Flyers offseason: Get ready for a wild ride

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Flyers offseason: Get ready for a wild ride

Since the Paul Holmgren era as general manager began, most of the Flyers' summers have been filled with great expectations, surprises and incredible uncertainty.
 
It usually begins with rumors here and there during the Stanley Cup Final, then heats up as we head into draft week and, by the end of the NHL draft, the Flyers have done something outrageous or pulled off a coup.
 
The signing of goalie Ray Emery out of Russia began during the 2009 Cup Final between Detroit and Pittsburgh.
 
Then there was when the Flyers tried and failed to land Jay Bouwmeester in a trade at the 2009 draft in Montreal. They got Chris Pronger and stole the entire draft’s glitter.
 
They traded for the rights of Dan Hamhuis and even Evgeni Nabokov at the 2010 draft in Los Angeles. And were unable to sign either of them.
 
No one will ever forget two years ago in Minnesota when Holmgren traded both Jeff Carter and Mike Richards within minutes of each other the day before the draft began. And also signed the previously acquired Ilya Bryzgalov.
 
That was then followed by a wild free-agent frenzy a week later, as the club signed Jaromir Jagr, Max Talbot and Andreas Lilja.
 
Last summer at the draft in Pittsburgh, the Flyers dealt Sergei Bobrovsky to Columbus for three draft picks then traded for Luke Schenn hours after the draft ended and everyone had packed up and gone home.
 
Schenn had an impact here in his first season. And Bobrovsky? He won the Vezina.
 
No one knows what’s going to unfold next weekend at the draft in Newark, N.J. Teams are staying in New York City, so a lot of the pre-draft action will take place there.
 
The Flyers’ wheels are spinning already with the acquisition and signing of Mark Streit, the trade talk with Los Angeles (about goalie Jonathan Bernier) and Anaheim (winger Bobby Ryan), the buyout of Danny Briere, and the still-to-be-determined status of Bryzgalov.
 
“It’s going to be a crazy week at the draft,” Flyers president Peter Luukko noted earlier, referring to all the buyouts that will unfold around the league, plus the noise his own club is going to make.
 
The craziness has already begun.
 
Some thoughts …
 
• Holmgren really needs to ask himself whether Bryzgalov wants to play in Philadelphia. His breakup day comments seemed to indicate he’s very unhappy here. He might as well have said, "Get me out of here." And yet, there are those with the Flyers who stand behind him and believe he will be fine as a goalie if the defense gets fixed.
 
• The L.A. Kings have some cap issues themselves. GM Dean Lombardi wants prospects and picks from some teams -- not all -- in the Bernier talks. He can start by asking the Flyers for Jakub Voracek, which helps his scoring issues on the wing, but hurts his cap. The better route is Matt Read and a prospect. And that doesn’t hurt the Flyers, either. Read is an unrestricted free agent next year and the Flyers already wonder whether they can re-sign him.
 
• You can make a very good case that the Flyers never exercise patience with young players. They’re too quick to jettison them. Patrick Sharp is a great example. I asked a scout about that. “The philosophy is win now, and they always try to win every year,” he said. The Flyers have potential stud goalie prospect in Anthony Stolarz, who won’t be ready for likely three years. If they get rid of Bryzgalov, do they find an older veteran to fill the gap waiting for Stolarz, or do they really try for Bernier? And if the answer to fill the gap with an older guy, then the list of potential UFA goalies that might fit that bill would be Nick Backstrom, Tim Thomas, Nabokov and Emery.
 
• If the Flyers think Cosmonaut Bryzgalov draws too much attention to himself, my buddy Al Morganti asks: Can you imagine the daily media circus in the dressing room if the NHL’s most outspoken political rightwinger, Thomas, were here?
 
• Every summer, we hear the Ryan rumors. This one is no different. But if Anaheim GM Bob Murray is expecting the Flyers to give up their 11th overall pick in the first round along with Braydon Coburn, that’s too much. The Flyers need to retain that pick. Several scouts I talked to since May have been saying there is unanimous agreement that they can’t fork over that first-round pick unless they’re getting another first-rounder back in any deal at the draft. And while the philosophy has always been to draft based on “best available athlete,” there is also a feeling that this is one draft when the Flyers ought to acknowledge they really are thin on NHL-caliber defensive prospects and need to bulk up in that department.

2016-17 Flyers evaluation: Goaltending

2016-17 Flyers evaluation: Goaltending

We begin our series reviewing the Flyers' 2016-17 roster with a look at the goaltenders. This is the first part of a four-part series.

What should have been a genuine competition in net for two players to win the prize of a long-term contract never did pan out for the Flyers this season.

Coming out of training camp, general manager Ron Hextall said goaltending was going to be the club's biggest strength with two goalies -- Steve Mason and Michal Neuvirth -- essentially being 1-A and 1-B.

Instead, they both failed terribly with inconsistent performances that mirrored the skaters in front of them.

With Neuvirth already locked up for next season, all signs point to Mason leaving via free agency. That means Hextall has to find a replacement for Mason.

"We'll use the best option that's realistic for us," Hextall said recently. "Obviously, you've got salary cap, you've got term. There's a lot of factors that go into this. It's not just one. It's not just OK, let's go out and get the best goalie, whoever that might be.

"If we can get him, there's more to it than that. We'll work through our process here and in the end, we'll figure out what's our best option for next year, and the following year and after. We do have kids coming, and I think everybody knows it. 

"I don't have a lot of interest in getting into a long, drawn-out deal with a goaltender, but again we'll look at our options and move when we feel is our best option at the appropriate time."

Here's our look at the goaltenders (alphabetically) this past season.

Steve Mason 
Age: Turns 29 on May 29
Record: 58 GP; 26-21-8
Stats: 2.66 GAA; .908 SV%
Cap hit: UFA who earned $4.1 million

We've got to give Mason this much credit: For a guy dealing from the bottom of the deck, he has a lot of guts. How else can you explain how he went into Hextall's office on breakup day and asked to know his status ASAP and oh, one more: I didn't like Dave Hakstol's goalie platoon idea, and if you want me back, that's a dealbreaker. This was Mason's poorest season among the four full ones in Philadelphia. He, like Neuvirth, was maddeningly inconsistent right from the get-go until the final 17 games, when he produced some impressive numbers as the club's true No. 1 -- 10-5-2 record, 2.14 goals-against average, .926 save percentage and two shutouts. In between, anything else was possible. There's a reason why the Flyers didn't re-sign him in-season like they did with Neuvirth. They feel he's going to want more term, more money and they have a slew of talent in the minors and Europe itching to get a chance to play in Philadelphia. At least one of the four goalie prospects will be NHL-ready within two years. Mason talked like a goalie going out the door down the stretch and yet, he played like one deserving of a new contract over the final month-plus. His unedited yet honest criticism of the team on a nightly basis earned him the respect of the media but did little to gather support within the room from teammates. Many felt he needed to shut his mouth. There are two kinds of goalies: those you play for and those you play in front of. The feeling was more than a few Flyers would choose the latter and those are not the type of goalies teams rally around to win Stanley Cups. It appears management realizes that could be a problem. He'll most likely go to free agency.

Michal Neuvirth 
Age: Turned 29 on March 23 
Record: 28 GP; 11-11-1
Stats: 2.82 GAA; .891 SV%
Cap hit: $2.5 million (re-signed in-season)

After a strong playoff performance in 2016 in which he showed he could be a No. 1 goalie again, Neuvirth came into the season much like Mason, knowing a good year would mean a new deal. Well, he got a two-year contract at a reduced price because of injury. A left knee strain caused him to miss 24 games this season. His start was poor -- e.g. four goals against on 16 shots vs. Chicago -- and despite a few wins, he continued to give up too many goals, showed some promise in February, but never really gained his footing in the crease. To his credit, he doesn't pout when he's not playing and he almost never criticizes the club in such a way as to offend his teammates. And teammates respect him for that. Near the end of the year, he collapsed in net from a sinus infection and dehydration and then concussed himself by passing out backward onto the ice. Hextall is convinced he'll have a bounce-back season next year, but the bottom line is that he'll never survive a full season and 30-32 games played is the most you can count on from him. Given the club chose him over Mason to re-sign, it's unlikely he'll be exposed in the expansion draft.

Anthony Stolarz
Age: Turns 24 on January 20 
Record: 7 GP; 2-1-0
Stats: 1.93 GAA; .936 SV%
Cap hit: RFA, who earned $753,333 (pro-rated)

Remember the movie There's Something About Mary? Well, if the Flyers produced such a movie, it might be titled, There's Something About Stolie. As in, there's something about this 6-foot-6 giant that the organization doesn't like. Maybe it's his mechanics, which seem awkward at times. Or maybe it's because some in the Flyers' organization feel he makes the tough saves but gives up the easy one down low, or whiffs with the glove hand. He only had seven appearances this season. Hakstol flatly refused to play him when Neuvirth was injured -- Mason got 22 starts -- and that showed a lack of confidence. That apparently extends to Hextall as well. When asked during his after-the-season press conference whether he would be comfortable with Neuvirth as his starter and Stolarz as his backup next season, Hextall didn't answer the question in affirmative fashion. With Alex Lyon, Carter Hart and Felix Sandstorm all vying for the same opportunity Stolarz got in limited doses, the position of backup on this club remains unsolved. The door is not shut on Stolarz yet, but it's not fully open either. Stolarz suffered a torn meniscus in his left knee at season's end with the Phantoms and will miss up to four months. All meniscus tears require surgery. This is worse than an MCL sprain. The 23-year-old needs to have a great training camp to change people's minds in the organization that he's the real deal. And that's complicated by the fact his injury now sets him back. Expect him to be exposed in the expansion draft.

Up next: A look back at the defense.

NHL Playoffs: Rangers ride Zuccarello to 3-1 win in series-clinching Game 6

NHL Playoffs: Rangers ride Zuccarello to 3-1 win in series-clinching Game 6

NEW YORK -- Mats Zuccarello scored twice in the second period and the New York Rangers beat the Montreal Canadiens 3-1 in Game 6 on Saturday night to advance to the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Derek Stepan also scored and Henrik Lundqvist stopped 27 shots to help New York get past the first round for the fifth time in six years. The Rangers won three straight after falling behind 2-1 to beat Montreal for the ninth time in 16 postseason series.

The Rangers will face the winner of the Ottawa-Boston series, which the Senators lead 3-2.

Alexei Emelin scored for Montreal and Carey Price finished with 20 saves. The Canadiens, winners of the Atlantic Division after missing the playoffs last year, were bounced from the postseason by the Rangers for the second time in four years. In 2014, it was in the conference finals (see full recap).

Paajarvi's OT goal gives Blues 4-3 win to oust Wild in 5
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Magnus Paajarvi scored at the 9:42 mark in overtime, giving the St. Louis Blues a 4-3 victory over Minnesota on Saturday in Game 5 of their playoff series, eliminating the Wild.

The Blues advanced to play Nashville in the second round.

Jake Allen made 34 saves for the Blues, who led 2-0 and 3-1 before a furious rally by the Wild to try to keep their season alive forced the extra frame.

Paajarvi's first career playoff goal gave Blues coach Mike Yeo the satisfaction of beating the team that fired him a little over a year ago.

Mikko Koivu and Jason Zucker scored to bring the Wild back from their second two-goal hole, a deficit that held past the midpoint of the third period (see full recap).