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Analyzing the Robert Hagg extension and Shayne Gostisbehere trade rumors

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Hagg is locked up for two years while Gostisbehere may be on the way out.

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Detroit Red Wings v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images

Monday was a big day for the Philadelphia Flyers defense. Well, as big of a day as it can be this early in the offseason.

Two of the Flyers’ most polarizing defensemen were in the news on Monday for two very different reasons. Robert Hagg signed a two-year contract extension, while Shayne Gostisbehere’s name has come up again in trade rumors.

Hagg’s two-year contract extension carries a cap hit of $1.6 million per year. It’s a slight pay raise in a team-friendly deal for the stay-at-home defenseman.

The Flyers extending Hagg was pretty much expected. It would have been shocking if they didn’t extend him an offer after how he was used in the playoffs despite not playing at his best. He has proven himself to be a solid six or seventh defenseman, and a cap hit of $1.6 million for just two years is a good one for the Flyers. If Hagg hits a wall, it won’t cause any cap problems for the Flyers. If he improves, the contract just looks that much better.

While Hagg secured his future in Philadelphia for the next two years, Gostisbehere could find himself in a new home this offseason. Gostisbehere has gone from a fan favorite and an untouchable just a few years ago to one of the Flyers players who is widely accepted to be on the trade block from time to time.

The whispers around Gostisbehere started within the past year or two. He has been very up-and-down over the last three years, with more downs than ups this season. Those whispers have only gotten louder. Gostisbehere’s struggles and injuries, along with emergence of Travis Sanheim and Philippe Myers, make him expendable to some. Now, the Flyers are showing “a serious willingness to move” Gostisbehere if they get the right offer, according to Pierre LeBrun.

Gostisbehere still possesses his skill and could do well with a change of scenery – or just the freedom to play his game. Unfortunately, his leash has shortened with the Flyers. Gostisbehere only played in Game 1 against the Islanders despite nearly every defenseman struggling as the series moved along. On top of that, the Flyers could use some cap room to sign their own free agents and perhaps add a forward or right-handed defenseman from the open market.

With all of that being said, let’s just take a quick look at the Flyers’ defensive picture heading into the offseason with Hagg signed.

The Flyers currently have five NHL defensemen under contract (Ivan Provorov, Matt Niskanen, Shayne Gostisbehere, Travis Sanheim, Robert Hagg) and it’s safe to assume that they will re-sign the restricted free-agent Philippe Myers. That gives them six defensemen that they could roll with in the 2020-21 season. They also have the option of bringing back Justin Braun on a team-friendly deal, and Mark Friedman appears ready to be a solid seventh defenseman in the NHL.

Chuck Fletcher doesn’t need to make any additional moves on the blue line. Hell, even if they bring back Braun and keep Gostisbehere, they can mix and match on the bottom pair and rotate in the seventh defenseman. They got the job done in the regular season and the growth of Provorov, Sanheim, and Myers may be enough to overcome the decline of Niskanen (and Braun).

Should Fletcher make a move? Maybe. Niskanen is under contract for one more year and the playoffs may have given us a glimpse of the future. If he can’t be a top-pair defenseman, the Flyers may need to go out and get a top-four right-handed defenseman. Braun was looking like a cheap option to re-sign for the third pair, but his playoff struggles may send him to the open market. If Fletcher and the Flyers want to bring in another right-handed defenseman, unfortunately that may mean shipping out Gostisbehere.

If the Flyers are going to trade Gostisbehere, this offseason might be the time that makes the most sense. They could use some wiggle room with the salary cap remaining flat, Alain Vigneault – or some sector of the Flyers’ decision-makers – appears to not have confidence in him given his playoff usage, and with Gostisbehere’s front-loaded contract, teams may be looking for a cheaper pure money option with Ghost due just $3.25 million (still a $4.5 million cap hit) over the next three seasons.

Even with Gostisbehere coming up in trade rumors again and the Flyers reportedly showing a “serious willingness” to trade him, it wouldn’t shock me if he is in Orange and Black next season. Teams may not reach the Flyers’ asking price with Gostisbehere’s value close to an all-time low, Gostisbehere would be good to have as an option to be taken in next year’s expansion draft, and he could bring his value back up before the trade deadline.

In my opinion, the Flyers should keep Gostisbehere and let him play himself out of a third-pairing role. His value has a higher floor compared to other defenseman due to his offensive upside and power-play prowess, and he has already shown that he can bounce back from a down season, which he did with a 65-point season in 2017-18 after a poor sophomore season. Pair him with Hagg or Braun on the third pair and see what happens. With his injuries behind him and seemingly nowhere to go but up, it can’t hurt to give him one last chance. Trading him wouldn’t exactly be choosing Hagg over him, but Hagg will still be a Flyer while Gostisbehere will not.

Gostisbehere is what teams look for in a defenseman. He may not have the defensive ability of someone like a Victor Hedman or Miro Heiskanen, but defensemen that can join the rush, quarterback a power-play, and make plays with the puck on their stick are incredibly valuable in today’s NHL.

Hagg, on the other hand, is more of a one-dimensional player. Gostisbehere has offensive upside and is usually good with the puck on his stick, but his size can be exploited defensively when he is off his game. On the other hand, Hagg has very limited offensive upside and isn’t great with the puck on his stick, but is lauded for his defensive “contributions” of blocks and hits – two things that occur when a player’s team is not in control of the puck.

In theory, these two should be able to complement each other on the third pair. If Gostisbehere and Hagg could find some chemistry, it would be a good pair with two special-teams specialists.

The offseason is officially underway after the Tampa Bay Lightning won the Stanley Cup on Monday night, and it could be an interesting one for the Flyers. They have a few potential trade chips in Gostisbehere and James van Riemsdyk, and this unique October offseason may end up being a weird one with a flat salary cap. The 2020 NHL Draft is only a week away, with free agency opening on Friday, October 9th.