Coyotes take aim at top seed in West

Doan.jpgLet’s forget all of the nasty rumors about the Phoenix Coyotes
possibly being on their way to Winnipeg*. The Coyotes are just four
points behind the San Jose Sharks and the top seed in the West,
something that is incredibly impressive considering the state of the
franchise just months ago.

*I don’t want to step on Jets fans,
either. It’s an ugly situation all around.

Someone who
has to be most proud about the turnaround is Shane Doan, who has been
with the franchise since 1995 — when they were the Winnipeg Jets. From
Justin Piercy of CBC Sports:

“It’s special for us
as a team,” said captain Shane Doan, who started
his career with the team before it was relocated from Winnipeg in 1996.
“Obviously there were a lot of doubts coming into this season by a lot
of people. It’s nice to answer those doubts and have an opportunity to
do even better than that.”

Now, not to rain on the
Coyotes parade here, but this season’s magic will just go up like a puff
of smoke if the team doesn’t get out of the first round of the
playoffs. We’ve seen Dave Tippett’s teams before; always great in the
regular season, shaky in the postseason.

Hence, getting as high a
seed as possible would be ideal. Except if they nail down #2 and
Colorado get #7. Those first round exits against the Avalanche will
haunt Tippett forever.

Raffl coverts PTO into one-year, $575K deal with Jets

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There’s another Raffl in the NHL.

On Tuesday, the Jets announced that Thomas Raffl — the older brother of Flyers forward Michael Raffl — has signed a one-year, one-way deal worth $575,000.

Raffl, 29, was in Winnipeg’s camp on a PTO after a lengthy career in Europe. He spent time playing in Sweden and his native Austria, most recently with powerhouse EC Red Bull Salzburg — last year, Raffl scored 53 points in 52 games for Salzburg and three in seven games for Austria while serving as team captain at the World Hockey Championships.

“We would like to recognize and express our appreciation to the EC Red Bull Salzburg organization for allowing Thomas and the Winnipeg Jets this opportunity,” Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said in a statement.

With the Jets, Raffl projects to play in the bottom-six forward group, where he can utilize his 6-foot-4, 215-pound frame in a checking-slash-energy role.

For now, though, he’ll start out with the club’s AHL affiliate in Manitoba.

Flyers to start season with seven d-men; MacDonald sent to AHL

Andrew MacDonald, Matt Calvert
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Seven defensemen will comprise the Philadelphia Flyers’ opening-day roster, which the club finalized today.

Those seven are Radko Gudas, Michael Del Zotto, Luke Schenn, Nick Schultz, Brandon Manning, Mark Streit, and Evgeny Medvedev.

Not on the list? Andrew MacDonald, who has cleared waivers and been assigned to AHL Lehigh Valley. (That move allowed the Flyers to keep both Manning and youngster Scott Laughton.)

Also not on the list were prospects Shayne Gostisbehere, Robert Hagg, Sam Morin, Ivan Provorov and Travis Sanheim. The first three will start the season in the AHL. The last two have been sent back to junior.

But the opening-day roster is not where this story ends. How the Flyers’ defensive mix changes as the season progresses will be worth watching.

They’d no doubt love to move Schenn, a pending unrestricted free agent with a $3.6 million cap hit. He could also end up in the AHL, a la MacDonald.

Medvedev, the 33-year-old who came over from the KHL and put up five points in five preseason games, is another pending UFA. The club could either look to re-sign or flip him.

Might 37-year-old Streit be a chip worth cashing in at the deadline, especially if the Flyers aren’t in a playoff position on Feb. 29? He’s only got two years left on his contract.

Meanwhile, GM Ron Hextall will be watching pending restricted free agents Manning and Gudas closely. Are they part of the future?

So, lots of decisions to make in Philly as the blue line continues its much-needed transition.