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' QB-rich support system for Carson Wentz paying dividends

Eagles' QB-rich support system for Carson Wentz paying dividends

In the wake of the Sam Bradford trade, the Eagles' announcement a week before the opener that Carson Wentz would start Week 1 was met with some skepticism and overwhelmingly tempered expectations.

But it looks like the kid can play.

And the Eagles aren’t just looking smart for drafting and playing Wentz. They’re also looking pretty smart for filling their coaching staff and quarterback room with decades of quarterback experience.

“It's a tight room,” head coach Doug Pederson said.

It’s also a knowledgeable one.

Pederson is a former NFL quarterback and NFL quarterbacks coach. Offensive coordinator Frank Reich is a former NFL quarterback and NFL quarterbacks coach. Quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo is a former college quarterback and NFL quarterbacks coach. And backup Chase Daniel has been in the league since 2009 and in Pederson’s offense since 2013.

If Wentz has a question, he has plenty of guys to ask. And it seems like this support system, which at one time looked like overkill, might be one of the keys that has allowed the rookie to take the NFL by storm.

“There’s no doubt. There’s no doubt,” the veteran backup Daniel said. “Obviously, he’s a very bright young mind, but there’s no doubt in my mind that the coaching in the quarterback room has played a good part into his maturation and his bringing along so fast. There’s no doubt about it.”

Through three games, Wentz has completed 64.7 percent of his passes for 769 yards, five touchdowns and zero interceptions. He's the first rookie in NFL history to put up those numbers in the first three games of a career. Oh yeah, and the Eagles are 3-0.

It’s hard to believe that about a month ago, Wentz was gearing up for a redshirt year as the third quarterback behind Sam Bradford and Daniel. Now, he isn’t just the future franchise quarterback. He is the franchise quarterback.

And Wentz gives his quarterback-heavy coaching staff plenty of credit.

“It’s huge having them,” Wentz said. “I could never say enough how much they understand the game. They get it. They know what it’s like. As a former quarterback, they know what I’m going through and how I’m seeing things, so it’s been huge.”

The Eagles were clearly smitten with Wentz from the time they saw him in Alabama for the Senior Bowl. Eventually, de facto GM Howie Roseman was able to maneuver to the No. 2 pick to draft Wentz.

But Wentz went No. 2 and not No. 1, so it’s almost impossible to not peek over at Los Angeles and see how first overall pick Jared Goff is doing. So far, he isn’t doing much of anything. It doesn’t mean that eventually Goff won’t be a good quarterback, but through three games, he’s been inactive once and hasn’t yet played. The Rams are sticking with Case Keenum for now.

NFL.com’s Chris Wesseling compared the support system for Goff with the Rams and Wentz's with the Eagles. We’ll take a deeper look into what he started:

Rams
• Head coach Jeff Fisher: Defensive coach

• OC Rob Boras: Never a QB coach; coached tight ends in NFL from 2004-15

• QB Coach Chris Weinke: Former NFL QB for seven seasons; was highly-thought of QB draft guru with IMG academy for four years

• Vet QB Case Keenum: In league since 2012; best QB he's played with is Matt Schaub

Eagles
• Head coach Doug Pederson: 12 years as NFL QB; QB coach in Philly; OC in KC

• OC Frank Reich: 14 years as NFL QB; QB coach in Indy with Peyton Manning in 2009-10; QB coach and OC in San Diego

• QB Coach: John DeFilippo: College QB; QBs coach at Fordham, Columbia; QBs coach with Raiders, Jets, OC with Browns

• Vet QB Chase Daniel: In league since 2009; learned under Drew Brees; has been in Pederson's offense since 2013

It’s very possible if Wentz becomes a great quarterback that other teams copy the Eagles’ quarterback-heavy approach.

But it’s not just about getting a bunch of smart people and a talented rookie in the same room. Everything else has to work. The rookie has to be a diligent learner and all of the teachers have to check their egos and work together.

“I let John (DeFilippo), I let the quarterback coach run the meeting,” Pederson said. “If I interject, I interject. The way it works is I send my message through Frank (Reich), Frank through the position coaches. At the same time, if I want to interject something, I will interject. Just making sure there's one voice in the meeting room and they are not hearing three different answers from three different people, the message is the same.”

Practice squad quarterback Aaron Murray, who joined the team a couple weeks ago, thinks the quarterback room has “definitely” helped Wentz achieve his early success. While he is just a practice-squader, go ahead and add Murray — who was in the offense for two years in Kansas City — to the list of quarterback minds happy to help Wentz.

Murray, a fifth-rounder out of Georgia in 2014, has been impressed with Wentz’s ability to pick up protections and schemes at a young age. He compared him to Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith in that regard. While Murray, along with everyone else, is happy to give Wentz tips, he tries to not overload him.

“You still want him to just go out there and play,” he said.

Murray is the newcomer to the room, but he’s been impressed with the dynamic so far. He’s not the only one. It looks like this quarterback experiment might just work.

“It’s awesome. It’s great,” Daniel said. “Everyone has a say in there and everyone in the room, it’s pretty crazy, everyone in the room, really except Carson, has been around it, has been in it and played. Obviously, he’s played, but been around for a while. He’s just a sponge, he’s just taking it all in.

“Maybe some stuff he doesn’t need to take in. Maybe some stuff he wants to do his own way, which is great. You want your own personality out there. But yeah, he’s been great. It’s been great for us too as players. We have almost a 2-to-1 coach-to-player ratio. It’s been great. Everyone has little tidbits here and there and we roll.”

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Pete Mackanin unloads on Phillies' bullpen after latest collapse

Pete Mackanin unloads on Phillies' bullpen after latest collapse

BOX SCORE

ATLANTA — The Phillies’ bullpen continued its ugly, late-season collapse on Tuesday night. It was tagged for six runs in a 7-6 loss to the Atlanta Braves. The Braves rallied for the tying and go-ahead runs in the bottom of the eighth inning (see Instant Replay).
 
The loss came two days after the bullpen gave up 14 earned runs in four innings in a 17-0 loss to the New York Mets on Sunday and it left manager Pete Mackanin more than a little bit frustrated.
 
“The bullpen has just not been doing the job,” Mackanin said.
 
Jerad Eickhoff gave up just one run (on a solo homer by Freddie Freeman) over four walk-free innings to open the game. He was up 6-1 after four innings when the rains came and stopped the game for an hour and 53 minutes.
 
With Eickhoff bounced by the weather, Mackanin had to go to his bullpen. He used four relievers — Severino Gonzalez, Luis Garcia, Joely Rodriguez and David Hernandez — and all gave up runs.
 
Phillies relievers have pitched 77 1/3 innings this month and allowed 69 earned runs for an ERA of 8.03. So that’s one more thing Matt Klentak has to fix this winter, along with the offense that Mackanin wants to see addressed (see story).
 
Ultimately, Hernandez took the loss when he gave up three hits and a run in the bottom of the eighth. The other run in the inning was charged to Rodriguez.
 
As unbelievable as it may sound with rosters being expanded in September, the Phillies played this game shorthanded.
 
They did not have reliever Edubray Ramos. He had a sore elbow, Mackanin said.
 
They did not have outfielder Peter Bourjos, who had gone home to be with his wife for the birth of their child.
 
They also did not have outfielder Tyler Goeddel, who is out with a concussion.
 
Not having Bourjos or Goeddel forced Mackanin to use Darin Ruf in left field after Roman Quinn went out with an oblique injury in the sixth inning. Ruf failed to make a catch on a long fly ball by Tyler Flowers to the gap in left-center. The non-play extended the eighth inning and fueled the Braves’ comeback.
 
“It should have been caught,” Mackanin said. “If Quinn's out there, he catches it. He wasn't out there.”
 
Hernandez was the only free agent that the Phillies signed to a major-league contract this winter. The Phillies signed him with an eye toward using him as the closer. But Hernandez struggled much of the season and slipped into the middle innings while Ramos, Hector Neris and Jeanmar Gomez rose to high-leverage roles.
 
Gomez lost the closer’s job last week and Mackanin was saving Neris to close out this game. That meant Hernandez had to pitch the eighth. He couldn’t protect the lead. He gave up the game-tying hit to Mallex Smith and the go-ahead hit to Emilio Bonafacio.
 
“Neris was going to close for us,” Mackanin said. “I thought about using him with two outs in the eighth. But, at some point, somebody else has to do a (bleeping) job. Somebody else has to (bleeping) step up. In two games now, every reliever I brought in has given up a (bleeping) run. That's unheard of.”
 
The bullpen’s unraveling threw cold (rain) water on Eickhoff’s solid start and Ryan Howard’s big night. Howard belted his 24th homer, a grand slam in the first inning, to highlight a 14-hit attack and help the Phils jump to a 6-0 lead.
 
“Eickhoff looked like he was having one of his best games and then the rain came. So that was our first disappointment,” Mackanin said. "Other than that, Howie swung the bat great. Hit that grand slam. We got 14 hits, but we stranded 12 runners. We have to keep adding on.”
 
Quinn had three of the Phillies’ 14 hits then added to his collection of injuries with the oblique strain that bounced him from the game in the sixth. He hurt himself taking a swing.
 
Oblique injuries generally keep a player sidelined for at least three weeks, so Quinn’s season is likely over. He missed six weeks with a similar injury at Double A Reading this summer. The 23-year-old outfielder came up from the minors on Sept. 11 and has been auditioning for a spot on next season’s opening day roster.
 
“It looks like it,” Mackanin said when asked if Quinn was done for what remains of the season.
 
Injuries have been a consistent hurdle for Quinn ever since he was selected in the second round of the 2011 draft. He has missed significant time with a ruptured Achilles tendon, a wrist injury that required surgery, a torn quad muscle and an oblique strain. Now he has another one.
 
“It’s the same one I hurt before,” Quinn said. “It’s frustrating.”
 
Right now, just about everything is frustrating with this team. Good thing there are only five games left.

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