Philadelphia Flyers: Retaining Connor Bunnaman has no downside

(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

On Friday, August 20th, the Philadelphia Flyers announced the signing of one of their restricted free agents, only it’s not the one you probably hoped for.

That’s right, while the Travis Sanheim situation is still headed towards arbitration, GM Chuck Fletcher found some time on a temperate August evening to swoop in and secure a new deal for another one of the team’s homegrown draftees, locking up Connor Bunnaman on a two-year contract.

The deal, which is worth a total of $1.5 million, is a two-way contract in 2021-22 but becomes a one-way deal in 2022-23, when he’ll be six years removed from being the 109th overall pick in the 2016 NHL Draft.

Is this the sort of decade-defining deal that will make fans forget about trading Nolan Patrick for Ryan Ellis? No, I’d venture to say it won’t, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a worthy use of a million and a half dollars over the next two years. If anything, this deal has virtually no downside for the Philadelphia Flyers either now or moving forward.

Connor Bunnaman has plenty of room to grow with the Philadelphia Flyers.

More from Section 215

2018-19 was a banner year for Connor Bunnaman.

He appeared in 62 games for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms and went absolutely off to the tune of 19 goals and 13 assists for 32 points versus only 16 minutes in the box. Bunnaman staked well, had good shot selection, and looked like one of the best players on a team that admittedly wasn’t good enough to make the playoffs but still had some fun moments.

Had Bunnaman built on his debut run with the Phantoms in 2019-20 and in 2020-21, he’d likely be in contention for a spot in the Philadelphia Flyers’ bottom-six right now, but unfortunately, that just isn’t how things shook out for the native of Guelph, Canada.

No, Bunnaman was ultimately limited to 50 games in 2019-20-21 with the Flyers and 29 with the Phantoms – due to a potent mix of injury and natural regression and thus, simply didn’t flash that “it” factor that littered his rookie season tape.

With only one goal to his name regardless of League in 2019-20, it’d be understandable if you wanted to count out Bunnaman as a viable NHLer moving forward; it really would. Even if the Flyers still need someone to step up and fill the shoes of Nolan Patrick, the presence of players like Morgan Frost will likely keep Bunnaman in the AHL for anywhere from some to all of the forthcoming season.

Would that be a bittersweet outcome? No. Honestly, I’d rather see Bunnaman recapture his 2018-19 form and build upon it during his year 23 season than be a fixture at the end of Alain Vigneault‘s bench and play 12-ish minutes a night when he actually dresses. If that happens and Bunnaman can live up to his potential, he’ll surely make his way back to the NHL sooner than later, and if not? Well, the financial commitment to retain his services is rather minimal, so no harm, no foul.

dark. Next. Carter Hart’s contract is just right

After making huge swings during the offseason, investing in a few developmental projects isn’t a bad way to fill out the Philadelphia Flyers’ organizational depth chart. If anything, it might be the only way the team is able to replenish their depth and not fall off a cliff when their aging core can no longer go in the back half of the decade. Now, if only Chuck Fletcher would figure out the Travis Sanheim situation before things get ugly.