Simon Gagne Wants to Remain a Flyer, Will Flyers Want Gagne?

Simon Gagne Wants to Remain a Flyer, Will Flyers Want Gagne?

Sure, the Stanley Cup Finals between the Bruins and Blackhawks have been exciting, but the length of the series and these playoffs in general is playing hell on Flyers’ offseason right now. General manager Paul Holmgren is essentially paralyzed until he can officially exercise the buyout of Danny Briere’s contract, including when it comes to re-signing his own players.

Lucky for Philadelphia the Flyers aren’t trying to keep too many impending free agents, but a couple guys are in the mix. The club will surely extend an offer sheet to restricted free agent Erik Gustafsson once the financials clear up. What about Simon Gagne?

After two-and-a-half years, Gagne returned to the team via trade in February, and for a 33 year old who was reduced to the fourth line in Los Angeles, it turned out there was something left in the tank. The two-time All Star posted 11 points in 27 games in Orange & Black last season in addition to having an impact on the Flyers’ special teams. Going beyond numbers, you could just tell he can still skate.

This is not the same player who once racked up back-to-back 40-goal seasons, but Gagne proved he can contribute. Perhaps sensing Philly is a fit, or simply happy to be back where he spent the first 10 seasons of his 13-year NHL career, No. 12 is hopeful he can stick around. Per DN’s Frank Seravalli:

"I had two really good meetings, with both 'Lavy' [coach Peter Laviolette] and 'Homer' after the season ended," Gagne said yesterday from Quebec City. "They thought that I did a lot of good things toward the end of the season and liked what I brought to the team.

"Right now, they have some money issues, which would prevent us from doing anything. The salary cap is complicated and there are rules.

"My agent has kept in touch with 'Homer' and he told us that he would call us before the draft."

If the Flyers go out and trade for a Bobby Ryan or make a similarly high-level acquisition, that may reduce the front office’s interest in retaining Gagne. They are still going to be tight against the cap however – especially if they hold on to Ilya Bryzgalov for another year – and as Seravalli points out, Gagne sounds like somebody who is willing to accept a hometown discount.

"I'm at the point of my career where I made really good money for a while," Gagne said in April in Montreal. "At the end of the day, money is just a small question. Being happy is important. If I like the place, I'll make things work - for everyone to be happy, to make sure it doesn't hurt the team."

At this point, the team’s followers overwhelmingly seem to want Holmgren to embrace the youth movement. That said, the Flyers probably need at least one more decent winger than is currently on the roster, so keeping Gagne around would make sense even on that blueprint. He’s a fan favorite who comparatively speaking could likely be had for relatively cheap.

Honestly, I wouldn’t have a huge problem if the Flyers completed the Mark Streit deal, amnestied Briere, re-signed Gagne, and other than some minor moves, basically called it a day. Based on the rumors, they sound determined to make a splash as usual, but the upcoming season should be dedicated to discovering exactly what they have with their young core.

They do need a couple extra parts though, and could do worse than Gagne, somebody who actually wants to be here.

>> Gagne waiting for Flyers news [Daily News]

Rays 7, Phillies 2: Mackanin calls Eickhoff 'a pretty darn good pitcher'

Rays 7, Phillies 2: Mackanin calls Eickhoff 'a pretty darn good pitcher'

BOX SCORE

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Phillies right-hander Jerad Eickhoff pitched two innings, allowed a hit, a run, walked one and struck out two in his spring debut on Monday.

Afterward, manager Pete Mackanin was asked what he believed Eickhoff's ceiling was.

"He's a pretty darn good pitcher right now," Mackanin said.

Indeed, he is.

In his first full season in the majors last year, the 26-year-old right-hander led the Phillies' starting staff in ERA (3.65), starts (33) and innings pitched (197 1/3).

He delivered 20 quality starts and became just the fourth Phillie in the last 20 years to make 33 starts and record a 3.65 ERA or better, joining three pretty good pitchers named Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay and Curt Schilling. He walked just 1.92 batters per nine innings and that was fourth-best among NL starters.

"Eickhoff is the kind of guy you can count on," Mackanin said. "He throws strikes. He knows what he's doing."

Eickhoff is intent on building on last year's success in 2017. The guy has a Halladay-like work ethic. He arrived in Clearwater on Feb. 1 and got right to work. After his two innings of work on Monday, he put in a couple of hours in the weight room and on a back field running.

"I just have to continue working," he said. "I have a very high standard for myself as a lot of us in here do. We want to be the best players that we can be."

Eickhoff is working on improving his changeup this spring and his overall goal is to make every start -- as he did last season.

"That's the priority -- make every start," he said. "That's always a priority for me.

"I'd also like to incorporate the changeup a little more and use my slider and curveball and not get heavily reliant on one or the other, which happened several times last year and I think got me into trouble at times. So incorporating both for the duration of the season and just being more crisp with execution and location is my goal.

"I'm always looking to get better. I think the sky is the limit. I'm going to continue working, whether it's being Greg Maddux-esque with command or having a good breaking ball, or throwing a changeup like Maddux and guys like that did. There's always something I'm working on and trying to develop and sharpen up."

Eickhoff lines up to start the second game of the regular season behind projected opening day starter Jeremy Hellickson.

The game
The Phillies lost to the Tampa Bay Rays, 7-2. The Phils are 2-2 on the spring.

Maikel Franco had two hits, including his third homer of the spring. It was a long drive to left field on a 1-2 fastball. He also had a single to right field.

"The thing I like early in the spring from him is he's going deeper into counts," Mackanin said. "I think he's working toward a good year this year."

Stassi impresses
Non-roster player Brock Stassi, a candidate to win a job as a reserve first baseman and outfielder (see story), did not play in the game. He, however, has a single, double and homer in the first three games.

Mackanin gushed about Stassi’s defense when asked about it Monday.

"He's one of the best first basemen I've seen in a real long time," Mackanin said. "He has no need to improve on his defense and I like the way he swings the bat. He's a real solid baseball player so he's a guy I really want to get a good look at."

Pitching matters
Starting pitchers Jake Thompson and Zach Eflin are both projected to pitch at Triple A. Both have been slowed early in camp because of health reasons, but are progressing well. Thompson has a sore right wrist and Eflin is recovering from a pair of surgeries to address tendinitis in both knees.

Both pitchers will continue to throw in the bullpen this week and ramp up to live batting practice next week. There is plenty of time for both pitchers to get their arms ready to open the season. However, the Phillies may decide to take a cautious approach with Eflin and let him build some more strength in his knees before they turn him loose. He could stay in Florida for a couple of extra weeks before joining the Triple A club.

Up next
The Phillies host the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday. Clay Buchholz will make his first start of the spring. Here is the Phillies' posted starting lineup for the game:

1. Freddy Galvis, SS
2. Howie Kendrick, LF
3. Odubel Herrera, CF
4. Maikel Franco, 3B
5. Michael Saunders, DH
6. Tommy Joseph, 1B
7. Chris Coghlan, RF
8. Cameron Rupp, C
9. Scott Kingery, 2B

Sixers waive big man Andrew Bogut

Sixers waive big man Andrew Bogut

To no surprise, Andrew Bogut is not part of the process.

The veteran big man, acquired in the Nerlens Noel trade last week, was waived by the Sixers on Monday night.

The Vertical's Shams Charania and ESPN's Marc Stein first reported the news of both parties agreeing to a contract buyout.

Bogut was included in the Sixers-Mavericks deal that sent Noel to Dallas in exchange for the 32-year-old center, Justin Anderson and a top-18 protected first-round pick (which will likely turn into two second-round picks).

Bogut will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason. Per a report Sunday by ESPN's Tim MacMahon, Bogut was set on joining Clevelend once a contract buyout with the Sixers was finalized. Bogut will have discussions with the Cavaliers, Spurs, Celtics and Rockets before making his decision, according to Stein's report.

Bogut played 26 games for the Mavericks this season, averaging 3.0 points and 8.3 rebounds per game.