for guys who basically only had one season to their name before signing it. Is that to say the Flyers were wrong to give him that deal? I wouldn’t say so; Myers progressed nicely as his first just-about-full NHL season came along, even if he had a rough series against the Islanders (in fairness, so did the rest of the team), and he’s in a no-doubt top-4 role with the team with a chance to get top-pair minutes next to Ivan Provorov. The Flyers are clearly high on him, because even if the numbers in the contract don’t blow you away, he got about as big a commitment as someone with less than a season’s worth of NHL games to his name can really expect to get.