NEW YORK – Their coach, Craig Berube, put it best: The Flyers didn’t have enough fight.
Up against their divisional rivals the New York Rangers, in a building in which they haven’t won in more than three years, the Flyers simply didn’t have the necessary passion and energy to win a critical game.
They paid the price, losing one of their most important games of the season, 3-1 (see Instant Replay).
“Every game means a lot,” Berube said. “Teams are going to battle hard and we need to battle harder. We need everybody going, doing the right things out there. Tonight we didn’t have it. We didn’t have our best players playing tonight.”
Instead, the Flyers saw the Rangers’ Metropolitan Division lead over them grow to three points. The Flyers, after the loss, remained in third place. They’ve now lost back-to-back games after winning five in a row.
It’s the Rangers, in fact, who now lay claim to a five-game winning streak.
“They do the same thing every time,” Wayne Simmonds said, “The D got the puck, they sent three guys to the far blue line, and it is what it is. We didn’t reload well enough. We didn’t support the puck well enough. We didn’t bear down when we got our chances on [Henrik] Lundqvist.”
The Flyers will have to settle for a season series tie with the Rangers. They won two at home, but lost both games at the Garden, a building in which they’ve now lost eight in a row.
It didn’t have to turn out that way, though. The Flyers actually kept pace with the Rangers early, even outshooting them 15-6 in the first period. Though they trailed 1-0 thanks to Rangers winger Derek Dorsett’s first-period goal, it was after the first 20 minutes that things really started to go downhill for the Flyers.
“I thought the first period, we were good,” Berube said. “I think we played a pretty smart period in the first, did a lot of smart things. I thought we got outworked in the second period, especially on the walls. We weren’t very good on the walls.”
But right from the get-go in the second period, the Flyers were flat, Berube said. Defenseman Ryan McDonagh gave the Rangers a two-goal lead early in the period, and what little momentum the Flyers had seemed to dissipate entirely.
The Flyers went a stretch in the middle of the second during which they were outshot, 6-0.
“We got away from what was making us successful,” Steve Mason said. “You look at the intensity that we brought in games against Pittsburgh, and I just feel that it wasn’t there tonight. These are huge games for us, and for us to not come out with our best effort, we need better.”
Mason stopped 26 of the 29 shots he faced. Across the ice, Lundqvist stopped 30 of 31. The Rangers’ defense proved to be too much for the Flyers. They struggled to hold on to the puck, turning it over far too much in the neutral zone especially.
The Rangers took a 3-0 lead midway through the third period on Dominic Moore’s goal that Mason never saw coming. And though Jakub Voracek saved the Flyers from being shut out -- on his 100th NHL career goal -- the little fight he showed wasn’t enough.
“We didn’t play our game,” Claude Giroux said. “It’s like we didn’t have any energy. Some lines did play well, did the right things. Our line wasn’t doing the right things out there, we were doing a lot of bad things.
“We’ve got to do a better job of getting ready and play better games.”
Expensive at the start, cheaper at the finish.
That’s how Flyers general manager Ron Hextall views the four-year, $20.5 million contract he gave Brayden Schenn on Monday morning to avoid salary arbitration (see story).
Hextall admitted the club is overpaying up front on the deal, but believes it got a “fair” number for the final two years, when Schenn would have become an unrestricted free agent.
“We took a higher cap hit for the first two years and essentially a lower hit than we would have taken in years three and four if we piece meal it together,” Hextall said.
Hextall said he was walking into the 9 a.m. Toronto hearing with agent Don Meehan already deep in a conversation on a deal but prepared to go through with arbitration.
Both parties asked arbitrator Elizabeth Neumeier for additional time and completed the contract by 9:45 a.m.
Schenn, a restricted free agent, turned down the Flyers’ two-year offer of $4.25 million for this coming season and $4.369 million in 2017-18. That averaged to $4.3 million.
His new contract averages $5.125 million.
“The benefit for us is our cap number stays flat for four years rather than having have a cap at a lower number then taking a run at him for two years, if in fact he’d sign for two years at a higher cap number,” Hextall said.
Hextall denied he was concerned he might get whacked in arbitration. Yet Schenn has had just one very good season in five years as a Flyer. That was last season with 26 goals and 59 points.
Hextall described Schenn as a player who has been “average” in his development, yet has improved in the subtle “intricacies” of the game such as finding open spots, avoiding shot blocks and coming cleanly across the blue line without turning the puck over.
Schenn’s true market value is closer to what New Jersey’s Kyle Palmieri, a 25-year-old right wing, signed earlier this month: a five-year deal worth $23.25 with an AAV of $4.65 million.
Then again, St. Louis’ Jaden Schwartz signed a five-year, $26.5 million deal with a $5.35 million AAV. That’s above market value.
Meehan originally sought an AAV of $5.5 million for Schenn. In arbitration, it’s likely the Flyers would have received a two-year award in the middle of both numbers.
“Nothing really concerned me [about arbitration],” Hextall said. “We had a range and in the end our range was close to what Brayden’s camp felt the range was. Both sides had a range on a two-year deal.
“It’s a market deal. ... Brayden has been a good player. Top-six forwards are hard to find and there’s a premium to pay. There’s no question we paid a premium for a top-six forward who's 24 years old and essentially coming into his prime.”
While Hextall labeled Schenn a top-six forward, he tap-danced around whether he sees him as a “core” player for the Flyers, even though this makes him the third highest-paid forward behind Claude Giroux ($8.275 million) and Jakub Voracek ($8.25 million).
“What is a core [player]?” Hextall asked. “That’s arguable. ... What we do know is Brayden is a very good young player who is getting better and we hope he continues to get better.”
This signing leaves the Flyers with just $1.38 million in salary cap space, but with 14 forwards, the club will lose at least one by the end of training camp.
Thinking ahead, Jordan Weal could be sent to the Phantoms, shaving $650,000 off the cap. That’s the most likely option for the Flyers, but not their only option.
Scott Laughton, whose role was diminished by a strong presence from Nick Cousins, is a lesser possibility. His cap hit is $863,333.
Losing either of those two salaries would provide the Flyers over $2 million in cap space.
Schenn’s contract lacks a no-trade/no-movement clause that he would have been eligible for starting in 2018-19. He turns 25 in August.
The Flyers have one more arbitration to settle: defenseman Brandon Manning on Aug. 2.
In the end, the Flyers blinked and avoided arbitration Monday morning by overpaying Brayden Schenn with a four-year, $20.5 million contract.
The contract leaves the club in a precarious salary cap situation, as the Flyers have just $1.38 million in space now, according to generalfanager.com.
The 11th-hour settlement saw the Flyers and Schenn’s agent, Don Meehan, avoid arbitration, which was set for 9 a.m. in Toronto.
Meehan was seeking a deal worth $5.5 million for Schenn, who was a restricted free agent.
The one Schenn signed will average $5.125 million, according to a source, which still seems excessively high for the 24-year-old, who has had just one excellent season in five full years in the NHL, excluding two partial seasons with the Los Angeles Kings.
Schenn had his most productive year last season with career-highs in goals (26), assists (33) and points (59), while showing he could play wing on Claude Giroux’s line with Wayne Simmonds.
The Flyers and Schenn were more than $1 million apart going into Monday morning with no progress having been made over this past weekend.
Why general manager Ron Hextall didn’t risk the arbitration process remains unanswered. The contracts of some players in comparable situations favored a settlement less than what the Flyers agreed to.
The Flyers had offered Schenn a two-year deal that would have paid him $4.25 million this coming season and $4.369 million in 2017-18. That’s an average of $4.3 million.
New Jersey’s Kyle Palmieri, a 25-year-old right wing, signed a five-year deal earlier this month worth $23.25 million. His AAV is $4.65 million. That’s the figure the Flyers could have gambled on getting from an arbitrator.
They may have been scared away from going through with the arbitration because of the five-year, $26.5 million deal fellow RFA Jaden Schwartz signed with St. Louis earlier that carried a $5.35 million hit.
Hextall was not immediately available for comment.
TSN’s Bob McKenzie first reported the financials of the contract.
Barring an 11th-hour settlement, the Flyers will go to arbitration on Monday against swing forward Brayden Schenn.
The hearing is slated for 9 a.m.
The two sides are more than $1 million apart with no progress having been made over this past weekend.
“We will probably go to arbitration,” Don Meehan, the agent for Schenn, said Sunday.
Flyers general manager Ron Hextall seemed to concur.
“I’m not overly optimistic,” he said about avoiding arbitration.
Defenseman Michael Del Zotto filed last summer but signed without going to a hearing.
The 24-year-old Schenn is the highest-profile Flyer to get this far without signing since John LeClair back in 2000. He received $7 million — the highest one-year award ever.
By filing on July 5, Meehan assured his client will get a contract. The Flyers’ qualified Schenn, who earned $2.75 million last season, on June 30.
He is a restricted free agent, who could earn close to $5 million a season on his next deal. And that’s the sticky part.
Sources said the Flyers offered a two-year deal that would pay Schenn $4.25 million this coming season and $4.369 million in 2017-18 (see story). That’s an AAV of $4.30 million.
Meehan wants $5.50 million, which is excessively high given Schenn’s seven-year career thus far.
At the same time, if you look at the some of the RFA signings this summer, as Meehan surely has, the comparable numbers would suggest Schenn is worth slightly more than what the Flyers have offered.
Two examples here: New Jersey’s Kyle Palmieri, a 25-year-old right wing, signed a five-year deal earlier this month worth $23.25 million. His AAV is $4.65 million. That’s the correct ballpark for Schenn.
Schenn had his most productive year last season with career-highs in goals (26), assists (33) and points (59) while proving he can play the wing on Claude Giroux’s line with Wayne Simmonds on the right side.
Palmieri had career-highs as well in goals (30), assists (27) and points (57).
Problem is, the other end of the spectrum, where Jaden Schwartz of the St. Louis Blues sits.
The 24-year-old center recently signed a five-year, $26.5 million deal as an RFA with an AAV of $5.35 million. That’s far higher than Hextall wants to go with Schenn at this point.
A fractured ankle and subsequent surgery ruined Schwartz’ past season (33 games played), but Blues’ general manager Doug Armstrong looked at what Schwartz accomplished two years ago — career-highs with 28 goals, 35 assists and 63 points – and used that as a barometer for the future.
That deal hurts the Flyers here with Schenn.
Hextall’s offer suggests the Flyers want Schenn to prove he’s a $5 million player, which means show the Flyers 30 goals and 70 points this season.
Schenn finished second in goals to Simmonds (32) and third in points behind Giroux (67) and Simmonds (60) last season.
The arbitrator should be able to locate a fair medium. Expect Meehan to ask for a one-year award only.