Flyers give up lead in shootout loss to Panthers

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Flyers give up lead in shootout loss to Panthers

BOX SCORE

A listless start.

And two wasted power-play chances in the third period in which the best the Flyers could muster was one puny shot.

Twice now, the Flyers have had a chance to piece together a three-game winning streak.

Twice they’ve failed.

All the good vibes from Tuesday’s thrilling victory over Tampa Bay faded into the cold air Thursday night at Wells Fargo Center against a far lesser opponent, as the Florida Panthers won 3-2 in a shootout.

“We need to find a way to show up, especially at home in the first period. It’s huge,” Flyer captain Claude Giroux said.

“We need those points right now and we’re a desperate team at the start of the season, so we need those points.”

They need to stockpile some points before heading to Canada for back-to-back games next week against Toronto and Winnipeg. So picking up at least one was important.

Yet, you don’t want to be looking back in April and seeing how you threw points away against Buffalo, Washington and Florida when they were there for the taking.

Panther rookie Jonathan Huberdeau, age 19, won it during the shootout, the only part of Ilya Bryzgalov’s game that remains poor from a year ago.

“Sometimes guys, you gotta give them credit,” Bryzgalov said of Huberdeau’s backhand/forehand move. “They are skilled and working on some moves.”

Most of the Flyers placed the blame on a tepid opening period.

“I think that has been the story all year,” Matt Read said. “I don’t know what it is or how to fix it, but we have been coming out flat every game.

“Against Tampa Bay it was the first time we came out and we took control after the opening faceoff and we have to learn from that and take it to teams right away.”

Danny Briere said the leadership group talked specifically about building off the Tampa win and not allowing an early letdown against the Panthers, especially in the first period.

“We were a little slow out of the game and gave them the momentum they needed,” Briere said. “Instead of being on the offense, we were on our heels. Maybe if we come out better we jump to a 1-0 lead instead of playing from behind. The first period I’d like to have back.”

How does it happen after such a competitive game two days earlier?

“You play such a high-tempo game with a lot of emotion, it’s tough to come back right away with the same kind of effort,” Briere said. “You see it all the time, everywhere.

“We tried to warn about it -- everybody was talking about it today. Tough to find that jump in emotion.”

The Flyers had some untimely penalties in this one. Like a tripping call on Bruno Gervais near the mid-point of the third period, leading 2-1.

Steven Weiss used what appeared to be a partial screen to go top shelf and tie it. The Flyers had killed off 17 of 18 power plays until that point.

Even then, the Flyers had two power plays in the final nine minutes, yet failed to mount a really serious challenge on Jose Theodore.

That, too, was pivotal.

“We just couldn’t get the pucks to settle down,” Read said. “Both units out there … too much of the puck going along the wall and we couldn’t get it set up. When we did get it set up we weren’t just making the simple plays and getting pucks to the net.

“I think at a time like that when it’s a tie game, late in the game, we’ve got to get pucks to the net and look for rebounds, a dirty goal. It just didn’t happen for us tonight and we have to keep working on that and learn how to close out games.”

Mike Knuble felt the same way.

“The guys on the second unit, myself included, we couldn’t quite get a handle on it, but when things are going your way that’s how you improve your spot in the standings, capitalizing right there, being timely, like a timely goal,” he said.

“Real timely situation for us to score and pull out a win with five or six minutes left. It’s frustrating to not be able to manufacture more. We’ve manufactured a lot in the overtime and had a great overtime and probably deserved a little bit better in that.”

The Panthers had more bite this time as Weiss and Kris Versteeg were back in their lineup. Both were injured during the 7-1 loss to the Flyers on Jan. 26.

Peter Laviolette talked about a carryover of an excellent all-around game, yet that didn’t happen. No energy, no jam, no nothing at the start.

So which was worse? The start or two, wasted third-period power plays?

“Well, I don’t think you want either one of them,” Laviolette said. “You know you want your power play to be effective and there were some good looks, not the ones in the third period.

“And certainly I don’t think it had the same tempo as the second period, parts of the third period and the overtime. The first period in general just seemed quiet. Both sides.”

Jack Skille made it 1-0 at 10:52 on a shot that bounced under Bryzgalov -- a soft goal.

The only redeeming part of the period came at 11:44 when Jakub Voracek tied it with a power-play goal.

He faked ever so short from the right circle, then unloaded into the net off an assist from Kimmo Timonen, who agreed to a one-year contract extension for $6 million on Thursday (see story).

Other than that, nothing that period.

The overall intensity on both sides picked up in the second period as did Bryzgalov’s play. He faced eight shots and most of them were quality in nature.

It also helped that the Flyers took the lead at 2:42 on Read’s fourth goal of the season against Florida.

Credit Knuble for doing some tough digging at the net, standing his ground at the right post, trying to tuck it under Theodore.

The puck squirted out near the circle where Read popped it into the net, making it 2-1.

Bryzgalov had several good saves in the second half of that period, including one on Shawn Mattias and two on Brian Campbell. He also had a nifty shorthanded save on Marcel Goc, as well.

“We had opportunities to get the point and we did not find success,” Bryzgalov said. “Bottom line.”

Loose pucks
The Flyers were 4-7 in shootouts last season. Including this loss, they are 23-42 in 65 shootouts all-time.

Flyers add much-needed depth at forward with Weise, Gordon signings

Flyers add much-needed depth at forward with Weise, Gordon signings

VOORHEES, N.J. – He didn’t get a scorer or even a notable upgrade in scoring.

What Ron Hextall did get, however, Friday as free agency opened in the NHL, were two depth forwards.
 
It won’t do much to help a club that finished 22nd overall in goal production (211), but there was some value in the signings.
 
Dale Weise will replace Ryan White while Boyd Gordon will lessen Claude Giroux’s responsibilities on the penalty kill, in terms of faceoffs and ice time.
 
“Dale adds size, speed and some grit and has good hands,” the Flyers general manager said. “He can score some goals.
 
“We didn’t have the [cap] space to add a top scorer, so we went with depth scoring guys to our top nine. Boyd is more of a role player. Versatile, can play the center or wing. A good penalty killer.”
 
Hextall said if Gordon, who averaged 2:48 PK time with Arizona, can keep Giroux off the ice for defensive draws and such, it will keep the Flyers’ captain fresher and offer a payback offensively. Gordon won 58 percent of his draws in Arizona.
 
“It’s going to help on the offensive end of the ice for Giroux,” Hextall said. “It’s one of those little things that played into our decision.”
 
Weise, who signed a four-year, $9.4 million contract, is a lot like White in terms of tenacity and playing with an edge. He’s played 152 games with both Vancouver and Montreal, but comes here via Chicago.
 
The 27-year-old became White’s replacement when the Flyers failed to come to terms with his agent, Craig Oster, on Friday morning.
 
“We’re gonna move on,” Hextall said. “We took a last run at him this morning. Whitey was a good player for us. We couldn’t find common ground.”
 
Gordon, 32, who is coming to his fifth team, as well, signed a one-year deal worth $950,000. 
 
“It’s the little things when you are trying to win games and the margin of error is so tight,” Hextall said. “It’s hard to score goals. It’s the little things you do that help you win games.
 
“We feel like Boyd is a real character guy, blocks shots, faceoffs, killing penalties and plays hard every night.”
 
Going into free agency, Hextall said his priority was to add some goals via a top-nine player. Neither of these players will add 20 goals combined.
 
“It’s depth,” Hextall said. “We added a guy we feel upgrades one of our lines. That’s important. Dale is capable of scoring goals. He can help chip in and, hopefully, we get more scoring from our top nine.
 
“We would have loved to add a scorer to our top six, but it just wasn’t there. So we’ll go with what we’ve got. We feel comfortable with what we’ve got. We’ve got flexibility with the cap, and we’ve got multiple call-ups if we decided to go that way once the season starts.”
 
Hextall said he’ll monitor free agency for the next two weeks to see if a player drops down into a more reasonable cap fit price.
 
“We’ll monitor the market,” he said. “If something pops up and makes sense, we’ll take a look at it ... We’re probably done.”
 
Hextall still has to re-sign Brayden Schenn plus leave some money left over for the possibility of both Ivan Provorov or Travis Konecny making the roster out of training camp.
 
“We’ll start working on that fairly quickly and you know it will get done,” Hextall said of Schenn’s new contract, which should pay him close to $5 million a year.
 
Provorov and Konecny are “ifs” right now.
 
“I don’t know how any of that is going to play out,” Hextall said. “Kids come in and sometimes, if kids make the team, you have to find ways to manipulate your roster … Those are things that will play out at camp.”
 
Hextall has been trying since before the draft to orchestrate a trade or two to gain more cap space. Mark Streit and Matt Read are likely candidates.
 
“If you add the cap space, you’ve got to fill it prudently,” Hextall said. “So just to have it doesn’t do you a lot of good. Sometimes it’s nice to have the freedom.
 
“We certainly would have looked a little bit harder today if we had some freedom, but we don’t. So we are where we are, and we’re going to manage it.”

Right now, the Flyers have approximately $8.6 million in cap space, according to generalfanager.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

The Flyers have moved on from Ryan White. 
 
The team on Friday signed depth winger Dale Weise, an NHL 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. McKenzie later reported that White will join the Coyotes on a one-year, $1 million deal.

Weise's deal is worth $9.4 million over four years ($2.35 million average annual value), 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.

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.

Flyers general manager Ron 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's one-year deal is worth $950,000. 

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. 

Three minor moves
In addition to adding Weise and Gordon, the Flyers also made three more minor additions. They signed forwards Greg Carey (one-year deal), Andy Miele (one-year deal) and defenseman Will O'Neill (two-year deal). 

Carey, a 26-year-old left wing, last played for the Springfield Falcons of the AHL. In his first full AHL season, he had 26 goals and 43 points. Carey has a two-way deal. 

Miele, a 28-year-old center, most recently played with the Grand Rapids Griffins of the AHL. Last year, he led his team with 62 points (18 goals, 44 assists) in 75 games and had a plus-minus of plus-18. Miele's one-year deal is worth $575,000, with a signing bonus of $25,000. 

"Miele’s a one-way deal," Hextall said. "He’s a depth player for us. Scoring has been an issue for us, so he gives us another option if we feel like we need to score more goals. He’s a skill player and he can score goals."

O'Neill, a 28-year-old defenseman, comes from the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (AHL). He led all defensemen on his team with 50 points last year. O'Neill has a two-way deal. 

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.”