Voracek has moved on from time with Columbus

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Voracek has moved on from time with Columbus

When Jakub Voracek  recalls his days in Columbus, he doesn’t think about Scott Arniels’s comments in the spring of 2011 about him being an “out of shape” player.

He’s moved on.

Indeed, Voracek recalls the good times he had with Rick Nash, R.J. Umberger, Antoine Vermette and Derick Brassard - his buddies.

“We had a great group of guys in Columbus,” Voracek said. “But I think they made the playoffs just once in 10 years and they needed a scorer to play with Nash and traded me for Jeff Carter. It was for me, personally, a good decision.”

Voracek was shipped to the Flyers the afternoon before the 2011 NHL draft in Minnesota along with two draft picks who became Sean Couturier and Nick Cousins.

On Saturday, Voracek and goalie Steve Mason return to Columbus for the first time as Flyers. Mason was traded here straight-up for Michael Leighton last April. It’s a homecoming in Ohio.

“I’m not going to lie,” Voracek said. “As soon as the schedule came out, I wanted to see when we went to Columbus. I got traded 2½  years ago and haven’t played there since. It’s going to be exciting for me and Mase. Ask me tomorrow after the morning skate how I feel. Maybe it’s just deja vu. I had three great years there. We had a good group of guys there. When I got traded, I moved on. I’m the kind of guy that everything happens for a reason. I’m here with a bunch of great guys and really enjoying it now.”

Mason beat his former teammates in that wild 5-4 Flyers’ comeback Thursday night in Philly. He will likely not be in goal tomorrow in Columbus as it appears Ray Emery will get the nod.

“I was definitely aware of where they were [on the schedule],” Mason said. “As the season has gone on, it’s not something that I’ve really looked ahead to. But now that it’s come out, it’s an exciting time.”

Neither player said they feel a need to prove themselves to Columbus.

“No, I have nothing to prove to that organization,” Mason said. “They gave me this chance to come here and start from scratch ... have that fresh opportunity. There’s no hard feelings whatsoever.”

Carter would eventually end up in Los Angeles and win a Stanley Cup with Mike Richards and the Kings, putting that much more of an exclamation point on the Voracek deal.

“I don’t look at it that way at all,” Voracek said. “I look at it as I got traded for a very good players and there were expectations for me. I think I am filling out those expectations so far. It’s my third year here. It’s very hard to win the Stanley Cup in this league. The NHL is the best league in the world. You got 30 teams try to win the Cup every year. You have to work hard every day. Go game by game. I’m sure this room has quality players and character to win the Cup.”

Mason’s lone regret was not being able to say goodbye to teammates in Columbus. Even his roommate.

“I was traded after practice one day and the same day we were supposed to be taking off to St. Louis or Nashville,” Mason recalled. “I was back at my place, living in the same building as a couple of the other guys. The other guys in the building were traded also. They were the only ones I got a chance to say goodbye to. I roomed with R.J. Umberger for five years, never got a chance to say goodbye.”

Mason saw Umberger this week in Philly, had dinner with him, and caught up on things he was unable to say last spring.

Both Mason, who won a Calder Trophy in Columbus and thought things would come easily thereafter, and Voracek have advanced themselves as Flyers, professionally and personally.

Mason has found his game again and seems very relaxed despite some recent hiccups in net. Voracek has made great strides in changing his “pass the puck” mentality, focusing on a a shooting mentality that now makes him the elite threat the Flyers projected.

“When I was there, I was still a kid, 19 or 20,” Voracek said. “I wouldn’t say I was a bad boy off the ice, but I was a young kid playing in the NHL and I think I had some successful years there. Put it this way – it didn’t hurt me to get traded. It’s so different now. They changed the organization from the GM to the defensemen to the goalies to the forwards that it’s like four or five players that I played with are part of the team.

“I don’t feel any [animosity] towards the people there or management or team right now. It’s an NHL game, just try to help the team win.”

Loose pucks
Michael Raffl missed practice with a scheduled maintenance day off. Today was also the last day he could visit with his father who returned to Europe. ... Coach Craig Berube on Claude Giroux's game-winning goal: "Certain guys can do that. I'm not one of them." ... Hal Gill has been a healthy scratch 20 consecutive games. He walked into the dressing room singing Christmas songs. … Vinny Lecavalier skated and said he felt very good. He remains optimistic of returning to the lineup for the post-Christmas trip to Western Canada.

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.