Philadelphia Flyers

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 Notes: Oilers sign star Leon Draisaitl to mega 8-year contract

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NHL Notes: Oilers sign star Leon Draisaitl to mega 8-year contract

EDMONTON, Alberta -- The Edmonton Oilers have signed center Leon Draisaitl to an eight-year contract extension with an average annual value of $8.5 million.

The extension runs through the 2024-25 season, similar to the eight-year, $100-million extension superstar captain Connor McDavid signed with the team in July.

With the signings, the Oilers are banking on McDavid and Draisaitl providing a potent one-two punch for the team as it looks to build on last season's return to the playoffs after a decade of futility.

Draisaitl, a 21-year-old German, had 77 points (29 goals, 48 assists) last season, his third in the NHL.

He finished eighth among NHL scorers, and second on the Oilers behind McDavid.

He led the Oilers in scoring during the 2017 playoffs, posting 16 points (six goals, 10 assists) in 13 games.

Draisaitl was selected third overall by the Oilers at the 2015 draft (see full story).

Avalanche: Hobey Baker winner Butcher now free agent
College hockey's top player is an NHL free agent after former University of Denver defenseman Will Butcher allowed a deadline to pass without signing with the Colorado Avalanche.

The Avalanche selected Butcher in the fifth round of the 2013 draft and had until Tuesday to sign the Hobey Baker Award winner who led Denver to a national championship in April.

A person with direct knowledge of the discussions told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Butcher already has had discussions with the Buffalo Sabres, New Jersey Devils and NHL-expansion Vegas Golden Knights. The person said Butcher has not yet narrowed his list, and is also talking with other teams.

The person spoke to the AP on the condition of anonymity because the talks are private.

The Denver Post first reported the three specific teams expressing interest in Butcher (see full story).

Wild: Cullen comes home for 21st NHL season
The Minnesota Wild and center Matt Cullen have agreed to a one-year, $1 million contract, bringing him back to his home state for a 21st season in the NHL.

The Wild announced the deal, which includes $700,000 in potential performance bonuses, on Wednesday.

Cullen played the last two years with Pittsburgh, winning consecutive Stanley Cups with the Penguins. He played three seasons for the Wild from 2010-13, his first return to Minnesota since launching his career at Moorhead High School and St. Cloud State.

Cullen, who will turn 41 on Nov. 2, had 13 goals and 18 assists in 72 games in 2016-17 for the Penguins, plus two goals and seven assists in 25 playoff games. He has played in 1,366 career regular season games, the sixth-most among active players (see full story).

ESPN analyst ranks Flyers' farm system No. 1 in NHL

ESPN analyst ranks Flyers' farm system No. 1 in NHL

Ron Hextall never told fans to "trust the process," but apparently any faith in the Flyers' GM has been vindicated.

At least that's the case if you believe ESPN NHL writer Corey Pronman's latest farm system rankings (it's an Insider story, so apologies in advance). Pronman has the Flyers' farm ranked as No. 1 in the NHL. 

"The Flyers don't have as much game-breaking talent as our No. 2 team (Coyotes) does at the top of their system," Pronman writes, "but 2017 No. 2 overall pick Nolan Patrick is right up there; after Patrick, the Flyers have the cupboards lined with talent at every position."

Pronman credits the Flyers with nailing his first-round picks (Patrick, Ivan Provorov), grabbing middle-round prospects that have blossomed (Shayne Gostisbehere, Oskar Lindblom) and specifically mentions Phil Myers, an undrafted defenseman that has become "one of the very best defense prospects in hockey."

For so long, the Flyers' organization was perpetually in "win-now mode," but the late Ed Snider hired Hextall away from the Kings and eventually made him GM, knowing that Hexy was taking a broader view of the organization. Instead of trading away young talent and draft picks for aging veterans, Hextall restocked a dreadful farm system to get the team where it is today.

"Not too long ago, the Flyers' farm system was a laughingstock, with C-grade college free agents making it into their top five," Pronman said. "Today, they are in the best position of any NHL team in terms of adding young premium players to their roster."