Simon Gagne Joins Mike Richards in Los Angeles; Vokoun to DC for 1.5M

Simon Gagne Joins Mike Richards in Los Angeles; Vokoun to DC for 1.5M

Two former faces of the Flyers have today find themselves teammates again. After Simon Gagne was firmly asked to waive his no-trade clause last off-season, he was dealt to Tampa Bay, where he spent 2010-2011. This off-season, with a year left before his own no-trade clause kicked in, Mike Richards was dealt to the Los Angeles Kings. Now, Flyers nostalgists have another reason adopt LA as their Western Conference team this season. Already dubbed Flyers West, the Kings added another former Broad Streeter today, signing Gagne to a 2-year, $7 million deal.

I'm still a fan of both players and felt kinda bad for each in how their tenures in Philly ended, so I wouldn't mind seeing them succeed together in another uniform. Just as long as they don't win a Cup before the Flyers…

CAPS SIGN VOKOUN FOR A SONG
Elsewhere, Tomas Vokoun, considered by many to be the second best free agent goalie on this summer's market (others say he was the best), signed for a deal scant in dollars and years. The 35-year-old netminder was inked by the Washington Capitals for just 1 year at $1.5 million.

What the what?

Back here in Philly, there'll no doubt be questions as to whether the Flyers might have been better off keeping their core team intact, going with Vokoun in a short-term, cost-effective deal, and letting Sergei Bobrovsky work his way up to being a starter down the road. At the very least, it re-opens the question as to whether the Flyers overpaid for Ilya Bryzgalov, even if he was their choice among this year's crop.

It sounds possible enough on the surface, but perhaps above all else, the Flyers really wanted the sea change we've witnessed this summer, including a long-term answer in net. If so, they have likely achieved those goals. The sum total of their moves seem to indicate a desire to turn over the roster and strengthen a few key areas that they considered weaknesses, all while adding some youth. Their activity in free agency also showed some market awareness, particularly their nabbing Jaromir Jagr as a cheaper, lower-risk replacement for Ville Leino, who wanted a deal they had no business touching.

But did they know Vokoun would be had for so little? I'm not sure anyone saw that one coming, not at that rate. I certainly don't remember anyone suggesting that Vokoun could be had for a lower cap hit than either Bobrovsky or Michael Leighton.

Nice nab by the Caps here, who also pulled in a first and second when they dealt goalie Semyon Varlamov to the Colorado Avalanche. Considering the Avalanche were the second worst team in the league last season, that first-round pick could likely be a high one. While the Flyers attacked the market before it opened, targeting and acquiring the goalie of their choice, the Caps waited it out—a riskier proposition but one they were comfortable with, having Michal Neuvirth already in the fold. Despite Bryzgalov setting the market at a high number with a lot of years, there wasn't much demand for the next guy on the list.

Personally, there's been so much change that I think it's clear the Flyers' brass wanted more than just tweaks this season. In retrospect, that may have involved overpaying for their top target in a goalie market that wasn't very competitive, nor crowded with top talent. At the time, however, many thought the deal was reasonable enough and not a crippling cap hit for a top goalie in free agency. The long duration was needed to keep the total manageable on an annual basis. After the goalie market shook out? Not quite as reasonable.

These moves don't occur in a vacuum though. A team needs to start somewhere, prioritizing its top needs and targeting solutions. Waiting out the market can have its benefits, but it obviously brings the risk of missing out on your targets. Despite there being less of a market for goalies this summer, the raising of the salary cap floor could have meant that a team would throw their delta money at a guy like Vokoun. The Caps felt comfortable enough with what they had to wait and see, and they got a nice deal with a talented goalie as a result. For the Flyers, the mandate to improve in net came straight from the top. There would be no waiting.

I'm not going to spend too much time second-guessing it at this point (and not just because my vacation started today). With Vokoun just down 95 in another Eastern Conference powerhouse, we'll have every opportunity to evaluate Bryzgalov vs. Vokoun in a relatively head-to-head fashion, with obvious caveats.

Right now I'm just eager to see the new team on the ice and find out if the front office had the right overall idea, and got the right players to execute it. More than a week after the chips started flying, I still haven't fully wrapped my head around this off-season.

Photo by Dale Zanine-US Presswire

Best of NBA: Wall, Wizards top Knicks for 4th straight win

Best of NBA: Wall, Wizards top Knicks for 4th straight win

NEW YORK -- John Wall had 29 points and 13 assists, scoring Washington's final four points in the last 32 seconds as the surging Wizards beat the New York Knicks 113-110 on Thursday night.

Otto Porter Jr. made six 3-pointers for the second straight night and added 23 points, but the Wizards needed big plays from Wall down the stretch to win their fourth in a row.

He made two free throws to put Washington back on top after New York had rallied to take a 110-109 lead, then rebounded Carmelo Anthony's miss and left all the Knicks in his dust as he raced down the floor for a dunk with 13.7 seconds to play.

Anthony finished with 34 points but Wall stole the ball from Brandon Jennings to prevent the Knicks from attempting a 3-pointer that could have tied it (see full recap).

Leonard scores 34 to lead Spurs over Nuggets
SAN ANTONIO -- Kawhi Leonard scored 34 points, rookie Dejounte Murray added a season-high 24 and the San Antonio Spurs overcame a pregame injury to Pau Gasol in beating the Denver Nuggets 118-104 on Thursday night.

Denver's three-game winning streak was snapped despite a career-high 35 points from Nikola Jokic.

Leonard had his fifth straight 30-point performance, right after learning he will start for the Western Conference in the All-Star Game for the second consecutive season.

The Spurs were unexpectedly without Gasol, Tony Parker and then coach Gregg Popovich. Gasol and Parker were both late scratches due to injury, and Popovich was ejected for the first time this season.

Gasol broke the ring finger on his left (non-shooting) hand by jamming it against Kyle Anderson's shoulder during pregame warmups while attempting a running hook. The 16-year veteran center immediately clutched his hand and left the court.

X-rays revealed the break, and the Spurs said there is no timeline for Gasol's return.

Irving, James lead Cavs over Suns
CLEVELAND -- Kyrie Irving scored 26 points, All-Star teammate LeBron James had 21 points and 15 assists, and the Cleveland Cavaliers looked more like themselves at home in a 118-103 win over the Phoenix Suns on Thursday night.

The Cavs were back in Quicken Loans Arena following a six-game road trip (their longest of the season) that concluded with an embarrassing 35-point loss at Golden State. But on their home floor, they had better offensive balance and ball movement while improving to 30-11 -- the same record Cleveland had at the halfway point of its 2016 NBA championship season.

Channing Frye scored 18, Iman Shumpert 17 and James Jones 14 while filling in for star forward Kevin Love, still bothered by back spasms.

Tyson Chandler had 22 points and 16 rebounds, but the Suns lost for the fourth time in five games (see full recap).

Best of NHL: Surging Capitals rock Blues in St. Louis

Best of NHL: Surging Capitals rock Blues in St. Louis

ST. LOUIS -- Andre Burakovsky, T.J. Oshie and Evgeny Kuznetsov each had a goal and an assist to lead the Washington Capitals to a 7-3 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night.

Jay beagle, Brett Connolly, Marcus Johansson and Justin Williams also scored, and Alex Ovechkin and Daniel Winnik each had two assists to help Washington earn at least a point in its 12th straight game (10-0-2) for an NHL-best 66 points.

Braden Holtby bounced back from his roughest outing of the season with 22 saves. Holtby was pulled after giving up a season-high five goals on 26 shots in an 8-7 overtime loss at Pittsburgh on Monday. He improved to 22-8-4 and 5-0 lifetime against St. Louis (see full recap).

Grabner scores 2 goals, Rangers top Leafs
TORONTO -- Michael Grabner scored two goals against his former team, helping the New York Rangers snap a three-game losing streak with a 5-2 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night.

Pavel Buchnevich, Brady Skjei and J.T. Miller added goals for New York, and Henrik Lundqvist made 23 saves following a series of rough outings.

Tyler Bozak and Zach Hyman scored for Toronto, which had a three-game winning streak stopped. The Maple Leafs had earned 21 of a possible 26 points in their previous 13 games (10-2-1). Frederik Andersen gave up four goals on 40 shots (see full recap).

Tavares leads Islanders to shutout of Stars
NEW YORK -- Getting a new coach this week didn't change things much for the Islanders -- and oddly enough, that's a good thing for New York.

John Tavares narrowly missed out on his second hat trick in a week, Thomas Greiss got his second straight shutout and the Islanders beat the Dallas Stars 3-0 on Thursday night in their first game since firing longtime coach Jack Capuano.

New York canned Capuano in the middle of his seventh season Tuesday, replacing him on an interim basis with Doug Weight (see full recap).

Niederreiter, Wild dodge letdown, edge Coyotes
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Nino Niederreiter had two power-play goals and an assist, including the go-ahead score for the Minnesota Wild with 7:06 remaining in a 4-3 victory over Arizona on Thursday night after the Coyotes came back from a two-goal deficit.

With Shane Doan in the penalty box for hooking, Niederreiter knocked in a nifty redirect of Mikael Granlund's slap shot for the winner. Devan Dubnyk stopped 20 shots for the Wild, who are 18-2-2 in their last 22 games.

Louis Domingue made 21 saves for the Coyotes, who lost their fourth in a row and fell to 2-12-1 in their last 15 games starting with a 4-1 loss to Minnesota in Arizona on Dec. 17 (see full recap).