Simon Gagne Joins Mike Richards in Los Angeles; Vokoun to DC for 1.5M

Simon Gagne Joins Mike Richards in Los Angeles; Vokoun to DC for 1.5M

Two former faces of the Flyers have today find themselves teammates again. After Simon Gagne was firmly asked to waive his no-trade clause last off-season, he was dealt to Tampa Bay, where he spent 2010-2011. This off-season, with a year left before his own no-trade clause kicked in, Mike Richards was dealt to the Los Angeles Kings. Now, Flyers nostalgists have another reason adopt LA as their Western Conference team this season. Already dubbed Flyers West, the Kings added another former Broad Streeter today, signing Gagne to a 2-year, $7 million deal.

I'm still a fan of both players and felt kinda bad for each in how their tenures in Philly ended, so I wouldn't mind seeing them succeed together in another uniform. Just as long as they don't win a Cup before the Flyers…

CAPS SIGN VOKOUN FOR A SONG
Elsewhere, Tomas Vokoun, considered by many to be the second best free agent goalie on this summer's market (others say he was the best), signed for a deal scant in dollars and years. The 35-year-old netminder was inked by the Washington Capitals for just 1 year at $1.5 million.

What the what?

Back here in Philly, there'll no doubt be questions as to whether the Flyers might have been better off keeping their core team intact, going with Vokoun in a short-term, cost-effective deal, and letting Sergei Bobrovsky work his way up to being a starter down the road. At the very least, it re-opens the question as to whether the Flyers overpaid for Ilya Bryzgalov, even if he was their choice among this year's crop.

It sounds possible enough on the surface, but perhaps above all else, the Flyers really wanted the sea change we've witnessed this summer, including a long-term answer in net. If so, they have likely achieved those goals. The sum total of their moves seem to indicate a desire to turn over the roster and strengthen a few key areas that they considered weaknesses, all while adding some youth. Their activity in free agency also showed some market awareness, particularly their nabbing Jaromir Jagr as a cheaper, lower-risk replacement for Ville Leino, who wanted a deal they had no business touching.

But did they know Vokoun would be had for so little? I'm not sure anyone saw that one coming, not at that rate. I certainly don't remember anyone suggesting that Vokoun could be had for a lower cap hit than either Bobrovsky or Michael Leighton.

Nice nab by the Caps here, who also pulled in a first and second when they dealt goalie Semyon Varlamov to the Colorado Avalanche. Considering the Avalanche were the second worst team in the league last season, that first-round pick could likely be a high one. While the Flyers attacked the market before it opened, targeting and acquiring the goalie of their choice, the Caps waited it out—a riskier proposition but one they were comfortable with, having Michal Neuvirth already in the fold. Despite Bryzgalov setting the market at a high number with a lot of years, there wasn't much demand for the next guy on the list.

Personally, there's been so much change that I think it's clear the Flyers' brass wanted more than just tweaks this season. In retrospect, that may have involved overpaying for their top target in a goalie market that wasn't very competitive, nor crowded with top talent. At the time, however, many thought the deal was reasonable enough and not a crippling cap hit for a top goalie in free agency. The long duration was needed to keep the total manageable on an annual basis. After the goalie market shook out? Not quite as reasonable.

These moves don't occur in a vacuum though. A team needs to start somewhere, prioritizing its top needs and targeting solutions. Waiting out the market can have its benefits, but it obviously brings the risk of missing out on your targets. Despite there being less of a market for goalies this summer, the raising of the salary cap floor could have meant that a team would throw their delta money at a guy like Vokoun. The Caps felt comfortable enough with what they had to wait and see, and they got a nice deal with a talented goalie as a result. For the Flyers, the mandate to improve in net came straight from the top. There would be no waiting.

I'm not going to spend too much time second-guessing it at this point (and not just because my vacation started today). With Vokoun just down 95 in another Eastern Conference powerhouse, we'll have every opportunity to evaluate Bryzgalov vs. Vokoun in a relatively head-to-head fashion, with obvious caveats.

Right now I'm just eager to see the new team on the ice and find out if the front office had the right overall idea, and got the right players to execute it. More than a week after the chips started flying, I still haven't fully wrapped my head around this off-season.

Photo by Dale Zanine-US Presswire

Best of NBA: Noel scores 9 points, grab 10 boards in Mavs debut

Best of NBA: Noel scores 9 points, grab 10 boards in Mavs debut

DALLAS -- Harrison Barnes scored 19 points and Dirk Nowitzki had 18 points and nine rebounds as the Dallas Mavericks ended a three-game losing streak by beating the New Orleans Pelicans 96-83 on Saturday night.

The Pelicans fell to 0-2 since trading for DeMarcus Cousins and pairing him with Anthony Davis.

Davis had 39 points and 14 rebounds but scored only 12 in the second half. Cousins finished with 12 points and 15 rebounds.

Seth Curry scored 10 of his 13 in the fourth quarter to help Dallas pull away. His 3-pointer with 4:49 to play gave the Mavericks an 84-72 lead, and the Pelicans never got closer than six after that (see full recap).

Harden leads Rockets past Timberwolves in 142-130 shootout
HOUSTON -- James Harden had 24 points and 10 assists to lead the Houston Rockets to a 142-130 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves as both teams set season scoring highs in a Saturday night shootout.

Houston won for the sixth time in seven games, handing the Timberwolves their first road loss in more than three weeks.

Minnesota committed a season-high 25 turnovers that led to 38 points for the Rockets.

Playing against Houston's guard-heavy rotation, Minnesota went inside all night and outscored the Rockets 68-44 in the paint. Karl-Anthony Towns had 37 points and 22 rebounds, and Andrew Wiggins added 30 points (see full recap).

Bulls benefit as James sits with strep, beat Cavs 117-99
CLEVELAND -- Dwyane Wade scored 20 points and Jimmy Butler recorded a triple-double, leading the Chicago Bulls to a 117-99 victory Saturday night over the Cleveland Cavaliers, who played without LeBron James.

James missed the game with strep throat, and coach Tyronn Lue said he wasn't sure how long the Cavaliers would be without the four-time MVP. Cleveland struggled as it often does without its star - they are 4-19 without him since he returned to Cleveland in 2014, including 0-4 this season.

Chicago has won all three games against Cleveland this season. It took advantage of James' absence to win its fourth straight overall (see full recap).

George ejected, Heat stay hot with 113-95 win over Pacers
MIAMI -- Paul George had another frustrating night in Miami.

Hassan Whiteside scored 22 points and grabbed 17 rebounds, Dion Waiters added 22 points and the red-hot Miami Heat pulled away late to beat the Indiana Pacers 113-95 on Saturday night. Miami outscored Indiana 42-22 in the final 16 minutes, all with George watching from the Pacers' locker room after an ejection.

"It felt like a playoff-type game," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said (see full recap).

Flyers suffer deflating outdoor loss to Penguins, fall in playoff picture

Flyers suffer deflating outdoor loss to Penguins, fall in playoff picture

BOX SCORE

PITTSBURGH – They won the battle inside the faceoff circle. Outshot their opponent badly. Blocked more shots, too.

And the Flyers still lost. Sound familiar?

Saturday's 4-2 defeat (see Instant Replay) to the Penguins at Heinz Field in the Stadium Series outdoor game likely confirms for general manager Ron Hextall it’s time to be a seller at the trade deadline with a playoff berth seemingly out of sight.

"We gotta score goals. We got good opportunities, but it’s getting old," Jakub Voracek lamented. "If we don’t find a way to win a game, nobody cares."

Not enough scoring from their pop-gun offense, which now has just 25 goals over their last 16 games. Which is a major reason why they've lost seven of their last nine.

"It's that cliché, gripping your stick and I don’t like to use that," Voracek said. "The bottom line, if we want to make the playoffs we got to score the goals. We're not scoring."

It was 36 degrees at puck drop and there were swirling wind gusts. Players said the first period was tough, but they adjusted as the game went on.

"It feels good. It feels awesome," Wayne Simmonds said. "It's the way ice hockey should be played."

So should a few wins with this club and it's not happening. They play well enough to win but ...

"We got to get going here," Shayne Gostisbehere said. "We're [five] points back and that's the biggest thing and it's in all of our heads now. It's getting down to not a lot of games left and we've got to get two points."

Goalie Michal Neuvirth did not have a strong game facing 29 shots.

"We walk away with the wrong result," coach Dave Hakstol said. "We have a day in-between to turn the page and get back at it."

Things began Pittsburgh's way with Sidney Crosby scoring at 11:18, sneaking to the low right slot near the goal line to take a perfect pass from Jake Guentzel and one-time into the far side on Neuvirth for his 34th goal.

Brayden Schenn, centering a new line with Nick Cousins and Jakub Voracek, had a solid scoring chance in the final minute of the period, but Pens goalie Matt Murray turned his shot aside. Murray also had two good saves on Sean Couturier earlier from in-tight.

Nick Bonino, one of the heroes from the Stanley Cup Final last season, made it 2-0 at 6:44 of the second period on the power play. He scored almost from the same spot where Crosby scored.

Minutes earlier, Guenztel took a questionable hit to the head area from Brandon Manning which the Penguins felt was illegal (see video). Pittsburgh came back with Chris Kunitz rocking Ivan Provorov two shifts later.

Manning’s hit energized the Flyers, who owned the second period.

Hours before the game, Voracek said what most people were already thinking.

"I would expect this to be the biggest game of the year," he said. "You look at the standings. We can’t afford to lose."

Voracek wasn't kidding when he said the Flyers needed to do something here. He went behind the net 4-on-4 with Justin Schultz and came around the front with the puck to muscle it past Murray at 11:14, cutting the Flyers deficit in half.

Voracek's goal, his second in three games, gave the Flyers even more of a lift and they made a strong push to tie the game before the period ended.

"We spent a lot of time in their zone and we were very strong on the forecheck," Voracek said. "We had comebacks early in the season … but two penalties in the end, it's tough … How do you rebound? You have no choice. We're not out. We have to start winning."

The Flyers killed off a carryover penalty to start the third but immediately after, the Pens got a strong forecheck with Eric Fehr behind the net, getting the puck over to 40-year-old Matt Cullen, who snuck up on Neuvirth and stunned him with a wraparound.

That was a terribly costly goal and made it 3-1 but Gostisbehere got it right back minutes later with his first goal in 34 games off a point shot during the power play.

It was as close as the Flyers got. Pittsburgh scored off a faceoff to make it 4-2 in the final six minutes. Sean Couturier lost a draw to Evgeni Malkin and the Pens scored off a point drive Neuvirth couldn't find.

"That was deflating," Gostisbehere said. "We can be sad for ourselves all we want … bad bounces or we can say, 'well, it's lucky.' But you know, it keeps happening for a reason."