As much as it was important for Sean Couturier to achieve job security in his hockey career by signing a new eight-year, $62-million contract extension on Thursday, other factors affecting his future were equally significant.
It’s been a decade since Couturier was acquired by the Flyers after his draft rights were secured in a trade with Columbus and over that time he’s come to appreciate all Philadelphia has to offer.
As he pointed out in a media Zoom call on Friday, this is where his daughter was recently born and that, as much as anything, is a good reason to call this home.
He says he’s looking forward to playing in a Flyers uniform for many years to come and likes the idea of possibly finishing his career here.
“For me, I’m happy to be in Philly,’’ Couturier said. “I began my career here as a teenager pretty much. Now I have a daughter that was born there. For me and my family to call the next nine years Philadelphia home is nice.
“I’m just excited about the team we have now and in the future. It should be a couple fun years.’’
Only Hall of Famers Bobby Clarke and Bill Barber, plus defenseman Jimmy Watson, have started and finished their careers in Philadelphia.
It would be nice if Couturier could add his name to the list.
“There were a number of factors (for the contract) and that was one of them,’’ Couturier acknowledged. “I came to Philly at 18 years old and now I’m 28. The fans have always treated me well and let me grow into the person I am. I have a lot of respect for them. I’m just happy to get this deal done, try to help this team win and bring a championship to Philly.’’
And there’s a possibility Couturier could one day pass Clarke as the team’s longest-tenured Flyer of all time list.
“It would be 18 or 19 years,’’ Couturier said. “You don’t really see that much anymore. Obviously it would be an honor. I’ve always loved Philly, the ups and downs and to be here for the next nine years is going to be fun and exciting for me and my family and hopefully we can get a championship in the next couple years here.’’
Clearly, Couturier didn’t want contract talks to drag into the season and become, as general manager Chuck Fletcher pointed out on Thursday, a possible distraction.
It didn’t sound like Couturier was too worried, though. He’s never gone into a “walk year’’ with the Flyers possibly because they’ve thought so highly of his talent.
“It was important for me to have this guaranteed contract going into next year,’’ Couturier said. “But whatever would have happened, I was going to play hard this year and do whatever I could for the team. I’m obviously really happy to get this done and be part of the Flyers for the next decade pretty much.’’
Although the Flyers have missed the playoffs five of the past nine seasons, Couturier indicated he’s confident recent moves by Fletcher have put the team back into contention. Two seasons ago, the Flyers came within one game of reaching the Eastern Conference finals.
“All the moves Chuck made, we have a good group,’’ Couturier said. “A good mix of young and older guys. I think we’re a team that’s ready to win. . .for a couple years.’’
Couturier looks to have a bounce-back season this year. Two years ago, he won the Selke Trophy as the NHL’s best defensive player but dropped off a bit last season and was not a finalist.
Playing with new veterans such as Cam Atkinson, Rasmus Ristolainen, Ryan Ellis and Keith Yandle should help the process.
“This reminds of my first year in the league when there were a lot of changes,’’ Couturier said. “Mike Richards and Jeff Carter got traded and we brought in a bunch of guys, I was one of those guys. . .Jake (Voracek), ‘Simmer’ (Wayne Simmonds), ‘Schenner’ (Brayden Schenn).
“A lot of big names left but a lot of new players came in. There was a lot of excitement and it feels the same way now.’’