Philadelphia Flyers

Flyers Injury Update: Emery still unable to play

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Flyers Injury Update: Emery still unable to play

VOORHEES, N.J. -- The Flyers might be stepping into the great unknown.

Ray Emery has been missing from action since the San Jose Sharks game on Feb. 27. He can’t practice, he can’t play in games. He missed another session on Friday.

Sources say he has a groin pull.

Both general manager Paul Holmgren and coach Craig Berube dismiss it as nothing significant, but let’s be honest here.

There is nothing insignificant about the Flyers' back-up goalie being injured during a stretch run to the playoffs when the starter needs some occasional rest.

Remember, the Flyers did not seek another goalie at the trade deadline. They didn’t feel Emery’s injury warranted concern.

But he has not been available for duty for three games and that raises a red flag.

Phantoms prospect Cal Heeter is jockeying back and forth on the roster from the Phantoms. Heeter said Wednesday he would love to get a shot in net.

The issue here is whether the 25-year-old Heeter is capable of being the Flyers' backup if somehow Emery’s injury is worse than believed. Also, can he handle the pressure of a stretch run when he hasn’t played a single NHL game?

Heeter’s total AHL experience is 35 games with the Phantoms. And the Flyers may need to rely on this just to give Mason a breather if Emery isn’t available.

Heeter signed as a free agent with the Flyers out of Ohio State in March of 2012, spent some time in Trenton with the ECHL's Titans and the Phantoms last season. Heeter has been welcomed with open arms as a Flyer.

“All the guys are true professionals here,” said Heeter, who like former Flyer Brian Boucher, is an American-born goalie (he's from St. Louis). “Everybody is willing to lend a helping hand, if you need any advice or tips.”

Heeter is chomping at the bit to play. That’s good in a pressure situation.

“It'd be nice if I got a chance to get into a game, but I understand the position they are at right now,” he said. “They’re trying to maintain their position in the playoffs right now.

“That might be more important than developing someone for the future. I might not get a chance to play but if I do, I’ll be ready.”

Heeter’s first practice with the Flyers was Thursday morning and it lasted barely 30 minutes. Prior to this, all he has had is warm-ups.

“It definitely helps,” he said. “You have to get used to quicker movement, quicker shots. Faster grade of plays. It helps you fine tune details in your game and make sure you’re ready to play.”

Heeter said he has not used his play with the Phantoms to gauge how things make go for his career as a Flyer. That is, he wasn’t using his AHL experience as something to lean on for projecting as an NHL goalie.

“You can only control one thing – that’s how you play,” Heeter said. “So I don’t make plans for what might come in the future. I take it day to day, work hard in practice, play as well as I can in games and see where the cards fall at the end of the day.”

NHL Notes: Devils lose Travis Zajac for 4-6 months with pectoral injury

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NHL Notes: Devils lose Travis Zajac for 4-6 months with pectoral injury

NEWARK, N.J. -- The New Jersey Devils have lost top center Travis Zajac for four to six months with a pectoral injury.

Devils executive vice president and general manager Ray Shero announced that Zajac had surgery to repair the pectoral muscle on Thursday.

Shero said the Zajac was hurt last week during offseason training.

Dr. Jonathan L. Glashow performed the surgery and estimated that Zajac's recovery time could last until February. The season starts in October.

The 32-year-old Zajac had 14 goals and 31 assists last season. He has 155 career goals and 280 assists. He has played for the Devils since the 2006-07 season.

The 20th overall pick in the 2004 NHL Draft, Zajac signed an eight-year, $46 million contract in 2013.

Sabres sign Zemgus Girgensons to 2-year deal

Sabres: Team signs forward Girgensons to 2-year deal
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Sabres have signed forward Zemgus Girgensons to a two-year contract.

The team announced the deal Thursday that carries an average value of $1.6 million.

Girgensons, from Latvia, is the last of the Sabres' restricted free agents to sign with the team. Buffalo's first-round pick in 2012 has 37 goals and 49 assists in 277 career games over four seasons.

He skated in a career-best 75 games last season after signing a one-year extension last September.

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).