Cross one big name off the Flyers’ to-do list regarding restricted free agents.
On Monday, general manager Chuck Fletcher announced he has signed defenseman Travis Sanheim to a two-year contract which will pay him $3.25 million annually.
“We are very pleased with the progress Travis has made in his young career,” said Fletcher. “He is a skilled, two-way defenseman with excellent size and mobility. He is a big part of our present and our future.”
Sanheim, 23, recently completed his second NHL season. He appeared in all 82 games, picking up nine goals and 26 assists for 35 points while averaging 19:34 of ice time, one second shy of a full four-minute increase in average time on ice from his rookie season.
“I’m obviously really excited,” said Sanheim, the Flyers’ first-round pick (17th overall) in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. “It’s a big step in my career. I’m looking forward to another two years with the Flyers. I’m really excited with the way the team’s moving forward and the moves we’ve made this summer.”
Sanheim’s 2018-19 season took off over the final 51 games, a timeframe which saw him average 21:39 per game and collect 25 of his 35 points for the season. Sanheim played 21 or more minutes on 30 occasions from Dec. 18 through the end of the season, including eight games of 24 minutes or more after Dec. 31.
The Flyers showed more confidence in Sanheim last season and that feeling is reflected in the new contract.
“To be able to sign a two-year deal and have that trust. . .they want me to be a part of the team,’’ Sanheim said. “Now I have to put the work in and prove to them I’m worth that.’’
Sanheim turned professional in 2016 after completing a three-year career with the Calgary Hitmen of the Western Hockey League. He spent the 2016-17 season with the Flyers’ American Hockey League affiliate, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, where he had 10 goals and 27 assists for 37 points in 76 games.
He made his NHL debut in the 2017-18 season opener on Oct. 5, 2017 in Los Angeles.
In 131 career games for the Flyers, Sanheim has 11 goals and 34 assists for 45 points.
He’s optimistic about the Flyers’ future.
“I think our goal is the playoffs, for sure,’’ he said. “Now it’s up to us as players that with the moves Chuck has made, we’re capable of making that next step.’’
The Flyers have already upgraded their defense with the trades for Matt Niskanen and Justin Braun. There’s a good chance Sanheim might be paired with one of those two veteran players.
“It (upgrade) shows that he (Fletcher) sees us as a team that can compete for the Stanley Cup,’’ Sanheim said. “I think it shows the trust, that he’s willing to make those moves. Now we have to do the work.’’
The Flyers still have restricted free agents Ivan Provorov and Travis Konecny to sign but getting Sanheim resolved is a step in the right direction.