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.

Eagles-Vikings Week 7: What they're saying

Eagles-Vikings Week 7: What they're saying

Riding a two-game losing streak, the Eagles (3-2) return home Sunday for the first time in nearly a month and welcome a familiar face to the confines of Lincoln Financial Field. 

Sam Bradford and the Vikings (5-0) will come to Philadelphia fresh off a Week 6 bye and, most notably, as the league's lone unbeaten team. Minnesota boasts one of the league's top defenses, ranking first in points allowed (12.6 per game) and second in yards allowed (287.6 per game), and is looking to improve to 6-0 for the first time since 2009.

The last time these two franchises met was back in December 2013, when Matt Cassell and the Vikings put up 48 points in a win over Chip Kelly's Eagles.

To get a better handle on this year's Vikings, here's what they're saying about the Eagles' Week 7 opponent.

Brian Robison poses yet another challenge for Big V
Making his NFL debut in a start against the Redskins last week, Halapoulivaati Vaitai struggled mightily. Ryan Kerrigan beat Vaitai and got to Carson Wentz for 2½ sacks, all of which came in the first half.

It won't get any easier for the rookie right tackle this week either, as he'll likely be lined up against Brian Robison for most of the afternoon. Robison has four sacks and two forced fumbles on the season and, according to Andrew Krammer of the Star Tribune, the versatile 10-year defensive end could be difference maker on the defensive side of the ball Sunday.

"Whether his hand is in the turf at left end or he’s standing over a guard or center as the defensive tackle, Robison could be dropping back to cover a tight end or running back," Krammer wrote. "At the line, he’s given responsibilities to call stunts or twists depending on their own play call. Sometimes he’s setting the pick to free another teammate. ... And on Sunday against the Eagles and their rookie right tackle, keep an eye on Robison when he lines up at his traditional spot of left end. All four of his sacks this season, including two strip-sacks, have come from there."

Makeshift offensive line remains a question mark
The Vikings may be undefeated, but by no means are they made up of perfect parts. As the midway point of the NFL season approaches, Minnesota's injury-battered offensive line is still a work in progress. 

Starting tackles Matt Kalil and Andre Smith are both sidelined with season-ending injuries. Starting guard Brandon Fusco suffered a concussion Week 5 against the Texans, but is expected to return against the Eagles. Center is the only position on the line the Vikings haven't had to replace because of an injury at some point this season.

But despite the constant changes up front, Minnesota has been stout overall in protecting the quarterback, allowing eight sacks and 27 quarterback hits across five games. According to Brian Murphy of the Pioneer Press, the performance of that makeshift offensive line is going to be key in the Vikings' potential success down the road. 

"What’s best for Bradford and the Vikings’ standing as the NFC’s top dog is better pass protection," Murphy wrote. "He was sacked twice when Houston defenders turnstiled Clemmings and hit hard in the pocket other times. ... Offensive line intrigue never is a sexy storyline, but how well the Vikings manage the unit week to week figures to be an underlying factor to their continued success."

Strong away from home
The Vikings are a just a few years removed from going winless on the road, finishing 0-7-1 away from home in the 2013 season. Minnesota secured wins in only two of its first 10 away games under the tutelage of Mike Zimmer, but have since gone on a tear.

Minnesota has won seven of its last eight road games dating back to last season and, in their most recent game away from U.S. Bank Stadium, the Vikings took down the Panthers, 22-10, in Week 3. A testament of a true contender is having the ability to win consistently on the road, which holds true with the Vikings.

According to Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press, the Vikings' vast improvement over the past two-plus seasons has contributed to them becoming a stronger team away from home.

"Facing a tough opposing crowd once was a tall order for the Vikings, but it’s much less of one now. After being one of the worse road teams in the NFL earlier this decade, they’re now one of the best," Tomasson wrote. "Overall, the Vikings have improved, having gone from 7-9 in 2014 to 11-5 last season to 5-0 this year. That’s the main reason the road record has gotten so much better. Still, players say the continuity the team has had has especially helped when entering rugged road environments."

While Vegas has the Vikings as light favorites on the road, national experts have them heavily favored straight up to hand the Eagles their third straight loss.

ESPN: All nine experts picked the Vikings

CBS Sports: Seven of eight experts picked the Vikings

FOX Sports: Three of five experts picked the Vikings 

Flyers Skate Update: Ivan Provorov has a new partner

Flyers Skate Update: Ivan Provorov has a new partner

Ivan Provorov has a new partner.

Provorov will be paired with Brandon Manning on Saturday night against the Carolina Hurricanes, a changeup from the first four games of the season. Mark Streit drops to the third pair with Nick Schultz, a tandem that worked together most of last season.

"We're going to change them up," Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said after the team's morning skate. "We're going to look at a couple of different things. Some of the combinations are some familiar ones, such as Streiter-Schultz. They played a lot of minutes together last year. It's a move that we want to take a look at."

The Provorov-Manning pair is an interesting one. It should allow the 19-year-old to activate more in the offensive zone with Manning playing positionally sound. Manning has played with an extra edge thus far, showcasing a far more aggressive brand of hockey than he's shown previously with the orange and black.

With Streit, an offensive-minded blueliner, Provorov had to cover for his partner. Provorov also ran into some tough luck situations, too. Now with Manning, Provorov has the handcuffs off a little bit. Manning plays well positionally and while he has been more aggressive, he knows when to stay back, which will help Provorov.

It's another adjustment for the rookie. Through four games, he said, there haven't been any surprises in terms of his expectations for how the NHL game plays.

"I think what I expected is what I got," Provorov said. "It's the best league in the world, you expect all four lines to be great, you expect fast pace, physical game and that's what I got. I'm still learning, but I'm trying to do better as the games go on."

Provorov has one assist this season and enters Saturday as a minus-5, largely because of the Chicago game Tuesday. Hakstol praised Provorov's maturity level and ability to self-evaluate. What he hasn't done with Provorov is talk about numbers.

"There are some meaning in stats and we take the meaningful areas and apply those," Hakstol said. "But I haven't talked to any of the young guys about their statistics. We're four games in. I don't make too much of statistics right now. We're evaluating day-to-day play and looking at areas that we can use as strengths and areas individually we can improve."

Starting slow
If there has been one common theme through the first four games, it's the Flyers' poor starts. In first periods this season, they've been outscored, 6-1 (see game notes).

On Thursday night, the Flyers again came out of the gates slow. It was their first game back after a season-opening road trip out West, which Jakub Voracek said was a factor.

Voracek, who has four assists, said the burden falls on the individual player to focus on the small details and avoid committing mistakes.

"As a player, if you don't have that extra step, you just have to keep it simple," he said. "It's going to come around. The first 10 minutes, you have to make sure you don't make mistakes and I think that we were trying to do too much if we weren't feeling right. It showed last game against Anaheim. We were a half-a-step slower."

Four games isn't a large enough sample size for Hakstol to make a definite statement on the Flyers' first-period woes. The second-year coach said he'll have a better understanding where his team is at after the Carolina game.

"I think we'll answer that question after the start tonight," Hakstol said. "I think we'll get a fair evaluation of our starts after our start tonight, and if we have a problem, we'll know it after tonight. If we don't, we'll know that as well.

"Pretty clear, crystal clear, black and white in my mind. Tonight should tell else what type of team we are at the start of the hockey game."

Projected Flyers Lineup
F: Brayden Schenn-Claude Giroux-Wayne Simmonds

Travis Konecny-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek

Nick Cousins-Pierre-Edouard Bellemare-Matt Read

Chris VandeVelde-Boyd Gordon-Roman Lyubimov

D: Andrew MacDonald-Shayne Gostisbehere

Ivan Provorov-Brandon Manning

Nick Schultz-Mark Streit

G: Steve Mason