Forced restraint from Flyers on July 1 spending

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Forced restraint from Flyers on July 1 spending

Ron Hextall likely won’t forget his first free agency experience as the Flyers' general manager any time soon.

If for no reason other than the only player of consequence he signed was his own goalie, Ray Emery.

Meanwhile, all around him, the NHL was rocking with a record number of signings worth more than $420 million.

Teams with money spent recklessly. Like the Flyers almost always do.

This time, however, the Flyers were on the bench without a dime to spare.

The Flyers need another defenseman. Washington signed two in Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik.

They need a left wing. Matt Moulson returned to Buffalo. Thomas Vanek went to Minnesota.

Frustrating?

“No, not really,” Hextall said. “To be honest with you, July 1 is one of those days where we all can get carried away. I look on my board here and look at our team, and we’ve got a good team.

“Sometimes this day, you make some of the poorest decisions you make, and quite honestly we didn’t have to think it through that hard.

“We’ve got a couple guys we’re still looking at if we get them in the right range -- one guy specifically -- so there’s still things you can do.”

They also signed goalie Rob Zepp for the Phantoms and forward Blair Jones as a Phantoms call-up.

For once, the Flyers felt what it’s like to be the cash-starved Islanders with holes to fill and no money to buy the ingredients to fill them.

“This is the day where a lot of times you do something and you have buyer’s remorse,” Hextall said. “But it’s hard ... you have a lot of holes to fill. Back in L.A. a few years ago, we were in that position where we had a lot of holes to fill, and it’s hard to fill all your holes in a cap world in free agency.

“Again, it’s one of those days where sometimes you look back and you did something good -- I think there’s some good buys in the market -- but there’s some other ones that are inflated.”

The Flyers are boxed in by not being able to move Vinny Lecavalier’s contract. His $4.5 million cap hit over the next four years prevented them from getting involved with any quality forward or defenseman on the market.

“We’ve got nothing imminent on Vinny,” Hextall said. “We’ll keep looking at the situation, and like I said, deal with it internally, and if there’s something to report we’ll get it back to you guys, but as far as I’m concerned right now, Vinny Lecavalier could be in a Flyer uniform in September.”

That can’t possibly happen. It would be awkward and a subject of almost daily speculation, especially if Lecavalier has a poor start to the season.

“Not at all,” Hextall said. “Vinny’s a pro, and we’re pros, and I think you guys all know we’ve had discussions, but he’s been nothing but a pro.”

Hextall said the Flyers will still be looking to add a depth defenseman. South Jersey's T.J. Brennan went to the Islanders for $600,000.

“We would have had interest in him,” Hextall said. “Quite honestly, we’ve been working at a number of other things, but we would have had interest in him.

“We still have a player that we covet right now. We’ve been working on that and also been talking to other GMs trying to move things around a little bit. It’s been a busy day and you don’t get to everything that you want to get to.”

Hextall is trying to win a game of blackjack holding with a hard 12.

“It’s not going to be easy,” Hextall said. “I think a lot of people filled up today and that’s always what happens July 1. It’s not going to be easy. We’ll continue to chip away and work away, and we’ll find a way.”

RFAs
Hextall said the Flyers will not pursue any restricted free agents, such as PK Subban, and weren't in position to do so anyway.

Best of NHL: Trocheck's last-second goal lifts Panthers past Blues

Best of NHL: Trocheck's last-second goal lifts Panthers past Blues

ST. LOUIS -- Vincent Trocheck scored with just under 5 seconds remaining to lift the Florida Panthers to a 2-1 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Monday night.

Jonathan Marchessault also scored and James Reimer stopped 26 shots to help the Panthers complete a 5-0 road trip -- their first perfect trip of at least that many games in franchise history.

Reimer has won five straight decisions and has not lost in regulation since Jan. 7 against Boston, going 6-0-1 since.

The Panthers moved into a tie with Boston for third place in the Atlantic Division, but have the edge because they have a game in hand on the Bruins.

Kyle Brodziak, playing for the second time after missing 10 games due to a broken foot, scored for the Blues and Jake Allen finished with 31 saves. St. Louis lost its second straight since winning six in a row (see full recap).

Coyotes use three-goal 1st period to beat Ducks
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Radim Vrbata capped Arizona's three-goal first period and the Coyotes held on for 3-2 victory over the Anaheim Ducks on Monday night.

Christian Dvorak and Jakob Chychrun also scored for Arizona, and starting goalie Mike Smith had 27 saves before leaving about 4 1/2 minutes into the third period after a collision in the net. Marek Langhamer helped kill a power play after being pressed into action for his NHL debut and stopped six of the seven shots he faced.

The Coyotes have won four of their last six.

Langhamer gave up Ryan Getzlaf's second goal of the night with 26.8 seconds to play, but thwarted two quality shots in the final seconds.

Jonathan Bernier gave up three goals on six shots in the first period for the Ducks. John Gibson came on to start the second and stopped all 14 shots he faced (see full recap).

Playing with 'swagger,' Gostisbehere flashes glimpse of rookie self vs. Canucks

Playing with 'swagger,' Gostisbehere flashes glimpse of rookie self vs. Canucks

VANCOUVER, British Columbia – The Flyers’ “Ghost” headed home Monday on a high note — for a change.

Defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere recorded three assists for the first three-point night of his NHL career Sunday as the Flyers edged the Vancouver Canucks 3-2 in the final game of a three-game Western Canada road trip (see story). In one night, he matched his offensive output of his previous 10 games played. 

He was a healthy scratch for three games in the meantime. On many other occasions, he has struggled while dealing with the NHL’s proverbial sophomore jinx following a standout rookie season. 

“It’s been a while coming,” Gostisbehere said. “It’s good to get some points, but I thought it was more important to get two points for our team.”

The win moved the Flyers (28-24-7) within a point of the eighth and final playoff spot, currently held by Toronto, in the Eastern Conference. With considerable thanks to Gostisbehere, the club’s much maligned power play scored on two of three man-advantage opportunities. 

“He played great,” Wayne Simmonds said of Gostisbehere. “He had his confidence and a little bit of swagger.”

Gostisbehere’s first assist enabled the Flyers to get off to a quick start offensively as Simmonds deflected in his point shot only 1:11 into the game. On the Flyers’ second goal, Gostisbehere head-manned the puck to Sean Couturier on a rush. Jakub Voracek easily put Couturier’s big rebound into a gaping net with Canucks goaltender Ryan Miller caught out of position.

One minute and 27 seconds later, Brayden Schenn took Gostisbehere’s pass and put in a shot from the slot. Altogether, Gostisbehere’s assists enabled the Flyers to build an insurmountable 3-0 lead in the game’s first 23 minutes.

“Ghost has had his ups and downs this year, but he's a heck of a player and has unbeliveable skill,” Simmonds said. “He can be a catalyst offensively for us, that’s for sure.”

Gostisbehere now has four goals and 18 assists on the season. Until Sunday, the 23-year-old had seemed like an apparition of his former self. 

He had a less-than-ideal recovery period from offseason hip (labrum) and abdominal surgeries, due to his participation with Team North America in the World Cup. Then he suffered a facial cut in the Flyers’ season opener and took a bruise on his right hand in December.

He also struggled defensively to the point where he was scratched — for the first time in his NHL career — in November and was later benched and pulled out of the lineup again. Heading into Sunday’s game, he had a woeful minus-22 mark, but he was only on the ice for one Canucks' goal.

He helped the Flyers shut out the Canucks in the first and third periods. 

“We don’t like how they came back, but we held the lead and, like I said, we got the two points,” Gostisbehere said.

Ghost’s offensive showing evoked memories of his seemingly other-worldly 2015-16 season. In 64 games last season, he notched 17 goals, the most by an NHL rookie defenseman since Dion Phaneuf, then with Calgary, who scored 20 over a full 82-game schedule in 2005-06. Gostisbehere also enjoyed a historic 15-game point streak in 2015-16, the longest ever for a first-year rearguard, and he was a runnerup for the league’s Rookie of the Year award.

His return to form Sunday bodes well as the Flyers face two Metropolitan Division rivals this week, first Washington at home on Wednesday and then the Penguins in Pittsburgh on Saturday in an outdoor game that will pack plenty of hype and pressure. 

After those games, the Flyers face a more compressed schedule than they have lately. The Feb.12-27 portion of their calendar contains only five games. But starting Feb. 28, they will play their final 21 games of the regular season over 41 days as they push to make the playoffs.

“We definitely know we’re a playoff team, for sure,” Gostisbehere said. “It shows. It’s a big test for us (this) week, playing these really good teams.”