Who stays and who goes: Flyers free agent forwards

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Who stays and who goes: Flyers free agent forwards

Five forwards will be unrestricted free agents at the end of this season. But which ones will stick around for 2013-14?
 
Flyers coaching and management personnel were consulted in advance of this piece. What follows is CSNPhilly.com’s best guess at what happens, taking into account those discussions.
 
Ruslan Fedotenko
Wing/center
Age: 34
Games played: 47 (four goals, nine assists)
Plus/minus: plus-8
Contract: $1.75 million  

If you had to pick one Flyer from the roster who gave them exactly what was expected when he signed, it would be Fedotenko. He's a veteran third/fourth-liner, who imparts strong defensive ability, bolsters your penalty killing and gives you a couple of goals, and he was successful at doing just so in 2013.
 
Having won two Stanley Cups meant he would bring a strong influence into the dressing room and be able to demonstrate what it takes to become a winner.
 
Fedotenko delivered in every area, but was disillusioned at how he was used this season and had expected more of an offensive support role. He was a solid plus-8 on a bad team, played 12:34 a night and had 34 blocks and 52 hits in a limited role. He won’t want to come back, but he won’t have trouble finding work, either.

Stay or go? GO
 
Simon Gagne
Left wing
Age: 33
Games played: 27 (five goals, six assists)
Plus/minus: minus-3
Contract: $3.75 million
 
If you have to pick three gentlemen on the Flyers' roster of high character, Gagne would among the trio along with Mike Knuble and Danny Briere. Gagne was a very visible, trustworthy and adored member of this franchise for a decade before being traded to Tampa Bay.
 
When injuries began to pile up in late February to Matt Read and then Tye McGinn, Gagne was brought in from Los Angeles where he was sitting around as a healthy scratch.

Gagne averaged 26 goals a season throughout his 10-year career with the Flyers. Over the last three, it’s down to 11. He had five goals and 11 points in 27 games this season, and on many nights, was the Flyers’ best skater, even if he didn’t deliver points.
 
He would be ideal in a lesser role, but his only chance at re-signing would be to accept a substantial pay cut. Gagne admits winning a Cup in Los Angeles fulfilled his dream, and he would like to retire as a Flyer.
 
Gagne was excellent in the faceoff circle, winning 78 percent of his draws during the few times he either played center (one game) or had to take a faceoff for someone being thrown out.
 
Of his 597 lifetime points, 535 have been as a Flyer. He says he will take less money for himself and family to be “comfortable” remaining in the area. If that’s the case, he gets re-signed. Otherwise, he’s gone.

Stay or go? STAY (with a pay cut)
 
Adam Hall
Center
Age: 32
Games played: 11 (0 points)
Plus/minus: minus-1
Contract: $650,000
 
No Flyer has traveled more to earn the title “journeyman” than Hall, who at age 32, has been with nine NHL clubs.
 
A very likeable person in the dressing room, he was a comfortable fourth-line fit at center and might have been the best defensive draw on the team. Hall won 59 percent of his faceoffs, which is one reason why he logged an average 2:02 a game on the ice playing on the penalty kill.
 
The problem the Flyers face is that they can’t re-sign him and Gagne. As one club official said, you can only have so many guys who are designated fourth-liners. Gagne can play up and down the lineup; Hall, who had no points in 11 games and averaged less than 11 minutes per game, can’t.

Stay or go? GO
 
Mike Knuble
Right wing
Age: 40
Games played: eight (four goals, four assists)
Plus/minus: minus-4.
Contract: $750,000
 
A 16-year veteran and second-time Flyer, Knuble is going to make a very good coach or scout some day.
 
It was interesting to hear Knuble say last weekend in Ottawa that he has spent the past two seasons taking mental notes of situational play on the ice and why certain guys fit certain roles -- why coaches do this or that, etc.
 
Knuble said he wanted to expand his knowledge of the game and try to analyze it from the perspective of a coach, not as a player. He admits he’s at the very end of a long career. In his prime, he was exactly what the Flyers hoped James van Riemsdyk would become: A physical net presence.
 
Knuble didn’t have the legs this season that he had when he last played for the Flyers. Yet, his savvy for the game remains unchanged.
 
It was a classy move by coach Peter Laviolette to allow him one final appearance in the Flyers' season-ending game at Ottawa. Retirement seems next. Everyone wishes him well.

Stay or go? GO

Flyers Weekly Observations: More flashes, more frustration

Flyers Weekly Observations: More flashes, more frustration

The Flyers’ playoff hopes are all but buried alive, but we still have plenty to discuss after a busy week of hockey.

The Flyers took the ice four times and finished up with yet another inconsistent showing last week.

They pulled off a 4-3 overtime win over the visiting Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday, dropped a disappointing 3-2 decision to the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday, impressed with a strong 3-1 victory over the Minnesota Wild on Thursday and then were stifled in a frustrating 1-0 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday afternoon.

Let’s take deeper dive into the week that was for the Flyers.

• While it was another one of those up-and-down weeks for the Flyers that we’ve all become used to, Sean Couturier stuck out in a good way this past week. Two plays, in particular, stuck out, and not just because the puck ended up in the back of the net each time. Sunday in overtime against Carolina, Couturier revved up on a quick and powerful solo rush up the ice, broke in on goalie Cam Ward and created a prime scoring opportunity that Brayden Schenn cleaned up for the game-winner. It was something we don’t see often enough from Couturier. He has the size with his 6-foot-3, 211-pound frame and can be tough to stop when he gets in gear the way he did in OT on Sunday night. That could be such a weapon for the Flyers if he could do it on a more consistent basis. His goal Thursday in Minnesota was a thing of beauty. He took a slick pass from Schenn, maneuvered the puck through his legs and beat Devan Dubnyk five-hole. Between the pass and the lovely finish, it might have been the prettiest goal the Flyers scored all season. But it was Couturier’s skill that finished it off. So he again showed flashes of mixing his size and skill this week to create offense. Queue the broken record, but the Flyers, who average just 2.50 goals per game heading into Sunday night’s tilt in Pittsburgh, really need Couturier to do those kinds of things much more consistently.

• Steve Mason was not out of line to question his teammates after Tuesday’s disheartening loss in Winnipeg. Heading into that game, the Flyers talked about how, even though their playoff hopes were slim, they still thought they had a real chance to reach the postseason. Entering the third period on Tuesday, the game was tied at 1-1. The Flyers had 20 minutes to vanquish a Jets team that was missing five regular defensemen in the lineup. Instead of playing like a team hungry for the playoffs, the Flyers sat back and let the Jets carry play to predictably terrible results for the Flyers. Think about this: the Flyers had just two shots in the period 13:34 into the frame. I know Mason mentioned the eight straight minutes of penalties the Flyers took in the second period, and, while frustrating, that happens sometimes. The two shots through more than half the third period can't happen. Urgency anybody? They did respond nicely Thursday against a good, albeit stumbling, Wild team. That may have been the Flyers' best all-round effort of the year.

 • In response to Tuesday’s lackluster effort in Winnipeg, Dave Hakstol again switched up the Flyers’ lines ahead of Thursday’s game in Minnesota. One of the changes saw rookie forward Travis Konecny slide down to the fourth line next to Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Chris VandeVelde. That’s a curious move. Think about this: the Flyers’ playoff hopes are virtually toast, right? What does Konecny get out of playing fourth-line minutes now? Shouldn’t he be further up the depth chart in an effort to find some chemistry with more skilled linemates heading into next season? I get that he has defensive deficiencies. But he’s a rookie and all rookies have those. At the end of the day, the kid is a skilled scorer. And these are important minutes for him to get more and more comfortable in a top-wing role. You’ve got to take the good with the bad, especially with the Flyers’ goal-scoring needs.

• The Flyers’ power play continues to be a debacle. After an 0-for-3 showing Saturday in Columbus, the Flyers’ power play is 3 for 43 in the month of March. It’s not just that the power play is stagnant right now. It’s that it’s giving the opponent momentum and helping turn games around against the Flyers. It’s more deflating than anything else. More often than not, it just seems that opponents have more quality chances while shorthanded than the Flyers have with the man advantage. Gotta give the Flyers’ power-play units credit on Saturday, though. They fired 10 power-play shots on goal, but Sergei Bobrovsky had every answer. He was superbly flawless all game long for the Jackets, for that matter.

• Want a telling stat? Try this on for size: heading into Sunday’s games, 16 teams have positive goal differentials for the season and 14 teams have negative goal differentials for the season. Those 16 teams with positive goal differentials are in the current playoff picture. The 14 teams with negative goal differentials, well … I’ll let you fill in the blank. FYI, the Flyers’ goal differential is -27.

• Was going over some stats on Sunday morning and, oh, those poor Avalanche fans. Colorado has just been abysmal this year. As of Sunday morning, the last-place Avs are 20 points behind the next team in the standings, Arizona. Twenty! The Avs’ goal differential on the season is -104. That’s an astounding number that’s 44 goals behind the next worse number, coincidentally Arizona’s. So for you Flyers fans angry at how this season has soured, just remember it’s worse somewhere else. Much, much worse. … If that’s any consolation.

Coming up this week: Sunday at Pittsburgh (7 p.m./NBCSN), Tuesday vs. Ottawa (7 p.m./TCN), Thursday vs. New York Islanders (7 p.m./CSN), Saturday vs. New Jersey (7 p.m./CSN)

Flyers-Penguins 5 things: Final long road trip of season ends in Pittsburgh

Flyers-Penguins 5 things: Final long road trip of season ends in Pittsburgh

Flyers (34-32-8) at Penguins (46-17-11)
7 p.m. on NBCSN/CSNPhilly.com and NBC Sports App

The Flyers conclude their final four-game road trip of the season on Sunday night in Pittsburgh against a Penguins team with its playoff ticket already punched.

Let's take a closer look game at No. 75 for the Flyers.

1. Power outage
The theme remained the same for the Flyers in their 1-0 loss to Columbus on Saturday: a lifeless power play leads to little offense in a must-win game that killed any realistic, however slim, hope of making a last-second run at the Eastern Conference's second wild-card spot.

After going 0 for 3 against the Blue Jackets, the Flyers' power play is now 3 for 43 in March, 0 for its last 14 and 2 for its last 25. On Sunday night, they face a Penguins penalty kill that is lingering near the bottom 10 of the league at 19th overall with an 80.3 percent kill rate.

"We're getting our chances and it's not going in," Shayne Gostisbehere said Saturday. "It's not like we're not getting shots, so it's a matter of sticking with it and it'll come."

In their 4-0 shutout win over the Penguins on March 15, the Flyers were 1 for 4 on the man advantage and it was the last game the team found twine on the power play.

2. Mr. 100
After winning his 100th game as a Flyer on Thursday night Minnesota -- only the third goalie in franchise history to reach 100 wins -- Steve Mason had Saturday afternoon off.

Without context, rolling with Michal Neuvirth on Saturday was a surprising move considering Mason has been the better goalie of the two and the team believed its season was not yet over. But it was the first game of a back-to-back against two of the East's elites.

Neuvirth appeared rusty in the opening period but settled down in Columbus, but Mason is expected back in between the pipes Sunday against the Pens, whom he shut out 11 days ago.

On Sunday, he's expected to make his 50th start of year. Mason will be the first goaltender in Flyers history to start over 50 games in four consecutive seasons. He's appeared in 53 games this season in total heading into Sunday night's tilt.

Mason is 2-3-1 with a 2.62 goals-against average and .910 save percentage in March and owns a 2.73 goals-against average and .906 save percentage overall this season.

3. Playoffs … playoffs?
With Saturday's 1-0 loss, the Flyers' playoff hopes are realistically dead -- not as if they weren't already. The Flyers have eight games left and are eight points out of the playoffs.

One has to believe the Flyers have to win out and acquire all 16 possible points to have any legitimate chance at the playoffs. That's not taking into account help needed elsewhere.

Let's do some math. If the Flyers were to earn all 16 points on the table, they'd finish the year with 92 points. Is that enough to get into the playoffs? Not unless the four teams ahead of them crash and burn. The Flyers are not officially eliminated, but the playoffs are a pipe dream.

4. Keep an eye on …
Flyers: Let's go with Sean Couturier, who has three goals and seven assists in his last 11 games. He had a goal and an assist with a career-high eight shots vs. the Pens 11 days ago.

Penguins: Nick Bonino has seven goals in his last 10 games and nine points in his last 12 games. Bonino has one goal in three games against the Flyers this season.

5. This and that
• The Penguins will wear their gold Stadium Series jerseys against the Flyers on Sunday.

• The Flyers have scored just 20 goals in their last 17 losses.

• This game was originally set for 12:30 p.m. but was rescheduled earlier in the season.

• Pittsburgh is 3-0-2 in five contests since losing to the Flyers on March 15. The Pens are 8-1-3 in their last 12 games and are coming off back-to-back shootout losses.