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.

Best of NHL: Lightning capture OT win over Red Wings

Best of NHL: Lightning capture OT win over Red Wings

DETROIT -- Nikita Kucherov scored 3:28 into overtime to lift the Tampa Bay Lightning over the Detroit Red Wings 2-1 on Friday night.

Situated on the edge of the crease, Kucherov redirected a hard pass from Brayden Point into the net.

The Lightning are one point behind the Boston Bruins and New York Islanders for the final Eastern Conference wild card.

Detroit captain Henrik Zetterberg opened the scoring 8:03 into the second period. Taking a backhand pass from Gustav Nyquist, Zetterberg flipped a knuckling wrist shot toward the goal and over the stick-side shoulder of goalie Andrei Vasilievskiy, who struggled to find the puck through the screen of teammate Point (see full recap).

Islanders notch shootout win over Penguins
PITTSBURGH -- John Tavares and Anthony Beauvillier scored in the shootout to lead the New York Islanders over the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-3 on Friday night.

Beauvillier opened the shootout with a goal, and Tavares snapped a wrist shot past Marc-Andre Fleury in the next round. Sidney Crosby scored in the shootout for Pittsburgh, but Jaroslav Halak, making his first start since Dec. 29, stopped Phil Kessel and Nick Bonino.

Anders Lee scored his 28th goal of the season, while Brock Nelson got his 17th and Casey Cizikas his eighth for the Islanders, who moved into the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. New York is tied with Boston at 82 points, but the Islanders have a game in hand on the Bruins. The Islanders have 18 wins in 31 games since Doug Weight was named interim coach on Jan. 17, replacing Jack Capuano.

Halak, a former All-Star, made 37 saves (see full recap).

Cracknell nets first hat trick in Stars' win
DALLAS -- Adam Cracknell got his first hat trick in seven NHL seasons and the Dallas Stars handed the San Jose Sharks their fifth straight loss, 6-1 on Friday night.

Cracknell opened the scoring in the first period, capped a three-goal flurry in the second and beat goalie Aaron Dell on a short-handed breakaway in the third for his career-high 10th goal of the season.

The Sharks entered two points ahead of Anaheim and Edmonton in the Pacific Division despite their longest losing streak of the season. San Jose has been outscored 16-5 during the stretch.

Brett Ritchie, Jamie Benn and John Klingberg also scored for the Stars.

Joe Thornton scored for San Jose on the power play in the second period. Dell had 23 saves.

Dallas' Kari Lehtonen made 20 saves four nights after shutting out San Jose (see full recap).

Flyers-Wild 10 observations: Sean Couturier shows flash, Matt Read answers call & more

Flyers-Wild 10 observations: Sean Couturier shows flash, Matt Read answers call & more

You know Dave Hakstol has reached crisis measures when he takes a skill player in Travis Konecny and throws him onto the fourth line while promoting Matt Read to the top line.

This was risk-taking at its craziest to generate some enthusiasm and life into a Flyers squad that didn't show much of a pulse a few nights earlier in Winnipeg.

Guess what?

It worked during a 3-1 victory on Thursday, the Flyers' fifth straight win over the Wild going back a few years (see Instant Replay).

Their playoff hopes still flicker.

As much as the fan base hated the lineup moves, consider this: general manager Ron Hextall was very explicit this week in saying that the roster Hakstol has right now is what it is. Hextall is not going to promote any young Phantoms into a bad situation when they are headed for what could be a decent playoff run in the AHL.

Therefore, as my former colleague Bill Lyon would say, here are 10 things I think, I think …

1. The Flyers began the game as they have so often this season with yet another turnover and scoring chance against them. Rinse and repeat. The Flyers had three turnovers in less than five minutes to start the game.

2. Minutes later, Steve Mason coughed up a bad rebound off his stick and Zach Parise burned him with a gimme goal for a 1-0 lead. Mason had issues in this one with rebounds that were looking like grenades, but he settled down with a strong final two periods with 24 saves. This was Mason's 100th win as a Flyer (see game story).

3. You had to see it to believe it. Sean Couturier with a nice backhand shot through Devan Dubnyk's five-hole to make it a 1-1 game near the end of the opening period (see feature highlight). I haven't seen that kind of offensive move from Couturier in quite some time. Question is, why can't he do that nightly instead of semiannually? That's the offensive spark you know Couturier is capable of providing.

4. The Wild were very aggressive in this one as they were trying to clinch a playoff spot, so the Flyers had to match that intensity. The Flyers more than matched it. This was far, far better than what Hakstol's team brought to the ice in Winnipeg. Not even close, as the Flyers dominated.

5. Matt Read had a quick stick -- no other way to explain it -- on his goal in the second period off a series of Wild turnovers that came about because of a play set up by Jakub Voracek. That goal seemingly stunned Dubnyk. It was Read's second goal in the last two games. He was all over the ice in this one. Many nights this season, Read was invisible. Not this game.

6. The Flyers had some genuine scoring chances in this game. You had to wonder where this desire to skate, create and score was all through the month of February and into March. The Flyers had strong forecheck pressure and a rebound-attack mentality the entire second period. If that had happened with regularity down the stretch, this team would be sitting in the wild card right now.

7. While the shake-up of the lines obviously benefited Read, it did little for Konecny and actually set him back. He was invisible. No shots. No hits. Invisible with little ice time. Really can't figure this move out but obviously, Hakstol is upset with him for some reason.

8. Minnesota went all in at the NHL trade deadline to get Martin Hanzal and Ryan White, forking over four draft picks, including a first-rounder. The Wild were leading the Central Division before losing six straight (and eight of nine) that allowed Chicago to regain the top spot in the division. The Wild don't look like the same confident, surging team it was a month ago in the Western Conference.

9. Minnesota had a strong push in the final five minutes and the Flyers had some initial difficulty answering that until the final minute when Wayne Simmonds picked up his 300th point as a Flyer on Voracek's empty-net goal to seal the deal. A nice way to finish off a complete effort by everyone involved.

10. The Flyers picked up two points on Boston, which lost to Tampa Bay, and are six behind the Bruins in the wild card. They still remain a l-o-n-g shot to make the playoffs, given the sheer number of teams ahead of them that they need to climb over.