After inking Erik Karlsson to a huge extension, the San Jose Sharks were going to need to move out some salary. Today they’ve done just that, as Justin Braun and his $3.8MM cap hit is on his way to the Philadelphia Flyers. The Sharks will acquire a 2019 second-round pick and a 2020 third-round pick in exchange for the veteran defenseman. Braun is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent next summer.
Braun becomes the second defenseman the Flyers have acquired this month, after flipping Radko Gudas to the Washington Capitals in exchange for Matt Niskanen. More changes very well could be coming for Philadelphia, who now have six defensemen on one-way contracts with Ivan Provorov and Travis Sanheim still to sign. For now though, the acquisition of Braun gives the team another more experienced player to pair with some of their younger defensemen and give them quality minutes on the back end.
The 32-year old just completed his sixth consecutive season averaging more than 20 minutes a night with the Sharks, serving as a counterbalance to some of the team’s more offensive blue line options. Braun recorded more defensive zone starts than any other defenseman on the San Jose roster, and logged more short-handed ice time than anyone not named Marc-Edouard Vlasic. That kind of play responsible effort will be welcomed, though there are certainly warning signs of decline from Braun. After reaching a career-high in points during the 2017-18 season with 33, the veteran defenseman dropped back down to just 16 in 2018-19. That included just two goals and poor possession statistics, something the Flyers will hope he rebounds from when given a different opportunity in Philadelphia.
For San Jose, this was a necessary move to open enough room for their summer plans. After inking Karlsson to an eight-year, $92MM contract yesteday the team found itself with $26.5MM of cap space dedicated to just three defensemen. Something needed to go in order to have room to sign restricted free agents Kevin Labanc, Timo Meier and Joakim Ryan. Getting a pair of draft picks, one of them relatively high, was an ideal outcome for a team that needed to dump salary somewhere. Obviously Braun isn’t a worthless player, but the team was in a tricky situation and had to decide how to wiggle their way out before getting into real negotiations.
There is also the presence of Brenden Dillon, who is heading into the final year of his current contract and may be a candidate for an extension at some point. Dillon is just 28 and seemed to fit in well alongside Karlsson during the 2018-19 season, registering a +19 rating and matching a career high with 22 points. If the Sharks had to pick one of Braun or Dillon to keep around, it made sense to retain the left-handed, younger player.