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.

2017 NBA draft prospect watch: Jayson Tatum lights up Virginia, Wake Forest

2017 NBA draft prospect watch: Jayson Tatum lights up Virginia, Wake Forest

We're have just a few weeks left in the college basketball regular season, so everyone is looking for a big win. Or in the case of a top prospect, a big performance to show all the scouts.

Let's take a look at whose stock rose and whose fell this week among eight top freshmen.

Jayson Tatum, forward, Duke (6-8/204)
America is finally seeing the Jayson Tatum that was highly touted coming into his one-and-done stint with the Blue Devils. The move to power forward has ignited his game and helped catapult Duke in its seven-game winning streak. His line Saturday against Wake Forest — 19 points on 6 for 11 shooting, 3 of 5 from three, and seven rebounds — was pretty good and he made some clutch free throws to clinch the win.

But can we talk about his Virginia game? Seriously, this may be the gem of his college career. Tatum's Blue Devils were held to just 21 points (he had seven of those) by Virginia's stingy defense in the first half. So what does he do? Score 21 by himself in the second half to lead the Blue Devils past a top-15 team. He had 28 points on just 13 shots, making 6 of 7 from three while adding eight rebounds, a block and a steal. He had a 7-0 run by his lonesome that put Duke up for good. He's likely a three at the next level, but Tatum displayed all the tools to be an effective three while dominated at the four, a much-needed boost for the soon-to-be top-10 Blue Devils.

Lauri Markkanen, forward, Arizona (7-0/225)
The three-point shooting slump isn't quite done yet for the Finnish freshman, but at least he's found his scoring touch again. Markkanen had a pair of double-doubles in Wildcat wins this week over Washington St. and Washington, all while only making 1 of 6 from beyond the arc. He's now just 4 for 19 from three in his last five games, a slightly worrying stretch that has brought his three-point percentage down to 46.5 percent.

Still though, he didn't fail to produce in 68 minutes combined over a three-day span. First, he had 19 points and 11 rebounds vs. Washington St. in a 78-59 win, his first double-figure rebounding effort since his last game vs. the Cougars. He then came through with 26 points and 13 rebounds against Washington in a 76-68 win. He was able to hit some jumpers but also competed inside, making his way to the free-throw line nine times and making eight from the stripe. It's certainly encouraging after some lackluster showings over the last two weeks.

Markelle Fultz, guard, Washington (6-4/195)
After missing two games last week with a knee injury, Fultz came back fully healthy with a pair of nearly identical performances. On Thursday, the impressive freshman shot 7 for 16 from the field, 2 of 6 from three, and had 19 points to go with four assists during an 83-81 loss to Arizona State. Two days later, he shot, get this, 7 for 16 from the field, 2 of 6 from three, in the loss to Arizona. He did make to the charity stripe more often (make 10 of 15 from the free-throw line) and finished with 26 points and six assists.

In the defeat, Fultz still played 38 minutes and scored or assisted on over 55 percent of the Huskies' points. Sure, he had four turnovers, but when you have the ball in your hand as often as he does, it's bound to happen. It's a pretty good idea of what he'll be doing for a team that finds itself at the top of the lottery this year. He showed off every part of skill set — shooting, getting the rim, finishing, etc. — Saturday and nearly led the 9-18 Huskies to a win over the No. 5 team in the country.

Lonzo Ball, guard, UCLA (6-6/190)
Most players don't dominate a game while taking the fewest shots among his team's starters. Most players aren't Lonzo Ball. Ball messed around with a triple-double while taking just nine points Saturday night, coming up just short with 15 points, eight rebounds and eight assists for the Bruins, who beat USC, 102-70.

Three teammates scored more points than Ball, but that's in part thanks to how well he spreads the ball and runs the offense. His maturity doesn't just come on offense. He's also solid on the defensive end, in part thanks to his 6-6 frame at point guard.

Malik Monk, guard, Kentucky (6-4/185)
Kentucky's catalyst keyed the Wildcats to two more wins this week as they extended their win streak to four. Monk was his normal volume shooting self in the two games against Tennessee and Georgia. He took a total of 31 shots, up from 30 over two games the week before. While he made just 10 of the 31 attempts, the formula seems to be working because the Wildcats keep winning.

He had 20 points with four threes and eight rebounds in a blowout win over Tennessee. The more impressive effort came with worse stats in the road victory against Georgia. He made just 3 of 11 but got to the free-throw line for 11 attempts and got it done for Kentucky in other ways, notably five assists and three steals. Monk has been labeled an offense-only guard, so the trio of steals are a welcome sight. How he'll defend ones and twos at the next level will be a real defining challenge for him.

Quick Hits
• Florida State lost consecutive games and forward Jonathan Isaac was relatively quiet, scoring 15 points on 14 shots over the two games. He had just three free throw attempts yet still reeled in 12 rebounds and had four blocks.

• Kansas' Josh Jackson provided 16 points on 14 shots Saturday, as the No. 3 Jayhawks defeated No. 4 Baylor. Jackson, by making his only attempt vs. the Bears, is up to 35.3 percent from three.

• NC State fired its coach this week, but that didn't stop Dennis Smith Jr. from being his normal self. In a pair of losses to ranked teams, Smith had 43 points, nine assists and seven rebounds combined.

Now a country music artist, ex-Phillie Brett Myers hopes to play in Philly

Now a country music artist, ex-Phillie Brett Myers hopes to play in Philly

Much like he was on the mound, Brett Myers is giving everything he has to create a name for himself in the music industry. And he is doing it by being his "own man." 

Unlike the mainstream pop-country that appears in your head when you think of the genre, Myers has set out to be different. When asked about the country music of today, Myers does not agree with the direction it is going. His first album, "Backwoods Rebel," describes the former Phillies’ starter and his music accurately — rebellious and unconventional. Myers’ music is country with a twist of rock but holds back from the mainstream pop country of today. 

“They kill it, don’t get me wrong,” Myers said this week in a phone interview with CSNPhilly.com. “But it’s not my cup of tea. Every song is about a girl and sitting on a tailgate. I think it is pop country that is out now. Country music is about songwriting and storytelling. I see these guys like Luke Bryan singing these songs, and I see they have six guys write the song. I mean, does it really take six guys to write a song? That frustrates me because I am a singer and songwriter. I live in this world. I don’t live in their fairytale world that they are singing about. 

"I think a lot of people want to listen to their music because it takes them away from their everyday life. But I want to write about everyday life stuff. I can only write about what I know and what I’ve seen. I don’t feel like this country music stuff we listen to today really grasps real-life stuff like country music is supposed to be.” 

For the last two years Myers has dedicated himself to this craft and produced two albums — he is working on his third. At first, it was strictly writing and no singing. The former pitcher was convinced to sing and now has the itch to play in front of live audiences.  

The end goal: get back to the City of Brotherly Love. 

“My main priority this year is to play a couple shows in Philly,” Myers said. “That’s all I want to do is play a show at the Fillmore or one of those venues they have in Philly. I know half the people there would come to watch me suck. And the other half would come to see me (do well). That’s the way Philly is and I am perfectly OK with it. I would enjoy it.”

The misconception with Myers’ post-retirement career is most people do not see it as a serious endeavor. He wants to clear the air. Myers is as serious as it can be when it comes to his music, but he still hasn't had the chance to play in a big venue in Philadelphia. 

He has played a few shows in Florida — his home state — but knows Philadelphia is his best chance to validate his music career. 

“The two shows we’ve done, I can tell you we don’t suck,” Myers said. “I got two guys from ‘Puddle of Mudd’ in the band. An original member from ‘Shinedown’ in the band. These guys have platinum records on their walls. And I think to myself, 'Why would they be a part of this if they thought it sucked?'"

He does not want a promotional team behind him; instead, he wants to go against the grain and make it in the industry on his own. 

“Twitter, Instagram, try to do some podcasts here and there,” Myers said. “My buddies have a syndicated radio show that I go on and put my music on. A couple people in Philly have written articles about when I first came out with my album. Good or bad.

“With the second album, I didn’t get the same publicity as the first because it wasn’t a shock. So not many people know it’s been out since August. I am working on the third one now, but this is why I need to play live (for more publicity).”

As he did with baseball, Myers doesn’t do this because he wants to make money. He loves it.

“I’m not going to do it if doesn’t make sense," he said. "Because I’m doing it for nothing. I’m putting my own money into this thing, but my band is not going to play for free. If I can make enough money to pay them and pay for our expenses. I don’t care if I make a dollar out of this.

“I want to create my own genre. Meaning I am southern rock and country, that’s how I classify my music. I don’t just say, 'Yeah I’m a country music artist’ or whatever. Because I know I am not mainstream country. That’s what people think country is right now, pop country. I don’t offer that and I never will. I don’t believe in selling out to make a dollar. I’m writing this for me and people who want to enjoy it.”

Country music and his children have his full attention these days, which makes it is hard for Myers to keep up with his old team. He did offer some words about the front office dealing with the young players and how there is always a chance the Phillies could surprise people in this season. 

“Honestly I don't know what their clubhouse personalities are so I really couldn't tell you if they have the same similarities," he said. "But you know, we were that young team coming up. It took us a while to figure it out, but Pat Gillick and his team put together a great group of personalities with a good mixture of young talent and veterans.

“I wish them the best, but you never know what the season has in store for anyone. Teams look good on paper then can't perform on the field. That's what makes baseball so great you never know what's going to happen. It's just so unpredictable.”