More on tonight's prime time matchup on Sunday night football in just a bit.
Shortly before 9 a.m. Monday in Toronto, Brayden Schenn was already sitting in the arbitration room, awaiting his agent Don Meehan and Flyers general manager Ron Hextall.
This was a first for the soon-to-be 25-year-old forward. He wasn’t necessarily nervous or even excited.
“It was a matter of my agent talking to Hexy outside and if they were coming into the room or I was going out and a deal would be done,” Schenn said.
They entered. He exited.
Within the hour, Schenn had a new four-year, $20.5 million contract, avoiding arbitration (see story).
“I’m extremely happy to be signed on for another four years," Schenn said. "I don’t think anyone wants to go through the arbitration process.
“It’s all part of the business. Whatever happens, happens in arbitration. I don’t think whatever is said [in hearings] is meant. It’s just part of the business. The money side of things.
“I think the Flyers like me as a player and to take it to arbitration, I don’t think it’s anything against me. It’s just part of it.”
While Schenn had never been through this, Hextall has. As a player here, the former goaltender took the Flyers to arbitration two decades ago, but settled in a marathon, six-hour meeting the day of his hearing.
“I would not have had an issue with it,” Hextall said when asked if he was prepared for the bad feelings that often accompany such hearings (more from Hextall here).
“Arbitration is part of the process … sometimes it can be difficult for the player. If you can avoid, you want to avoid it.”
The Flyers were prepared for a two-year ruling which would have left them having to attempt to re-sign Schenn as an unrestricted free agent after 2018-19.
Hextall said the club has seen consistent improvement in Schenn, even though this contract overpays him at the start for just one very good year of the past five he’s had as a Flyer.
Obviously, the Flyers are banking on him to become a 30-goal, 70-point player from here.
“Four years is showing confidence in me that they believe in me,” Schenn said. “For me, four years I have to continue to prove myself and get better year by year and I expect to be better next year.
“I’m happy with a four-year deal at a fair number. The team is only getting better and I’m happy to be part of the plan.”
Consistency will be the key as to whether the Flyers' investment in Schenn was worth it.
From a points standpoint, he’s increased his production every season as a Flyer, from 18 points, to 26, to 41, to 47 and this past season, 59. But his every-night play on the ice has often waffled. Then again, the club has waffled, too, as to whether he’s a center or winger.
He spent the bulk of the past season proving he could play on the wing with Claude Giroux in Dave Hakstol’s system. That wasn’t always the case under Craig Berube or even Peter Laviolette.
“Every player has his ups and downs through 82 games,” Schenn said. “Consistency, you try to find it as much as you can throughout the year. I feel I’ve continued to get better at both ends of the ice.
“I still feel I can get better defensively and be more reliable. That is something I definitely will improve on. This past year, I had great opportunity to play with great players.
“Guys like [Sean] Couturier, Giroux, [Wayne] Simmonds, whoever it may be. It’s all about opportunity and I got opportunity last year.”
Which resulted in career highs in goals, assists and points. Hextall expects Schenn to make bigger strides over this contract as he reaches the prime part of his career.
When the Flyers held breakup day in April, Schenn said he enjoyed the pressure of being “counted upon” as a core player. He is now the third-highest paid Flyers forward behind Giroux and Jakub Voracek, so the “core” sticker is on his jersey for good.
“I said at the end [of the season], I have to be counted on each night as part of the core group,” Schenn said. “There’s a bunch of us who have been there for a while now.
“I’ve gotten better year after year. I expect to come in and improve my game in all areas of the ice. When you get the chance to play with good players, they obviously make you better, as well.
“We’ve got some good pieces. We have a good team moving forward … you want to get better individually, but I think the team will be better as a whole this year, as well.”
As far as tests go, Monday was a pretty good one.
While the Eagles’ kicked off training camp in 90-degree weather, all the early-morning thunderstorm did was raise the humidity level to the point where it felt like the team was practicing in thick, hot gelatin.
So, yeah, pretty good test. And Isaac Seumalo passed with flying colors.
“He’s sharp,” head coach Doug Pederson said about the third-round offensive lineman. “He picked up where he left off back in rookie camp.”
That was the rookie camp way back on May 13-15. It was the last time Seumalo practiced with the team thanks to the arcane NCAA/NFL rule that trapped him at Oregon State, one of the schools that operates on a quarters system.
So while the rest of his teammates and fellow rookies went through OTAs and minicamp, Seumalo was thousands of miles away, just trying to keep up.
“It sucked,” Seumalo said, just off the field Monday, after his first practice in over two months.
“I wanted to be here and practicing. I just tried to work out and get in shape, gain weight, get healthy, do as much as I could to come back ready to go.”
While stuck at Oregon State, Seumalo worked with a strength coach to put on some muscle and studied his Eagles playbook as much as he could.
The rookie also had lengthy Skype sessions with offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland. According to Seumalo, he Skyped with Stoutland for a half-hour to an hour, four or five times per week. The two would go over the playbook install for that day and whatever tweaks were incorporated.
No, not live reps, but still pretty valuable 1-on-1 teaching time from position coach.
In addition to his sessions with Stoutland, Seumalo also kept in touch with fellow rookie offensive lineman Halapoulivaati Vaitai and his former college teammate, guard/center Josh Andrews, whom Seumalo calls “Juice.”
On Monday, thanks to a lack of numbers (there are just 38 players in camp until the rest of the veterans report on Wednesday), Seumalo played all three positions on the offensive line: guard, center and even tackle for a few snaps to give Malcolm Bunche a breather.
But Seumalo’s certainly more comfortable at guard and center, and he said Monday the Eagles want him to work on playing left guard.
It’s not too hard to figure out why. While Jason Peters, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks and Lane Johnson all seemingly have their jobs completely clinched, incumbent left guard starter Allen Barbre is still working with the first-team after a disappointing 2015. While Pederson was quick to name Barbre the starter this spring, it seems like Seumalo will have a chance to at least compete for the job, along with veteran Stefen Wisniewski.
“Last time I checked, in the NFL, the five best play,” Seumalo said. “If I’m one of those, it’s me. If not, I’m going to bust my butt to help this team in any way I can.”
It’ll certainly be somewhat of an uphill battle for Seumalo as he returns from his long stay away from the team. Pederson admitted as much Monday morning.
“But he’s such a hard worker,” the head coach quickly said. “He’s smart. The time spent with Coach Stoutland in the offseason, he proved himself today coming back. It’s almost like he’s gone through a whole offseason of the information. I don’t have any issues with Isaac.”
Through some heavy breathing, Seuamol admitted the first day back at practice was a little rough on him, saying it doesn’t matter how good of shape anyone is in: the first day back is always tough.
The heat made it even tougher. How did he get through it?
“Just like everybody else, man,” Seumalo said. “One day at a time.”
It was a tough test, but he passed it. Many more to come.
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Adrian Beltre hit his second home run of the game with two outs in the ninth inning, a two-run shot that rallied the Texas Rangers past the Oakland Athletics 7-6 on Monday night for their third straight win.
Beltre, who finished with four hits, had two singles in his first three at-bats before hitting a solo homer in the seventh. His game-winning drive came on the first pitch from Ryan Madson (3-4).
Until then, Texas had trailed since Danny Valencia hit a two-run homer for Oakland with two outs in the first. All 13 runs in the game were scored with two outs.
Texas turned three double plays behind starter Martin Perez, who has induced a major league-best 25 in 21 games.
Valencia also had the first of three run-scoring doubles in a three-run third that gave the A's a 5-1 lead (see full recap).
Blue Jays' Sanchez wins 10th straight decision
TORONTO -- Aaron Sanchez pitched seven shutout innings to win his 10th consecutive decision, Kevin Pillar had three hits and the Toronto Blue Jays beat the San Diego Padres 4-2 on Monday night.
Sanchez (11-1) became the first Blue Jays pitcher to win 10 straight since Roy Halladay won 15 decisions in a row in 2003. Halladay and Roger Clemens (1998) hold the club record.
Making their first appearance in Toronto, the Padres were held scoreless until Alex Dickerson hit a two-run homer off Bo Schultz in the ninth.
Dickeerson's drive into the fifth deck extended San Diego's team-record streak of games with at least one home run to 23. The 2006 Atlanta Braves were the last National League team to homer in 23 straight games.
Roberto Osuna replaced Schultz and got two outs for his 21st save (see full recap).
Orioles top Rockies for 5th straight win
BALTIMORE -- Adam Jones scored the winning run in the 10th inning on a low throw to the plate by pitcher Jordan Lyles, and the Baltimore Orioles beat the Colorado Rockies 3-2 on Monday night for their fifth straight victory.
Jones reached on a one-out single off the third-base bag and took third on a single by Jonathan Schoop. Manny Machado followed with a comebacker to Lyles, who fumbled the ball before throwing home. Catcher Nick Hundley caught the ball near the ground and lost the handle while attempting to tag the sliding Jones.
Lyles (2-3) was charged with an error on the play.
Getting two RBIs from Jones, the Orioles climbed a season-high 18 games over .500 (58-40) and improved to 37-14 at home.
Chaz Roe (1-0) worked the 10th for the win (see full recap).