Who stays and who goes: Flyers free agent forwards

050113-flyers-gagne-knuble-usa.jpg

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

With Brandon Manning signed, what's next for Flyers?

With Brandon Manning signed, what's next for Flyers?

Now that young defenseman Brandon Manning has been re-signed, the Flyers wiped the table clean of any unfinished business with potential arbitration hearings this summer.
 
For now, they are done with their in-house reorganizing, but could still do a deal for a scoring winger at some point moving forward.
 
Manning’s signing left the club with 23 players for the coming season on the NHL roster — 14 forwards, seven defensemen and two goalies.
 
More significantly, it also left the Flyers with little salary cap breathing room — $1.038 million, according to generalfanager.com.
 
They still have to lose a forward even though they opened with 14 last season. General manager Ron Hextall might start with eight defensemen, which brings us to 13 forwards.
 
Right now, the top target among the forwards to be sent to the AHL would be Jordan Weal ($650,000 cap hit).
 
That gives them the right number of forwards, but what about creating a spot for prospect Travis Konecny if — and that’s a big if — he’s ready to make the NHL cut out of training camp?
 
Hextall has said several times since the season ended that regardless of how his roster stands, if a prospect is ready for the NHL, he’ll find a spot for him.
 
Which brings us to the defense. Manning is the perfect seventh man on the defense. He was both that and a regular last season while playing 56 games. He also helps the Flyers in another way.
 
If he plays 14 games this season (70 overall in two seasons), he would be eligible to be exposed in next summer’s NHL expansion draft because he is also under contract for the following year, another stipulation in the expansion rules.
 
That doesn’t mean he won’t be exposed. Under the NHL’s expansion rules, teams will have the option of protecting one goaltender, three defensemen and seven forwards. Or they can protect one goalie and eight skaters, four of which can be defensemen.
 
Given Andrew MacDonald’s $5 million cap hit, you can be sure he will be exposed.
 
The issue for the present, however, is how will the Flyers fit defensive prospect Ivan Provorov onto the roster, if he can make the club out of camp?
 
Provorov was impressive in development camp. When compared against fellow prospects Sam Morin, Travis Sanheim and Robert Hagg, he was easily above them in terms of overall development.
 
The simple solution here would be to move veteran defenseman Mark Streit, who turns 39 in December. Streit has a no-trade clause but would likely waive it to remain in the NHL. Except there hasn’t been any interest in Streit since last winter.
 
Streit doesn’t have a no-movement clause, so like MacDonald, he could go to the AHL Phantoms, but because of his salary ($5.25 million), the most the Flyers can save off their cap is $950,000.
 
The Flyers could also move Nick Schultz, even to the minors, and save $950,000. Schultz, however, played very well in the playoffs and Hextall has said more than once he likes what he brings off the ice in terms of leadership around younger players.
 
The easy move would be to send Manning ($975,000) to the Phantoms and promote Provorov. Because of his age (19), Provorov either plays with the Flyers or returns to his WHL club this fall. His NHL cap hit would be less than Manning — $894,166.
 
Yet seeing how things unfolded last season, it’s more likely that MacDonald would again be a cap victim and return to the AHL rather than have him sit there as the seventh defenseman, which doesn’t do him any good unless the Flyers carry eight defensemen and 13 forwards.
 
At present, generalfanager.com has the Flyers at $71,961,666 out of the $73 million cap, including the buyout of R.J. Umberger. Eliminating Weal and Manning while adding Provorov leaves them at $71,230,832. Their cap space would be $1.76 million.
 
All the above assumes Hextall doesn’t make any trades, plus Nick Cousins, Scott Laughton and Boyd Gordon all make the final roster. It’s not a given all three do. Gordon's cap hit is $950,000 — almost as much as Manning's.
 
Because the Flyers could go with an extra forward or defenseman, it sets up all kinds of possibilities with the final roster come training camp.
 
At least one player figures to lose their job.

End to End: Analyzing Brayden Schenn's contract

End to End: Analyzing Brayden Schenn's contract

Each week, we'll ask questions about the Flyers to our resident hockey analysts and see what they have to say.

Going End to End this week are Tom Dougherty, Jordan Hall and Greg Paone, all producers/reporters for CSNPhilly.com.

Is Brayden Schenn's contract a good deal for the Flyers?

Dougherty
It's understandable why some portion of Flyers fans have responded to Schenn's contract extension with caution; the $5.125 million is a bit high for what he's done consistently. But we live in a salary cap world in which the cap is not rising at the rate we would like.

We have to consider that when analyzing contracts. As Sportsnet's Colton Praill eloquently opined about bridge contracts back on July 13, we've seen teams get burnt by bad contracts. Look at the Chicago Blackhawks, who have had to move players to fit under the cap.

Part of surviving the cap world is making smart bets on players, and that requires breaking down what they have done already but more importantly, what you believe they'll do in the future. And Ron Hextall has done a decent job of that in his tenure as GM.

A perfect example of that is Sean Couturier's contract. It was a higher cap hit than his offensive production warranted at the time, but a deal we would look back on as a steal.

Now, Schenn's development is nearly complete. It's a different situation, but the same idea. If Schenn is a 26-goal, 59-point player, his $5.125 million AAV is fair.

If there's another level we haven't seen from the 24-year-old, then this is a totally different conversation in a few years.

In the end, the Flyers are betting on Schenn being the player he was from Jan. 1, 2016, through the end of the season, and living in the cap world, it's a smart play.

Hall
The Flyers were going to re-sign Brayden Schenn, through an arbitrator or not.

And when it was all said and done, no matter if the average annual value was slightly lower or higher than the $5.125 million of Schenn’s new four-year contract, the Flyers were still going to be handcuffed by the cap.

So the Flyers avoided what can be a messy arbitration process by finding a happy medium with a strategic deal that behooves the Flyers long term, as Ron Hextall explained.

Now they have longer team control over Schenn, who could have signed for fewer years, upped his game and ballooned his payday as an unrestricted free agent.

Like Hextall said, top-six forwards entering their prime "are hard to find."

Yeah, the Flyers probably overpaid just a bit, but that’s the NHL market — it’s far from perfect.

Paone
There’s a reason these kinds of things are categorized as negotiations. There’s give and take involved. In the case of Brayden Schenn’s contract, there was probably a little more give than Ron Hextall and the Flyers would have liked. The numbers reported over the weekend tell us the Flyers didn’t necessarily want to go over the $5 million per year threshold with Schenn, even though the 24-year-old forward is coming off a career year of 26 goals and 33 assists.

But just because the Flyers went over their projected budget by going a smidge over $5 million doesn’t mean this is a terrible deal for the team. Not by any means. By now, you’ve probably read or heard Hextall use the term “market deal” when describing this contract. And that’s accurate because that’s the way the NHL is going these days. Yes, Schenn has had inconsistency issues over his first five seasons in Philadelphia. But young scorers don’t grow on trees. You have to pay to keep the ones you have. New Jersey’s Kyle Palmieri, the New York Rangers’ Chris Kreider and St. Louis’ Jaden Schwartz are just a few examples. Schenn is just the latest. There will be more young scorers out there, flaws be damned, who will get paid sooner rather than later.

Sure, Schenn picked a great time last year — a contract year — to have a career season. And that pushed the Flyers to reward him. Now, it’s up to him to reward the Flyers’ faith.

NHL Notes: Red Wings sign Danny DeKeyser to 6-year contract

usa-danny-dekeyser-red-wings.jpg
USA Today Images

NHL Notes: Red Wings sign Danny DeKeyser to 6-year contract

DETROIT -- The Detroit Red Wings have avoided arbitration and signed defenseman Danny DeKeyser to a $30 million, six-year contract.

DeKeyser will count $5 million against the salary cap throughout the length of the deal. Agent Don Meehan confirmed the terms of the contract Tuesday, including modified no-trade protection beginning in the 2017-18 season.

The restricted free agent and the club were scheduled to have their arbitration hearing on Thursday in Toronto.

Instead, the 26-year-old has a long-term deal. The Western Michigan product has 14 goals and 61 assists in 234 regular-season NHL games and has averaged over 21 minutes of ice time.

Rangers: Zborovskiy inked to entry-level contract
NEW YORK -- The New York Rangers have signed defenseman Sergey Zborovskiy on an entry-level contract.

General manager Jeff Gorton announced the signing of the team's third-round draft pick in 2015 on Tuesday.

Zborovskiy skated in 64 games with the Regina Pats of the Western Hockey League this past season, collecting eight goals and 17 assists along with a plus-15 rating. The 19-year-old established WHL career-highs in goals, assists, points, and power play goals (two), and he tied his WHL career-high in plus/minus rating.

The 6-foot-4, 200-pounder skated in 12 playoff games and had five assists this past season.

Zborovskiy has skated in 135 career WHL games over two seasons with Regina, registering 11 goals and 33 assists.