Philadelphia Flyers

Flyers free-agent target: Dan Boyle

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Flyers free-agent target: Dan Boyle

Each day from now until July 1, the day free agency begins, Sarah Baicker and Tim Riday will profile some of the NHL's top impending free agents and project their likelihood of signing with the Flyers.

Dan Boyle, defenseman
Age: 37
Height: 5-11
Weight: 190
Last team: New York Islanders
2013-14 cap hit: $6.6 million

Scouting report
Boyle, who signed with the Florida Panthers in 1998 after going undrafted out of Miami University, is one of the smoothest puck-moving defensemen in the NHL. He's consistently produced offensively throughout his 16-year career, eclipsing 30 or more points nine times. And, despite his small stature, he's no slouch in his own end. The veteran blueliner has also shined on hockey's biggest stages. He helped the Tampa Bay Lightning hoist the Stanley Cup in 2004 and was a key contributor for Team Canada in the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, where he won his first and only gold medal.

Last season in San Jose, Boyle had 12 goals and 24 assists in 75 games, but the Sharks announced after the season that he wouldn't be returning. San Jose traded his rights to the New York Islanders earlier this month in exchange for a conditional 2015 fifth-round pick. Talks between the Isles and Boyle have reportedly broken down and the team is now hoping to deal his rights before free agency opens on July 1.

Baicker's projection
Paul Holmgren always seemed to have a thing for signing these aging veterans to deals that were for too much and too long (see: Mark Streit). I have a gut feeling that Ron Hextall will look to move away from such signings, and for that reason, I don't see the Flyers acquiring Boyle this offseason, even though the Flyers' interest in him at last season's trade deadline was well publicized. Yes, he's a workhorse, and yes, he's steady in both ends of the ice. But at 37 and coming off a $6.6 million cap hit, I just don't think he's worth it. The Flyers already signed an undersized aging veteran this offseason in Kimmo Timonen, and he came at a discount. No need to add another.

Riday's projection
You can argue Boyle's career is on the decline, but he's still more than capable of playing a big role on any team's blue line. At 37 years old, you can put your money on Boyle signing with a contender. He only has a few more years left in the tank at best and he'd like another shot at the Cup before hanging up the skates. As Sarah mentioned above, the Flyers have already inked Timonen this offseason, so I wouldn't expect Ron Hextall to make signing another veteran toward the end of his career a priority. Boyle would certainly be an upgrade, but his price tag could be too high. Don't forget, the Flyers have three defensive prospects -- Shayne Gostisbehere, Robert Hagg and Sam Morin -- who will likely get a serious look in camp. The Flyers, especially Hextall, seem more interested in finding out if any of the youngsters are NHL-ready than anything else.

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."