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.

Connor McDavid: Brandon Manning made 'classless' comments about injury

Connor McDavid: Brandon Manning made 'classless' comments about injury

Connor McDavid scored his first power-play goal of the season in the second period during the Flyers' 6-5 win on Thursday night (see Instant Replay). After his 12th goal of the year, McDavid made a point to stare down and exchange words with Flyers defenseman Brandon Manning.

In the first period, Manning and McDavid were in the middle of a scrum after the whistle, chirping each other (see 10 observations). The battle between the two roots back to when Manning broke the rising superstar’s collarbone November 2015 during a play against the boards in Edmonton.

“You know what, I did all I could defending him last year in the media," McDavid said after Thursday's game. "I didn’t want to make a big deal saying he did it on purpose.

"He wanted to make some comments today about what went on last year and I thought it was one of the classless things I’ve ever seen on the ice. He said some things and our guys responded accordingly.

"We can put the whole 'he did it on purpose' thing to rest, because what he said out there confirmed that. It shows what kind of guy he is, how he doesn’t step up and fight some of our guys.”

Manning received death threats from Edmonton fans last season, and responded after the game Thursday, reiterating the play that injured McDavid was an accident.

"I think anybody who knows me or who has played with or against me along the road here," Manning said, "knows that I am not that kind of player. I am not out there intentionally trying to hurt people. I'm a guy who plays the game hard and I take pride in that.

"I think going back to last year, it was a total accident. I mean, there were three players involved and there was never any intention of hurting anyone."

The injury ended up costing McDavid a few months, and a year later, the tension is still high between him and Manning.

As the second period moved along, McDavid continued to make plays for the Oilers. At the 4:35 mark in the second period, he took the puck away from the Flyers and then helped set up Andrej Sekera for a shorthanded goal that tied the game, 3-3.

The shorthanded goal helped give the Oilers momentum at the end of the period, but they could not carry it over to the third. The loss Thursday is the second night in a row in which Edmonton lost a game it looked like it was going to win.

“I’m not too sure what it is but I think we will figure it out,” McDavid said. "I’m not too sure what it is, like I said before. Something we need to figure out real fast here.”

Flyers top Oilers in thriller for seventh straight win

Flyers top Oilers in thriller for seventh straight win

BOX SCORE

Close your eyes and it was the 1980s all over again with the Edmonton Oilers piling up goals and Grant Fuhr giving up just as many.
 
Last goal wins.
 
Ah, but this is a different era with Connor McDavid not Wayne Gretzky.
 
Yet instead of McDavid, the NHL’s leading scorer, it was Michael Raffl scoring last as the Flyers twice overcame a two-goal deficit to burn the Oilers, 6-5, Thursday night at Wells Fargo Center (see Instant Replay).
 
That’s seven wins in succession for the Flyers, who are now tied for second in the Metro Division with the Rangers (35 points).
 
“We never give up no matter what the score is,” Jakub Voracek said. “We come back. We have a lot of good offensive players. We showed it again. Raffl was outstanding. He had a lot of scoring chances and he came up big.”

So many Flyers made critical plays. Voracek (plus-3) had a four-point game to go with the nifty pass off the offensive boards to Raffl, who then made a sharp cut to the net to wrist the puck past Jonas Gustavsson.
 
“Jakey banked it off the wall there and he wants me to make that play all the time, and he’s been hard on me about that,” said Raffl, who had a power move for the game-winner in Nashville last weekend. “I just put a little fake in there, got around the D-man and chipped it up high.”
 
This was a complete team comeback effort. Claude Giroux (plus-3) had two goals and three points. Pierre-Edouard Bellemare held McDavid to a power-play goal while shadowing him with rookie defenseman Ivan Provorov.
 
“Everyone knows what kind of player he is, what kind of speed he brings to the table,” Bellemare said of McDavid.
 
“I just tried to be as close as possible to him and kind of be annoying and cut off his speed. I didn’t make a big fool out of myself, so that’s a good point.” 
 
Goalie Steve Mason looked tired, but his teammates paid him back for earlier efforts when he stood there alone. Mason now has a personal-best six-game win streak.
 
“A couple nights ago, Mase was the best player and picked up a lotta guys around him,” coach Dave Hakstol said.
 
“Tonight maybe wasn’t his best, but was pretty good. Guys battled hard and they picked up some of the slack. That’s what it takes. Every guy is not going to be at their best every night.”
 
Voracek echoed those thoughts.
 
“That is how you become a great team,” he said. “Mase playing the last six games the way he did, it wasn’t his night tonight, but we got the win for him. That’s how you get into the playoffs and how you have success in the playoffs.”
 
The Flyers fell behind 2-0 early, rallied for three goals in 1:12 in the second, then were stunned by a shorthanded goal from Edmonton’s Andrej Sekera to tie it at 3-3 after two periods.
 
Edmonton scored twice to open the final period before Voracek and Giroux re-tied the game with eight minutes left, setting up the dramatic finish from Raffl at 18:31.
 
“It was an intense game, a lot of emotion. It felt like a playoff game,” Giroux said. “It was the funnest game all year. The fans were unreal. They weren’t wooing. They were cheering.”
 
Edmonton got a brilliant game from Leon Draisaitl, who moved off McDavid’s unit to another line and was dishing out passes like Monopoly money. He had a three-point night, scoring one goal and setting up two more.
 
Back and forth it went. Last goal wins.
 
“The guys bailed me out and that’s a sign hopefully when your goalie is not making the saves you need … it’s huge to see that,” Mason said.
 
“Once it got to 5-4, I tried to lock it down best I could. There are nights when you’re not feeling as sharp as you’d like, but this was a situation where the guys never quit. They earned the two points.”
 
The Flyers’ never-quit attitude is something that should carry them. It has become repetitive this season and they’ll want to remember it during the dog days of the season when their legs get tired.
 
“We’ve shown since the beginning of the season – come back and salvage some points,” Hakstol said. “That’s just guys believing in one another and going out and playing hard.
 
“You don’t want to be in that situation night after night. But tonight, guys stuck with it and great job.”