DENVER -- The perfect record on this five-game western road trip is no longer perfect.
The Colorado Avalanche outplayed the Flyers offensively Thursday night at Pepsi Center and came away with a 2-1 victory.
The loss was the Flyers' first in four games on this road trip, as they officially hit the midway point (41 games) of the season.
Avs goalie Semyon Varlamov simply stoned the Flyers -- no pun intended -- at every angle at the net.
He didn’t outplay Flyers goalie Steve Mason, but he was good. Mason was under siege in the third period and gave the Flyers every chance to get a victory.
Just when things were going so well for the Flyers' first line ... a major injury.
Michael Raffl suffered a concussion in the opening period. He had replaced Scott Hartnell on the top line nine games ago.
Raffl’s absence forced coach Craig Berube to rotate Steve Downie, Brayden Schenn and others to the top line with Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek.
Matt Read was already sidelined with an upper body injury, so the Flyers were pretty much down two forwards most of this game.
Ryan O’Reilly’s shot near the midpoint of the second period hit Mason’s right pad and bounced up and over his shoulder, giving Colorado a 2-0 lead which seemed like 4-0 given the saves Varlamov was making. It didn't hit Mason's shoulder, although it appeared that way.
Wayne Simmonds halved the deficit four minutes later by redirecting Andrej Meszaros’ wrister from the left circle, setting up a tense final period in which the Flyers made a late push but could not tie the game and simply didn’t put enough shots on net in the last period.
Raffl left the game with a concussion in the final three minutes of the first period after taking a hit from Gabriel Landeskog.
Simmonds has seven goals over the past six games.
Paul Stastny ripped one off the left post in the final second of the second period with the Avs leading, 2-1.
The Avs came into the game 7-0-2 against the Flyers in their previous nine meetings. Since the Avs moved from McNichols Arena to Pepsi Center in 1999, they were 4-2-3 against the Flyers in this building.
One by Sean Couturier resulted in Jamie McGinn’s first-period goal and a 1-0 lead at 11:14. Mason made the initial save on Matt Duchene, but the rebound went directly to McGinn in the slot for an easy goal. Not much of a backcheck there from Couturier, who turned it over in the neutral zone.
Mason had two during the Avs’ first-period power play with a glove save on Ryan O’Reilly and a stop on Landeskog. When the power play ended, he denied Duchene during a turnover in the slot. Varlamov had a quality pad stop on Scott Hartnell early in the second period off an odd-man rush, as well.
Downie had one on Varlamov’s doorstep during the opening shift of the game that was covered up. Downie’s better chance was during a breakaway pass from Mark Streit on the Flyers' late first-period power play. Varlamov made a pad stop on his backhand, much like the pad stop he made on Simmonds in the paint earlier that power play. Varlamov robbed Downie during a second-period power play, as well, inside the paint again.
Couturier had a chance with 3:24 left in the game but Varlamov covered up on a bouncing puck.
He also had a glove stop on Simmonds very late.
The Flyers were 0 for 3 on the power play, while the Avs were 0 for 2.
Berube said at the morning skate that his players had to move on the power play up top and shoot, otherwise their shots will be blocked. Near the midpoint of the third period, Vinny Lecavalier stood at the point and tried to shoot one through the Avs on a key Flyers power play. It was blocked out of the zone.
Forward Matt Read missed the game with an upper body injury; defenseman Erik Gustafsson missed the game with a sprained left knee; defenseman Hal Gill and forward Chris VanderVelde were healthy scratches.
Incredibly, there were rather loud “Let’s Go Flyers” chants. Looking around, there was a very noticeable number of Flyer orange jerseys in the stands, too. ... Avs coach Patrick Roy said he would alternate Paul Stastny and Duchene against Giroux’s line. ... Jamie McGinn is Tye’s older brother.
Expensive at the start, cheaper at the finish.
That’s how Flyers general manager Ron Hextall views the four-year, $20.5 million contract he gave Brayden Schenn on Monday morning to avoid salary arbitration (see story).
Hextall admitted the club is overpaying up front on the deal, but believes it got a “fair” number for the final two years, when Schenn would have become an unrestricted free agent.
“We took a higher cap hit for the first two years and essentially a lower hit than we would have taken in Years 3 and 4 if we piece meal it together,” Hextall said.
Hextall said he was walking into the 9 a.m. Toronto hearing with agent Don Meehan already deep in a conversation on a deal but prepared to go through with arbitration.
Both parties asked arbitrator Elizabeth Neumeier for additional time and completed the contract by 9:45 a.m.
Schenn, a restricted free agent, turned down the Flyers’ two-year offer of $4.25 million for this coming season and $4.369 million in 2017-18. That averaged to $4.3 million.
His new contract averages $5.125 million.
“The benefit for us is our cap number stays flat for four years rather than having have a cap at a lower number, then taking a run at him for two years, if in fact he’d sign for two years at a higher cap number,” Hextall said.
Hextall denied he was concerned he might get whacked in arbitration. Yet Schenn has had just one very good season in five years as a Flyer. That was last season with 26 goals and 59 points.
Hextall described Schenn as a player who has been “average” in his development, yet has improved in the subtle “intricacies” of the game such as finding open spots, avoiding shot blocks and coming cleanly across the blue line without turning the puck over.
Schenn’s true market value is closer to what New Jersey’s Kyle Palmieri, a 25-year-old right winger, signed earlier this month: a five-year deal worth $23.25 million with an AAV of $4.65 million.
Then again, St. Louis’ Jaden Schwartz signed a five-year, $26.5 million deal with a $5.35 million AAV. That’s above market value.
Meehan originally sought an AAV of $5.5 million for Schenn. In arbitration, it’s likely the Flyers would have received a two-year award in the middle of both numbers.
“Nothing really concerned me [about arbitration],” Hextall said. “We had a range and in the end our range was close to what Brayden’s camp felt the range was. Both sides had a range on a two-year deal.
“It’s a market deal. ... Brayden has been a good player. Top-six forwards are hard to find and there’s a premium to pay. There’s no question we paid a premium for a top-six forward who's 24 years old and essentially coming into his prime.”
While Hextall labeled Schenn a top-six forward, he tap danced around whether he sees him as a “core” player for the Flyers, even though this makes him the third highest-paid forward behind Claude Giroux ($8.275 million) and Jakub Voracek ($8.25 million).
“What is a core [player]?” Hextall asked. “That’s arguable. ... What we do know is Brayden is a very good young player who is getting better and we hope he continues to get better.”
This signing leaves the Flyers with just $1.38 million in salary cap space, but with 14 forwards, the club will lose at least one by the end of training camp.
Thinking ahead, Jordan Weal could be sent to the Phantoms, shaving $650,000 off the cap. That’s the most likely option for the Flyers, but not their only option.
Scott Laughton, whose role was diminished by a strong presence from Nick Cousins, is a lesser possibility. His cap hit is $863,333.
Losing either of those two salaries would provide the Flyers over $2 million in cap space.
Schenn’s contract lacks a no-trade/no-movement clause that he would have been eligible for starting in 2018-19. He turns 25 in August.
The Flyers have one more arbitration to settle: defenseman Brandon Manning on Aug. 2.
In the end, the Flyers blinked and avoided arbitration Monday morning by overpaying Brayden Schenn with a four-year, $20.5 million contract.
The contract leaves the club in a precarious salary cap situation, as the Flyers have just $1.38 million in space now, according to generalfanager.com.
The 11th-hour settlement saw the Flyers and Schenn’s agent, Don Meehan, avoid arbitration, which was set for 9 a.m. in Toronto.
Meehan was seeking a deal worth $5.5 million for Schenn, who was a restricted free agent.
The one Schenn signed will average $5.125 million, according to a source, which still seems excessively high for the 24-year-old, who has had just one excellent season in five full years in the NHL, excluding two partial seasons with the Los Angeles Kings.
Schenn had his most productive year last season with career-highs in goals (26), assists (33) and points (59), while showing he could play wing on Claude Giroux’s line with Wayne Simmonds.
The Flyers and Schenn were more than $1 million apart going into Monday morning with no progress having been made over this past weekend.
Why general manager Ron Hextall didn’t risk the arbitration process remains unanswered. The contracts of some players in comparable situations favored a settlement less than what the Flyers agreed to.
The Flyers had offered Schenn a two-year deal that would have paid him $4.25 million this coming season and $4.369 million in 2017-18. That’s an average of $4.3 million.
New Jersey’s Kyle Palmieri, a 25-year-old right wing, signed a five-year deal earlier this month worth $23.25 million. His AAV is $4.65 million. That’s the figure the Flyers could have gambled on getting from an arbitrator.
They may have been scared away from going through with the arbitration because of the five-year, $26.5 million deal fellow RFA Jaden Schwartz signed with St. Louis earlier that carried a $5.35 million hit.
Hextall was not immediately available for comment.
TSN’s Bob McKenzie first reported the financials of the contract.
Barring an 11th-hour settlement, the Flyers will go to arbitration on Monday against swing forward Brayden Schenn.
The hearing is slated for 9 a.m.
The two sides are more than $1 million apart with no progress having been made over this past weekend.
“We will probably go to arbitration,” Don Meehan, the agent for Schenn, said Sunday.
Flyers general manager Ron Hextall seemed to concur.
“I’m not overly optimistic,” he said about avoiding arbitration.
Defenseman Michael Del Zotto filed last summer but signed without going to a hearing.
The 24-year-old Schenn is the highest-profile Flyer to get this far without signing since John LeClair back in 2000. He received $7 million — the highest one-year award ever.
By filing on July 5, Meehan assured his client will get a contract. The Flyers’ qualified Schenn, who earned $2.75 million last season, on June 30.
He is a restricted free agent, who could earn close to $5 million a season on his next deal. And that’s the sticky part.
Sources said the Flyers offered a two-year deal that would pay Schenn $4.25 million this coming season and $4.369 million in 2017-18 (see story). That’s an AAV of $4.30 million.
Meehan wants $5.50 million, which is excessively high given Schenn’s seven-year career thus far.
At the same time, if you look at the some of the RFA signings this summer, as Meehan surely has, the comparable numbers would suggest Schenn is worth slightly more than what the Flyers have offered.
Two examples here: New Jersey’s Kyle Palmieri, a 25-year-old right wing, signed a five-year deal earlier this month worth $23.25 million. His AAV is $4.65 million. That’s the correct ballpark for Schenn.
Schenn had his most productive year last season with career-highs in goals (26), assists (33) and points (59) while proving he can play the wing on Claude Giroux’s line with Wayne Simmonds on the right side.
Palmieri had career-highs as well in goals (30), assists (27) and points (57).
Problem is, the other end of the spectrum, where Jaden Schwartz of the St. Louis Blues sits.
The 24-year-old center recently signed a five-year, $26.5 million deal as an RFA with an AAV of $5.35 million. That’s far higher than Hextall wants to go with Schenn at this point.
A fractured ankle and subsequent surgery ruined Schwartz’ past season (33 games played), but Blues’ general manager Doug Armstrong looked at what Schwartz accomplished two years ago — career-highs with 28 goals, 35 assists and 63 points – and used that as a barometer for the future.
That deal hurts the Flyers here with Schenn.
Hextall’s offer suggests the Flyers want Schenn to prove he’s a $5 million player, which means show the Flyers 30 goals and 70 points this season.
Schenn finished second in goals to Simmonds (32) and third in points behind Giroux (67) and Simmonds (60) last season.
The arbitrator should be able to locate a fair medium. Expect Meehan to ask for a one-year award only.