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

Best of NHL: Penguins halt Capitals 9-game streak with wild 8-7 OT win

Best of NHL: Penguins halt Capitals 9-game streak with wild 8-7 OT win

PITTSBURGH -- Conor Sheary scored 34 seconds into overtime and the Pittsburgh Penguins ended the Washington Capitals' nine-game winning streak with a wild 8-7 victory Monday night that included nine second-period goals.

Sheary had two goals and an assist for the Penguins, who snapped a three-game losing streak. Evgeni Malkin picked up his 11th career hat trick during a frenetic second period, and Sidney Crosby collected his NHL-leading 27th goal to go with two assists. Bryan Rust and Nick Bonino also scored for Pittsburgh, and Matt Murray got the win despite allowing seven goals on 28 shots.

The Penguins trailed 3-0 before scoring six goals in less than 11 minutes in the second period, more goals than the Capitals had allowed in a game all season. Pittsburgh led 6-5 after 40 minutes.

Lars Eller scored twice for Washington, and T.J. Oshie, Brett Connolly, Nicklas Backstrom, Justin Williams and Andre Burakovsky also found the net. Philipp Grubauer made eight saves after coming on in relief of Braden Holtby, who was pulled during Pittsburgh's second-period deluge (see full recap).

Eichel scores twice to give Sabres' 4-1 win over Stars
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Jack Eichel scored two goals and the Buffalo Sabres defeated the Dallas Stars 4-1 on Monday.

Tyler Ennis scored 19 seconds into the first period. Ennis returned after missing 30 games with a groin injury that required surgery.

Jake McCabe also had a goal and Robin Lehner made 31 saves after missing the past three games with an illness.

The Sabres snapped a two-game losing streak and beat the Stars for the first time in four matchups.

Radek Faksa scored for the Stars in the opener of a three-game road trip. Kari Lehtonen stopped 25 shots. Dallas has lost two in a row and six of eight (see full recap).

Bishop anchors Lightning to 2-1 win over Kings
LOS ANGELES -- Brian Boyle scored the go-ahead goal late in the second period, and the Tampa Bay Lightning opened a six-game road trip with a 2-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Monday.

Ben Bishop made an early mistake that led to Kyle Clifford's goal for the Kings, but bounced back to make 31 saves in his second start back from a three-week absence with a lower-body injury.

Tyler Johnson scored in the first period for the Lightning, who won for just the second time in seven games.

Peter Budaj stopped 27 shots for the Kings.

Both teams played without stars due to illness. Kings captain Anze Kopitar missed his first game since Nov. 20, and All-Star defenseman Victor Hedman missed his first game of the season for Tampa Bay (see full recap).

Changes coming? Ron Hextall says Flyers 'not very happy right now'

Changes coming? Ron Hextall says Flyers 'not very happy right now'

WASHINGTON — As the Flyers filed into the visiting locker room of the Verizon Center, no temper tantrums were thrown, nor were any chairs.
 
In the end, “What good does that do?” head coach Dave Hakstol asked.
 
Instead, the Flyers’ dressing area Sunday felt like a morgue. Players quietly and somberly stuffed their gear away. Once all dispersed, in walked Ron Hextall — and none too pleased.
 
“It’s been a tough couple of weeks for us,” he said softly, “and quite honestly, we’re not very happy right now.”
 
For a man that loathes losing more than anyone, nobody expected him to be. That much was already understood during the third-period catastrophe of his team’s demoralizing 5-0 defeat to the Capitals.
 
What wasn’t known was what follows? The Flyers have gone from 10 consecutive victories — the franchise’s longest winning streak in 31 years — to 11 losses over the following 14 games and a state of dismay.
 
As the Flyers limp into their NHL mandated five-day bye week, do players sense an imminent shakeup within the roster?
 
“It’s a good question,” Claude Giroux said, “but I don’t know.”
 
Despite never losing his sense of prudence, Hextall ruled nothing out.
 
“Obviously we always keep an eye on the big club and the Phantoms, as well,” Hextall said. “Right now, we’re going to stick with what we’ve got here and move forward. But on a day-to-day basis, I always look at how we can make our club better and, if there’s something that we think makes our club better, we’ll do it."
 
If Hextall wants to add some fresh blood from within, the organization is not lacking for young and spry prospects full of energy down at Lehigh Valley, where the Phantoms are 24-10-2 and third among the entire AHL entering Monday.
 
For the Flyers, who have surrendered a league-worst 144 goals, could defensemen T.J. Brennan, Travis Sanheim or Robert Hagg be options? Brennan owns NHL experience, has 30 points and is a plus-10 with Lehigh Valley. Sanheim, a big and touted prospect, is also a plus-10 to go along with seven goals and 11 assists. And Hagg, a seasoned 21-year-old, is “just about NHL-ready,” according to Flyers assistant general manager Chris Pryor, via ESPN’s Craig Custance (see Future Flyers Report).
 
“The worst thing you can do is overreact when things aren’t going right and that’s not going to happen,” Hextall said. “But if we can find a way to make ourselves better, we will.”
 
Hextall’s biggest gripe with his current team is its dearth of mental fortitude.
 
“Right now we’re making a lot of mental mistakes and it’s killing us,” he said.
 
And then it snowballs, Hextall said, which good teams prevent from happening.
 
“When things are going wrong, all of a sudden something happens and things tend to really go wrong,” he said. “That’s where we have to get better. Mentally we have to be better, have to be better. If something goes wrong, let’s move on. It happened a lot earlier in the year where things go wrong and we fought through it. Right now, the negative energy seems to be a landslide.”
 
Following the meltdown in Washington, players didn’t question the effort.
 
“We care,” Michael Del Zotto said. “No one likes losing. It’s not fun for anyone. But sometimes effort's not enough. Everyone wants to win in this league. It's a matter of execution. Whether it's offensively or defensively in all situations, we're not doing it.”
 
Hextall believes the effort has been “sufficient.”
 
“Again, the mental mistakes,” he said. “It seems like when something goes against us, it goes against us hard and that’s something we’ve got to battle through. You can’t let a little bit of adversity turn into a lot of adversity. You’ve got to nip it in the bud and we’ve got to do a better job of that.”
 
As for the leadership structure and coaching, Hextall defended both.
 
“Our leaders haven’t been good enough. Neither have our lesser guys,” Hextall said. “Nobody’s been good enough right now. You don’t win 10 and then go through a stretch like this without responsibility being everywhere.
 
“Line changes, different D combinations, flipping [Steve Mason] and [Michal Neuvirth]. Everything that’s there, Hak has tried. In the end, it comes down to our whole group just being better and not reacting the way we do when something negative happens. That’s the game of sports, right?”
 
The game goes away for the Flyers this week (see 10 observations). When it returns, who knows which team we’ll see.
 
“We all have to look at ourselves in the mirror, hold ourselves accountable,” Del Zotto said. “As far as changes and personnel moves, that's out of our control.”
 
That, of course, is up to Hextall.
 
“We’ve got to keep our heads now,” the GM said. “Nobody’s going to get us out of this. It’s the whole group. This isn’t about one thing or one move or one player not playing or one player playing. This is about our whole group.”