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

Ron Hextall, Flyers know what they have in Nolan Patrick

Ron Hextall, Flyers know what they have in Nolan Patrick

CHICAGO — Ron Hextall had no idea which way New Jersey Devils general manager Ray Shero was leaning.

Would Shero take Nolan Patrick or Nico Hischier with his No. 1 pick?

"I asked Ray 10 minutes before he picked and he wouldn't tell me," Hextall said. "I give him credit. That is what he should have done … I didn't have an expectation one way or the other."

Shero wanted a dynamic player to put bodies in the stands at Prudential Center. He chose Hischier.

That made it easy for Hextall at No. 2 to select Patrick (see story).

If rumors were true that Shero was scared off by Patrick's several injuries this past season at Brandon, well, the Flyers weren't.

"What I believe, we gather a lot of information," Hextall said. "There's some stuff out there you want to prove wrong and we did. We're comfortable with the injury part of it. He is a really good young man."

Patrick is a two-way player and a natural center. The Flyers have seven centers right now (see story), including Patrick, who is expected to play now. 

Hextall said he doesn't envision switching Patrick to the wing.

"I would rather have too many centers rather than five wingers on each side and no one to go in the middle," Hextall said.

Interesting that German Rubtsov, last year's top pick for the Flyers, has already been converted to a left winger since coming to North America to play junior.

Will Patrick be a No. 1 center as scouts project?

"Nolan has to answer that," Hextall said. "We see a kid with a big body, extremely high hockey sense, really good skill set. You get drafted today? The work starts now and Nolan has to put the work in.

"This is another level … this is the National Hockey League. In September, he comes to camp. He needs a big summer."

Ron Hextall on Flyers' logjam of centers: 'Someone has to play the wing'

Ron Hextall on Flyers' logjam of centers: 'Someone has to play the wing'

CHICAGO – The Flyers already have a familiar problem coming out of this NHL draft and heading training camp next fall: they’re too deep at center.
 
Friday night, they added three centers and traded another.
 
Brayden Schenn was sent to St. Louis for the Blues’ 27th pick in the first round, plus a conditional 2018 first-round pick and veteran utility center Jori Lehtera (see story).
 
General manager Ron Hextall wanted to trade back into the first round late and he did so by tabbing Morgan Frost at No. 27 with that Blues’ pick.
 
NHL Central Scouting had Frost ranked 31st among North American skaters. He is a 6-0, 170-pound forward from Aurora, Ontario.
 
He has raw speed and skill, but scouts say other parts of his game will need time to fill out. Frost had 20 goals and 62 points for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the OHL this past season.
 
Friday’s other first-round pick, Nolan Patrick, is a natural centerman. Patrick is expected to play in the NHL this season. So right now, the Flyers’ centers are Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier, Valtteri Filppula, Mike Vecchione, plus Patrick and now Lehtera.
 
Lehtera had 30 goals and 100 points in 218 games with the Blues. He was both a first- and second-line center for the Blues this past season despite weak numbers — seven goals and 22 points in 64 games.
 
He is a decent playmaker and two-way player, who has centered Alex Steen and Vladimir Tarasenko.
 
“He is utility guy with a well-rounded game and can play in the middle,” Hextall said. “We like the player. Gives coach more options.”
 
Best option: Lehtera can move to left wing if needed.
 
“Someone has to play the wing,” Hextall said. “He can play the wing. Our scouts have seen him play the wing, but he plays center most games. I am assuming he prefers center like most of them. Someone has to play wing.”
 
Schenn had improved every year he was with the Flyers, but too much of his scoring is on the power play and not five-on-five. He had 109 goals and 246 points in 424 career games for the Flyers.
 
This deal seems strange unless you consider the Flyers got another first-round pick (Frost) and a top-10 protected, conditional first-rounder next year. The Blues have the option to defer the 2018 first-rounder to 2019 but if they do so, the Flyers will also receive the Blues' 2020 third-round pick.
 
“It was a combination,” Hextall said of the advantages’ from the Flyers side. “It was one of those [trades] that came out of nowhere. Not like we were shopping Brayden.
 
“This deal came along and we really like the draft next year. We like the late pick this year and Jori. It made sense and we got a couple more young players.”
 
Young players like Frost, whom the Flyers are excited about.
 
“Our whole staff really liked the guy,” Hextall said. “He’s an extremely intelligent player, his No. 1 asset. Really smart. Reads the ice well. He has a very deft touch moving the puck.
 
“Good two-way player who showed up good in the testing. We believe he is a kid with a lot of upside. Good speed, but he dissects the game better than most players.”
 
Frost’s father Andy was the longtime former Toronto Maple Leafs PA announcer.
 
“I talked to them a couple times,” Frost said. “I’d say I had a bit of a gut feeling. I wasn’t too sure, but they took me and I’m super happy about it.
 
“I think first and foremost I’m a playmaker. I think I’m a high-skilled player that likes to use his vision and hockey sense to create plays. I’m working on becoming more of a two-way forward. That’s more of the player I want to become.”