Flyers' free agents: Stay or go?

Flyers' free agents: Stay or go?

This week, we’ll be taking a look back at the Flyers’ season and a peek at what lies ahead. Today, a look at the free agents on the Flyers’ roster and whether or not they will be back with the club.

On Wednesday, Philadelphia Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren was promoted to team president and assistant general manager Ron Hextall was subsequently promoted to the role of general manager to usher in a new era.

Hextall, a first-time general manager, won’t have much time to get his feet wet because he has decisions to make on five unrestricted free agents and five restricted free agents currently on the Flyers’ roster before he can proceed with his offseason plans.

It’s time to take a look at those free agents and whether or not they’ll be back in orange and black sweaters this coming fall.

The players’ respective cap hits from this past season is in parentheses, courtesy of capgeek.com

 

Unrestricted free agents

 

RW Steve Downie ($2.65 million)

Things just never got on track for Downie, who was acquired from the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for Max Talbot on Halloween, during his second stint with the Flyers.

In his first game back with the team that originally drafted him, Downie broke his orbital bone in a fight and missed about two weeks of action. When he returned, he scored just three goals in 51 games. Just one of those goals came after Dec 11 and it was an empty-netter. Things got so bad for Downie that he found himself as a healthy scratch toward the end of the year and then missed the playoff series with the Rangers with what Holmgren called “balance issues.”

When Downie was on the ice, he found himself mostly on an effective checking line with Sean Couturier and Matt Read that drew the opponent’s best players night in and night out. Despite that fact, Downie didn’t prove much so the guess here is that he won’t be brought back.

 

G Ray Emery ($1.65 million)

Many thought Emery would be the Flyers’ starting netminder when he signed with team last offseason. But that was before Steve Mason skyrocketed into goalie superstardom in a way Flyers fans haven’t seen in years.

Still, Emery played admirably well in a backup role as he went 9-12-2 with a .903 save percentage, 2.96 goals-against average and two shutouts. And those weren’t easy games as Emery saw the likes of the Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks, Los Angeles Kings, St. Louis Blues, Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lighting across from him when he started.

The $1.65 million cap hit isn’t a terrible number for a backup who put up those kinds of numbers against that kind of competition. Emery coming back to the Flyers is certainly within the realm of possibility. But it will likely come down to whether or not Emery feels he has a legitimate chance to compete for a starting job somewhere else. The guess here is that he’ll at least get that chance somewhere and go.

D Hal Gill ($700,000)

The now-39-year-old Gill was brought in to be a depth option in case the Flyers needed him. The Flyers didn’t need him much and he played just six regular-season games without registering a point.

After Nick Grossmann was injured in Game 4 against the Rangers, Gill stepped into the lineup in Game 5 and will be remembered for fumbling a pass in the defensive zone that led to a Rangers goal just after missing a wide-open net on the other end.

The guess here is that was Gill’s last hurrah and he walks off into the hockey sunset.

 

C Adam Hall ($600,000)

Hall was a sturdy fourth-line center for the Flyers during the recently-completed season.

The 33-year-old won faceoffs at a 59.4 clip to lead the team and was also an effective penalty killer while mostly playing alongside Michael Raffl. He also added four goals and five assists.

Even though the Flyers are stacked at center and have Scott Laughton on the way, Hall can still be a big help. The guess is that the Flyers figure out a way to bring him back to once again anchor the fourth line, whether it’s at center or on the wing.

D Kimmo Timonen ($6 million)

Let’s preface this by saying 39-year-old Timonen has yet to decide whether or not he wants to return to the Flyers for a 16th NHL season. If he does, it certainly won’t be at the $6 million rate he played for this past season.

Say what you want about Timonen, but he was still the Flyers’ best defenseman last season. It wasn’t fair that he had to be forced into that position yet again due to a lack of pro depth at the position but that’s the way it was. That said he still posted six goals and 29 assists and was still an incredibly effective quarterback on the power play.

If he comes back, he can’t be the team’s No.1 defenseman again. He just ran out of gas at the end of the year. The Rangers skated up and down on him in the playoffs and he just couldn’t keep up.

Timonen can certainly still help the Flyers in a big way but he needs help, whether it comes from outside the organization or one of the kids in the minors is ready to go. If Timonen is ready to accept a deal in the, say, $2 million range, the guess is he’ll be back for one more run at Lord Stanley’s Cup.

 

Restricted free agents (The Flyers have the right to match any offer to one of these players.)


RW Jason Akeson ($750,000)

If you didn’t know who Akeson was before the Stanley Cup Playoffs began, you sure do now after he burst onto the scene against the Rangers with two goals in seven games.

It wasn’t just that Akeson, a rookie who had played just two regular-season games before the playoffs began, scored two goals. He was one of the Flyers’ few offensive threats in the series. He was one of the few Flyers who were making things happen. Plus, he fit it nicely and didn’t skip a beat on the defensive line with Couturier and Read.

He led the Phantoms with 24 goals and granted nine NHL games is a small sample size, but Akeson looks like a keeper. The guess is he stays and starts next year with the big club.

 

D Erik Gustafsson ($1 million)

Some thought the 25-year-old, offensive-minded defenseman would see more than the 31 regular-season and two playoff games he played. But the acquisition of Andrew MacDonald and the Flyers’ relative health along the blue line this past season nullified those plans.

When he did play in the regular season, Gustafsson scored two goals and added eight assists. He also added a goal in Game 6 against the Rangers.

But with kids such as Shayne Gostisbehere likely to challenge for a roster spot in the fall and who the Flyers already have on defense, is there a spot for Gustafsson in Philadelphia? The guess is probably not. Don’t be surprised if the Flyers look to add him into some sort of trade package, whether it’s his negotiating rights or signing him and then trading him.

 

G Cal Heeter ($783,750)

The 25-year-old Flyers’ third-string goalie played just one NHL game – the meaningless season finale against the Carolina Hurricanes – and proved how green he was during the 6-5 shootout loss.

He’s not a viable backup option to Mason at this point. The guess is he’ll be brought back and put in the minors to start for the new Lehigh Valley Phantoms AHL team.

 

LW Tye McGinn ($775,000)

McGinn, a favorite among many Flyers fans for the physicality and grit he brings to the game, totaled four goals and an assist with the big club this season.

But that was before he tapered off from a hot start and eventually lost his roster spot to Raffl. He rejoined the Flyers later on in the season but didn’t impress the coaching staff and a lost playoff spot to Akeson.

The good news is that McGinn is still just 23-years-old, finished second on the Phantoms with 20 goals and the organization likes his style so the guess is he’ll be back but for some more seasoning in the minors.

C Brayden Schenn ($870,000)

And now here’s where things get interesting.

The 22-year-old center posted career highs in goals with 20 and assists with 21 but was very inconsistent throughout the season and even more so in the playoffs where he didn’t score a single goal in seven games.

Holmgren had some pointed comments about Schenn during the then-general manger’s exit interview following the Game 7 loss to the Rangers. He said the two sides haven’t talked about a deal and that Schenn’s lack of consistency from the second-line center spot concerned him.

None of that is good news for Schenn, who was the crown jewel of the Mike Richards trade at the time and not Wayne Simmonds, when you consider Couturier got his bridge deal last year and is a year younger than Schenn. Keep in mind a player with Schenn’s upside could provide a huge return in any sort of trade. Cough *defense* cough.

That said, Hextall’s philosophy is to build from within so the guess is he gives Schenn another chance or two to reach that next level the Flyers would like to see him at. But don’t be surprised if his name becomes popular in the trade rumor mill this summer.

Phillies-Rockies 5 things: Jerad Eickhoff looking for consistency vs. Rockies' potent offense

Phillies-Rockies 5 things: Jerad Eickhoff looking for consistency vs. Rockies' potent offense

Phillies (15-26) vs. Rockies (28-17)
Coverage starts at  6:30 p.m. on CSN; streaming live on CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App

The Phillies return home after a disastrous 2-7 road trip to host the NL West-leading Colorado Rockies in a four-game split.

Jerad Eickhoff gets the start for the Phils and is coming off of his best start in a month, but has a tough matchup vs. the Rockies’ potent offense.

Here are five things to know:

1. Like the old Eick
Eickhoff has been the model of consistency for Phillies pitchers since he joined the club in 2015, with 31 quality starts (six or more innings with no more than three earned runs) in 49 career games. But Eickhoff struggled recently, before regaining his form in his last start at Texas.

In his three prior starts — vs. the Dodgers, Cubs and Mariners — Eickhoff averaged just 4.2 innings per start as his ERA ballooned to 4.76. But the righty seemed to regain his form vs. the Rangers in his last start, a six-inning, two-earned-run outing.

Building off of that step will be a tall task, though against an explosive Rockies lineup.

2. Better hitters than Rocky
The hard-hitting Rockies are coming to town.

Colorado boasts one of the league’s best offenses, ranking fourth in runs scored, 10th in home runs and fifth in extra-base hits. Take the Rockies out of the thin air at Coors Field, and the numbers tell a different story, though. On the road, Colorado drops to 12th in runs, 14th in homers and 10th in extra-base hits. Still solid numbers, but nothing that jumps off the page at you. The Phillies (as bad as they are on the road) have more extra-base hits.

The Rockies are led by Mark Reynolds (yes, that Mark Reynolds), with 12 homers and 39 RBI. Shockingly, Reynolds — who has set the all-time single-season strikeout record in a season — is leading the team with a .323 batting average. 

Just about the only thing you don’t have to worry about with the Rockies’ offense is their speed. The Rockies rank dead last in MLB with just 11 steals on the year. 

3. Not the same old Rockies
Despite the dip in numbers on the road, the Rockies are still 15-7 on the road this season, the second-best mark in MLB, behind only the Astros.

What’s different about this year’s team, unlike years past, is the pitching. This year, they’re a middling staff, which is actually a huge improvement for the club. Last season, Rockies pitchers ranked in the bottom five in MLB in almost all categories: 27th in ERA (4.91), 28th in runs allowed (860) and 28th in opponent batting average (.274), just to name a few.

This year, the Rockies have knocked off nearly half a run per game (4.48 ERA) and rank 13th in the entire league with a .250 opponent batting average. With an offense like theirs, a middling pitching staff could be all the Rockies need to earn a postseason bid.

4. Oh, 'Dubel
What’s happened to Odubel Herrera?

After an All-Star 2016 season, Herrera has been one of the Phillies’ biggest disappointments in 2017. Batting just .236 on the year, Herrera is on pace to easily set a career high in strikeouts (168) and career lows in runs (60) and extra-base hits (39). Not a good look for Herrera after signing a five-year deal to be a building block of the future in the offseason. However, there is hope: In his career, Herrera has increased his batting average, runs scored and OPS each month as the season has gone along. 

5. This and that
•Jeff Hoffman will make a spot start for the Rockies on Monday. He’s the Rockies' third-ranked prospect by Baseball America and has a 4.97 ERA with 32 strikeouts and 19 walks in 10 career MLB games. Batters are hitting .282 off him this season.

•Eickhoff’s numbers have risen with Cameron Rupp behind the plate. With Rupp catching, Eickhoff has a 3.53 ERA as opposed to a 3.13 ERA with Carlos Ruiz catching.

•After a red-hot start to the month, Aaron Altherr has cooled off over the last week, hitting just .231 with more strikeouts (five) than RBI (four). 

NBA Playoffs: Avery Bradley's buzzer-beating 3 lifts Celtics past Cavaliers in Game 3

NBA Playoffs: Avery Bradley's buzzer-beating 3 lifts Celtics past Cavaliers in Game 3

BOX SCORE

CLEVELAND -- Leprechauns are imaginary. Celtic pride is very real.

Avery Bradley's 3-pointer danced on the rim and dropped with less than a second left and Boston, blown out in the first two games of the Eastern Conference finals and playing without star Isaiah Thomas, stunned the Cleveland Cavaliers 111-108 on Sunday night in Game 3 to end the champions' 13-game postseason winning streak.

Bradley's shot from the left wing -- off a play designed by coach Brad Stevens -- bounced on the rim four times before going down. It capped a furious, focused comeback by the Celtics, who trailed by 21 in the third quarter before rallying to tighten up a series that appeared to be over.

"Wide-open look," Bradley said. "Al (Horford) did a great job of getting me open and Marcus (Smart) made a great pass and I was able to knock down the shot."

Smart, who started in place of Thomas, made seven 3-pointers and scored 27 points, and Bradley had 20 for the Celtics, who were given little chance after losing by 44 in Game 2 and then losing Thomas for the rest of the postseason because of a hip injury.

"Everybody had to step up their game tonight especially with one of our brothers down," Smart said. "Our love and support goes out to Isaiah. We wish he could be here but we understand. We just kept fighting. Everybody did their part."

Kyrie Irving scored 29 points, and Kevin Love had 28 for Cleveland. The Cavaliers dropped to 10-1 in the postseason with their first loss since Game 4 of last year's Finals.

Game 4 is Tuesday night in Cleveland.

LeBron James had one of the worst games of his postseason career, finishing with 11 points and six turnovers.

"I didn't have it," said James. "You let a team like that grab momentum you almost knew a shot like that was going in."

Still, the Cavs were in control leading 77-56 in the third quarter after making 14 3-pointers in the first half. But Cleveland got complacent, Smart got hot and the Celtics, who arrived at Quicken Loans Arena on Sunday morning for their shootaround without Thomas and looking somewhat defeated, never gave up.

"We decided were going to go out and play hard, swinging." Bradley said. "We never counted ourselves out."

The Celtics caught the Cavs at 95-all on Smart's 3-pointer and then matched the James and Co. basket for basket in the final minutes in one of the most entertaining games of what has been a mostly boring postseason.

Boston's Jonas Jerebko's baseline jumper put the Celtics ahead 108-106 with 30 seconds left before Irving scored on a drive to tie it with 10.7 seconds left.

Following a timeout, the Celtics perfectly executed a play drawn up by Stevens and worked the ball to Bradley, who found himself open and then calmly knocked down a shot that goes straight into Celtics lore.

For Cleveland, the loss was a wake-up call on their march toward a possible third straight Finals and a seemingly inevitable rematch with Golden State. The Cavs had been playing a glorified game of H.O.R.S.E. with the Warriors, who are undefeated and can complete a sweep of San Antonio on Monday night.

The Cavs hadn't lost since Game 4 of last year's Finals, and they came in tied with the 1988-89 Los Angeles "Showtime" Lakers for the longest winning streak in postseason history.

With Thomas back home, the Celtics could be forgiven for feeling down after Thomas, their inspirational leader was shut down with a hip injury he first sustained in March.

However, Stevens liked his team's energy leading up to tipoff and felt confident they would play hard.

"Our guys are itching to play," he said. "Obviously, we're here for a reason, and we've got tough-minded, competitive guys who have largely been guys that have had to really earn their way up in this league."

They earned their way back into the series.

Tip-ins
Celtics: Stevens said Thomas will visit hip specialists over the next few days and there's a chance the 28-year-old will need surgery. ... Stevens didn't review much of the Game 2 tape, but there's a mental image in his head of the Cavs making tough shot after tough shot that he can't shake. "As good as they are and they are tremendous, that might have been the best game I've ever seen a team play against us," he said. Does that mean college too? "Yeah, I think they would have beaten all those teams, too," he said, drawing laughter. ...

Cavaliers: James came in needing 73 points to pass Michael Jordan as the top scorer in postseason history. ... Cavs coach Tyronn Lue was an assistant in Boston and said his team reminds him of those Celtics teams with Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo. "That was a tight group," he said. "They did everything together, dinners and everything." ... Cleveland is 14-0 when leading a series 2-0. ... Browns defensive end Myles Garrett, the No. 1 overall pick in this year's NFL draft, and fellow rookie Jabrill Peppers took a few shots on the floor before teams came out for warmups.