Philadelphia Flyers

Flyers finally face Shea Weber -- unfortunately


Flyers finally face Shea Weber -- unfortunately

The Flyers caught a break the first time they played the Nashville Predators this season. They weren’t so lucky the second time.

Back on Nov. 30, the Flyers beat the Predators in a shootout. Nashville defenseman Shea Weber missed that game with an eye injury. He didn’t miss Thursday’s rematch -- much to the chagrin of the Flyers and their fans.

Nashville beat the Flyers, 4-3 in a shootout, at the Wells Fargo Center on Thursday evening (see Instant Replay). Weber was involved in all three goals during regulation. He had an assist on each of the first two and scored in the third period.

“It’s a tough place to play,” Weber said. “They’re a tough team. Obviously we would have liked to win in regulation, but they scored a power-play goal late and we were able to finish it off in a shootout. It was a confidence builder … obviously guys were squeezing their sticks a little bit. For a while there, we couldn’t score in the shootout. It was a pressure situation but we pulled it out.”

After Thursday's effort, the Predators’ captain has 20 points in his last 18 games. He also leads all NHL defensemen with 12 goals.

Weber, who was recently named to his second straight Winter Olympics for Team Canada, was frequently booed on Thursday evening. It wasn’t surprising. As Flyers fans are all too aware, Weber was awfully close to playing in Philadelphia. In the summer of 2012, the Flyers signed Weber to a 14-year, $110 million offer sheet. Weber was a restricted free agent at the time, and it was uncertain whether Nashville would match the offer. The Predators did and retained the services of the 6-4, 233-pound All-Star defenseman.

Thursday night was the first time since then that Weber has played against the Flyers. But when he was asked about that situation and what it was like to finally face a team he almost ended up playing for, Weber answered by skipping over the question.

“It was a good game,” Weber said. “They’re a good team. It’s unfortunate we didn’t get the win in regulation time. But we still got two points.”

That was it. That was all he offered -- until a Nashville reporter rephrased and asked Weber whether anyone got “chirpy” with him during the game.

“Just Hartsy,” Weber said about Scott Hartnell, “cause he’s always chirpy. That’s nothing new though."

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).

ESPN analyst ranks Flyers' farm system No. 1 in NHL

ESPN analyst ranks Flyers' farm system No. 1 in NHL

Ron Hextall never told fans to "trust the process," but apparently any faith in the Flyers' GM has been vindicated.

At least that's the case if you believe ESPN NHL writer Corey Pronman's latest farm system rankings (it's an Insider story, so apologies in advance). Pronman has the Flyers' farm ranked as No. 1 in the NHL. 

"The Flyers don't have as much game-breaking talent as our No. 2 team (Coyotes) does at the top of their system," Pronman writes, "but 2017 No. 2 overall pick Nolan Patrick is right up there; after Patrick, the Flyers have the cupboards lined with talent at every position."

Pronman credits the Flyers with nailing his first-round picks (Patrick, Ivan Provorov), grabbing middle-round prospects that have blossomed (Shayne Gostisbehere, Oskar Lindblom) and specifically mentions Phil Myers, an undrafted defenseman that has become "one of the very best defense prospects in hockey."

For so long, the Flyers' organization was perpetually in "win-now mode," but the late Ed Snider hired Hextall away from the Kings and eventually made him GM, knowing that Hexy was taking a broader view of the organization. Instead of trading away young talent and draft picks for aging veterans, Hextall restocked a dreadful farm system to get the team where it is today.

"Not too long ago, the Flyers' farm system was a laughingstock, with C-grade college free agents making it into their top five," Pronman said. "Today, they are in the best position of any NHL team in terms of adding young premium players to their roster."