Ahead of their scheduled arbitration date with Brayden Schenn, the Philadelphia Flyers were seeking to lock the 24-year-old up to a two-year deal worth slightly more than $4.3 million per season. Schenn’s request was a one-year deal worth $5.5 million. Turns out the two sides didn’t need arbitration to find a fit.
The Flyers announced Monday that they’ve inked Schenn to a four-year deal, and they even found a middle ground when it came to the salary. According to TSN’s Bob McKenzie, the contract will pay Schenn $5.125 million per season — a total of $20.5 million over the course of the deal.
Schenn’s past production may have some scoffing at the price tag, though. It's a hefty salary for a player who had only once scored 20 goals in his first four seasons in Philadelphia. But there’s no doubt the hope for the Flyers and GM Ron Hextall is that Schenn’s late-season surge is a sign of things to come and that the young winger will build on his career-best 26-goal, 59-point campaign.
Having Schenn duplicate his production from the back half of the season is one way to make this deal look excellent for the Flyers, too.
From Jan. 1 to the end of the 2015-16 campaign, Schenn was among the highest scoring players in the league, posting 19 goals and 44 points in the final 46 games of his season. Schenn tied for the sixth-most points in the league over that span, finishing ahead of players such as John Tavares, Erik Karlsson and Blake Wheeler. And while no one on the Flyers produced nearly enough during the post-season, Schenn tied for the team lead with two points in six games against the Washington Capitals.
It's impossible to call Schenn’s production in the second half anything but impressive, but there might be reason for concern about his ability to recreate his high-scoring ways.
Over the back half of the season, Schenn shot at a 19.2 percent clip and he was 14.6 percent for the season. Barring his first season in Philadelphia, during which he scored 12 goals in 54 games, Schenn had never had a shooting percentage higher than 11.5 percent. He shot between 10.1 percent and 11.5 percent over the three seasons prior to this past campaign, so the uptick to 14.6 percent could stand as an aberration for a player who will continue to be a steady 10-12 percent shooter throughout his career.
The threat of Schenn’s shooting percentage regressing alone is enough to believe he’ll be in tough to recreate his second-half pace over the course of the entire 2016-17 campaign, but there’s also the possibility his 5-on-5 production could be indicative of the type of season he’ll have.
Even with Schenn finishing sixth in points from Jan. 1 to the end of the season, his 5-on-5 totals put him 20th in scoring over that same span. Only 23 of Schenn’s points, 11 goals and 12 assists, came at even strength. That’s still solid production at 5-on-5, but it’s almost half of his point total over the four-month span. Only Joe Thornton had more power play points than Schenn, and him scoring at a nearly point per game pace may require the Flyers’ power play operating as one of the best in the league. During the Schenn’s scoring stretch, Philadelphia was scoring on 20.7 percent of their power plays, good for sixth in the league.
Even if some signs point to a potential downturn in production, though, that Schenn played as well as he did in the second half could have been a sign that he’s finally pieced his game together. Schenn was a fifth-overall pick of the Los Angeles Kings in 2009 and projected to be a consistent scorer at the NHL level when he was dealt to the Flyers in the Mike Richards trade. It’s taken Schenn some years to do so, but he looked at times to have finally hit his stride.
Schenn still has to prove himself and that will be his biggest task in 2016-17. He’s growing with a Flyers team that is hoping to take another step forward after squeaking into the post-season and trying to become an impact player each time he steps on the ice. If Schenn can again flirt with 60 points as he enters into the prime years of his career, this four-year deal could work out incredibly well for both sides.
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