Philadelphia Flyers

Berube talks Del Zotto, adjusting Flyers' defense

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Berube talks Del Zotto, adjusting Flyers' defense

Training camp for the Flyers won’t open until mid-September, but already coach Craig Berube has some major readjusting to do with his blue line.

Tuesday’s shocker -- Kimmo Timonen is out indefinitely with multiple blood clots -- left the Flyers without their top defenseman on a blue line already a tad old and too slow.

By nightfall, general manager Ron Hextall had signed Michael Del Zotto to a one-year deal worth $1.3 million.

That kind of contract screams prove yourself again, and we’ll talk long term.

Yet it also set into motion what Berube must do moving forward more than a month before training camp opens in adjusting his defensive pairs.

“He has lots of skill, speed,” Berube said of the 24-year-old Del Zotto. “He gets up in the play offensively. [He] worked the power play before in New York. He has a lot of skill.”

Berube’s first order of business now is figuring out where Del Zotto fits.

Timonen spent nearly all last season -- and most of his Flyers career -- paired with Braydon Coburn.

Berube tried Coburn with Andrew MacDonald at Pittsburgh late in the season and was intrigued by what he saw. That could be a pair to start the season.

“MacDonald and Coburn played together some games last year and I really liked what I saw there as a shutdown pair,” Berube said.

“[Mark] Streit and [Nick] Grossmann played together for quite some time. We’ll see. Maybe with Luke Schenn. Just going into camp you’ve got to look at some combinations and see what looks good.”

So for starters, Berube seems inclined to use Del Zotto with Schenn. He wants a stay-at-home defenseman with a mobile player on every pair. Nick Schultz is the sixth man going into camp.

“I always like a puck mover with a stay-at-home guy, but there are always games when we put two big guys together,” Berube said.

The loss of Timonen can’t be downplayed. His play on the ice, his leadership in the dressing room, his work on the power play, etc. Even at age 39 with declining skills, the Flyers will miss Timonen.

“Definitely, I know what we will miss without Kimmo,” Berube said. “We’re obviously concerned with Kimmo’s health. That is always first and foremost. We wish a good recovery and see him get back on the ice. His health is first.

“I can’t sit there and worry about Kimmo not being on the ice. Just get better. He’s been a great Flyer, but the most important thing is his health and not hockey.”

Del Zotto is not in Timonen’s caliber. He was a rising, young star when he came into the NHL in 2009 with the Rangers. Since then, Del Zotto’s stock has dropped dramatically.

He played parts of five seasons on Broadway with 26 goals and 95 assists for 121 points in 292 games. His breakout year was 2011-12 with 10 goals and 41 points in 77 games, while earning a plus-20 rating.

Much like with the signing of goalie Steve Mason back in April 2013, the Flyers see this as a fresh beginning for Del Zotto with a chance to earn a better contract in the future.

“Absolutely,” Berube agreed.

NHL Notes: Devils lose Travis Zajac for 4-6 months with pectoral injury

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NHL Notes: Devils lose Travis Zajac for 4-6 months with pectoral injury

NEWARK, N.J. -- The New Jersey Devils have lost top center Travis Zajac for four to six months with a pectoral injury.

Devils executive vice president and general manager Ray Shero announced that Zajac had surgery to repair the pectoral muscle on Thursday.

Shero said the Zajac was hurt last week during offseason training.

Dr. Jonathan L. Glashow performed the surgery and estimated that Zajac's recovery time could last until February. The season starts in October.

The 32-year-old Zajac had 14 goals and 31 assists last season. He has 155 career goals and 280 assists. He has played for the Devils since the 2006-07 season.

The 20th overall pick in the 2004 NHL Draft, Zajac signed an eight-year, $46 million contract in 2013.

Sabres sign Zemgus Girgensons to 2-year deal

Sabres: Team signs forward Girgensons to 2-year deal
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Sabres have signed forward Zemgus Girgensons to a two-year contract.

The team announced the deal Thursday that carries an average value of $1.6 million.

Girgensons, from Latvia, is the last of the Sabres' restricted free agents to sign with the team. Buffalo's first-round pick in 2012 has 37 goals and 49 assists in 277 career games over four seasons.

He skated in a career-best 75 games last season after signing a one-year extension last September.

NHL Notes: Oilers sign star Leon Draisaitl to mega 8-year contract

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NHL Notes: Oilers sign star Leon Draisaitl to mega 8-year contract

EDMONTON, Alberta -- The Edmonton Oilers have signed center Leon Draisaitl to an eight-year contract extension with an average annual value of $8.5 million.

The extension runs through the 2024-25 season, similar to the eight-year, $100-million extension superstar captain Connor McDavid signed with the team in July.

With the signings, the Oilers are banking on McDavid and Draisaitl providing a potent one-two punch for the team as it looks to build on last season's return to the playoffs after a decade of futility.

Draisaitl, a 21-year-old German, had 77 points (29 goals, 48 assists) last season, his third in the NHL.

He finished eighth among NHL scorers, and second on the Oilers behind McDavid.

He led the Oilers in scoring during the 2017 playoffs, posting 16 points (six goals, 10 assists) in 13 games.

Draisaitl was selected third overall by the Oilers at the 2015 draft (see full story).

Avalanche: Hobey Baker winner Butcher now free agent
College hockey's top player is an NHL free agent after former University of Denver defenseman Will Butcher allowed a deadline to pass without signing with the Colorado Avalanche.

The Avalanche selected Butcher in the fifth round of the 2013 draft and had until Tuesday to sign the Hobey Baker Award winner who led Denver to a national championship in April.

A person with direct knowledge of the discussions told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Butcher already has had discussions with the Buffalo Sabres, New Jersey Devils and NHL-expansion Vegas Golden Knights. The person said Butcher has not yet narrowed his list, and is also talking with other teams.

The person spoke to the AP on the condition of anonymity because the talks are private.

The Denver Post first reported the three specific teams expressing interest in Butcher (see full story).

Wild: Cullen comes home for 21st NHL season
The Minnesota Wild and center Matt Cullen have agreed to a one-year, $1 million contract, bringing him back to his home state for a 21st season in the NHL.

The Wild announced the deal, which includes $700,000 in potential performance bonuses, on Wednesday.

Cullen played the last two years with Pittsburgh, winning consecutive Stanley Cups with the Penguins. He played three seasons for the Wild from 2010-13, his first return to Minnesota since launching his career at Moorhead High School and St. Cloud State.

Cullen, who will turn 41 on Nov. 2, had 13 goals and 18 assists in 72 games in 2016-17 for the Penguins, plus two goals and seven assists in 25 playoff games. He has played in 1,366 career regular season games, the sixth-most among active players (see full story).