*90s science music starts blasting in the background*
Narrator, in the deepest voice possible: PHIL MY, THE FLYERS GUY!
PHIL! PHIL! PHIL! PHIL! PHIL MY, THE FLYERS GUY!
The Philadelphia Flyers take care of their final offseason to-do item, signing restricted free agent defenseman Phil Myers to a 3-year deal. The 23-year old’s contract carries a $2.55 million cap hit. Myers will still be a restricted free agent (with arbitration rights) when the deal expires in 2023. From an actual dollars standpoint, the deal is heavily backloaded (unsurprising because of the pandemic); Myers will make $1 million actual dollars in 2021, $2.2 million in 2021-22, and $3.8 million in 2022-23.
This was always the most likely outcome for Myers and GM Chuck Fletcher. With how long the wait was for this deal, there was some thought the Flyers may try to sign Myers to a long-term deal. And doing so would have made some sense. Myers is very young and has been one of the top d-prospects in the league for a long-time.
How Did Myers Arrive at This Point?
That’s despite going undrafted; after signing an entry-level deal with the Flyers in 2015, Myers exploded for 45 points in 63 QMJHL games. He followed that season up with 35 points in just 34 games in 2016-17, making Team Canada for World Juniors. After two strong AHL seasons, Myers made his NHL debut on February 17, 2019. He played 21 games in 2018-19, registering a goal and an assist.
A disappointing 2019 training camp saw Myers start last season in the AHL. But after a dominant month, Myers was re-called, this time for good. Myers put up 16 points in 50 games (a 26-point pace in a full 82-game season) despite receiving no power-play time. And while I don’t know what his Dangerous Adjusted Fenwick is, Myers performed well by advanced stats that actually exist. Fifty-percent is considered average for Corsi and Expected Goals For; Myers delivered a strong 51.43% Corsi and 50.34% xGF at 5-on-5 in 2019-20. He was also a play-driving beast for the AHL’s Lehigh Valley Phantoms, registering a gaudy 65% High Danger Chances and 59.89% Corsi in his brief AHL stint this year, proving to be far too good for that league.
Myers’ playoff performance was a little disappointing. His pairing with 24-year old Travis Sanheim performed well in the round robin and first round against Montreal. Though he delivered a memorable OT winner in Game 2 against the Islanders, that series was a massive struggle for the duo. Myers was gashed for an ugly 43.37% xGF in the playoffs, though he somehow graded out positively in goal differential.
Performance vs. Potential
But you don’t need numbers to see how special Phil Myers could be, and already is. Just watching the kid play shows why Flyers fans are so excited about the young blue-liner. Right-handed defensemen are at a premium in today’s NHL. And not players at any position who are 6’5’’ can skate and move the puck like Myers can. His imposing frame leads to physical dominance and incredible recovery ability. Countless times opposing forwards looked like they had Myers beat, only to watch him reach back at the last moment and steal the puck in the end.
Additionally, with the surprise retirement of Matt Niskanen, Myers is a prime candidate to start 2021 on the top-pair with Norris darkhorse Ivan Provorov. He’s the best right-handed defenseman the Flyers have, and though there are left-handed options like Travis Sanheim that could play the right, Myers is certainly a strong contender for the role. He has the highest upside of any non-Provorov Flyers defenseman thanks to freakish athleticism and tremendous puck skills.
Conservative vs. Commitment
So why not commit long-term? Well for starters, Myers’ power-play time isn’t going to increase any time soon. Provorov, Sanheim, Shayne Gostisbehere, and new-comer Erik Gustafsson are all ahead of him on the PP pecking order. All except Gustafsson are under team control for at least three more years. That puts a cap on Myers’ point potential; he’ll be hard pressed to clear 30 without man-advantage time, despite his amazing skill.
Naturally, Myers also isn’t a finished product. While he does have an incredible skillset, Myers obviously isn’t perfect. Sometimes his aggressiveness comes back to bite him, and his decision making (especially in the defensive zone) isn’t always sharp. Myers won’t be able to physically dominate the NHL the same way he did in junior.
Myers is also light on experience. He has just 71 regular season and 16 playoff games under his belt. The most obvious comparable for Myers is fellow Flyers defenseman Travis Sanheim. After all, Sanheim is just a year older than Myers and went through the same process last summer, signing a 2-year deal at $3.25 million per. But as of that signing, Sanheim had 131 NHL games. Sanheim wasn’t just a hypothetical Provorov partner on the first pair; the duo played 912:06 together in Sanheim’s first two seasons. Provorov and Myers? Just 74:48 5-on-5 minutes together, the 26th most common Flyers pairing over the last two seasons; Provy-Sanheim was the second most common in the latter’s first two years (per Natural Stat Trick).
The Bottom Line
Simply put, is there isn’t much precedence for defensemen with Myers’ resume to sign long-term coming off their ELC. Using CapFriendly’s contract comparison tool and filtering by age, games played, and points, none of Myers’ 50 best comparables signed a deal longer than his. And the few defensemen in Myers’ spot that have signed long-term either had significantly more games played or averaged significantly more time-on-ice. Oh, and none of them were signing in a flat-cap world where cap space and actual dollars are at a premium.
Phil Myers’ contract is another feather in Chuck Fletcher’s cap. Since arriving as GM in December 2018, Fletcher has signed eleven RFA contracts, and all have been great deals. There isn’t a single overpayment in the bunch, and his two long-term deals to Provorov and Travis Konecny look like steals one year in. Myers’ contract gives them short-term certainty on their right side, and sets the player up for a pay-day in 2023 when the world is normal if he reaches his potential. Playing alongside Provorov would be a nice help, but regardless, Phil Myers is an exciting player with gobs of raw potential that he’s just beginning to harness.
Follow us on Twitter!