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?

Eagles Stay or Go Part 6: Taylor Hart to Donnie Jones

Eagles Stay or Go Part 6: Taylor Hart to Donnie Jones

In the sixth of our 12-part offseason series examining the future of the Eagles, Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro give their opinions on who will be and who won't be on the roster in 2017. We go alphabetically — Part 6 is Hart to Jones.

Taylor Hart

Roob: No matter how hard the Eagles try, they just can't get rid of Taylor Hart. Chip Kelly drafted Hart in the fifth round in 2014 and then Hart began last season with Kelly in San Francisco before reappearing here later in the season. Hart is going into his fourth NFL season and has 15 games, 12 tackles and no sacks to show for it. He turns 26 next month and has never shown any signs of being a guy who can contribute in a 4-3 defense. I’m going to say he goes, but don't be surprised if he finds his way back onto the roster at some point. 

Verdict: GOES

Dave: Hart was with the Eagles last training camp but cut him on Sept. 4 and he was claimed by the 49ers and Chip Kelly. Then when the Niners cut him, the Eagles claimed him back and he spent the rest of the season watching the Eagles play football. He was inactive in all but the last game and in that one he didn’t play. Hart is a former fifth-round pick who just fits better in a 3-4. The Eagles already played undrafted rookie Destiny Vaeao over him, so it’s time to set him free. 

Verdict: GOES

Jordan Hicks
Cap hit: $796K

Roob: Whenever you blast Chip for getting rid of Shady, DeSean and Jeremy Maclin, you have to mention that he did draft Jordan Hicks in the third round. Hicks, in just 24 games, has become one of the most productive playmaking linebackers in Eagles history. With seven interceptions, he already has the 11th-most interceptions in franchise history by a linebacker, and he led all NFL linebackers with five INTs this past season. Only four linebackers in NFL history have had more interceptions in their first two seasons – Hall of Famer Jack Ham is one of them. But Hicks is more than a ballhawk. He’s a smart, heady linebacker who is stout at the point of attack and is already developing into a terrific locker room leader as well. The future is certainly bright for Hicks.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: He just finished his second year in the NFL, but Hicks is quickly becoming one of the biggest playmaking linebackers in the league. Through the first 24 games of his career, he has seven interceptions. In his first two years, he has 7 INTs, 4 FRs, 1 FF. He’s the fifth player in NFL history to do that in his first two seasons and he’s the only linebacker. That said, Hicks needs to get better against the run and he knows it. Now that he won’t have an injury to heal from this offseason, he plans on hitting the weight room to get stronger and better at stopping the run. He looks like a cornerstone of the franchise. 

Verdict: STAYS

Malcolm Jenkins
Cap hit: $7.5M

Roob: Jenkins had another good year in his third season with the Eagles, although not quite up to his Pro Bowl level of 2015. Jenkins, who turns 30 late next season, is on the books for another four years with some pretty high cap figures — $7.5 million in 2017, then $10 million, $9.75 million and $9.25 million. But as long as Jenkins continues to play at a high level, I don’t see him going anywhere until after the 2018 season at the earliest, when he would count just $3 million in dead money if he’s released. But Jenkins is a guy you'd like to see finish his career in Philly. Hope that happens. 

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: It’s hard to quantify just how much Jenkins means to the Eagles or how much he’s worth. But it’s a lot. The last two seasons have been the best of his career and he’s shown no signs of slowing down. The best Jenkins stat is this: He’s missed just eight defensive snaps since arriving in 2013. Unreal. If the Eagles chose to play him at cornerback last year, he would have probably been their best one. 

Verdict: STAYS

Lane Johnson
Cap hit: $10M

Roob: If he goes, it’ll be because of a third positive drug test. Johnson’s play in the six games he was available to the Eagles was at an All-Pro level. But after two positive tests for banned substances and suspensions of four games in 2014 and 10 games in 2016, he’s now one positive test away from a two-year ban that would essentially end his Eagles career. My gut feeling is Johnson has learned his lesson and won’t take any more chances. That he understands what’s at stake here and isn’t going to risk his career by taking a supplement that hasn’t been pre-tested and cleared. Obviously there are other reasons the Eagles were 5-1 when Johnson played. Those five wins included games against the hapless Browns and Bears and a win against a Cowboys team that wasn’t trying to win. But that said, Johnson’s value is clear. He's a beast. It’s up to Johnson whether he becomes a Pro Bowl offensive tackle or a casualty of the NFL’s substance abuse regulations. I can’t imagine he’ll make the same mistake again.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: A lot was made about Johnson’s suspension voiding the guaranteed portion of his contract. And for a week or so, a bunch of fans were calling into talk radio saying the Eagles should cut him. That was laughable. Johnson is still the Eagles’ best offensive player and as long as he stays on the field and plays the way he did in 2016, he’s going to make most of the money in his contract. He obviously deserves plenty of blame for the way last season went, but he’s a big piece of the future. One more suspension and his career is basically over, so the Eagles just have to hope he doesn’t ruin everything.  

Verdict: STAYS

Marcus Johnson

Roob: Johnson is an interesting guy. Ran a 4.37 so he has wheels, but he didn’t have much of a career at Texas. Then again, Texas didn’t have a legit quarterback while he was there so maybe there’s a lot of untapped potential. The Eagles are so desperate for help at wide receiver they’ll take a good long look at everybody on the roster, even a guy who bounced off and on the practice squad last year. This Longhorn is a longshot to make the roster, but then again, if he catches the football consistently in training camp he’ll give himself a fighting chance.

Verdict: GOES

Dave: The receiver was with the Eagles during training camp and flashed some before getting hurt. He joined the practice squad during the season and was there at season’s end. He’ll be brought to camp but is a longshot to make the roster. 

Verdict: GOES

Donnie Jones
Cap hit: $1.25M

Roob: At 36 years old, the greatest punter in Eagles history (sorry Mat McBriar) showed no signs of slowing down. In his 13th NFL season, Jones averaged 45.8 yards per punt with a 40.7 net – both above his career highs. The most amazing thing about Jones is his knack for dropping punts inside the 20 without hitting very many touchbacks. He had 21 inside the 20 this year with just six touchbacks, and in four seasons with the Eagles he has 117 inside the 20 with just 26 touchbacks. When you don’t have an explosive offense, field position is critical, and Jones is a human field position flipping machine. The Eagles signed him to a three-year extension this year, and he’s now under contract through 2019.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: At times during the last two seasons, Jones has looked like the offense’s best weapon. That’s not a good sign for the offense, but it is for Jones. He’s already the best punter in team history. He’ll be 37 by the time the 2017 season starts, but he just signed a contract and will be the team’s punter for at least a couple more years if everything goes to plan. 

Verdict: STAYS