Flyers' free agents: Stay or go?

Flyers' free agents: Stay or go?

This week, we’ll be taking a look back at the Flyers’ season and a peek at what lies ahead. Today, a look at the free agents on the Flyers’ roster and whether or not they will be back with the club.

On Wednesday, Philadelphia Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren was promoted to team president and assistant general manager Ron Hextall was subsequently promoted to the role of general manager to usher in a new era.

Hextall, a first-time general manager, won’t have much time to get his feet wet because he has decisions to make on five unrestricted free agents and five restricted free agents currently on the Flyers’ roster before he can proceed with his offseason plans.

It’s time to take a look at those free agents and whether or not they’ll be back in orange and black sweaters this coming fall.

The players’ respective cap hits from this past season is in parentheses, courtesy of capgeek.com

 

Unrestricted free agents

 

RW Steve Downie ($2.65 million)

Things just never got on track for Downie, who was acquired from the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for Max Talbot on Halloween, during his second stint with the Flyers.

In his first game back with the team that originally drafted him, Downie broke his orbital bone in a fight and missed about two weeks of action. When he returned, he scored just three goals in 51 games. Just one of those goals came after Dec 11 and it was an empty-netter. Things got so bad for Downie that he found himself as a healthy scratch toward the end of the year and then missed the playoff series with the Rangers with what Holmgren called “balance issues.”

When Downie was on the ice, he found himself mostly on an effective checking line with Sean Couturier and Matt Read that drew the opponent’s best players night in and night out. Despite that fact, Downie didn’t prove much so the guess here is that he won’t be brought back.

 

G Ray Emery ($1.65 million)

Many thought Emery would be the Flyers’ starting netminder when he signed with team last offseason. But that was before Steve Mason skyrocketed into goalie superstardom in a way Flyers fans haven’t seen in years.

Still, Emery played admirably well in a backup role as he went 9-12-2 with a .903 save percentage, 2.96 goals-against average and two shutouts. And those weren’t easy games as Emery saw the likes of the Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks, Los Angeles Kings, St. Louis Blues, Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lighting across from him when he started.

The $1.65 million cap hit isn’t a terrible number for a backup who put up those kinds of numbers against that kind of competition. Emery coming back to the Flyers is certainly within the realm of possibility. But it will likely come down to whether or not Emery feels he has a legitimate chance to compete for a starting job somewhere else. The guess here is that he’ll at least get that chance somewhere and go.

D Hal Gill ($700,000)

The now-39-year-old Gill was brought in to be a depth option in case the Flyers needed him. The Flyers didn’t need him much and he played just six regular-season games without registering a point.

After Nick Grossmann was injured in Game 4 against the Rangers, Gill stepped into the lineup in Game 5 and will be remembered for fumbling a pass in the defensive zone that led to a Rangers goal just after missing a wide-open net on the other end.

The guess here is that was Gill’s last hurrah and he walks off into the hockey sunset.

 

C Adam Hall ($600,000)

Hall was a sturdy fourth-line center for the Flyers during the recently-completed season.

The 33-year-old won faceoffs at a 59.4 clip to lead the team and was also an effective penalty killer while mostly playing alongside Michael Raffl. He also added four goals and five assists.

Even though the Flyers are stacked at center and have Scott Laughton on the way, Hall can still be a big help. The guess is that the Flyers figure out a way to bring him back to once again anchor the fourth line, whether it’s at center or on the wing.

D Kimmo Timonen ($6 million)

Let’s preface this by saying 39-year-old Timonen has yet to decide whether or not he wants to return to the Flyers for a 16th NHL season. If he does, it certainly won’t be at the $6 million rate he played for this past season.

Say what you want about Timonen, but he was still the Flyers’ best defenseman last season. It wasn’t fair that he had to be forced into that position yet again due to a lack of pro depth at the position but that’s the way it was. That said he still posted six goals and 29 assists and was still an incredibly effective quarterback on the power play.

If he comes back, he can’t be the team’s No.1 defenseman again. He just ran out of gas at the end of the year. The Rangers skated up and down on him in the playoffs and he just couldn’t keep up.

Timonen can certainly still help the Flyers in a big way but he needs help, whether it comes from outside the organization or one of the kids in the minors is ready to go. If Timonen is ready to accept a deal in the, say, $2 million range, the guess is he’ll be back for one more run at Lord Stanley’s Cup.

 

Restricted free agents (The Flyers have the right to match any offer to one of these players.)


RW Jason Akeson ($750,000)

If you didn’t know who Akeson was before the Stanley Cup Playoffs began, you sure do now after he burst onto the scene against the Rangers with two goals in seven games.

It wasn’t just that Akeson, a rookie who had played just two regular-season games before the playoffs began, scored two goals. He was one of the Flyers’ few offensive threats in the series. He was one of the few Flyers who were making things happen. Plus, he fit it nicely and didn’t skip a beat on the defensive line with Couturier and Read.

He led the Phantoms with 24 goals and granted nine NHL games is a small sample size, but Akeson looks like a keeper. The guess is he stays and starts next year with the big club.

 

D Erik Gustafsson ($1 million)

Some thought the 25-year-old, offensive-minded defenseman would see more than the 31 regular-season and two playoff games he played. But the acquisition of Andrew MacDonald and the Flyers’ relative health along the blue line this past season nullified those plans.

When he did play in the regular season, Gustafsson scored two goals and added eight assists. He also added a goal in Game 6 against the Rangers.

But with kids such as Shayne Gostisbehere likely to challenge for a roster spot in the fall and who the Flyers already have on defense, is there a spot for Gustafsson in Philadelphia? The guess is probably not. Don’t be surprised if the Flyers look to add him into some sort of trade package, whether it’s his negotiating rights or signing him and then trading him.

 

G Cal Heeter ($783,750)

The 25-year-old Flyers’ third-string goalie played just one NHL game – the meaningless season finale against the Carolina Hurricanes – and proved how green he was during the 6-5 shootout loss.

He’s not a viable backup option to Mason at this point. The guess is he’ll be brought back and put in the minors to start for the new Lehigh Valley Phantoms AHL team.

 

LW Tye McGinn ($775,000)

McGinn, a favorite among many Flyers fans for the physicality and grit he brings to the game, totaled four goals and an assist with the big club this season.

But that was before he tapered off from a hot start and eventually lost his roster spot to Raffl. He rejoined the Flyers later on in the season but didn’t impress the coaching staff and a lost playoff spot to Akeson.

The good news is that McGinn is still just 23-years-old, finished second on the Phantoms with 20 goals and the organization likes his style so the guess is he’ll be back but for some more seasoning in the minors.

C Brayden Schenn ($870,000)

And now here’s where things get interesting.

The 22-year-old center posted career highs in goals with 20 and assists with 21 but was very inconsistent throughout the season and even more so in the playoffs where he didn’t score a single goal in seven games.

Holmgren had some pointed comments about Schenn during the then-general manger’s exit interview following the Game 7 loss to the Rangers. He said the two sides haven’t talked about a deal and that Schenn’s lack of consistency from the second-line center spot concerned him.

None of that is good news for Schenn, who was the crown jewel of the Mike Richards trade at the time and not Wayne Simmonds, when you consider Couturier got his bridge deal last year and is a year younger than Schenn. Keep in mind a player with Schenn’s upside could provide a huge return in any sort of trade. Cough *defense* cough.

That said, Hextall’s philosophy is to build from within so the guess is he gives Schenn another chance or two to reach that next level the Flyers would like to see him at. But don’t be surprised if his name becomes popular in the trade rumor mill this summer.

Instant Replay: Pirates 5, Phillies 4

Instant Replay: Pirates 5, Phillies 4

BOX SCORE

PITTSBURGH --- Pinch hitter Adam Frazier’s first career home run, a leadoff shot in the seventh inning off fellow rookie Edubray Ramos, lifted the Pittsburgh Pirates to a 5-4 victory over the Phillies on Sunday afternoon at PNC Park.

It was also the first home run allowed by Ramos (1-1) in 14 career relief appearances.

The Pirates tied it at 4-4 an inning earlier when Matt Joyce hit a two-run home run off starter Vince Velasquez.

The Phillies wound up losing two of three in the series after rookie right-hander Zach Eflin pitched a three-hit shutout on Friday night. They are 3-7 since the All-Star break to fall 10 games under .500 at 45-55.

Cesar Hernandez had three hits for the Phillies while Andres Blanco and Odubel Herrera hit solo home runs off Pirates rookie right-hander Jameson Taillon.

Pirates left fielder Starling Marte also had three hits. Neftali Feliz (4-0) pitched a scoreless seventh inning for the win and Mark Melancon worked a 1-2-3 ninth for his 30th save.

Blanco suffered a fractured left index finger in the fifth inning when the veteran utility infielder was spiked on the hand by Pirates right fielder Gregory Polanco in a play at third base. He is expected to be placed on the 15-day disabled list Monday (see story).

Blanco was making his second straight start at third in place of Maikel Franco, who was out with a sore left wrist after being hit by a pitch Friday from Pirates right-hander Gerrit Cole.

Franco took over at third for Blanco, who is hitting .271 with four homers in 75 games this season.

Meanwhile, catcher Cameron Rupp was not in the lineup after being hit in the left ear flap of his batting helmet on Saturday by a pitch from Pirates rookie right-hander Tyler Glasnow. Carlos Ruiz started behind the plate.

Rupp passed Major League Baseball’s concussion protocol both Saturday and Sunday and will likely play Monday night in the opener of a three-game series against the Marlins at Miami.

The game was delayed for one hour and 32 minutes in the bottom of the eighth inning.

Starting pitching report
Velasquez had his worst of his five starts since coming off the disabled list June 26, though he did not factor in the decision. He allowed four runs and seven hits in six innings while walking four and striking out five.

Velasquez threw 107 pitches, 64 for strikes.

In his first four outings after begin activated, he was 3-0 with a 1.88 ERA to raise his record to 8-2.

At the plate
Hernandez was moved to the leadoff spot of the batting order to replace slumping right fielder Peter Bourjos and responded by going 3-for-5 with a triple.

Herrera’s home run led off the sixth and was his 11th of the season, giving the Phillies a short-lived 4-2 lead. Herrera went 7-for-13 in the series after going 4-for-41 in his previous 11 games.

First baseman Ryan Howard went 2-for-3, lifting his batting average to .166, before being pinch hit for in the eighth inning.

Left fielder Cody Asche was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts, the last coming to end the eighth inning with two runners on base and the Phillies trailing by a run.

Up next
The Phillies open a three-game series against the Marlins on Monday night at Miami.

Monday night --- RHP Jeremy Hellickson (7-7, 3.84) vs. RHP Jarred Cosart (0-1, 7.98)

Tuesday night --- RHP Jerad Eickhoff (6-11, 3.98) vs. RHP Tom Koehler (7-8, 4.42)

Wednesday afternoon --- RHP Zach Eflin (3-3, 3.40) vs. LHP Adam Conley (6-5, 3.58)

Crash kills Nebraska punter, former Michigan State punter

usa-sam-foltz.jpg
USA Today Images

Crash kills Nebraska punter, former Michigan State punter

WAUKESHA, Wis. -- Nebraska punter Sam Foltz and former Michigan State punter Mike Sadler have died in a car crash in Wisconsin after working at a kicking clinic, a sheriff's department official said Sunday. LSU kicker Colby Delahoussaye was injured in the crash.

Waukesha County Sheriff's Lt. Thom Moerman said speed was likely a factor in the single-vehicle crash that happened around 11:45 p.m. Saturday.

The 24-year-old Sadler, of Grand Rapids, Michigan, was driving. He and 22-year-old Foltz, of Greeley, Nebraska, both died at the scene. Delahoussaye, 21 of New Iberia, Louisiana, was also a passenger. He was treated at Waukesha Memorial Hospital and released. A statement from LSU said his injuries were minor and that he was scheduled to return home Monday.

Moerman said in a statement that Sadler lost control on the wet pavement, left the roadway and struck a tree.

The University of Nebraska said Sunday the team will skip this week's planned Big Ten media days in Chicago because of Foltz's death. Officials with Michigan State didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Foltz was a three-year starter for the Nebraska team and last year he was named the Big Ten's punter of the year. Foltz graduated from Nebraska with a degree in agronomy in May. He led the Big Ten in punting last year at 44.2 yards per kick and ranked fifth in school history (42.6).

Nebraska Coach Mike Riley said Foltz was respected on the team, and had a positive influence on everyone he interacted with.

"The young men in our football program are hurting but I know that their strength of character and resolve will bring us together and we will honor Sam every day moving forward," Riley said.

Several hundred friends and teammates of Foltz gathered outside Memorial Stadium in Lincoln Sunday afternoon to remember him. Several players talked about how hard Foltz' worked and his faith in God.

"Sam was a kind and thoughtful young man who was a leader on the playing field, in the classroom, and in his community," Nebraska Chancellor Ronnie D. Green said in a statement. "He was an exemplary student-athlete who grew as a player and as a person on his path to recent completion of his degree in agronomy from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and anyone who knew him can testify that he had an enduring influence on those around him."

Sadler was a four-year starter and four-time academic All-American at Michigan State. He finished his college playing career after the 2014 season. He drew something of a cult following during his playing days because of his sense of humor and wit.

"I just asked my waitress what sport she thought I played. Her answer? Disk golf. Time to reevaluate my life," Sadler once tweeted.

He helped get his own mock Heisman Trophy candidacy rolling one season by pushing the hashtag (hash)sadler4heisman. He would also regularly exchange funny lines on Twitter with the (at)FauxPelini account, a popular parody of the former Nebraska and current Youngstown State coach Bo Pelini.

"Mike impacted so many people not only as a football player, but also from an academic standpoint and in the community as well," Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said in a statement. "The world has lost a rising star who dreamed big and was accomplishing those dreams, one after another. He was one of those people that brightened your day."

Dan Tracy with Kohl's Kicking said both Sadler and Foltz had been working at a weekend clinic at the camp in Wisconsin. Tracy said the camp ended early Sunday after an announcement about the deaths.

A statement from kicking camp director Jamie Kohl said the staff was mourning with the players' families and football programs.

"We mourn today with all of the people who were better men and women for knowing Sam and Mike," Kohl said. "Our thoughts and prayers are with them."

Andres Blanco fractures left index finger, likely heading to 15-day DL

Andres Blanco fractures left index finger, likely heading to 15-day DL

PITTSBURGH --- Utility infielder Andres Blanco suffered a fractured left index finger in the fifth inning of Sunday’s game against the Pittsburgh Pirates and is expected to be placed on the 15-day disabled list Monday.

Blanco was injured when Pirates right fielder Gregory Polanco slid into his hand during a play at third base. Blanco was making his second straight start at third in place of Maikel Franco, who was out with a sore left wrist after being hit by a pitch Friday from Pirates right-hander Gerrit Cole.

Franco took over at third for Blanco, who hit a solo home run off Pirates rookie right-hander Jameson Taillon in the first inning. Blanco is hitting .271 with four homers in 75 games this season.

Meanwhile, catcher Cameron Rupp was not in the lineup after being hit in the left ear flap of his batting helmet on Saturday by a pitch from Pirates rookie right-hander Tyler Glasnow. Carlos Ruiz started behind the plate.

Rupp passed Major League Baseball’s concussion protocol both Saturday and Sunday.

"If you get hit in the head, you probably want to take a little bit more precaution than if it was another part of your body,” Rupp said.