Flyers' defensemen confident despite criticism

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Flyers' defensemen confident despite criticism

VOORHEES, N.J. The Flyers defensemen know what youve been saying about them.

They know you think that, as a group, theyre weaker now than they were heading into last season. Theyre aware of your skepticism as to whether theyll be good enough to give goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov a chance.

But they see things differently.

I like it, Nick Grossmann said of the teams defense as a whole. We got a couple additions in Bruno Gervais and Luke Schenn, and I think it adds a lot of skill and size. I like our group. Theres a few guys who played together last year here, theres still the same core. And these guys, I think its a good addition. Im looking forward to playing with them.

Along with Schenn and Gervais, the Flyers most recently brought in veteran D-man Kurtis Foster to help bolster their blue line. All three are solid acquisitions, but none of them will be the next Chris Pronger or Matt Carle -- two players who were on the active roster entering last season.

You take out a Hall of Famer in Chris Pronger, and Matty Carles a good player, as well, Braydon Coburn said. But we put some good players back in the lineup with Kurtis Foster and Bruno and a young guy, Luke Schenn. I think that gives our defense a pretty solid three pairings.

Theyre three big pairings, as well. With their newest additions, the Flyers now have one of the leagues biggest defensive corps -- the eight blue-liners in camp average out to 6-foot-2 and 219 pounds each.

And lest you worry about their ability to move the puck and assist in coach Peter Laviolettes run-and-gun system, they believe theyre up to the task.

I think weve got pretty good mobility, Coburn said. Our team is an attack-oriented team. Were a team that moves, and weve got guys that can skate. Weve got a good combination of skating and size back there.

Its foolish to suggest the Flyers are better off having not brought in a top-tier defender last summer, but given the short 48-game season and six-day training camp, the teams defensemen do believe they have a leg up over other teams with vastly changed back ends.

Anytime you play with each other before, its going to help out, Grossmann said. You know each other, you know how to read off each other, everyone kind of knows the system. And then these two guys come in and it feels like youre able to play with them thats how you know theyre good guys. Im looking forward to playing here and see what they can bring to the table.

Of course, there are some issues. Andrej Meszaros is working his way back from a torn Achilles tendon, and isnt sure whether hell be ready to go for Saturdays season opener against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Erik Gustafsson, whos shown talent at moving the puck and generating offense, has an ankle injury and isnt attending camp. Marc-Andre Bourdon, who had a breakout season in 2011-12, is suffering from post-concussion symptoms.

There's also a matter of uneven conditioning. Some players, like Kimmo Timonen, haven't played in a game since the Flyers were eliminated from the playoffs last April.

But all that aside, the Flyers' defensemen are a confident group. They've been all business at training camp. And theyve got a message for those who believe that they might not be good enough to help the team be a real contender.

We dont know that yet, do we? Timonen said. Well see how the season gets going. But we got some new guys, we got some young guys. Hopefully we can play good defense and help the forwards and help the goalies.

We have to wait and see.

E-mail Sarah Baicker at sbaicker@comcastsportsnet.com

Source: Flyers sign RW Dale Weise to 4-year deal, add C Boyd Gordon

Source: Flyers sign RW Dale Weise to 4-year deal, add C Boyd Gordon

Is Ryan White being pushed out the door?
 
That could be the case with the Flyers' free-agent signing Friday of depth winger Dale Weise, which a source confirmed. TSN's Bob McKenzie first reported the sides were close, and early Friday afternoon Flyers defenseman Michael Del Zotto welcomed Weise to the team. 

The deal is worth $9.4 million over four years ($2.35 million per year), a source confirmed. 

Weise, 27, is a bigger player than White at 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds. His numbers are similar to White's, who did not re-sign with the Flyers in advance of free agency.
 
That doesn’t mean he won’t, but general manager Ron Hextall may have found his replacement.

The Flyers went into free agency without much salary cap room and were unable to pursue high-end players such as Milan Lucic, David Backes and Kyle Okposo, all of whom received long-term deals averaging $6 million per season.

Hextall said he wanted to add a top-nine player and Weise is just that. This will be his fifth NHL club. 
 
Weise had 14 goals last season — all with Montreal — before being traded to Chicago at the deadline.
 
A six-year veteran, Weise has just 37 goals in 329 games. His 14 goals this season with Les Canadiens were a career-high.

Flyers add Gordon
Later in the day, the Flyers added another depth player with the signing of Boyd Gordon, a 32-year-old centerman, who has been with Phoenix, Edmonton and Arizona over the past four seasons, during which he tallied a total of 20 goals.

Gordon, 32, averaged almost three minutes ice time a game on the penalty kill. Hextall said in the offseason he wanted to upgrade his PK units in terms of personnel and not in coaching. Gordon could very well fit the bill.

He’s also an excellent faceoff man — 57.9 percent last season. 

Ron Hextall on free agency: Flyers hope to get better but 'not at all costs'

Ron Hextall on free agency: Flyers hope to get better but 'not at all costs'

Cautiously optimistic.

That might be the best way to describe how Ron Hextall feels about free agency, which begins Friday at noon.

The Flyers' general manager is going to be very cautious in who he targets, won’t get caught up in a bidding war and is optimistic that he can find the right top-nine player at a fair price and term.

In perfect salary cap world — one in which the Flyers had oodles of money — they would be tempted by L.A.'s Milan Lucic, St. Louis’ David Backes or Boston’s Loui Eriksson.

Lucic, in many ways, is the kind of Flyer-type player the organization covets. But all three of those players are going to command more salary and term than the Flyers can afford, and Lucic appears headed to Western Canada, anyway.

The Flyers need a scoring winger.

They go into free agency with less than $12 million in salary cap space and still have to put aside close to $5 million for restricted free agent Brayden Schenn and $1 million or so for unrestricted free agent Ryan White (see story), a very valuable and versatile fourth-liner who can move around the lineup.

On top of that, Hextall needs about $2.5 million in reserve on his cap for call-ups.

Which means, without losing a contract of say $4.5 million or so, he has at best $4 million to sign a supporting cast player — not an impact player.

“I’d like to upgrade our top six, but I would certainly upgrade our top nine,” Hextall said. “We’re not going to do something that ties our hands next summer. There’s not going to be any short-term vision that doesn’t play out long term.

“I don’t want to get into a spot here where it costs us a young player and we’re forced into a deal.”

A player such as the Isles’ Kyle Okposo would be nicely suited for the Flyers. He’s going to command more dollars than the Flyers have.

So unless Hextall can move a decent-sized contract, the only way to sign an impact free-agent forward would be to gamble and go the CBA-allowed 10 percent over the cap now and hope to get under by October when the season begins.

A number of clubs, including Minnesota and Detroit, are reportedly interested in Okposo and have far more cap space.

Given the conservative approach Hextall has taken so far as GM, it’s unlikely he would go over the cap now unless he absolutely had a deal in hand to move salary.

He tried to trade at last weekend’s NHL draft in Buffalo and failed.

“We didn’t get close to that,” he said.

As it was, there were only a handful of trades during the draft.

“Every time you turn around, someone is trying to trade a pick and you almost lose touch with what is going on,” Hextall said.

“I think the cap being where it’s at kind of restricts things. Guys aren’t easy to move and a lot of teams don’t want to add too much because they can’t afford it.”

This week saw two significant deals leading into free agency involving P.K. Subban and Shea Weber, plus Taylor Hall and Adam Larsson.

And the top pending free agent, Steven Stamkos, re-signed for eight years in Tampa Bay for $68 million.

Don’t be shocked if Hextall waits a few days to see if the market changes for certain players and price tags to come down.

“July 1 is a funny day,” Hextall said. “Now the cap, it’s somewhat flat. Might be some guys out there who are good buys, but that is not going to happen July 1. It’s usually [July] 5th or 10th or 15th when guys figure out there’s not much out there.”

One thing to keep in mind is the Flyers also recognize that defensive prospect Ivan Provorov and forward prospect Travis Konecny could both make the roster this fall.

Such a scenario would add a total of about $1.79 million onto their cap. Hextall has to figure that into the equation, as well.

One player the Flyers had genuine interest in was Hobey Baker Award winner Jimmy Vesey, the unsigned prospect originally drafted by Nashville in 2012.

The Preds traded his rights to Buffalo at the draft and have until Aug. 15 to sign him or Vesey becomes a free agent.

A possible “stopgap” player today for the Flyers would be Toronto’s P.A. Parenteau, a 20-goal guy, who even at age 33, would upgrade coach Dave Hakstol’s offense at a reasonable price.

He’s the kind of bargain player Hextall seems more inclined to target if he can’t move salary for a top-six winger.

“We’re committed to getting better,” Hextall said. “Just not at all costs. At a reasonable cost.”

Shayne Gostisbehere presents Folcroft police officer Christopher Dorman with Flyers jersey

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Zack Hill/Philadelphia Flyers

Shayne Gostisbehere presents Folcroft police officer Christopher Dorman with Flyers jersey

Well done, Shayne Gostisbehere.

Precocious on the ice, the Flyers’ 23-year-old defenseman showed his compassion off it on Thursday by making a special visit to the Folcroft Police Department in Delaware County to meet officer Christopher Dorman.

Dorman last Friday was shot in the face, leg and groin — a total of seven times — as he approached a suspected drug deal in Folcroft. Dorman was discharged from Penn Presbyterian Medical Center on Monday after underdoing multiple surgeries.

Gostisbehere had to meet him.

“When you look at role models — people see hockey players and other athletes, but when you see police officers and firefighters, and you see what he’s going through right now and you see how much of a warrior he is and walking around right now, and it only happened a week ago — he’s pretty amazing,” Gostisbehere said, via Flyers public relations. “And I’m pretty sure kids are going to be looking up to him.”

Gostisbehere brought Dorman his own personalized No. 63 Flyers jersey, representing the Folcroft Police Department 63rd District.

“It’s awesome,” Dorman said. “It’s really good to meet someone like him.”

As for his jersey, Dorman said it’s a “perfect fit!” 

Gostisbehere, in his own Flyers jersey, chatted and took pictures with Dorman and others.

He was just happy to help.

“What he’s been through the last week, I’m pretty sure his world’s been flipped upside down,” Gostisbehere said. “But I wanted to take time out to lift his spirits a bit and get him in some orange and black to make him look really good now.”