Flyers free-agent target: Steve Ott

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Flyers free-agent target: Steve Ott

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.

Steve Ott, forward
Age: 31
Height: 6-0
Weight: 189
Last team: St. Louis Blues
2013-14 cap hit: $2.95 million

Scouting report
Ott, who was selected with the 25th-overall pick at the 2000 NHL draft by the Dallas Stars, is one of the grittiest players in the league. He won't light up the stat sheets, but he does a lot of little things well. He's a magician in the faceoff circle, can kill penalties and excels at throwing opponents off their game. He has a tendency to go overboard with his antics and physical play at times, but is a tremendous competitor with admirable determination. He can also play all three forward positions.

As a member of the Buffalo Sabres, Ott quickly became a fan favorite. He was named an alternate captain after the 2013 trade deadline and finished his first season with the Sabres with nine goals, 15 assists and 93 penalty minutes in 48 games. Before the 2013-14 season, Ott and Thomas Vanek were awarded captaincy of the team. However, Ott was dealt, along with goalie Ryan Miller, to St. Louis just prior to last year's trade deadline and struggled to find consistency with the Blues. He had just three assists in 23 regular-season games with St. Louis and had just two helpers in six postseason appearances.

Baicker's projection
Ott is a Flyers kind of hockey player. He's gritty, he can play both wings as well as center, he can take faceoffs and he can kill penalties. That's why it makes total sense that he's been linked to them in the rumor mill this spring. That said, while I understand the appeal, I don't think the Flyers should put effort into courting him. The Flyers don't need gritty, hard-workers on offense; they already have plenty. Money spent this offseason would be better spent on players who can score and help Claude Giroux's game -- and Ott isn't that guy.

Riday's projection
Ott is one of the guys you'd love to have on your team, but you hate when he's wearing opposing colors. In recent years, he's proved he can be much more than just an agitator. He emerged as a leader in Buffalo and toned down the reckless physical play that got him in trouble with the league earlier in his career with Dallas. He'll still take a bad penalty from time to time, but the other guy always seems to head to the box with him. He does everything with a purpose.

Ott's desire to win, work ethic and toughness are exactly the qualities that Flyers coach Craig Berube looks for from his forwards. I certainly wouldn't mind seeing him used in a third- or fourth-line role, but I think it's doubtful he'll wind up in Philadelphia. As I mentioned before, I believe the Flyers would be better off going after a goal-scoring forward if they elect to upgrade their offense through free agency.

NHL Notes: Red Wings sign Danny DeKeyser to 6-year contract

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NHL Notes: Red Wings sign Danny DeKeyser to 6-year contract

DETROIT -- The Detroit Red Wings have avoided arbitration and signed defenseman Danny DeKeyser to a $30 million, six-year contract.

DeKeyser will count $5 million against the salary cap throughout the length of the deal. Agent Don Meehan confirmed the terms of the contract Tuesday, including modified no-trade protection beginning in the 2017-18 season.

The restricted free agent and the club were scheduled to have their arbitration hearing on Thursday in Toronto.

Instead, the 26-year-old has a long-term deal. The Western Michigan product has 14 goals and 61 assists in 234 regular-season NHL games and has averaged over 21 minutes of ice time.

Rangers: Zborovskiy inked to entry-level contract
NEW YORK -- The New York Rangers have signed defenseman Sergey Zborovskiy on an entry-level contract.

General manager Jeff Gorton announced the signing of the team's third-round draft pick in 2015 on Tuesday.

Zborovskiy skated in 64 games with the Regina Pats of the Western Hockey League this past season, collecting eight goals and 17 assists along with a plus-15 rating. The 19-year-old established WHL career-highs in goals, assists, points, and power play goals (two), and he tied his WHL career-high in plus/minus rating.

The 6-foot-4, 200-pounder skated in 12 playoff games and had five assists this past season.

Zborovskiy has skated in 135 career WHL games over two seasons with Regina, registering 11 goals and 33 assists.

Flyers, RFA Brandon Manning agree to 2-year deal

Flyers, RFA Brandon Manning agree to 2-year deal

Ron Hextall has finished taking care of his own.

The Flyers on Tuesday morning agreed to a multi-year contract with restricted free agent defenseman Brandon Manning, avoiding an arbitration hearing scheduled for Aug. 2. The deal is worth two years, $1.95 million, a source confirmed to CSNPhilly.com Flyers Insider Tim Panaccio.

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman first reported the figures.

On Monday, the Flyers re-upped Brayden Schenn, their other remaining RFA.

With Manning's $975,000 average annual value, the Flyers now have about $1.04 million in salary cap space, according to generalfanager.com. Last season, Manning made $625,000.

The 26-year-old is coming off his first full NHL season in which he totaled seven points (one goal, six assists) in 56 regular-season games while also appearing in all six of the Flyers’ playoff contests.

After playing just 10 games over January and February, Manning, a lefty shot, gelled with the righty-shooting Radko Gudas to form the Flyers’ third and final defensive pairing the rest of the way. Gudas, who was a pending restricted free agent, re-signed with the Flyers on June 23.

“When you start playing every night, you get comfortable and you start getting that confidence,” Manning said at his end-of-the-season press conference in late April. “It kind of took off from there."

Flyers general manager Hextall liked what he saw down the stretch from his youth, including Manning.

“The younger guys like Brayden showed growth this year, [Sean Couturier] showed growth this year, Manning, [Scott] Laughton at times,” Hextall said after the Flyers’ first-round playoff exit to the top-seeded Capitals. “Obviously [Nick] Cousins, so we showed a lot of growth, but we need to continue to grow in that group.”

Once again, competition will be prevalent on the Flyers’ blue line come training camp in September. The team currently holds seven defensemen in Michael Del Zotto, Shayne Gostisbehere, Gudas, Andrew MacDonald, Manning, Nick Schultz and Mark Streit.

Of course, there’s topflight prospect Ivan Provorov, who will legitimately push for a roster spot at 19 years old, as well as fellow prospects Travis Sanheim, Robert Hagg and Samuel Morin, who could be in the mix at some point this season. The Flyers also signed T.J. Brennan, a 27-year-old with NHL experience, to a two-way contract this summer.

Manning, who joined the Flyers’ organization in November 2010 as a free-agent signing, says he’s accustomed to fighting for a job.

"I mean, it's been the same thing for me the last five years,” Manning said in late April. “You just play as hard as you can. It's been like that for me all along. It doesn't matter who's making the most money or which prospects are coming, you just worry about yourself and come in and play the best and it usually works out for yourself.

“The Flyers have been good to me. [Hextall] has been a straight shooter over the few years he's been running the show here. I'm definitely happy here and the way things have been going with [head coach Dave Hakstol]. Everything moving forward, it's going to be a good time to be a Flyer.”

Brayden Schenn out to prove himself after new deal with Flyers

Brayden Schenn out to prove himself after new deal with Flyers

Shortly before 9 a.m. Monday in Toronto, Brayden Schenn was already sitting in the arbitration room, awaiting his agent Don Meehan and Flyers general manager Ron Hextall.

This was a first for the soon-to-be 25-year-old forward. He wasn’t necessarily nervous or even excited.

“It was a matter of my agent talking to Hexy outside and if they were coming into the room or I was going out and a deal would be done,” Schenn said.

They entered. He exited.

Within the hour, Schenn had a new four-year, $20.5 million contract, avoiding arbitration (see story).

“I’m extremely happy to be signed on for another four years," Schenn said. "I don’t think anyone wants to go through the arbitration process.

“It’s all part of the business. Whatever happens, happens in arbitration. I don’t think whatever is said [in hearings] is meant. It’s just part of the business. The money side of things.

“I think the Flyers like me as a player and to take it to arbitration, I don’t think it’s anything against me. It’s just part of it.”

While Schenn had never been through this, Hextall has. As a player here, the former goaltender took the Flyers to arbitration two decades ago, but settled in a marathon, six-hour meeting the day of his hearing.

“I would not have had an issue with it,” Hextall said when asked if he was prepared for the bad feelings that often accompany such hearings (more from Hextall here).

“Arbitration is part of the process ... sometimes it can be difficult for the player. If you can avoid, you want to avoid it.”

The Flyers were prepared for a two-year ruling which would have left them having to attempt to re-sign Schenn as an unrestricted free agent after 2018-19.

Hextall said the club has seen consistent improvement in Schenn, even though this contract overpays him at the start for just one very good year of the past five he’s had as a Flyer.

Obviously, the Flyers are banking on him to become a 30-goal, 70-point player from here.

“Four years is showing confidence in me that they believe in me,” Schenn said. “For me, four years I have to continue to prove myself and get better year by year and I expect to be better next year.

“I’m happy with a four-year deal at a fair number. The team is only getting better and I’m happy to be part of the plan.”

Consistency will be the key as to whether the Flyers' investment in Schenn was worth it.

From a points standpoint, he’s increased his production every season as a Flyer, scoring 18, 26, 41, 47, and this past season, 59. But his every-night play on the ice has often waffled. Then again, the club has waffled, too, as to whether he’s a center or winger.

He spent the bulk of the past season proving he could play on the wing with Claude Giroux in Dave Hakstol’s system. That wasn’t always the case under Craig Berube or even Peter Laviolette.

“Every player has his ups and downs through 82 games,” Schenn said. “Consistency, you try to find it as much as you can throughout the year. I feel I’ve continued to get better at both ends of the ice.

“I still feel I can get better defensively and be more reliable. That is something I definitely will improve on. This past year, I had great opportunity to play with great players.

“Guys like (Sean) Couturier, Giroux, (Wayne) Simmonds, whoever it may be. It’s all about opportunity and I got opportunity last year.”

Which resulted in career highs in goals, assists and points. Hextall expects Schenn to make bigger strides over this contract as he reaches the prime part of his career.

When the Flyers held breakup day in April, Schenn said he enjoyed the pressure of being “counted upon” as a core player. He is now the third-highest paid Flyers forward behind Giroux and Jakub Voracek, so the “core” sticker is on his jersey for good.

“I said at the end (of the season), I have to be counted on each night as part of the core group,” Schenn said. “There’s a bunch of us who have been there for a while now.

“I’ve gotten better year after year. I expect to come in and improve my game in all areas of the ice. When you get the chance to play with good players, they obviously make you better, as well.

“We’ve got some good pieces. We have a good team moving forward ... you want to get better individually, but I think the team will be better as a whole this year, as well.”