LeBrun Links Flyers to Bobby Ryan on Eve of Draft

LeBrun Links Flyers to Bobby Ryan on Eve of Draft

Philadelphia Flyers fans have clamored for the acquisition of Cherry Hill's Bobby Ryan since oh I don't know, his conception? Thursday afternoon, on the eve of the NHL Entry Draft, ESPN's Pierre LeBrun reported that the Flyers are themselves interested in Ryan. It's not the first time we've heard it, but it's worth considering even if it's somewhat unlikely. 
Of course, the Flyers are linked to a handful of big-name players at every major player movement date, and Ryan is just one of a few mentioned in connection to Philadelphia this off-season. Most attention to date has been focused on a pair of defensemen from Nashville, a certain Mr. Nash out of Columbus, and Zach Parise. Each of those four players also have stories attached as to why they are unlikely at best to dress in Orange & Black next season. 
But what about Ryan? 
Nash is expensive, both in terms of his huge cap hit/contract duration and what Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson will likely require to deal him. Parise will be the most sought after forward in the free agent market by a large margin, and there's been a report that he's unlikely to choose a Devils rival. Will the difficult in acquiring one of those two drive up the Ryan market? If so, what would he cost?
The challenge that comes with having high-ceiling young players like Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier on your roster this time of year is that any trade partner is going to start negotiations by naming one of them. In this case, LeBrun has a source saying any deal for Ryan would need to center around Schenn going the other way. 
Coming to Philadelphia along with Wayne Simmonds in exchange for future Stanley Cup Champion Mike Richards, Schenn is a player the Flyers would and should be intensely reluctant to deal. He came over complete with the billing of the best prospect not currently in the NHL, and the Flyers have him locked up for at least the next two seasons, during which he could develop out of potential stud mode into total-stud-right-now mode. 
Ryan's no slouch either, topping 30 goals in his four full seasons (the first being only 64 games). The second overall pick in 2005 checks in at 6'2, 200+, with a cap hit just north of $5M through 2014-2015. 
It's no secret that the Flyers would likely prefer to trade James van Riemsdyk, whose name has fueled most trade rumors lately. But, how likely is it that the Ducks are interested in swapping their big winger from Jersey for another one who has lower production and more injury questions? 
Although the speculation winds seem to be at JVR's back, it's not exactly the ideal time to trade him. Coming off an injury-shortened season and sitting in rehab vs. surgery limbo, it's hard to imagine the Flyers getting full value for the former 2nd overall pick. Just last year, JVR was deemed worthy of a sizable extension. This off-season, perhaps this weekend, the Flyers need to decide whether he's still worth that deal, or they need to convince someone else he is.
In short, if there's any meat on this rumor bone, it would take more cargo being loaded onto the flight to California than JVR. The Flyers' 20th overall is a start, but it'd likely require another rostered player such as a mid-pairing defenseman and/or one of the young forwards not named Schenn or Couturier. Can they afford to give up that kind of defenseman, particularly with Matt Carle ready to test free agency? 
In all of the discussion focusing on Nash, Parise, and Ryan, there is the reality that scoring was not the Flyers' biggest issue, not by a long shot. But with no easy answers on the blue line and the goaltending situation locked in place, it appears Paul Holmgren is in pursuit of another lamp-lighter. If Jaromir Jagr leaves and/or JVR is traded, there will be some opportunities for other forwards to get more minutes. But, also the opportunity for the GM to fill the void with a more proven acquisition. 
There's good reason to assume LeBrun is right that the Flyers are interested in Ryan. The hard part is figuring out a deal that would land him without hobbling the current roster. 
This all might be too deep a look into a simple "Rumblings" report, but with temperatures in the 90s, why not chat some hockey? After last year's draft dealings, nothing can be easily dismissed.
Check out LeBrun's piece for more Flyers discussion points, including St. Louis' interest in Carle and why money won't be the factor that determines whether Jagr is back in Philly next season. 
Stay tuned as things could get interesting ahead of tonight's draft in Pittsburgh… 

Ex-Penn State TE Brent Wilkerson gets probation for indecent assault

USA Today Images

Ex-Penn State TE Brent Wilkerson gets probation for indecent assault

BELLEFONTE, Pa. — A former Penn State football player will serve five years' probation and register as a sex offender after pleading guilty to indecent assault.

Twenty-two-year-old Brent Wilkerson was sentenced Tuesday after pleading guilty in connection with a February outing to several bars with a young woman and others.

Police say Wilkerson was drunk but the woman was sober when he insisted on making sure she got home safe.

The woman tells police Wilkerson pushed her upstairs to her bedroom where he fell asleep. The woman says she went to bed later and woke up to find Wilkerson kissing and fondling her and fondling himself. He later apologized in a text message.

Wilkerson was kicked off the team in March. Court records say he lives in Clinton, Maryland.

Union-Toronto FC 5 things: Embracing the playoff underdog role

Union-Toronto FC 5 things: Embracing the playoff underdog role

Union vs. Toronto FC
7:30 p.m. on ESPN2

Riding a seven-game winless run entering their first playoff match since 2011, the No. 6 Union (11-14-9) will attempt to hit the reset button and unseat the third-ranked and heavily favored Toronto FC (14-9-11) on Wednesday (7:30 p.m., ESPN2) at BMO Field.

Here are five things to know:

1. Playing underdog
The struggling Union are happily accepting the role as underdogs against MLS Cup-hungry Toronto FC.

"It's a difficult task but it’s not impossible,” Union manager Jim Curtin said. "Not many people are giving us a chance. We've been a good team when we're considered the underdog and my guys have responded well in that situation. This is no different."

To fully embrace that underdog role, and in an attempt to wash away the stink of how they ended the regular season, the Union are treating Wednesday as a hard reset. For them, the playoffs will be a fresh chance to prove themselves.

“It’s a new season now,” said Union center back Ken Tribbett, who helped his club draw Toronto FC at BMO Field on Sept. 24. “In the playoffs, anything can happen. We go up to Toronto and it’ll be a good test. We have to stay sharp for 90 minutes and hopefully we can come back here with a win.”

And there is a reason to be slightly optimistic about the Union’s chance. Despite a 1-0-1 record against the Canadian side this season, the Union, who lost 3-1 in the first match, played much better on Sept. 24 at BMO Field. They clogged the midfield and ground the Sebastian Giovinco-less club into a 1-1 draw.

“It’s encouraging that we have gone there recently and played well,” Curtin said. “I think we have a group that has a belief, and one that is pissed a bit about how things have ended. They are motivated.”

2. Leaning on experience
While the 2016 Union will ultimately be known for their reliance on youth — a group that included Keegan Rosenberry, who has played every minute this season, Fabian Herbers, Josh Yaro and Ken Tribbett — it’s the veterans that will lead them on Wednesday.

“This is a pressure game for everybody,” Curtin said. “We have a good balance of guys who have played in big spots, like (Chris) Pontius, Tranquillo (Barnetta), (Alejandro) Bedoya. (C.J.) Sapong has played in big games, you can go through the list.”

Yet despite Curtin’s need for his veterans to lead, his reliance on youth means the younger players need to be reliable. The manager admitted that pressure can change how people play, and he is making sure the Union youth movement remains steady on Wednesday.

“We have young guys, there’s no question about it,” Curtin said. “These guys will play in their first playoff game and a lot of the guys on our roster have never been in a playoff game. You hope they rise to the occasion and I’m confident they will.”

3. Pressure on Toronto
Making their second-ever postseason appearance, high-priced Toronto FC has its sights set on bigger things than the Union in the play-in playoff round. That’s why Curtin believes the pressure is squarely on his opposition.

“I’d say the pressure is on them, they are the home team,” the manager said. “My guys should be loose, they have nothing to lose. It’s fair to say, they are the home team and they want to make a deep playoff run. We want to make some noise.”

Toronto FC coach Greg Vanney knows his team will be excited, so he’s trying to instill a high intensity but controlled start for his club.

“We expect a little of the unexpected at the start,” he said. “The game settles down eventually, but at the start, there’s a lot of emotion into it and you want to play with the right kind of caution but the right kind of intensity to put the opposing team on their back foot.

“The guys are ready to go, ready to go after Philadelphia.”

4. Keep an eye on
Jozy Altidore: It would be easy to go with Giovinco here, but Altidore has a recent history of crushing the Union. He has two goals in his last three games against the Union and buried 10 in 23 games this season.

“Jozy is a guy who can stretch the field and is dangerous,” Curtin said. “He’s not a guy you can shut down, it’s not possible. He’ll have his moments, you just have to make those looks as predictable for (goalkeeper Andre Blake) as you can. You hope he’s a little off on the night.”

Tranquillo Barnetta: Without added inspiration, the Union offensive catalyst has been one of the club’s best players all season. On Wednesday, Curtin expects a little extra from Barnetta, who is not returning to the Union in 2017.

“I’ve talked a ton about how special he is, he’s been a great attribute for the Union and a guy we want to prolong the season for,” Curtin said. “He’s played in the big spots, the big games and there’s something extra there for him.” 

5. This and that
• On the injury front, Union center back Yaro sprained his MCL while returning from a concussion. “It’s a two-week injury,” Curtin said, “so it will be unfortunate he won’t be part of the Toronto game.”

Warren Creavalle is also fighting injury. The defensive midfielder left Sunday’s match with a rib injury but could be available for Wednesday. “It’s painful for him,” Curtin said. “He’s a tough kid and he wants to be a part of this game.”

• The Union and Toronto FC are deadlocked all time, with a 6-6-5 record against each other. 

• The Union are 2-4-3 at BMO Field.

• Both clubs enter Wednesday limping. Since August 27 (the Union’s last win), Toronto FC is 2-1-4, while the Union are 0-5-2.