Flyers 'Frontrunners' for G Jonathan Bernier, Kings Want Jake Voracek

Flyers 'Frontrunners' for G Jonathan Bernier, Kings Want Jake Voracek

Peter Laviolette set an NHL record by making seven in-game goaltender switches during the 2011 playoffs. Now it seems Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren is trying to one-up his head coach with a juggling act of his own.

For a franchise that was determined to discontinue the merry-go-round in their own net, the front office doesn’t appear to have much of a plan.

During the offseason that followed Lavvy’s historic indecisiveness, club chairman Ed Snider proclaimed the Flyers would “never” go through that with goalies again – except that’s exactly what’s happening here. The only difference is instead of playing out on the ice, it’s taking place over the telephone and on paper, fantasy hockey style.

Holmgren signed Ilya Bryzgalov to a nine year, $51 million contract. Part of the aftermath of that deal was trading 24-year-old Sergei Bobrovsky to Columbus, where he promptly won the Vezina Trophy. Since trading Bob the club has acquired and extended Steve Mason, and drafted Anthony Stolarz. This was all over the past two years, mind you.

Now the front office is reportedly chasing Jonathan Bernier, the 24-year-old backup netminder for the Los Angeles Kings, and he won’t come cheap. Bernier, who has appeared in 62 career games over five NHL seasons, will likely demand a sizable contract extension, plus the Flyers will have send one or two of the quality players that make up their young core.

And no, this is not a deal that gets done with Matt Read as a key part of the package. Per Tim Panaccio, the Kings are asking for Jakub Voracek, who is coming off a breakout season where he was named the Flyers’ most valuable player. You can bank on Sean Couturier’s name coming up as the feature piece in package at some point as well.

If you think Homer would reject either offer out of hand, it’s worth noting the Flyers (along with the Leafs) are currently considered one of the frontrunners to acquire Bernier according to Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos. He also adds that the Kings are looking to make the exchange “sooner than later.”

The whole situation is completely ludicrous. Should they buyout Bryzgalov’s contract and land Bernier, in two years time the Flyers will have agreed to pay one goalie in excess of $20 million to play somewhere else, traded another who – at least for one season – was the best player between the pipes in the entire NHL, and blocked yet another who was brought here to compete for a job. Plus in doing so, they will have traded one, possibly two players/draft picks with future-All-Star potential.

That’s not even delving into what if anything this deal would mean long-term for Stolarz, a 2012 second-round pick who is doing well in the OHL.

This for a player in Bernier who himself is not a proven commodity as a starting goaltender. Don’t get me wrong, Jonathan Quick’s understudy is an enticing option considering his career numbers – 29-20-6 record, .912 save percentage, and 2.36 goals against average. That’s 62 games during five years though. How would he hold up over a full season?

Is Bernier a sure thing? Is he the missing piece to a Stanley Cup run?

Who knows the answer to such questions, but trading an emerging star like Voracek after he posted 46 points in 48 games last season and was a perfect pairing for Claude Giroux, or Couturier who is already one of the better defensive forwards in the league seems incredibly short-sighted. The Flyers may feel like they have to move on this now because signing Bryz hasn’t worked out so far, but Bernier just looks like another costly band-aid – both in dollars and talent.

When this trade inevitably goes through, it will be the mark of an organization that's working without blueprints. They panicked in 2011 with Bobrovsky, leading directly to Bryzgalov's enormous contract, and they are panicking again with their wheeling and dealing, digging one hole to fill another somewhere else. That's the Flyers way.

>> Source: Kings contact Flyers about goalie Bernier [CSN]

Sixers being cautious with Jahlil Okafor early in training camp

Sixers being cautious with Jahlil Okafor early in training camp

GALLOWAY, N.J. — The Sixers lost Jahlil Okafor for the final 23 games last season because of a small meniscus tear in his right knee. Now they are being cautious as he prepares for his second year.

As part of the Sixers’ prescheduled load management for Okafor, he participated in a portion of practice and then worked out individually with head strength and conditioning coach Todd Wright.

“They just told me to relax once I did what they wanted me to do today,” Okafor said. “I was off to the sidelines. I feel fine. I’ll be good tomorrow.”

Okafor learned during his first NBA season that he should speak more openly with the staff about his body.

“Communication is key,” he said. “I think last year I didn’t really communicate how I was feeling, so I wasn’t able to get the help I needed.”

The team held three practice sessions in the first two days of training camp. Okafor said he knew the Sixers would be cautious with his workload. He is poised to improve upon his rookie year in which he averaged 17.5 points and 7.0 rebounds in 53 games last season.

“I’m 100 percent healthy,” he said. “I’m all good.”

Joel Embiid adjusting to new challenges in 1st NBA training camp

Joel Embiid adjusting to new challenges in 1st NBA training camp

GALLOWAY, N.J. -- With Joel Embiid's excitement to be on the court following two years of injuries comes the reality of his lengthy setback.

Embiid is participating in his first NBA training camp this week. While he has impressed with his natural abilities and improved skills, Embiid is facing challenges as he gets accustomed to the league.

"Everything is kind of off right now as far as catching the ball or shooting," Embiid said after practice Wednesday. "I've still got to get in the flow of the game."

Embiid has yet to play since being drafted in 2014. For the past two years he has worked out individually and in controlled settings. Practices, even in training camp, are different. 

"You see all the time when you realize he hasn't played basketball for a long time," Sixers head coach Brett Brown said. "He's trying to gather his feet and find his balance, he's trying to figure out stuff in real time speed on defensive assignments and rotations."

On Wednesday, Embiid went through practice without any minute restrictions and was feeling healthier from the cold and virus he had been battling (see story). Teammates have praised his physical presence and eagerness to compete. He makes an impact with his 7-foot-2 presence alone, but there is more he wants to improve. 

Embiid is adjusting to the speed of the game. He has been facing challenges with getting the ball in the post and spoke to the coaches about his frustrations. The staff explained they are focusing on pick-and-roll defense and getting out to run during training camp, but he will get that desired location in game situations. 

“You continue to see the size of Joel Embiid,” Brown said. “He's a big man and he's got a mindset to back up his physical gifts. He really wants the ball. He wants to get deep catches. He wants to dunk on people.”

Embiid always has been realistic about his transition to his rookie season. He has pointed out many times that he is a fast learner, and is anxious to soak up new knowledge and apply it to the court.

"It's really frustrating," he said. "But like I've said, you've got to trust the process, which I've been doing."