Existing no-movement clauses could be new Flyers general manager Ron Hextall's biggest obstacles this summer

Existing no-movement clauses could be new Flyers general manager Ron Hextall's biggest obstacles this summer

With the immediate aftershock of the latest in recent string of disappointing early playoff exits now in the rearview mirror, new Flyers general manager Ron Hextall surely has jotted down a checklist of things he’d like to accomplish this summer.

Obviously, jotting down an offseason checklist of things is completely different than accomplishing the things on that offseason checklist. There will be plenty of obstacles along the way.

And perhaps the biggest of those obstacles will be the existing no-movement clauses in the contracts of current Flyers whom Hextall may want to move via the trade route.

Those players specifically are forwards Vinny Lecavalier and Scott Hartnell and defensemen Braydon Coburn and Nick Grossmann. The latter two have modified no-movement clauses that say they can negate a trade to certain teams while Hartnell and Lecavalier have full no-movement clauses.

The only other Flyers with any sort of no-movement clauses are Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds and Chris Pronger. Pronger won’t be coming off long-term injury reserve any time soon and it’s pretty safe to say Giroux and Simmonds will be wearing orange and black for quite a long time.

Let’s start with Lecavalier, whose name has been bandied around the rumor mill since the Flyers’ season ended a few weeks ago.

It’s not that Lecavalier’s goal-scoring numbers were disappointing. 20 goals is a real solid year no matter how you look at things. The problems were that Lecavalier fell out of favor at times with head coach Craig Berube, lost his second-line center spot to Brayden Schenn and dropped to the fourth line before seeing his ice time slashed in the playoff series against the Rangers.

His $4.5 million cap hit is a lot for a guy basically without a spot to play in the lineup. Hextall will have to work around the 34-year-old’s no-movement clause and the fact that his cap hit remains steady at $4.5 million for the next four seasons may scare some teams off.

The story is much the same for Hartnell.

Hartnell is very much a useful player, as evidenced by his 65 goals over the past three seasons. But he’s just not the kind of player Giroux and Jake Voracek need playing with them on the first-line wing. They need a polished finisher. A sniper, some would say.

Hartnell is an integral part of the team and locker room but would fit better on a lower line where his physically grinding skillset could excel. But his $4.75 million cap hit for the next five seasons is second only to Giroux among forwards.

This isn’t to say Hextall has any intention of trying to move Hartnell. But with a team that needs that big-time scorer on the wing, has depth at the position on other lines and in the minors along with desperate blue line needs, not to mention resigning Brayden Schenn – an issue of importance, apparently, - freeing that $4.75 could be an attractive option for Hextall to at least try.

As mentioned above, both Coburn and Grossmann have limited no-movement clauses. In layman’s terms, neither player can be traded to certain teams without their approval. Usually, a player with this kind of clause will be asked to submit a list of teams he’d be willing to go to or not willing to go to if a trade seems imminent.

We’ve grown accustomed over the years to what Coburn brings to the ice. The longest-tenured Flyer, Coburn can look like unbeatable some nights while using his great speed for a big man to his advantage. Other nights he can look completely lost and look like he doesn’t know what to do with the puck, much like he looked during the entire seven-game series against the Rangers.

Add that into a $4.5 million cap hit for the next two seasons and that makes him a possible target of Hextall’s trade endeavors.

Grossmann is what he is. He’s a big defenseman that is going to wallop opposing players and block a ton of shots. He isn’t going to put up points or skate up and down the ice. And that comes with a $3.5 million cap hit for the next two seasons.

With Luke Schenn the only other real bruiser on the blue line, Grossmann wouldn’t seem to be at the top of the Flyers’ trade list but no one outside of Hextall knows for sure.

Remember, both Mark Streit and Andrew MacDonald have cap hits of over $5 million on the blue line for the next few years, Kimmo Timonen has yet to decide on his future and Shayne Gostisbehere and Sam Morin are lurking in the wings just waiting on their chances to impress.

Another thing to keep in mind here is that the cap is rising to approximately $71.1 million for next season. That’s just under $7 million more than this season’s $64.3 million cap limit.

That also means that the cap floor will rise. TSN reported during this past regular season that the floor will likely rise from $44 million to $52 million.

Add a little bit here, carry the one over there, multiple here – come on, you can put it together – and that means teams will have to spend to reach that cap floor.

As of this writing, all but 12 teams have a cap number under $52 million. That’s kind of skewed because that doesn’t count the unsigned unrestricted and restricted free agents for each team. But you still get the point.

And that point is that with teams that will be forced to spend this summer, which might make it a tad bit easier for Hextall to move some of those higher salaries mentioned above, if he can get those players to agree to waive those clauses.

Either way, we’ll find out soon enough what the man who tended the Flyers’ net for parts of 11 seasons has in store as he molds the team in his own vision.

Marlins to acquire SP Andrew Cashner from Padres

Marlins to acquire SP Andrew Cashner from Padres

MIAMI -- The Miami Marlins acquired the pitching reinforcements they sought in a trade that cost them four players, including two minor leaguers.

Right-handers Andrew Cashner and Colin Rea were sent to Miami by the San Diego Padres in a seven-player deal, two people familiar with the deal said. They confirmed the trade to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Friday because it will not be announced until medical reviews are completed.

The Marlins, eager to shore up their rotation for a playoff push, will also receive pitching prospect Tayron Guerrero for right-handers Jarred Cosart and Carter Capps and two minor leaguers, pitching prospect Luis Castillo and first baseman Josh Naylor.

Cashner is 4-7 this year with a 4.76 ERA in 16 starts, and has a career record of 30-49 with a 3.73 ERA in seven seasons. Rea, who is in his second major league season, is 5-5 with a 4.98 ERA in 19 games this year.

Cashner has a $7.15 million contract and becomes a free agent after this season. Rea, 26, has a salary of $510,200 and is under team control through 2018.

The prize in the deal for the Padres might be Naylor, 19, a left-handed power hitter taken by the Marlins in the first round of the 2015 draft. He is batting .269 with nine home runs this year for Single-A Greensboro.

Cosart went 13-11 in 2014 with Houston and Miami but has struggled since. This year he's 0-1 with a 5.95 ERA in four starts with the Marlins, and 3-4 with a 4.09 ERA in 10 starts for Triple-A New Orleans.

Capps, a hard-throwing reliever, underwent Tommy John surgery in March and is expected to be ready for opening day 2017.

The Marlins are in contention for their first playoff berth since 2003 despite a shaky rotation. Aside from ace Jose Fernandez, their starters are 23-24 with an ERA of 4.40.

Miami's rotation was further depleted last week when left-hander Wei-Yin Chen went on the disabled list because of a sprained elbow. Cashner and Rea will join Fernandez, Tom Koehler and Adam Conley.

The trade is the second between the teams this summer. In June, the Marlins acquired All-Star reliever Fernando Rodney for a minor league pitcher.

Sproles has two good years left, wants to retire an Eagle

Sproles has two good years left, wants to retire an Eagle

As Darren Sproles walked through the Eagles’ indoor practice bubble early Friday morning, shortly after signing a one-year contract extension, head coach Doug Pederson met the Pro Bowler with a big hug and a bigger smile. 

Then, Sproles took a few steps farther and began to return faux punts, flashing the same quickness and ability he's shown the NFL for over a decade. 

As training camp is well underway, this will be Sproles’ 11th NFL season. In a sport and position where 30 is the wrong side of the hill, the 33-year-old running back found another payday, in an extension that is reportedly worth $4.5 million. Despite a limited role in the Eagles’ offense last year, he’s gone to back-to-back Pro Bowls as a returner and doesn’t appear finished yet.  

How many good years does he have left? 

“Two,” Sproles answered. “This year and next year.”

Does that mean he’s going to retire after the 2017 season? 

“We gonna see,” he said. “We gonna see.”

Sproles was drafted in the fourth round in 2005 by San Diego, where he spent the first six years of his career. From there, he had three electrifying years in New Orleans before joining the Eagles and Chip Kelly before the 2014 season. 

The dynamic weapon wants Philly to be his final stop. It’s important for him to finish his career with the Eagles because he loves his teammates, he said. His new deal might make that possible. 

“A lot. A lot,” Sproles said when asked what the extension meant to him. “When I’m done playing I’m gonna be an Eagle.”

Sproles, you might remember, skipped the voluntary portion of the Eagles’ offseason this spring for what was termed a family matter. On Friday, he said his absence had nothing to do with his contract, although the two sides had been working on it for a while. 

What does it say, that the Eagles gave him this much money, at this point in his career? 

“I got some tread on the tires,” Sproles said. 

“When you talk about leadership, work ethic, character and then production, he’s made the last two Pro Bowls, he exemplifies everything we want to be,” vice president of football operations Howie Roseman said. “As we look at it, he’s so important to this team on and off the field, it was a no-brainer from our prospective.”

Last season, Sproles was frustrated by his role in Kelly’s offense. He was still productive as a returner – taking two more punts back to the house, four in two seasons – but on offense, wasn’t as dynamic. As a rusher his yards-per-attempt dropped drastically from 5.8 to 3.8 from his first to second year as an Eagle.

Aside from that, he just wasn’t involved as much in the gameplan. In 2016, he had 26 fewer rushing attempts than 2015 and 15 fewer receptions. 

Sproles thinks his role will be different under a new coaching staff headed by Pederson. 

“We got a couple of things up our sleeve,” Sproles said. 

With two more seasons in Philly, Sproles can continue to climb up some all-time lists. His 17,903 all-purpose yards rank 11th in NFL history. His 10,889 kick and punt return yards rank seventh in NFL history. And his nine career return touchdowns rank sixth in NFL history. 

Two more good years, he said. 

“I tell you what, anytime, in my opinion, that you can have a playmaker like Darren Sproles and you can keep him locked up for a couple years, it makes you feel good,” Pederson said. “I’m just so happy for him and his family and the work that Howie put it to make sure this thing got done. Just so excited to have him here and look forward to working with him in this training camp and obviously during the season.” 

And one more season after that.

Phillies-Braves 5 things: New-look middle of the order settling in

Phillies-Braves 5 things: New-look middle of the order settling in

Phillies (47-57) at Braves (35-67)
7:35 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet

Fresh off Thursday's 7-5 win at Turner Field, the Phillies will try to get a win streak going when they battle the Braves on Friday night in the second game of a four-game set in Atlanta. Let's take a closer look at the matchup with five things to know before first pitch.

1. Power alley
When your offense is slumping this season, there's nothing like a trip to Atlanta to face the MLB-worst Braves to get your bats going again. That's just what happened to the Phils on Thursday night at Turner Field.

After scoring just five runs total during their three-game series in Miami earlier this week, the Phillies exploded for seven runs in the first five innings against the Braves on Thursday before holding on for the victory.

Sure, the Braves are terrible, to put it bluntly. But there's no way to not be encouraged by how the middle of the Phillies' order produced on Thursday. The 3-4-5 hitters - Maikel Franco, Tommy Joseph and Aaron Altherr - combined to go 6 for 14 with six RBIs. That includes a homer from each player.

Altherr is the key here. His wrist injury cost him the first 102 games of the season. Yes, just one game of his 2016 season is in the books, but he'll be locked into one spot in the middle of the order for the next little bit as the Phillies will want to see if he can produce like he did toward the end of last season when he hit five homers and drove in 22 runs in 39 games. If Altherr can produce, the Phils will have a legitimate middle of the order for the first time in what seems like forever and will allow Franco and Joseph to see more pitches as opposing pitchers won't have the option to work around them anymore.

No better way to for this new-look middle of the lineup to settle in than with four straight games against these Braves.

2. Vince on the road
Let's take a quick, bare-bones look at Vince Velasquez's numbers this season.

He's sporting an 8-2 record with a 3.34 ERA. Pretty good, right? Right.

But let's take a deeper look at his numbers, more specifically, his road numbers. Away from Citizens Bank Park this season, the 24-year-old flamethrower is 4-1 but has a 4.89 ERA. The record is great, but the ERA, well, not so much. His ERA at home this season is a razor-thin 1.50.

In his last start, Velazquez labored through six innings, giving up four runs while throwing 107 pitches in a 5-4 loss in Pittsburgh last week. It was a continuation of a road trend for Velasquez this season that sees him throw a ton of pitches in a limited amount of innings. In nine road starts this season, Velasquez is averaging 92 pitches in just over five innings per start.

He's only averaging just over two walks in his road starts, so location hasn't been too much of an issue. But teams are averaging just under seven hits a game against Velasquez on the road. An average of seven hits against in five innings a game is a lot.

Velasquez has to start putting hitters away on the road. Facing a Braves offense that's tied for second-worst in the majors (with the Phillies and Rays) with a .240 average could be a good way to get back on track.

3. Hello again, Mr. Jenkins
Friday night's matchup in Atlanta marks the second time the Phillies will see Braves starter Tyrell Jenkins this season.

Jenkins, a 24-year-old righty who was a first-round compensatory pick of St. Louis in 2010 and then was acquired by the Braves in the 2014 deal involving Jason Heyward and Shelby Miller, made his first career start when he took the hill at Citizens Bank Park on July 6. In that game, Jenkins gave up a run in 4 2/3 innings pitched. He only threw 64 pitches, but the Braves didn't want to overwork him because he had pitched out of the bullpen in his previous five appearances. The Phillies went on to win that game when Freddy Galvis hit a go-ahead homer in the bottom of the eighth inning.

He's a ground-ball pitcher known for having a fastball in the 92-95mph range. He'll be looking for his first big-league win on Friday night. Last time out, he was shelled by the Rockies when he gave up seven runs in 3 1/3 innings at Coors Field. Not many have a nice Coors Field debut.

4. Keep an eye on...
Phillies: Let's go with Cody Asche. With Andres Blanco and Peter Bourjos both now on the disabled list, Asche could be the most tradeable Phillie not named Jeremy Hellickson as we inch toward the Aug. 1 non-waiver deadline. That fact comes even more into focus as Nick Williams continues to tear the cover off the ball in Triple A while starting the majority of the last few weeks in left field (see this week's Future Phillies Report), which just happens to be where Asche plays. But Asche isn't doing his trade value any favors lately as he's hitting just .100 (4 for 40) with two RBI since the All-Star break.

Braves: There isn't much to write home about when it comes to these Braves, but Freddie Freeman continues to burn Phillies pitching. In 104 career games against the Phils, Atlanta's first baseman is batting .297 with 13 homers and 63 RBI. He went 2 for 3 with a double and an RBI on Thursday night.

5. This and that
• The Phillies have won six consecutive games against their NL East rival from Atlanta. It’s their longest win streak against the Braves since winning eight in row from July 2011 to May 2012.

• Ryan Howard has 22 career home runs at Turner Field, most of any visiting player in the ballpark’s history. It remains to be seen when the next time Howard will get a chance to extend that record.

• Cameron Rupp has batted just .101 since the All-Star break, but he’s hit .304 against the Braves this season.