Flyers-Jets: 5 things you need to know

flyers-jets-matchup.jpg

Flyers-Jets: 5 things you need to know

Flyers vs. Jets
7 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet

The Flyers (20-22-7) will continue their homestand when they battle the playoff-hopeful Winnipeg Jets (26-15-8) at the Wells Fargo Center.

Here are five things you need to know for the game:

1. Money Mase
Forget his bout with the flu. Forget his lower-body injury. Steve Mason looked like his usual reliable self in relief of Ray Emery on Tuesday night.

Emery surrendered two goals on just four shots in just seven minutes against the Arizona Coyotes, prompting Flyers coach Craig Berube to quickly replace the veteran netminder with Mason in hopes of sparking the team. It worked, too. Mason gave up one goal on 23 shots before turning aside all three Arizona attempts in the shootout to lift the Flyers to a 4-3 victory.

Mason was actually aiming to return for Thursday’s game against Winnipeg. He had missed six straight games because of a knee injury and practiced just twice — on his own — during the All-Star break. Then he got sick. He was feeling well enough to dress against the Coyotes, but wasn’t expecting to see game action.

“It wasn’t exactly the plan, but it was probably easier to get thrown in not expecting anything,” Mason said after the game. “I just went out and played. With the long layoff, there’s obviously room for improvement. It was the guys in front of me who won the game with their effort.”

Mason, who has a .921 save percentage and 2.41 goals-against average in 30 games this season, practiced in full with the team Wednesday and said he felt “great.” Expect him to be back in the crease Thursday.

2. The other guys
Ryan White made his Flyers debut Tuesday, centering Wayne Simmonds and recent call-up Petr Straka.

White channeled his inner Zac Rinaldo in the first period, when he was whistled for an unnecessary interference call in the offensive zone. Remarkably, it was the Flyers’ only penalty of the game. White finished the game with two hits, a blocked shot and one shot on goal in 18:35 of ice time — a rather uneventful night.

Straka wound up playing just 10 minutes and eight seconds in his NHL debut. He didn’t make much of an impact on the scoresheet — one hit and a blocked shot — but showed flashes of his speed early on. He could get another look if Michael Raffl (flu) is unable to go.

Simmonds played the role of hero in the Flyers’ win. He tallied his 10th power-play goal of the season — snapping an eight-game goalless drought — and later scored the game-winner in the shootout. Yes, the shootout. If you’re paying attention closely at home, that’s twice already in 2015 that Simmonds has helped the Flyers to a win in the gimmick.

R.J. Umberger, who has been noticeably better over the past month and a half, also had a strong game. He fired a team-high five shots on goal and collected his ninth goal of the year. His next goal will give the Flyers seven skaters with at least 10 tallies this season.

3. Injuries
Braydon Coburn (foot) and Scott Laughton (upper-body) remain sidelined for the Flyers.

Nicklas Grossmann, however, returned to practice and skated with his usual partner, Mark Streit, on Wednesday. The shot-blocking defenseman, who is recovering from a shoulder injury, isn’t quite ready to play in a game, but could return as soon as Saturday against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

For the Jets, defensemen Grant Clitsome (upper-body) and Mark Stuart (lower-body) are on injured reserve and will not suit up.

4. Keep an eye on ...
Flyers: Claude Giroux (two goals, two assists), Jakub Voracek (five assists), Michael Del Zotto (two goals, three assists) and Streit (two goals, two assists) are all riding four-game point streaks. Take your pick.

Jets: Dustin Byfuglien, also known as “Big Buff,” was an absolute force the last time these two teams met. He bruised and battered several Flyers forwards, most notably Brayden Schenn, Raffl and Giroux. The All-Star defenseman, sometimes winger, is built like a linebacker (6-5, 265), but skates well for his size and is almost unstoppable in both zones when he’s on his game. He enters Thursday with 12 goals and 32 points in 49 games this season.

5. This and that
• The Flyers are 5-1-1 in their last seven games against Winnipeg.

• The Jets are 6-2-2 on the road against the Eastern Conference.

• During their current 3-1-0 stretch, the Flyers have potted at least one power-play goal in each contest and are 5 for 14 on the man advantage overall.

• Winnipeg has 271 infractions for 689 penalty minutes this season, the most in the NHL.

• Steve Mason is 3-0-1 with a 0.91 goals-against average, .968 save percentage and one shutout in five career games — four starts — against the Winnipeg franchise.

Ron Hextall sees benefit in Brayden Schenn's 'market deal'

Ron Hextall sees benefit in Brayden Schenn's 'market deal'

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 three and four 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 wing, signed earlier this month: a five-year deal worth $23.25 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.

Flyers, Brayden Schenn agree to 4-year contract

Flyers, Brayden Schenn agree to 4-year contract

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.

Flyers and Brayden Schenn to go to arbitration

Flyers and Brayden Schenn to go to arbitration

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.