Philadelphia Flyers

Ten (or 11) can't-miss Flyers home dates this year

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Ten (or 11) can't-miss Flyers home dates this year

Oh, Western Conference, where art thou? After laboring through last season’s 48-game schedule that featured only Eastern Conference opponents, hockey fans can be excited and re-engaged in a season with a schedule that finally features every team playing in every NHL city, an element that has been missing since the previous lockout of 2004-05.

Which games at the Wells Fargo Center are worth circling on your calendar? Here’s my take:

10. Flyers vs. Blue Jackets, Thurs., Dec. 19 
This matchup may have been slightly higher on my list if Ilya Bryzgalov were still a member of the Flyers, but regardless, Sergei Bobrovsky steps foot in Philadelphia for the first time since he was shipped to Columbus for a string of draft picks. In his first season in Columbus, Bob not only out-dueled Steve Mason (now with the Flyers) for the starting job, but he outplayed everyone else in the league to win the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s top goaltender. Barring injury, it will be intriguing to see how a Mason-Bobrovsky matchup will play out.

9. Flyers vs. Wild, Mon., Dec. 23
The final game before the Christmas break will allow Flyers fans to see Minnesota’s $196 million free-agent heist from 2012 when the Wild landed the two hottest UFAs on the market in Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, who will also be prominent players for Team USA at the Sochi Olympics a few months later. You can attribute some of the Flyers' failures from last season to Paul Holmgren’s endless pursuit of these two marquee players, who didn’t really seem to have much interest in coming to Philadelphia, and after this game, they still might not. It’s also the Flyers' last home game for 18 days.

8. Flyers vs. Predators, Thurs., Jan. 16 
It was the seven most tense, and perhaps intense, days of the Flyers' 2012 summer. The Flyers had signed Nashville defenseman Shea Weber to  a 14-year, $110-million offer sheet (the largest in league history) and then had to desperately wait a week before the Predators organization matched the offer. Weber hasn’t stepped foot in Philly since touring the Flyers' facilities back in July 2012. Nashville also brings one of the league’s top goaltenders in Pekka Rinne, and perhaps we’ll see future superstar defenseman Seth Jones as well.
 
7. Flyers vs. Penguins, Sat., March 15
The two cross-state rivals will square off five times in 2013-14, and this game will mark the final one at the Wells Fargo Center. The orange and black crowd always seems revved up for a Saturday matinee and it appears as if the two teams always feed off that emotion. Plus, these two squads may be ready to hang each other by their shoelaces as this will the second game of a home-and-home on back-to-back nights.
 
6. Flyers vs. Lightning, Sat., Jan. 11 
Even though Vincent Lecavalier will have already made his return to Tampa with the Flyers by this time, there shouldn’t be any lack of motivation for him to face the Lightning in front of his new home crowd and a nationally-televised audience on this Saturday afternoon. With the new divisional format, this will also be Tampa Bay’s only visit to the Wells Fargo Center when in previous years they had typically played twice here. Aside from “le Lecavalier connection,” you can’t help but isolate your eyes on the one-on-one battles between Claude Giroux and Steven Stamkos, two of the game’s superstars.

5. Flyers vs. Red Wings, Tue., Jan. 28 
This matchup will have considerably more meaning now that Detroit has shifted to the Eastern Conference. It’s also a chance to see the two-way wizardry of Pavel Datsyuk, who’s always worth the price of admission. The Flyers and Wings will have faced each other twice in Detroit leading up to this game, significant because the Red Wings still haven’t won in Philadelphia since sweeping the Flyers in the 1997 Stanley Cup Final -- a streak that has seen the Flyers win seven in a row.
 
4. Flyers vs. Kings, Mon., March 24 
“Flyers West” comes East to Philadelphia for the first time since Oct. 15, 2011. As we know, these two teams have more connections than a flight from Scranton to Tokyo. Now, there’s a few more following the Flyers' addition of Ron Hextall to the front office and the Kings' acquisition of Dan Carcillo this offseason. The addition of “Car Bomb” will only add gasoline to this game's flame. Former Flyer Jeff Carter still hasn’t played at the Wells Fargo Center since his offseason trade to Columbus in 2011. Jonathan Quick, the 2012 Conn Smythe trophy winner, is expected to be the starting goalie for Team USA.

3. Flyers vs. Rangers, Sat., March 1 
Broadway vs. Broad Street, Part II. The Rangers will have already played the Flyers at the WFC in October, but I think this Saturday 1 p.m. tilt will have a little more zest to it as we approach the stretch run toward the playoffs. The Blueshirts have owned the Flyers over the past three seasons, but perhaps the tide starts to shift the Flyers' way again. Fans will be itching for Flyers hockey, and this game marks the second one coming out of the Olympic break. By this time, the Rangers should be adjusted to new coach Alain Vigneault and his more offensive-minded system.

2. Flyers vs. Maple Leafs, Wed., Oct. 2 
Opening night. There’s always a tremendous amount of anticipation that comes into a new season as Toronto comes to Philadelphia in the opener. How will the defense look with the addition of Mark Streit? How will Peter Laviolette utilize his lines with Lecavalier in the mix? Who will start in net? Many questions surround a Flyers team that will be anxiously looking to prove that missing the postseason last year was a fluke. The Leafs have also upgraded their roster with the additions of Jonathan Bernier and David Clarkson.
 
1. (Tie) Flyers vs. Blackhawks, Tues., March 18 
The defending Stanley Cup champions come to the Wells Fargo Center for their only visit. Will the Flyers be able to keep up with Chicago’s speed and aggressive forecheck that carried them to their second Stanley Cup championship in four years? It’s a tremendous measuring stick for a Flyers team looking to re-establish themselves as one of the league’s elite. The last time the Flyers beat the Blackhawks in Philly, Ray Emery was in net for Chicago. This time, he can get back at his old team.

Flyers vs. Penguins, Thurs., Oct. 17 
Does anything top seeing the Flyers' most-hated rival for the first time just eight games into the young season? Pittsburgh comes to Philadelphia just twice (the other game is No. 7 on this list), but this could set an early tone to the season. The Flyers opened last season against the Pens, a 2-1 Pittsburgh victory, but aside from that game, the Flyers seem to be in Marc-Andre Fleury’s head and could have a distinct advantage in goaltending.

End to End: Jaromir Jagr is still available … Flyers?

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End to End: Jaromir Jagr is still available … Flyers?

Throughout the offseason, we’ll ask questions about the Flyers to our resident hockey analysts and see what they have to say.

Going End to End today are CSNPhilly.com reporters John Boruk, Tom Dougherty, Jordan Hall and Greg Paone.

The topic: Jaromir Jagr is still available … Flyers?

Boruk
It’s extremely rare for Philadelphia to have this endearing loyalty to any athlete following a one-year love affair, but from Day 1, Jagr connected with hockey fans on South Broad. He had the hair, the smile, the occasional salute, his tireless dedication to his craft, but there was more to it than that.

Understand one of the biggest reasons Jagr is so revered in Philadelphia was his decision to spurn the Penguins at the last minute to sign with the Flyers. He rejected old friend and former teammate Mario Lemieux so he could join their most heated rival. You just can’t buy that level of respect and admiration!

Playing on a line with Claude Giroux and Scott Hartnell for much of that 2011-12 season, Jagr turned in a respectable 54-point season. That trio clicked for the first three months of the season, but Jagr started to fade after December as he re-acclimated his body and conditioning to the NHL’s 82-game schedule, which came four years after his last season in the NHL with the Rangers. He also struggled to contribute in the playoffs with one goal in the Flyers' 11 postseason games.

Since that season, Jagr has bounced around the league, playing for four different teams since 2012 — the Stars, Bruins, Devils and Panthers. His act would play perfectly on the Vegas strip, and Jagr has proven he can still contribute into his mid-40s. He’s recorded 30 assists in each of the past four seasons — a total that only 35 other players have achieved.

At the very least, Jagr deserves to outlast the NHL career of Chris Chelios, who played seven games for the Atlanta Thrashers at the age of 48.

If this Flyers team needs Jaromir Jagr to reach the playoffs again, then it's in some serious trouble. After further thought, why not bring Jagr in on a training camp invite, if anything, to make training camp fun again? He could fill our smartphones and tape recorders with quotes for half a season. He could mentor the prospects and put a smile on Little Mario (his nickname for Giroux). In fact, I could probably sway Jagr to return with little more than a gift card to Costco. He took $2 million for one year to join the Devils and then proceeded to score 24 goals and 67 points in 2014. If Ron Hextall was so inclined, he could sign Jagr at a 50 percent discount. One million dollars for one season would get it done.

Dougherty 
Flyers GM Hextall vehemently downplayed the idea of signing Jagr, or any other veteran free agent that would block the youth movement, on July 2. “Not the direction we're going in,” he said then. But as we enter the dog days of the NHL summer, Jagr remains without an NHL contract.

I don’t believe signing Jagr would fit into the Flyers’ plans. It doesn’t align with how Hextall runs his operations, and Hextall is on the record saying Jagr isn’t where he’s headed. But. How Jagr still doesn’t have a contract baffles me. He’s still productive and would improve any team that signs him. He would be an instant upgrade to the Flyers. There’s no doubt.
 
Perhaps the biggest roadblock as to why Jagr remains unsigned is the role he wants and the role NHL teams believe he’s capable of handling as he turns 46 in February. Last season, Jagr scored 16 goals and 46 points for the Florida Panthers, who have moved on from the future Hall of Famer. Those 46 points would have ranked sixth on the Flyers, and his 16 goals would have ranked fourth on the team — ahead of team captain Giroux’s 14.

Jagr remains in phenomenal shape. His workout regimen is one of legend. But as he approaches 50 years old, there’s no denying he wears down as the season goes on. That’s been the story the last few seasons in Florida, where he’s been ever so productive but has worn down. Perhaps Jagr realizes this, perhaps NHL teams realize this too.

Perhaps we’re making too much of the fact that Jagr remains unsigned. Could he decide to head back to the KHL, where he could be guaranteed a large role? I think that is very much a realistic possibility at this point in time. But I also believe teams could prefer waiting to sign Jagr, rather than bringing him in for the start of the season. I could see teams waiting out as long as possible before offering Jagr a contract enticing enough for him to sign.

And perhaps Jagr is OK with this too. It is astonishing to see him unsigned — I still think he belongs in the NHL and that he can still play, and play at a high level too. In the end, I do think we’ll see Jagr in the NHL again this season — when and where is the question.

I don’t think it will be the Flyers. But the obvious answer is: Yes, Hextall and the Flyers should consider Jagr. Every NHL team should. Because at 45 years old, Jaromir Jagr is still a very productive player and he will make an impact anywhere he goes.

Hall
Albeit an interesting thought and a bit more intriguing now with Jagr still out there, my answer is the same as when we discussed a possible Hartnell reunion.

No.

Jagr can still play — maybe he could help the Flyers in a few areas, both tangibly and intangibly.

But this season should be about taking a step forward by injecting more youth into the equation. The Flyers finally have some opportunity for prospects to make the jump and start their NHL development. And the kids are expected to make an impact, too. 

Last season, we saw the positives of having youngsters in Ivan Provorov and Travis Konecny. This season, it's time for many more. Hextall even acknowledged that just four days after the 2016-17 regular season ended.

"Our young players, they've done enough," he said. "Our young players are going to get a long look. We don't plan on going out and signing veterans on the back end. Our kids, it's time to give them a shot, and we're going to do that."

If the Flyers wanted to sign Jagr, it would obviously be for one season. Still, that's one season of blockading a forward prospect from being here or playing meaningful minutes — someone like Mike Vecchione or Scott Laughton (yes, he's still a prospect and worth watching). Or, it could even change a lot for the likes of Oskar Lindblom and Nolan Patrick.

As fun as it would be to see Jagr back in Philadelphia, the answer here is an easy no.

Paone
With all due respect to Jagr (and he's an absolute legend who's due a lot of it), that ship has sailed here in Philadelphia.

Let's weigh this out here: What could a soon-to-be 46-year-old Jagr bring to this group of Flyers?

Sure, he could bring that invaluable leadership and example to the Flyers that was so important during the 2011-12 season. Remember the effect he had that year alongside Giroux, who ran wild across the league with a career-high 93 points? A handful goals and points here and there from Jagr would always be helpful, too.

But no way does that stuff outweigh eating up a roster space for a young player who's ready for a taste of the NHL level and using any precious cap space on the oldest player in the league rather than keeping more of the already slim flexibility the Flyers have.

Hextall's vision is all about the youth and development from within. That's the focus of the club from top to bottom right now. Needless to say, Jagr doesn't come anywhere close to fitting that vision or focus. I doubt Jagr has ever even popped up on Hextall's radar this summer. Want proof? During a conference call earlier in the summer, Hextall was asked about Jagr and emphatically slammed the door shut on that idea in not so many words, as Tom mentioned above.

The fact of the matter here is the Flyers just don't have a spot on the roster or a role for him — Jagr never has been and never will be a fourth-line player. Why even consider him if there's no roster spot, no role, he doesn't fit the vision the team has molded for itself and if cap space is at a premium? Why even waste the energy or breath?

Do I feel Jagr will get picked up before the season starts? Yeah, I do, by a team closer to a legitimate Stanley Cup contender that's looking for some veteran punch. And he'll make an impact because that's just what a legend like him does.

That team just isn't the Flyers.

Sorry to burst your bubble.

End to End: Should the Flyers pursue David Pastrnak?

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End to End: Should the Flyers pursue David Pastrnak?

Throughout the offseason, we’ll ask questions about the Flyers to our resident hockey analysts and see what they have to say.

Going End to End today are CSNPhilly.com reporters John Boruk, Tom Dougherty, Jordan Hall and Greg Paone.

The topic: Should the Flyers pursue David Pastrnak?

Boruk
Who wants a 21-year-old winger coming off a 34-goal, 70-point season in his first full year in the NHL? 

Sure, where do I sign up? I see, right below the names of the league’s 31 general managers.

I came across NHL Network analyst Brian Lawton’s tweet earlier in the week, when he mentioned that the Bruins may be looking at a trade as a possibility. That may be the case, but the probability is, I think, extremely low.

However, Boston has a history of shipping out top-end talent at a very early age. Phil Kessel was sent to Toronto following a 36-goal season, and Tyler Seguin was part of a blockbuster deal with Dallas in 2013. Both Kessel and Seguin were 21 years of age, which is unimaginable how one organization could part ways with such prized prospects at such an early age. In the case of Seguin, the B’s didn’t receive nearly the compensation from the Stars to justify the swap. Eventually, an organization has to learn from its previous mistake(s).

With that said, Pastrnak is an RFA and his options are limited: sign with the Bruins or demand a trade to another team. As Bruins Insider for CSN New England Joe Haggerty points out, the Bruins would demand a proven player, who will be under club control for the next several years. Haggerty mentioned Blue Jackets defenseman and Calder Trophy finalist Zach Werenski as an equitable return, or something close. Werenski was drafted eighth overall in 2015. Care to recall who the seventh player selected was? Ivan Provorov. How would you feel trading your future shutdown defenseman for the next decade as the starting point to acquire Pastrnak? Doesn’t have much appeal to me. Regardless of how well-stocked the organization is with defensive prospects, Provorov is a special talent and the Flyers don’t have another one quite like him.

I’ve seen this scenario before with other RFAs when Bobby Ryan was in Anaheim, and more recently, with Johnny Gaudreau and the Flames a few years back. Those two players continued their stalemate right up to training camp before hammering out long-term deals. Unlike the NFL, hockey players simply don’t like the idea of contract talks becoming a disruption just before the season begins. That’s how I think the Pastrnak scenario will eventually play out with him signing a multi-year extension somewhere in the $6-7 million range.

Dougherty
Last Monday afternoon, Lawton, an NHL Network analyst, former player, agent and general manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning, dropped a bombshell into the Twittersphere.

And so began the prospect of Boston losing yet another young stud.

Bruins general manager Don Sweeney attempted to throw cold water on the rumors Tuesday. Sweeney told The Boston Globe in an email that he’s “not trading Pastrnak.”

OK, end of story.

Right?

Until Pastrnak signs his name on a new contract in Boston, we cannot count out the Bruins trading the 21-year-old right winger. Not with the recent history of Beantown.

First, it was Kessel. The Bruins couldn’t sign Kessel to an extension after his entry-level deal expired. They traded him to Toronto for two first-round picks and a second-rounder.

Then, it was Seguin. Whether it was immaturity issues with the then-21-year-old Seguin or his underwhelming postseason performance, we don’t know why, but the Bruins traded Seguin and he has since become a star in Dallas.

And then there is Dougie Hamilton, who was traded to Calgary after the Bruins failed to sign him long term.

(Interesting nugget: The Bruins drafted Seguin and Hamilton with the two first-round picks acquired in the Kessel trade.)

Back to Pastrnak. Sweeney would be incompetent as a GM to openly suggest trading Pastrnak is an option. The two sides appear to be locked in a stalemate, and for the Bruins, the recent contract extension the Edmonton Oilers signed Leon Draisaitl to is bad news. This could very well go into training camp. The end game could be Pastrnak signing a long-term contract with the Bruins. You think it’s a must-do for Sweeney.

The Flyers should absolutely keep tabs on the Pastrnak situation because he would be an ideal fit here. He’s a 21-year-old scorer with a 70-point season to his name already. He should only get better. I’m quite the conservative type when it comes to sports, and with the Flyers, believed by many, having the top prospect pipeline in the league, usually, I’d suggest staying on course. But Pastrnak is the type of guy you have to consider paying for.

I don’t know what the asking price for Pastrnak would be, but it would cost Ron Hextall a lot. Probably first-round draft picks and prospects. Maybe even an NHL player, too. The thought of adding Pastrnak to a young forward group of Nolan Patrick, Travis Konecny, Oskar Lindblom, Sean Couturier and Jordan Weal is quite enticing, though. If he hits the trade market, the Flyers should be aggressive in pursuit of the Czech winger.

Hall
We're not sure if Pastrnak is being shopped whatsoever.

As Tom pointed out, Sweeney shot down the trade rumor pretty succinctly. And why would Boston even think of dangling Pastrnak on the market? This is a kid that at 20 years old, produced 70 points (34 goals, 36 assists) last season, good to be the second-leading scorer on a playoff team.

So sending Pastrnak out of Beantown would make little sense. Yes, he's still an unresolved RFA, but you'd think the Bruins would do whatever it takes to eventually get something done.

However, if Boston is actually contemplating the trade route here, the Flyers would be silly to not listen or make a call. One purpose of building organizational depth is to create flexibility for ways to improve.

The Flyers now have the prospects to be an attractive player in trade fields, if they so choose. Obviously, you don't want to throw away the farm, and the Flyers won't.

Pastrnak, though, is a stud 21-year-old goal-scoring winger. The Flyers would be naïve to have no interest in such a burgeoning talent.

With that said, this seems like a fantasy. I don't see Pastrnak being anywhere but Boston in 2017-18.

Paone
Absolutely. 

The Flyers should be all in on Pastrnak if he really is available and Hextall should be burning up the phone lines to talk Sweeney's ear off.

Pastrnak is exactly what the Flyers need and what they've lacked for years on end now — a young, dynamic winger who can just pile pucks into the net in the blink of an eye.

The Czech native, who just turned 21 this past May, has 59 goals already in his blossoming NHL career. And he's coming off a superb first full campaign as he potted 34 goals in 75 games last season. He's a maven on the power play, too, as he scored 10 while on the man advantage last season. 

Just imagine the things Pastrnak could do on the Flyers' top-line wing, which is where he would immediately be slotted. Imagine what he could do for a Flyers team that finished in the bottom third of the league with 2.59 goals per game.

Good thoughts, gang. Good thoughts.

But here's the thing — youthful, ultra-talented scorers like Pastrnak don't just grow on trees. If they did, every general manager in the league would shimmy up the tree themselves and pluck them off the branches in bunches to take back home.

Needless to say, that's not how it works. 

The Bruins' price tag to acquire Pastrnak will be steep. And rightfully so. Why should they just give him away?

But the Flyers have the reserves that could raise Sweeney's eyebrows.

The Flyers' farm system is so deep and stocked that it was named the top farm system in the league earlier this week by ESPN. And the fact of the matter is not all of those prospects will ever wear orange and black. The farm system not only helps improve the club from within, but it also gives Hextall and the Flyers the ability to be flexible and tap into those reserves and make exterior moves to help improve the club. This would be one of those times. 

What would it take to get Pastrnak south down I-95 to Philadelphia? Just spitballing here, but think a top prospect (maybe two), a high draft pick and a young, NHL-ready player. So let's say Travis Sanheim/Sam Morin (or both), a first-round pick and Weal. Again, just a shot in the dark with a guess there. The Flyers' untouchables should be Provorov (duh), Shayne Gostisbehere, Konecny, Patrick, German Rubtsov and Carter Hart. Anyone else I'd be at least willing to listen on. 

Poaching the organizational depth and handing over draft picks isn't Hextall's traditional way of doing business. But there are extenuating circumstances sometimes. And a deal for Pastrnak would be one of those times.