On March 30, 2021, Shayne Gostisbehere was waived by the Philadelphia Flyers.
Gostisbehere is entering the fourth year of his six-year contract with a $4.5 million AAV, which he signed after becoming one of the league’s best offensive defenders during his first two years in the NHL. But in Philadelphia, things fell apart quickly, and Gostisberger found himself in the press box on numerous occasions. His defensive game leaves a lot to be desired when his offense isn’t going well, and the Flyers need to free up some cap space and move on.
Thankfully, the Arizona Coyotes have no intention of being a competitive team and have enough cap space to bring in Gostisbehere and his big payday. And, boy, did it pay off for all parties involved.
The “Ghost Bear” is known to have scored 23 points in 34 games — 0.68 points per game. That’s the best mark since his 64 and 0.82 points in 2017-18, and comes close to his rookie output when he scored an impressive 46 points in 64 games in 2015-16. And he did it with the Coyotes, averaging just 2.18 goals per game – only Montreal was worse at 2.12. His 23 points were tied for second with Phil Kessel at Arizona, and Clayton Keller was first with 26 in trade rumors for many of the team’s top players.
“I don’t think changing the environment, it’s offensive to his old team, and starting over can really help you sometimes,” Coyotes general manager Bill Armstrong said earlier this week. “From the moment the puck was thrown into training camp, Shane was one of the first people to identify with what we were trying to do.”
Gostisbehere stepped up in Jakob Chychrun’s absence through injury. He went 27:28 with 25:57 on Wednesday against Toronto, an 8-7 wild shootout loss to San Jose and 26:39 against his old club on Dec. 12 play out. Ghostisbehere has six points in eight games with Chychrun out. A defensive role for the first time in years.
Is his performance worthy of an All-Star Game? He made a strong case on a team with few real candidates. But for the Coyotes, they’ve found someone who can give the franchise hope in a season where the only thing they’re after is an early draft pick.
He’s the only Coyote with at least 500 minutes of 5-on-5 action and leads the team’s blue line with a 46.00 percentage. For the most part, his defensive numbers are nothing to get overly excited about, but he played for the only Western Conference team with fewer than 10 wins. What can you expect? Gostisbehere is already amazing relative to the team around him.
The Ghost Bear needs this kind of rebound. After scoring 65 points in 2017-18, he followed suit with 37, 12 and 20 combined while trying to remain a daily contributor to the Flyers. Rumor has it that the team has been on the market for him since 2018, with no luck. However, the Coyotes want to accept some bad contracts, and Gostisbehere’s contract is just enough for them to take it positively and have the confidence to make him an active member of the team’s blue line. That confidence has been transferred to Gostisbehere, who easily played the best hockey of his career.
In moderation, Gostisbehere can be a very useful NHL defenseman. Ideally, you have a more comprehensive blue line to make up for Gostisbehere’s defensive mistakes like Chychrun. But there are rumours that Chychrun is on the verge of going out, and if that ends up happening, Gostisbehere should be the first defender going forward. This could end up being the year that Gostisbehere finally lifts his stock and falls again. Or, maybe, the offensive exploits we saw earlier in his career have returned and he could be a good two-pair defender on a contender with a little cap space.
Either way, it’s great to see him find a new home in Arizona. For all the problems that have popped up at Coyotes this year, Gostisbehere’s low-risk, high-reward pickup is anything but a disaster.