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.

Best of NHL: Lightning capture OT win over Red Wings

Best of NHL: Lightning capture OT win over Red Wings

DETROIT -- Nikita Kucherov scored 3:28 into overtime to lift the Tampa Bay Lightning over the Detroit Red Wings 2-1 on Friday night.

Situated on the edge of the crease, Kucherov redirected a hard pass from Brayden Point into the net.

The Lightning are one point behind the Boston Bruins and New York Islanders for the final Eastern Conference wild card.

Detroit captain Henrik Zetterberg opened the scoring 8:03 into the second period. Taking a backhand pass from Gustav Nyquist, Zetterberg flipped a knuckling wrist shot toward the goal and over the stick-side shoulder of goalie Andrei Vasilievskiy, who struggled to find the puck through the screen of teammate Point (see full recap).

Islanders notch shootout win over Penguins
PITTSBURGH -- John Tavares and Anthony Beauvillier scored in the shootout to lead the New York Islanders over the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-3 on Friday night.

Beauvillier opened the shootout with a goal, and Tavares snapped a wrist shot past Marc-Andre Fleury in the next round. Sidney Crosby scored in the shootout for Pittsburgh, but Jaroslav Halak, making his first start since Dec. 29, stopped Phil Kessel and Nick Bonino.

Anders Lee scored his 28th goal of the season, while Brock Nelson got his 17th and Casey Cizikas his eighth for the Islanders, who moved into the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. New York is tied with Boston at 82 points, but the Islanders have a game in hand on the Bruins. The Islanders have 18 wins in 31 games since Doug Weight was named interim coach on Jan. 17, replacing Jack Capuano.

Halak, a former All-Star, made 37 saves (see full recap).

Cracknell nets first hat trick in Stars' win
DALLAS -- Adam Cracknell got his first hat trick in seven NHL seasons and the Dallas Stars handed the San Jose Sharks their fifth straight loss, 6-1 on Friday night.

Cracknell opened the scoring in the first period, capped a three-goal flurry in the second and beat goalie Aaron Dell on a short-handed breakaway in the third for his career-high 10th goal of the season.

The Sharks entered two points ahead of Anaheim and Edmonton in the Pacific Division despite their longest losing streak of the season. San Jose has been outscored 16-5 during the stretch.

Brett Ritchie, Jamie Benn and John Klingberg also scored for the Stars.

Joe Thornton scored for San Jose on the power play in the second period. Dell had 23 saves.

Dallas' Kari Lehtonen made 20 saves four nights after shutting out San Jose (see full recap).

Flyers-Wild 10 observations: Sean Couturier shows flash, Matt Read answers call & more

Flyers-Wild 10 observations: Sean Couturier shows flash, Matt Read answers call & more

You know Dave Hakstol has reached crisis measures when he takes a skill player in Travis Konecny and throws him onto the fourth line while promoting Matt Read to the top line.

This was risk-taking at its craziest to generate some enthusiasm and life into a Flyers squad that didn't show much of a pulse a few nights earlier in Winnipeg.

Guess what?

It worked during a 3-1 victory on Thursday, the Flyers' fifth straight win over the Wild going back a few years (see Instant Replay).

Their playoff hopes still flicker.

As much as the fan base hated the lineup moves, consider this: general manager Ron Hextall was very explicit this week in saying that the roster Hakstol has right now is what it is. Hextall is not going to promote any young Phantoms into a bad situation when they are headed for what could be a decent playoff run in the AHL.

Therefore, as my former colleague Bill Lyon would say, here are 10 things I think, I think …

1. The Flyers began the game as they have so often this season with yet another turnover and scoring chance against them. Rinse and repeat. The Flyers had three turnovers in less than five minutes to start the game.

2. Minutes later, Steve Mason coughed up a bad rebound off his stick and Zach Parise burned him with a gimme goal for a 1-0 lead. Mason had issues in this one with rebounds that were looking like grenades, but he settled down with a strong final two periods with 24 saves. This was Mason's 100th win as a Flyer (see game story).

3. You had to see it to believe it. Sean Couturier with a nice backhand shot through Devan Dubnyk's five-hole to make it a 1-1 game near the end of the opening period (see feature highlight). I haven't seen that kind of offensive move from Couturier in quite some time. Question is, why can't he do that nightly instead of semiannually? That's the offensive spark you know Couturier is capable of providing.

4. The Wild were very aggressive in this one as they were trying to clinch a playoff spot, so the Flyers had to match that intensity. The Flyers more than matched it. This was far, far better than what Hakstol's team brought to the ice in Winnipeg. Not even close, as the Flyers dominated.

5. Matt Read had a quick stick -- no other way to explain it -- on his goal in the second period off a series of Wild turnovers that came about because of a play set up by Jakub Voracek. That goal seemingly stunned Dubnyk. It was Read's second goal in the last two games. He was all over the ice in this one. Many nights this season, Read was invisible. Not this game.

6. The Flyers had some genuine scoring chances in this game. You had to wonder where this desire to skate, create and score was all through the month of February and into March. The Flyers had strong forecheck pressure and a rebound-attack mentality the entire second period. If that had happened with regularity down the stretch, this team would be sitting in the wild card right now.

7. While the shake-up of the lines obviously benefited Read, it did little for Konecny and actually set him back. He was invisible. No shots. No hits. Invisible with little ice time. Really can't figure this move out but obviously, Hakstol is upset with him for some reason.

8. Minnesota went all in at the NHL trade deadline to get Martin Hanzal and Ryan White, forking over four draft picks, including a first-rounder. The Wild were leading the Central Division before losing six straight (and eight of nine) that allowed Chicago to regain the top spot in the division. The Wild don't look like the same confident, surging team it was a month ago in the Western Conference.

9. Minnesota had a strong push in the final five minutes and the Flyers had some initial difficulty answering that until the final minute when Wayne Simmonds picked up his 300th point as a Flyer on Voracek's empty-net goal to seal the deal. A nice way to finish off a complete effort by everyone involved.

10. The Flyers picked up two points on Boston, which lost to Tampa Bay, and are six behind the Bruins in the wild card. They still remain a l-o-n-g shot to make the playoffs, given the sheer number of teams ahead of them that they need to climb over.