Laviolette revamps Flyers' lines in hopes of improvement

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Laviolette revamps Flyers' lines in hopes of improvement

NEWARK, N.J. -- Two games into the season, Scott Hartnell squarely put tonights game against the Devils in perspective after two Flyer losses to open the year.

We cant makes excuses anymore, Hartnell said. Were in a little bit of a hole right now to start the season and special teams have to step up tonight.

A Game 3 must-win? Division opponent? Absolutely. These games early. Two points are two points whether Game 3 or Game 40. I think we have to change our attitude like this is a game to get us in the playoffs.

We're looking for a little bit of a spark. It's not like we werent getting chances, but I think switching things up will get everyone a fresh start.

Coach Peter Laviolette completely revamped his lineup, changing all four lines.

I think when you find success, you tend to leave things alone, and when youre not getting the success you want, you change, Laviolette said.

Even offensively, 5-on-5, it needs to be a little better. Were at the early stages; we didnt have any exhibition games, so were trying to look at lines and combinations and see where were at.

Jakub Voracek will replace Brayden Schenn on the top line with Hartnell and centerman Claude Giroux.

Sean Couturier is between Ruslan Fedotenko and Matt Read. Rookie Scott Laughton centers Max Talbot and Eric Wellwood.

Schenn will center rookie call-up Tye McGinn, who he played with exclusively this season with the Phantoms, and Wayne Simmonds. McGinn is replacing the injured Zac Rinaldo (see story).

The big move is Voracek on the first line.

I think theyre two totally different players, Hartnell said. Brayden's a big body who can skate well, protects the puck well. Nothing against Brayden, but I think Jake's got a little bit more speed, especially down the wing.

I think that'll open up some free space for G to get some time with the puck to make plays.

Voracek predicted recently that whatever lines the Flyers began the season with would likely change.

Obviously, I'm going to play with one of the best players in the league, Voracek said. It's exciting. G holds the puck most of the time. He carries it through the neutral zone, so I just try to get some speed wide. We'll see how it's going to go.

The Devils ran the Flyers out of the second round of the playoffs in five games last spring. Dont think that hasnt been on the Flyers minds.

You always think about prior games in a building when you go into an away building, Hartnell said. They really took it to us.

They didn't give us anything in that series. I don't know if you call this game payback, or however you want to word it, but definitely that's gotta be a burr under our butts to play well.

The rookie
Its not often a call-up finds instant familiarity, but it works with McGinn because he played so many games with Schenn.

Weve played almost half a season together and I know what he likes to do out there and hopefully he knows what I like to do and we can contribute to each other out there, McGinn said. Its a bonus for me.

I was just hoping to get the call one day. I was ecstatic to get a call this early.
You never want to see an injury from anybody but to get the call, I was happy. I just tried to do what I can do.

I try to be a power forward. A big body out there going to the net. Bring a big presence out there. Hopefully, score a couple goals and do what I have to do to help the team win.

This will be his NHL debut. McGinn is the younger brother of former Flyer Jamie McGinn, now with Colorado.

Laviolette acknowledged familiarity helps both Schenn and McGinn in putting them on the same line.

I know he and Brayden played down in the minors together and they are comfortable with each other, he said.

I think when players get called up, you need to try to put them into positions where their role fits them. Hes a guy whos a big power forward; hes capable of offense and physical play, and we want to try to put him in a situation where we can utilize him.

Schenn said the adjustment to McGinn should be easy.

Hes a second year pro and hes going to get a chance to play in the NHL so Im excited for him and Im sure he will do well, Schenn said.

We played probably 28 games together. It took a while to get adjusted but after that, you get familiar with a guy and know what hes going to do on the ice and where he is going to be. For me and him playing down there, its going to help us.

Defensive change
Newly-acquired defenseman Kurtis Foster will not play tonight.

That mean Bruno Gervais will make his Flyer debut, playing alongside Andrej Meszaros.

Foster has some minor bruises and could play, if necessary, but the club felt his situation offered them a chance to play Gervais and see what he brings.

Gervais was a free-agent signing this past summer.

It's been a long wait, a couple extra months, so finally I'll get back in action and I'll be fun, Gervais said.

I want to get in the mix as fast I can. I have to be ready, and tonight I have an opportunity.

General manager Paul Holmgren called Gervais absence a maintenance day.

Loose pucks
Danny Briere skated but is not expected to play until this weekend against either Florida or Tampa Bay. ... Briere skated with healthy scratches Tommy Sestito and Jody Shelley at the morning skate.

E-mail Tim Panaccio at tpanotch@comcast.net

Ron Hextall sees benefit in Brayden Schenn's 'market deal'

Ron Hextall sees benefit in Brayden Schenn's 'market deal'

Expensive at the start, cheaper at the finish.
 
That’s how Flyers general manager Ron Hextall views the four-year, $20.5 million contract he gave Brayden Schenn on Monday morning to avoid salary arbitration (see story).
 
Hextall admitted the club is overpaying up front on the deal, but believes it got a “fair” number for the final two years, when Schenn would have become an unrestricted free agent.
 
“We took a higher cap hit for the first two years and essentially a lower hit than we would have taken in Years 3 and 4 if we piece meal it together,” Hextall said.
 
Hextall said he was walking into the 9 a.m. Toronto hearing with agent Don Meehan already deep in a conversation on a deal but prepared to go through with arbitration.
 
Both parties asked arbitrator Elizabeth Neumeier for additional time and completed the contract by 9:45 a.m.
 
Schenn, a restricted free agent, turned down the Flyers’ two-year offer of $4.25 million for this coming season and $4.369 million in 2017-18. That averaged to $4.3 million.
 
His new contract averages $5.125 million.
 
“The benefit for us is our cap number stays flat for four years rather than having have a cap at a lower number, then taking a run at him for two years, if in fact he’d sign for two years at a higher cap number,” Hextall said.
 
Hextall denied he was concerned he might get whacked in arbitration. Yet Schenn has had just one very good season in five years as a Flyer. That was last season with 26 goals and 59 points.
 
Hextall described Schenn as a player who has been “average” in his development, yet has improved in the subtle “intricacies” of the game such as finding open spots, avoiding shot blocks and coming cleanly across the blue line without turning the puck over.
 
Schenn’s true market value is closer to what New Jersey’s Kyle Palmieri, a 25-year-old right winger, signed earlier this month: a five-year deal worth $23.25 million with an AAV of $4.65 million.
 
Then again, St. Louis’ Jaden Schwartz signed a five-year, $26.5 million deal with a $5.35 million AAV. That’s above market value.
 
Meehan originally sought an AAV of $5.5 million for Schenn. In arbitration, it’s likely the Flyers would have received a two-year award in the middle of both numbers.
 
“Nothing really concerned me [about arbitration],” Hextall said. “We had a range and in the end our range was close to what Brayden’s camp felt the range was. Both sides had a range on a two-year deal.

“It’s a market deal. ... Brayden has been a good player. Top-six forwards are hard to find and there’s a premium to pay. There’s no question we paid a premium for a top-six forward who's 24 years old and essentially coming into his prime.”
 
While Hextall labeled Schenn a top-six forward, he tap danced around whether he sees him as a “core” player for the Flyers, even though this makes him the third highest-paid forward behind Claude Giroux ($8.275 million) and Jakub Voracek ($8.25 million).
 
“What is a core [player]?” Hextall asked. “That’s arguable. ... What we do know is Brayden is a very good young player who is getting better and we hope he continues to get better.”
 
This signing leaves the Flyers with just $1.38 million in salary cap space, but with 14 forwards, the club will lose at least one by the end of training camp.
 
Thinking ahead, Jordan Weal could be sent to the Phantoms, shaving $650,000 off the cap. That’s the most likely option for the Flyers, but not their only option.
 
Scott Laughton, whose role was diminished by a strong presence from Nick Cousins, is a lesser possibility. His cap hit is $863,333.
 
Losing either of those two salaries would provide the Flyers over $2 million in cap space.
 
Schenn’s contract lacks a no-trade/no-movement clause that he would have been eligible for starting in 2018-19. He turns 25 in August.
 
The Flyers have one more arbitration to settle: defenseman Brandon Manning on Aug. 2.

Flyers, Brayden Schenn agree to 4-year contract

Flyers, Brayden Schenn agree to 4-year contract

In the end, the Flyers blinked and avoided arbitration Monday morning by overpaying Brayden Schenn with a four-year, $20.5 million contract.
 
The contract leaves the club in a precarious salary cap situation, as the Flyers have just $1.38 million in space now, according to generalfanager.com.
 
The 11th-hour settlement saw the Flyers and Schenn’s agent, Don Meehan, avoid arbitration, which was set for 9 a.m. in Toronto.
 
Meehan was seeking a deal worth $5.5 million for Schenn, who was a restricted free agent.
 
The one Schenn signed will average $5.125 million, according to a source, which still seems excessively high for the 24-year-old, who has had just one excellent season in five full years in the NHL, excluding two partial seasons with the Los Angeles Kings.
 
Schenn had his most productive year last season with career-highs in goals (26), assists (33) and points (59), while showing he could play wing on Claude Giroux’s line with Wayne Simmonds.
 
The Flyers and Schenn were more than $1 million apart going into Monday morning with no progress having been made over this past weekend.
 
Why general manager Ron Hextall didn’t risk the arbitration process remains unanswered. The contracts of some players in comparable situations favored a settlement less than what the Flyers agreed to.
 
The Flyers had offered Schenn a two-year deal that would have paid him $4.25 million this coming season and $4.369 million in 2017-18. That’s an average of $4.3 million.
 
New Jersey’s Kyle Palmieri, a 25-year-old right wing, signed a five-year deal earlier this month worth $23.25 million. His AAV is $4.65 million. That’s the figure the Flyers could have gambled on getting from an arbitrator.
 
They may have been scared away from going through with the arbitration because of the five-year, $26.5 million deal fellow RFA Jaden Schwartz signed with St. Louis earlier that carried a $5.35 million hit.
 
Hextall was not immediately available for comment.
 
TSN’s Bob McKenzie first reported the financials of the contract.

Flyers and Brayden Schenn to go to arbitration

Flyers and Brayden Schenn to go to arbitration

Barring an 11th-hour settlement, the Flyers will go to arbitration on Monday against swing forward Brayden Schenn.
 
The hearing is slated for 9 a.m.
 
The two sides are more than $1 million apart with no progress having been made over this past weekend.
 
“We will probably go to arbitration,” Don Meehan, the agent for Schenn, said Sunday.
 
Flyers general manager Ron Hextall seemed to concur.
 
“I’m not overly optimistic,” he said about avoiding arbitration.
 
Defenseman Michael Del Zotto filed last summer but signed without going to a hearing.
 
The 24-year-old Schenn is the highest-profile Flyer to get this far without signing since John LeClair back in 2000. He received $7 million — the highest one-year award ever.
 
By filing on July 5, Meehan assured his client will get a contract. The Flyers’ qualified Schenn, who earned $2.75 million last season, on June 30.
 
He is a restricted free agent, who could earn close to $5 million a season on his next deal. And that’s the sticky part.
 
Sources said the Flyers offered a two-year deal that would pay Schenn $4.25 million this coming season and $4.369 million in 2017-18 (see story). That’s an AAV of $4.30 million.
 
Meehan wants $5.50 million, which is excessively high given Schenn’s seven-year career thus far.
 
At the same time, if you look at the some of the RFA signings this summer, as Meehan surely has, the comparable numbers would suggest Schenn is worth slightly more than what the Flyers have offered.
 
Two examples here: New Jersey’s Kyle Palmieri, a 25-year-old right wing, signed a five-year deal earlier this month worth $23.25 million. His AAV is $4.65 million. That’s the correct ballpark for Schenn.
 
Schenn had his most productive year last season with career-highs in goals (26), assists (33) and points (59) while proving he can play the wing on Claude Giroux’s line with Wayne Simmonds on the right side.
 
Palmieri had career-highs as well in goals (30), assists (27) and points (57).
 
Problem is, the other end of the spectrum, where Jaden Schwartz of the St. Louis Blues sits.
 
The 24-year-old center recently signed a five-year, $26.5 million deal as an RFA with an AAV of $5.35 million. That’s far higher than Hextall wants to go with Schenn at this point.
 
A fractured ankle and subsequent surgery ruined Schwartz’ past season (33 games played), but Blues’ general manager Doug Armstrong looked at what Schwartz accomplished two years ago — career-highs with 28 goals, 35 assists and 63 points – and used that as a barometer for the future.
 
That deal hurts the Flyers here with Schenn.
 
Hextall’s offer suggests the Flyers want Schenn to prove he’s a $5 million player, which means show the Flyers 30 goals and 70 points this season.
 
Schenn finished second in goals to Simmonds (32) and third in points behind Giroux (67) and Simmonds (60) last season.
 
The arbitrator should be able to locate a fair medium. Expect Meehan to ask for a one-year award only.