Flyers-Senators: 5 things you need to know

flyers-senators-matchup.jpg

Flyers-Senators: 5 things you need to know

Flyers vs. Senators
12:30 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet

The Flyers (33-30-18) will try to end the 2014-15 campaign on a high note when they host the surging Ottawa Senators (42-26-13) at the Wells Fargo Center on Saturday afternoon.

For the final time this season, here are five things you need to know before a Flyers game:

1. New deal for Manning
The past month of hockey hasn’t had many meaningful games for the Flyers, but one skater played well enough to earn himself a new contract.

The Flyers and defenseman Brandon Manning agreed to a one-year extension on Friday. In addition to Manning, Mark Streit, Andrew MacDonald, Luke Schenn, Nick Schultz, Nicklas Grossmann and Radko Gudas are also under contract for the 2015-16 season.

It’s also important to keep in mind that the Flyers still have to sign restricted free agent Michael Del Zotto. So it wouldn’t be surprising if general manager Ron Hextall actively shops a few of his blueliners this summer, especially with up-and-comers Sam Morin, Travis Sanheim, Robert Hagg and Shayne Gostisbehere waiting in the wings.

“You can never have enough [defensemen],” Hextall said (see story). “All of sudden, guys start going down and you lose two or three defensemen. It’s a hard hole to fill. We’ve got numbers and that’s a good thing.”

Which brings us back to Manning. The 24-year-old has been steady since entering the lineup for the injured Schenn. Manning has averaged nearly 20 minutes a game over his last six appearances and hasn’t looked out of place. He’s certainly earned the right to compete for a roster spot next season.

2. SEN-sational
Way back on Feb. 10, the Senators were tied for the third-fewest points in the Eastern Conference with 49 and 14 back of a playoff spot. Things were looking dim. Then they put together one of the most surprising and bewildering runs in recent memory.

Ottawa enters Saturday’s season finale having gone 22-4-4 in its last 30 contests and needs just one point against the Flyers to secure a playoff berth. Who saw that coming?

And what in the world sparked this incredible rally? Look no further than netminder Andrew Hammond. By now, you probably know him better as “The Hamburglar.” The 27-year-old has gone 19-1-2 with a 1.76 goals-against average in 22 starts since being called up from the AHL. He’s been simply astonishing and has proved to be the spark the Sens desperately needed.

3. Injuries
Defensemen MacDonald (hand), Schenn (abdomen) and Gudas (knee) and forwards R.J. Umberger (hip/abdomen) and Wayne Simmonds (leg) are all sidelined for the Flyers.

Veteran forward Vinny Lecavalier, who fought young Hurricanes defenseman Keegan Lowe twice during Thursday’s 3-1 loss, suffered an upper-body injury against Carolina and will miss the season finale.

For the Senators, winger Chris Neil (thumb), defenseman Chris Phillips (undisclosed) and goalie Robin Lehner (concussion) are all out. Forwards Milan Michalek (concussion) and Matt Puempel (ankle) are listed as day to day.

4. Keep an eye on …
Flyers: Shutdown center extraordinaire Sean Couturier has actually been bringing the offense over the past week and a half. The 22-year-old enters Saturday with two goals and four assists during his current five-game point streak. He scored the Flyers’ lone goal against Carolina and has meshed well with new linemate Brayden Schenn, who was recently converted to right wing.

Senators: Who is this Mark Stone guy and where did he come from? The 22-year-old has collected 33 points in his last 30 games and is currently riding an eight-game point streak in which he’s tallied six goals and assisted five more. The 6-foot-2, 205-pounder is a major reason Ottawa has climbed back into playoff contention and should be a fun player to watch moving forward. He wears No. 61.

5. This and that
• The last three games between the Flyers and Senators have been decided by shootouts. Foreshadowing much?

• No matter the outcome of Saturday’s game, the Flyers will finish with their fewest points in a non-shortened season since 2006-07, when they went 22-48-12 for just 56 points.

• Ottawa has not allowed a single power-play goal over its past four games.

• Jakub Voracek has eight goals and five assists in 15 career games against the Senators.

• Kyle Turris, who has a five-game point streak, has eight goals and 10 assists in his past 15 overall.

Flyers free-agent goalie fits: Jonathan Bernier

Flyers free-agent goalie fits: Jonathan Bernier

Each day this week until July 1, the day free agency begins, Tom Dougherty, Jordan Hall and Greg Paone will profile the five best goalie options for the Flyers on the open market and project their likelihood of signing.

Jonathan Bernier
Age: 28
Height: 6-0
Weight: 184
Last team: Anaheim Ducks
2016-17 cap hit: $4.15 million

Scouting report
After being drafted 11th overall in 2006, Bernier was a highly-touted goaltender coming up in the Los Angeles Kings system and performed well in a backup role for five seasons in L.A.

But with Jonathan Quick in Los Angeles, Bernier was blocked from getting a viable opportunity to be a No. 1 with the Kings. In June 2013, they shipped him to Toronto.

Bernier did not capitalize on his opportunity with the Maple Leafs, however. He never established himself as a high-end starting goalie in three seasons despite a strong first year.

In 2013-14, Bernier was 26-19-7 with a 2.68 goals-against average and .923 save percentage with the Leafs but that save percentage continually dropped the next two years.

Toronto decided to cut ties with Bernier after the 2015-16 season and traded him to the Anaheim Ducks for a conditional draft pick. He spent last season backing up John Gibson.

Appearing in 39 games last season for the Ducks, Bernier posted a 21-7-4 record with a 2.50 goals-against average, .915 save percentage and two shutouts.

One note about Bernier: Flyers general manager Ron Hextall was an assistant GM in Los Angeles when the Kings drafted him in 2006, so there is a connection there.

Dougherty's projection
I don’t think Bernier is the best option available for the Flyers but the most likely. Maybe I’m putting too much weight on the Hextall connection here, maybe not. We’ll see.

Bernier fits what the Flyers appear to want in a goalie going forward: a short-term veteran option who can share the net with Michal Neuvirth in a platoon situation.

Hextall isn’t looking for the Flyers’ goalie of the future this summer. He believes he has that in the system already but needs to bide time for Carter Hart and Felix Sandstrom.

But he will be looking for a goalie who he can trust playing around 40 games or more next season and give the team quality in net. In that role, Bernier would be a solid fit.

He hasn’t panned out as projected and we could use him as one example of why we don’t see many goaltenders drafted high in the first round. They’re tough to project.

With that said, Bernier has found success in the past, including last season in Anaheim, in either a platoon or backup situation. He’ll come at a reasonable price, too.

A tandem of Neuvirth-Bernier would not be the worst thing in the world for the Flyers; it wouldn’t be the best, either. I think it would give them enough in net to compete.

If I had to predict which goaltender on the market will be here next season, it is Bernier.

Hall's projection
I see Bernier as one of the least realistic options for the Flyers.
 
The 2006 11th overall pick hasn't quite lived up to the hype, but he still has some cachet, probably too much for the Flyers in this spot.
 
He turns only 29 in August and in a backup role last season, his 2.50 goals-against average and .915 save percentage still ranked in the top 15 among NHL goalies that played 39 games or more.
 
The role and price in which the Flyers will offer shouldn't attract Bernier much. From the sound of Hextall, I expect him to be judicious in adding a goalie. This sounds much more like a stopgap, temporary position than anything future oriented.
 
There's a connection with the Flyers' GM here, but that might be it when it comes to the Bernier scenario.

Paone's projection
I find Bernier to be an intriguing option for the Flyers.

First and foremost, there is plenty of familiarity with Bernier within the Flyers' organization. Hextall and current Flyers goalie coach Kim Dillabaugh were both parts of the Kings' organization when Bernier was drafted in 2006 and worked with him during his development into an NHL goaltender. They not only know the type of player and competitor they'd be getting, they also know the type of person they'd be getting and that plays a role, too.

Bernier had a very strong campaign for the Ducks last season. That certainly makes him an attractive option for the Flyers. He did his best to prove he can be a reliable option again after things soured for him in Toronto. But, hey, a lot of things went sour in Toronto during those times.

But that strong campaign with Anaheim last season will have Bernier wanting opportunity and more of it. With Neuvirth entrenched here, how much opportunity would there actually be for Bernier here? Would the Flyers present the type of opportunity he's looking for after last year's showing with the Ducks? My guess is no. He'll likely want an opportunity to take on much more of a workload.

So while the option is intriguing for many reasons and it certainly isn't out of the realm of possibility, I ultimately feel this is an option both he and the Flyers pass on.

Flyers re-sign defenseman Mark Alt to 1-year, 2-way deal

Flyers re-sign defenseman Mark Alt to 1-year, 2-way deal

One day after extending qualifying offers to seven restricted free agents (see story), the Flyers re-signed Mark Alt, who was unrestricted.

The Phantoms' defenseman agreed to a one-year, two-way deal on Tuesday that will play him $125,000 in the AHL and $650,000 in the NHL.

The 25-year-old has played four years with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. 

He had one goal and 11 points last season in 40 AHL games.

Alt's only NHL appearance was his debut as a Flyer on March 28, 2015, at San Jose.

Alt has 68 points (12 goals) in 237 AHL games.