Defenseman Signing Day: Flyers ink MacDonald to big-money extension, Gostisbehere to entry-level deal

Defenseman Signing Day: Flyers ink MacDonald to big-money extension, Gostisbehere to entry-level deal

Sure, the Stanley Cup Playoffs start for the Philadelphia Flyers in two days and all, but there was some pretty interesting news out of Flyerland today that had nothing to do with the upcoming series with the New York Rangers.

The news actually involved contracts for defensemen that have generated a ton of chatter lately.

First, the Flyers announced this morning that they signed Andrew MacDonald to a six-year, $30 million contract extension.

You read those numbers correctly. MacDonald just got paid and in a big, big way.

When the Flyers acquired the 27-year-old from the New York Islanders in exchange for two draft picks on March 4, Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren almost immediately made his intentions of resigning MacDonald, who was set to be an unrestricted free agent at season’s end, known to the world.

So the extension should come as no surprise.

The numbers, though, are a bit high but those shouldn’t come a surprise, either.

The reality today in the NHL is that puck-moving defensemen like MacDonald are so coveted that they can get almost any dollar amount they command because teams are so desperate for their services. The fact is that MacDonald likely would have gotten a deal of equal or even higher value on the open market.

So while it may be an overpay by the Flyers, it very well could also be market value.

And let’s be honest, he’s a way more solid option on the third pairing than Andrej Meszaros, who the Flyers subsequently traded to the Boston Bruins a day after acquiring MacDonald, or Erik Gustafsson.

He’s helped somewhat stabilize the Flyers’ most glaring weakness.

Since joining the Flyers, MacDonald has four assists in 19 games while mostly playing on the third pairing with Luke Schenn.

In the end, they locked up the guy they always wanted.

And now on to the signing has you all giddy with excitement like little kids on Christmas morning.

The Flyers also announced today that they have signed Union College defenseman, and apple of Flyers fans’ eyes, Shayne Gostisbehere to an entry-level contract.

You may remember Gostisbehere, a Flyers’ third-round pick in the 2012 entry draft, from the recent Frozen Four - which was held at Wells Fargo Center - when he tore up both Boston College and Minnesota en route to leading his team to a national championship.

In that Frozen Four, he posted a goal, four assists and was plus-7 en route to being named the tournament’s most outstanding player.

In the title game against Minnesota, he scored goal, recorded two assists and was plus-7.

Plus-7 in a championship game against the nation's No. 1 team ain’t too bad.

The kid is an offensive machine from the blue line and, if all goes according to plan, should quarterback the Flyers’ power play in the very near future.

Sorry to burst your bubble, but that very near future won’t be this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs.

According to CSN’s Sarah Baicker, Gostisbehere would have had to been on the Flyers’ reserve list by the trade deadline and signed by the end of the regular season to be eligible for the playoffs.

Instead, the 20-year-old, who scored 22 goals and recorded 60 assists in three years at Union, will report to the Phantoms and play three games with them until their season ends this weekend. Afterward, he’ll join the Flyers but just as a member of the team’s playoff practice players, also known as “the black aces.”

And that's probably for the best.

The college game is a whole different world than the NHL pro game. Let him get his feet wet with a couple AHL games and then some NHL practices instead of just throwing him into the fire of the Stanley Cup Playoffs against a hated rival.

This way, he can start fresh at camp in the fall and try to earn his way on to the squad.

After that, who knows where the kid’s talent will take him?

But, for now, let’s just focus on getting a win at Madison Square Garden, shall we?

No. 16 Villanova vs. No. 23 Albany: With or without Bednarczyk, can Wildcats rebound?


No. 16 Villanova vs. No. 23 Albany: With or without Bednarczyk, can Wildcats rebound?

No. 16 Villanova (5-2, 3-1) vs. No. 23 Albany (4-2, 1-2)
Villanova Stadium, Villanova, Pa.
Saturday, 3:30 p.m.

Fresh off a rare loss, Villanova looks to get back on track during its homecoming game against another nationally ranked foe. Here’s a look at the matchup:

Scouting Villanova
The Wildcats saw their five-game winning streak snapped in resounding fashion as they were shut out for the first time since 2004 in a 23-0 loss to Richmond. Sophomore quarterback Zach Bednarczyk left the game in the second quarter with an injury, a big reason why the Wildcats finished with just 222 yards of total offense. But despite the final score, Villanova’s defense played well again with Austin Calitro and Rob Rolle each hitting double digits in tackles. The unit is ranked fifth in the FCS in scoring defense (16.3 points per game) and sixth in total defense (237.9 yards per game) and has scored four defensive touchdowns.

Scouting Albany
After winning their first four games, the Great Danes lost their next two, a 36-30 triple-overtime heartbreaker to Richmond followed by a 20-16 setback to Maine. Sophomore quarterback Neven Sussman led Albany with 187 passing yards and 75 rushing yards. But for the season, their offensive strength has been with sophomore running back Elijah Ibitokun-Hanks, who’s second in the CAA in rushing, averaging 105 yards per game. Albany’s defense is only behind Villanova in points allowed per game (19.3) in the CAA, but interestingly enough is last in total defense (420.2 yards per game). The Great Danes lead the league in turnover margin (plus-15), led by linebacker Michael Nicastro and safety Mason Gray with three interceptions apiece.

Series history
Villanova has only played Albany twice, beating the Great Danes, 48-31, in 2014 and steamrolling it, 37-0, last season. 

Storyline to watch
The big question going in is whether Bednarczyk will play with Villanova saying it will be a game-time decision after the QB suffered a concussion last week. If he can’t go, Adeyemi DaSilva will get the start in his place after replacing him in the second quarter vs. Richmond. DaSilva is a promising player but Bednarczyk was coming into his own this season and his absence would naturally be a difficult one. Of course, the Wildcats have been through this before with Bednarczyk taking over as the starter last season when star John Robertson went down with an injury of his own.

What’s at stake?
Villanova still has a chance to win the CAA but probably can’t afford a second loss in the league. And of course, there’s nothing better than winning in front of a homecoming crowd.

A lot depends on whether Bednarczyk can play … but even if he doesn’t, the Wildcats’ dominant defense may be enough to get the job done. 

Villanova 20, Albany 17

Anthem singer at Sixers-Heat game kneels during performance

Anthem singer at Sixers-Heat game kneels during performance

MIAMI — A woman performing the national anthem before an NBA preseason game in Miami on Friday night did so while kneeling at midcourt, and opening her jacket to show a shirt with the phrase "Black Lives Matter."

The singer was identified by the Heat as Denasia Lawrence. It was unclear if she remained in the arena after the performance, and messages left for her were not immediately returned.

Heat players and coaches stood side-by-side for the anthem, all with their arms linked as has been their custom during the preseason. Many had their heads down as Lawrence sang, and the team released a statement saying it had no advance knowledge that she planned to kneel.

"We felt as a basketball team that we would do something united, so that was our focus," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "Throughout all of this, I think the most important thing that has come out is the very poignant, thoughtful dialogue. We've had great dialogue within our walls here and hopefully this will lead to action."

The anthem issue has been a major topic in the sports world in recent months, starting with the decision by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick to not stand for its playing. Kaepernick cited racial injustice and police brutality among the reasons for his protest, and athletes from many sports -- and many levels, from youth all the way to professional -- have followed his lead in various ways.

"All I can say is what we've seen in multiple preseason games so far is our players standing for the national anthem," NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in New York earlier Friday, at a news conference following the league's board of governors meetings. "It would be my hope that they would continue to stand for the national anthem. I think that is the appropriate thing to do."

The NBA has a rule calling for players and coaches to stand during the anthem.

Heat guard Wayne Ellington often speaks about the need to curb gun violence, after his father was shot and killed two years ago. He had his eyes closed for most of the anthem Friday, as per his own custom, though was aware of Lawrence's actions.

"At the end of the day, to each his own," Ellington said. "If she feels like that's the way she wants to stand for it, then more power to her."

Making a statement in the manner that Lawrence did Friday is rare, but not unheard of in recent weeks.

When the Sacramento Kings played their first home preseason game earlier this month, anthem singer Leah Tysse dropped to one knee as she finished singing the song.

Tysse is white. Lawrence is black.

"I love and honor my country as deeply as anyone yet it is my responsibility as an American to speak up against injustice as it affects my fellow Americans," Tysse wrote on Facebook. "I have sung the anthem before but this time taking a knee felt like the most patriotic thing I could do. I cannot idly stand by as black people are unlawfully profiled, harassed and killed by our law enforcement over and over and without a drop of accountability."