They have transformed themselves on home ice.
They’ve gone from a team that lost seven of its first nine home games to a team that has won nine straight at the Wells Fargo Center, matching their win streak of October 2005, following a 4-1 win over Minnesota on Monday night (see Instant Replay).
It’s a big reason why the Flyers go into the Christmas break over .500 at 17-16-4 and with a hold of a playoff spot as the third team in the Metropolitan Division.
“We wanted to end this Christmas break off with a big win -- a lot of smiles on our faces,” Scott Hartnell said. “We have a lot of pride to wear the orange jersey in this building. We came out flying, came out hard.
“Two games ago, we had an epic win here [over Columbus]. We’re finding different ways here. We came out tonight and played a solid 20 minutes where we were hard on the puck and didn’t stop. We kept going.”
The Flyers' home record is now 11-7 -- a far cry from what it was a while ago.
“In the beginning, I think we played better on the road than at home,” Jakub Voracek said. “But it switched. Now we have to find that level to get some points on the road. It’s what we got to do. Make teams earn wins here.
“When I came here a long time ago with Columbus, this was a tough building to win in. That’s what we got to do. Make them a little bit scared before the game. Make sure they earn that win.”
Goalie Steve Mason notices the difference at home.
“There definitely is a sense of confidence playing at home," he said. "First, you are staying at your own house, sleeping in your own bed, so that is nice to get a little better rest.
"And you play in front of home fans and you don’t have to deal with the opposition’s fans. You have that sense of confidence, and we have been able to take advantage lately and that’s probably the reason we have been able to climb out of the hole we were in. We just have to make sure we are carrying it onto the road trip.”
Indeed, the Flyers haven’t been very good away from home, going 6-9-4 on the season with an ongoing five-game losing streak (0-3-2) on the road.
“We’ve obviously changed some things up,” Hartnell said. “I think it took a little while to learn how to play the right way and I know no one doesn’t want to let anyone down in here. Turning the puck over, making soft plays and you’re accountable to your teammates, the guy next to you in the dressing room. You play hard, you play smarter.
“We have to eliminate some simple penalties that we’ve been taking lately. It’s been a lot of fun here at home and we got to take this show on the road.”
Coach Craig Berube isn’t quite sure what changed on home ice, but clearly the Flyers' focus to generate some home momentum seems to have carried over along with the fact they’ve started to score goals here. That’s boosted the confidence factor all-around.
“I look back on some of the games and they were there to be won, and we just didn’t do it,” Berube said.
“I look back on that road trip coming back, coming out of Dallas and coming out of Chicago we were up 1-0 and things are fine, and all of a sudden come out for the second period and have a collapse.
“On the road, we tend to not push the issue enough at certain times and end up letting our guard down a bit and getting down a goal or two and that’s tough on the road.
“We got to do a better job of keep playing and doing the same things. Don’t get away from the system or what you are doing. Stay on it. Play a little smarter and stay out of the penalty box. We still have to do a better job at that, including tonight.”
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 3 and 4 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 winger, signed earlier this month: a five-year deal worth $23.25 million 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.