Chris Pronger's life in two worlds

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Chris Pronger's life in two worlds

Chris Pronger walks a fine line between working for the Flyers in a scouting capacity and sitting in on meetings with management, all the while being a dues-paying member of the NHLPA.

Such is the life of a former player, struck down by post-concussion syndrome, and living between two worlds -- permanently disabled player and club scouting.

“I have yet to be told what my duties are,” said Pronger, who still suffers from headaches from an ocular concussion and likely will for the rest of his life.

“As still an active player and a dues-paying member of the [NHLPA] and all that, I know my role will be somewhat limited still in what I can and can’t do," Pronger said on Thursday at Flyers training camp.

Pronger is not an active player in the true sense. He can’t retire without harming the Flyers' salary infrastructure. Under the CBA, they would be stuck with his near-$4.9 million cap hit for the remaining four years of his contract without the ability to place him on LTIR.

By not retiring, he goes on LTIR once the season begins, gets his money, the club gets to use his salary for cap benefits, and he gets to try his hand at evaluating talent off video and in-person scouting.

The problem is, Pronger is from a generation of players that prefers things black and white without shades of grey.

In short, Pronger doesn’t like the potential conflict of interest.

“I’m not saying I can’t [do this],” Pronger said. “There’s a lot of things I would rather not know. I don’t think I need to be part of a lot of things that go in management’s office.

“Still being part of the PA and still being a player on the team and all the rest of that stuff. Scouting is something anybody can do. Putting in reports on teams and systems is something I don’t see a problem with [doing].”

He planned to meet with general manager Paul Holmgren on Thursday to discuss living in two worlds and setting some guidelines he would feel comfortable with.

“I’m not pulling back,” Pronger said. “It’s just a matter of having a conversation."

Ethically, it’s difficult for Pronger to offer candid opinions to management on players whose entire career could go south on something he says when he is paying dues, like them, to the NHLPA.

Then again, this entire job is all new to him.

“At times you enjoy it,” he said. “Doing the pro scouting stuff is a little bit easier because you know the players and know what you’re looking for.

“The draft stuff, the junior hockey, that stuff is a lot of projection. You need to have a little bit more experience and base to understand development and where guys can end up.”

Pronger has scouted college, junior and pro athletes. When the time comes where he can retire without ramifications, he likely will make a terrific scout. He is, after all, a future Hall of Famer.

As for his health, there remains no consistency in his daily life.

“It’s a process,” he said. “Some days are still a little erratic. You have highs and lows, but my therapy is going pretty well. My eye treatment has progressed along.

“We’re moving in the right direction. Obviously, I’m still having some significant issues. I went on the ice a couple weeks ago with my kids.

“Moving in a straight line slowly was OK. You start turning and spinning and things like that, and you get lightheaded and dizzy and you start having some of those symptoms and you get brought back down to the real world, real quick. You start realizing there’s still a lot of work to be done.”

He showed up at Flyers camp and his juices got flowing before reality floored him.

“It’s not the same when you’re coming to the rink knowing you’ve got a purpose and start preparing for a season and a long stretch drive to roll through the playoffs and achieve your goal,” he said.

“Coming to the rink is always an adrenaline rush and seeing the guys coming to the locker room, seeing the staff, that’s always fun to be around. But it can be depressing at times, too, knowing you’re not able to do what you want to do and what you should be doing.”

And it will always be that way until the finality occurs when Chris Pronger is officially retired and living in one world, not two.

Flyers free-agent goalie fits: Jonathan Bernier

Flyers free-agent goalie fits: Jonathan Bernier

Each day this week until July 1, the day free agency begins, Tom Dougherty, Jordan Hall and Greg Paone will profile the five best goalie options for the Flyers on the open market and project their likelihood of signing.

Jonathan Bernier
Age: 28
Height: 6-0
Weight: 184
Last team: Anaheim Ducks
2016-17 cap hit: $4.15 million

Scouting report
After being drafted 11th overall in 2006, Bernier was a highly-touted goaltender coming up in the Los Angeles Kings system and performed well in a backup role for five seasons in L.A.

But with Jonathan Quick in Los Angeles, Bernier was blocked from getting a viable opportunity to be a No. 1 with the Kings. In June 2013, they shipped him to Toronto.

Bernier did not capitalize on his opportunity with the Maple Leafs, however. He never established himself as a high-end starting goalie in three seasons despite a strong first year.

In 2013-14, Bernier was 26-19-7 with a 2.68 goals-against average and .923 save percentage with the Leafs but that save percentage continually dropped the next two years.

Toronto decided to cut ties with Bernier after the 2015-16 season and traded him to the Anaheim Ducks for a conditional draft pick. He spent last season backing up John Gibson.

Appearing in 39 games last season for the Ducks, Bernier posted a 21-7-4 record with a 2.50 goals-against average, .915 save percentage and two shutouts.

One note about Bernier: Flyers general manager Ron Hextall was an assistant GM in Los Angeles when the Kings drafted him in 2006, so there is a connection there.

Dougherty's projection
I don’t think Bernier is the best option available for the Flyers but the most likely. Maybe I’m putting too much weight on the Hextall connection here, maybe not. We’ll see.

Bernier fits what the Flyers appear to want in a goalie going forward: a short-term veteran option who can share the net with Michal Neuvirth in a platoon situation.

Hextall isn’t looking for the Flyers’ goalie of the future this summer. He believes he has that in the system already but needs to bide time for Carter Hart and Felix Sandstrom.

But he will be looking for a goalie who he can trust playing around 40 games or more next season and give the team quality in net. In that role, Bernier would be a solid fit.

He hasn’t panned out as projected and we could use him as one example of why we don’t see many goaltenders drafted high in the first round. They’re tough to project.

With that said, Bernier has found success in the past, including last season in Anaheim, in either a platoon or backup situation. He’ll come at a reasonable price, too.

A tandem of Neuvirth-Bernier would not be the worst thing in the world for the Flyers; it wouldn’t be the best, either. I think it would give them enough in net to compete.

If I had to predict which goaltender on the market will be here next season, it is Bernier.

Hall's projection
I see Bernier as one of the least realistic options for the Flyers.
 
The 2006 11th overall pick hasn't quite lived up to the hype, but he still has some cachet, probably too much for the Flyers in this spot.
 
He turns only 29 in August and in a backup role last season, his 2.50 goals-against average and .915 save percentage still ranked in the top 15 among NHL goalies that played 39 games or more.
 
The role and price in which the Flyers will offer shouldn't attract Bernier much. From the sound of Hextall, I expect him to be judicious in adding a goalie. This sounds much more like a stopgap, temporary position than anything future oriented.
 
There's a connection with the Flyers' GM here, but that might be it when it comes to the Bernier scenario.

Paone's projection
I find Bernier to be an intriguing option for the Flyers.

First and foremost, there is plenty of familiarity with Bernier within the Flyers' organization. Hextall and current Flyers goalie coach Kim Dillabaugh were both parts of the Kings' organization when Bernier was drafted in 2006 and worked with him during his development into an NHL goaltender. They not only know the type of player and competitor they'd be getting, they also know the type of person they'd be getting and that plays a role, too.

Bernier had a very strong campaign for the Ducks last season. That certainly makes him an attractive option for the Flyers. He did his best to prove he can be a reliable option again after things soured for him in Toronto. But, hey, a lot of things went sour in Toronto during those times.

But that strong campaign with Anaheim last season will have Bernier wanting opportunity and more of it. With Neuvirth entrenched here, how much opportunity would there actually be for Bernier here? Would the Flyers present the type of opportunity he's looking for after last year's showing with the Ducks? My guess is no. He'll likely want an opportunity to take on much more of a workload.

So while the option is intriguing for many reasons and it certainly isn't out of the realm of possibility, I ultimately feel this is an option both he and the Flyers pass on.

Flyers re-sign defenseman Mark Alt to 1-year, 2-way deal

Flyers re-sign defenseman Mark Alt to 1-year, 2-way deal

One day after extending qualifying offers to seven restricted free agents (see story), the Flyers re-signed Mark Alt, who was unrestricted.

The Phantoms' defenseman agreed to a one-year, two-way deal on Tuesday that will play him $125,000 in the AHL and $650,000 in the NHL.

The 25-year-old has played four years with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. 

He had one goal and 11 points last season in 40 AHL games.

Alt's only NHL appearance was his debut as a Flyer on March 28, 2015, at San Jose.

Alt has 68 points (12 goals) in 237 AHL games.