Who's next in net for the Flyers?

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Who's next in net for the Flyers?

Who replaces Ilya Bryzgalov in the Flyers' net is a bit muddled right now, especially given that the Flyers recently lost out on the Jonathan Bernier sweepstakes.
 
The former Kings goalie was traded to Toronto on Sunday.
 
That the Flyers were in fact pursuing Bernier tells you they were going to make it a competition for the No. 1 job next season -- if they got him.
 
Who comes next may result in Steve Mason being forced into the top role regardless. Or maybe not.
 
With Bryzgalov’s buyout, the Flyers now have an extra $5.67 million off the salary cap to find a far less expensive veteran free agent goalie.
 
Or they can pursue a trade with someone else, even though their options aren’t easy should they choose that route.
 
The obvious free agent candidates are Jose Theodore (who is 36); Ray Emery (30), whom the Flyers are fond of because of how well he played here before; and Tim Thomas (39), who -- despite his political outspokenness -- is viewed by the Flyers in a favorable light.
 
Thomas was a huge reason the Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 2011. Emery was not a huge factor in Chicago winning the Cup this year.
 
“I have ideas what I want to do,” general manager Paul Holmgren said during a new conference at Flyers Skate Zone.
 
“It’s going to be a crazy ride here in the next [several days] and first five days in July. We know we have needs. We have to work out how we can fill those needs.”
 
Holmgren quickly shot down suggestions about 34-year-old Roberto Luongo, citing complications.
 
If Vancouver buys Luongo out, however, then the Flyers have a shot at him in free agency. But the problem is Holmgren may not want to wait until July 5 to do that if something else presents itself right now.
 
Recall, Holmgren likes to make deals in advance of the NHL draft to corner the market, so to speak, without competition.
 
“I don’t see how that would work,” he said of Luongo. “Probably not an option. That’s not one of my ideas.”
 
What if Luongo is bought out?
 
“Who knows?" Holmgren replied. "I can’t speculate on other teams’ business.”
 
Here’s one possibility, in theory: Anaheim is still looking to move Bobby Ryan. The Flyers are still in the poker game there. Maybe the Ducks expand a trade to include Jonas Hiller.
 
It’s still more likely the Flyers go the free agent route.
 
Among all free agents, Phoenix’s Mike Smith, 31, is the most attractive free agent option, but it’s unlikely he will leave the Coyotes.
 
Smith is very close to Phoenix’s goalie coach guru, Sean Burke. Burke has children in college in Arizona and is not leaving the area. Smith wants to stay with Burke.
 
What remains to be seen is whether the Flyers really believe Bryzgalov’s backup, Mason, is ready to be a No. 1.
 
As good as Mason looked in seven games last season here, it would be a mistake to assume he’s ready to carry the mantle right now.
 
“I’m a big Steve Mason fan,” Holmgren said. “Moving forward, he is a very good young goalie in our league for his age, has a lot of experience. It was a short window watching him here, but he played well, even in the games he lost. Ideally, I’d like to get a guy who will work in tandem with him with the bulk going to Steve.”
 
Does he trust Mason as a No. 1?
 
“I trust him as one of the two goalies,” Holmgren replied.
 
Though there is no mistaking Bryzgalov’s personality and antics rubbed many -- but not all -- players the wrong way, Holmgren kept stressing Tuesday that this was a business decision and that the team needed money to get Claude Giroux re-signed long-term next season.
 
Giroux is expected to command as high as an $8 million salary cap hit.
 
“It was a very difficult business decision to make. But moving forward, it makes the most sense for us to start looking down the road and trying to keep other players in the fold, like Claude Giroux,” Holmgren said.
 
Holmgren would like Giroux signed this summer. Talks with agent Pat Brisson have already begun.
 
“We’ve had conversations,” Holmgren said. “We know where Claude stands on our team. His agent and I know where he stands in the league. It’s important for us to get Claude locked up in the very near future.”
 
Brisson said Tuesday night the two sides are still talking. Holmgren would like Giroux signed before free agency opens on July 5.
 
Brisson said he was “hopeful” a deal could be struck by then as well.

NHL Playoffs: Rangers ride Zuccarello to 3-1 win in series-clinching Game 6

NHL Playoffs: Rangers ride Zuccarello to 3-1 win in series-clinching Game 6

NEW YORK -- Mats Zuccarello scored twice in the second period and the New York Rangers beat the Montreal Canadiens 3-1 in Game 6 on Saturday night to advance to the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Derek Stepan also scored and Henrik Lundqvist stopped 27 shots to help New York get past the first round for the fifth time in six years. The Rangers won three straight after falling behind 2-1 to beat Montreal for the ninth time in 16 postseason series.

The Rangers will face the winner of the Ottawa-Boston series, which the Senators lead 3-2.

Alexei Emelin scored for Montreal and Carey Price finished with 20 saves. The Canadiens, winners of the Atlantic Division after missing the playoffs last year, were bounced from the postseason by the Rangers for the second time in four years. In 2014, it was in the conference finals (see full recap).

Paajarvi's OT goal gives Blues 4-3 win to oust Wild in 5
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Magnus Paajarvi scored at the 9:42 mark in overtime, giving the St. Louis Blues a 4-3 victory over Minnesota on Saturday in Game 5 of their playoff series, eliminating the Wild.

The Blues advanced to play Nashville in the second round.

Jake Allen made 34 saves for the Blues, who led 2-0 and 3-1 before a furious rally by the Wild to try to keep their season alive forced the extra frame.

Paajarvi's first career playoff goal gave Blues coach Mike Yeo the satisfaction of beating the team that fired him a little over a year ago.

Mikko Koivu and Jason Zucker scored to bring the Wild back from their second two-goal hole, a deficit that held past the midpoint of the third period (see full recap).

Flyers excited for full-season upgrade of Valtteri Filppula

Flyers excited for full-season upgrade of Valtteri Filppula

As the Flyers packed up for the offseason much earlier than they had hoped, the focus started shifting to the outlook for 2017-18.

There was some optimism provided by Valtteri Filppula.

It wasn't anything he said. Instead, it was what he did in 20 games.

Make that a full sample size and the Flyers are excited about the possibilities.

Filppula, a well-rounded, 33-year-old center, was acquired at the March 1 trade deadline in the Mark Streit deal. He added five goals and three assists in his 20 games.

"I felt like later in the year, we had more bullets in our gun," Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said last week as the team held exit interviews and cleanout day. "(Jordan) Weal comes in and does a good job. Filppula comes in and really gives us stability. Really upgraded our top nine. So when you're talking 5-on-5 play, just to depend on five or six guys, all of a sudden you have nine guys you can count on."

The Flyers were 27th in the NHL with 128 goals at 5-on-5 -- a significant factor in their postseason absence.

But Filppula should bring more than simply a 5-on-5 boost.

The Flyers desperately needed depth at the center position to relieve some pressure from Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier. Filppula, who came from the Lightning and played seven seasons with the Red Wings -- winning a Stanley Cup in 2008 -- is a sound matchup center and plays on the penalty kill, too.

"I think with Fil coming in this year, it really helped our depth," Giroux said. "He brings a lot to the team. He kills penalties, power plays, very good defensively and he's a smart player. When you bring a guy in like that, you kind of get excited a little bit."

From Filppula's first game on March 2 to the end of the regular season, the Flyers scored 56 goals, 12th most in the NHL over that span and 2.80 per game -- both improvements from their ranking of 21th on the full season and 2.59 per game.

"Now that we feel like we have nine guys that are legit top-nine forwards," Hextall said, "we've got good balance."

Couturier saw immediate benefits when the Flyers acquired Filppula. Couturier started playing with Dale Weise and Brayden Schenn, which turned out to be the team's best line combination to finish the regular season.

"I think it just brought some depth to our lineup," Couturier said of Filppula acquisition. "I had the chance to play after that with Schenn and Weiser and we just found chemistry right away and things went really well."

It provided head coach Dave Hakstol greater flexibility.

"The addition of Val Filppula to our group up front made our group of forwards better," Hakstol said. "Not just his presence, which I think he's an outstanding hockey player, a good hockey player and a real good veteran, but it just allowed some of the others to come together. I think there's real substance there."

The Flyers hope it shows with a full season of Filppula.

"I think when Filppula came in, the balance that seemed to come with him entering our lineup helped us both with and without the puck," Hakstol said. "Will that cohesion help us generate more offensively on an 82-game basis, not just a short-term basis? I think the answers to those things are yes."