Flyers leaning heavy on Chris Pronger

With the playoffs upon us, the Philadelphia Flyers in the playoffs
and after a game one upset of the Devils the spotlight is shining bright
on Chris Pronger once more. And with Pronger playing the resident
territorial bad guy in front of the Flyers net as he bats away those
pesky Devils forwards, obviously the comparisons will be made the great
Devils bad boy himself, Scott Stevens.

San Donnelion of the Philly
Daily News has a great, lengthy story up this morning on how Pronger
and Stevens compare, even though Stevens played in a ‘different’ era of
hockey. Although Pronger is certainly a call back to that former style
of hockey — the big, physical and punishing defenseman — he’s been
able to adjust and still be successful as the game has evolved.

He’s
taking on an even bigger role with the Flyers in the playoffs, playing
more and more minutes as he works to shut down the top lines the Devils
can offer. While there are certainly times that Pronger is caught flat
footed and the Flyers get burned, there’s no doubt his presence is felt
and makes a difference for the opposition. Says Danny Briere:

“When
you play 30 minutes, it means you’re covering two different
lines,” Danny Briere
said after practice yesterday. “You play a team like Boston and
you have Zdeno Chara
in your face all night long. It gets old pretty fast. You have
six forwards on the other team saying, ‘I had Pronger in my face all
night long.’ It gets old. Maybe not in Game 1 or Game 2, but when you
come down to Game 5 or Game 6, that’s when you see it pay off.”

While
I will never completely agree with Pronger’s approach to the game,
there’s no doubt that he will have to be a difference maker for the
Flyers this postseason; and he should be. The Flyers are paying him an
incredible amount of money at a late stage in his career to do just
that; wreak havoc and cause all sorts of issues as protects his net.
With Brian Boucher tasked to carry the Flyers as far as he can, Pronger
is even more important.

Scroll Down For:

    Is Rickard Rakell worth $4M per season to the Ducks?

    ANAHEIM, CA - NOVEMBER 30: Rickard Rakell #67 of the Anaheim Ducks skates during a game against the Vancouver Canucks at Honda Center on November 30, 2015 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
    Getty
    Leave a comment

    The Anaheim Ducks have two significant restricted free agents they still need to take care of, and Hampus Lindholm is easily the most important name to cross off the list.

    (Seriously, the analytics community pegs him as a budding star, so the Ducks should probably lock him up for as long and cheap as possible.)

    While Lindholm is a must-sign, Rickard Rakell‘s situation is more interesting since it presents a murkier risk-reward debate.

    Elevated ground

    Rakell broke through in 2015-16, scoring 20 goals and 43 points. He blew away all of his previous numbers while logging more than 16 minutes per game.

    His agent Peter Wallen told the OC Register that the team and his RFA client “I think we will find common ground for a solid agreement,” yet one must wonder if Ducks management is trembling at the gamble ahead.

    That report ponders a long-term deal that would net Rakell around a $4 million cap hit, something that the Hockey News backs up.

    Kadri’s six-year, $27-million deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs, which pays an average of $4.5 million per season, is probably the upper limit of what Rakell is set to earn, while Coyle’s five-year, $16-million deal with the Minnesota Wild, an average of $3.2 million per season, is likely the low end. The most likely comparisons boil down to two players, then, with Rask and Backlund each having signed their current deals over the course of the past 13 months.

    For a budget-conscious team like the Ducks, betting big on Rakell could be especially risky.

    Cushy gig

    If the 23-year-old does land a generous deal, he should send Bruce Boudreau a “Thank You” note or three. Rakell began a whopping 60 percent of his shifts in the offensive zone in 2015-16, putting him in a great position to maximize his chances.

    His most common skating partners were Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Sami Vatanen and Lindholm to boot.

    One shouldn’t penalize Rakell for seizing his opportunities, but with a limited sample size of the young forward being a difference-maker, you have to wonder how much his value has been inflated.

    ***

    The OC Register explains the advantages of locking him up for a longer term (avoiding arbitration years, not having to risk an even bigger deal if Rakell pans out), yet a “bridge deal” might be the better way to go here.

    Replacing Boudreau with Randy Carlyle was a polarizing decision, yet that the Ducks face some other tough calls this off-season.

    Report: Blue Jackets on the verge of signing Sam Gagner

    PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 22:  Sam Gagner #89 of the Philadelphia Flyers looks on before a face off against the New York Rangers on April 7, 2015 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
    Getty
    2 Comments

    It sounds like Sam Gagner may determine his destination for 2015-16 in the near future.

    The Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline reports that the Columbus Blue Jackets are close to signing Gagner to a one-year, one-way deal. Such an agreement might not be made official until Monday, according to Portzline.

    After a bumpy season with the Philadelphia Flyers in which he spent some time in the AHL, Gagner must especially appreciate the one-way nature of his next contract.

    The Blue Jackets aren’t the only team interested in the 26-year-old, as his name was also connected to the Vancouver Canucks:

    It looks like the still-quite-young scorer will get a clean slate after bouncing around and being defined by a bloated contract originally signed with the Edmonton Oilers.

    Remember when he broke one of Wayne Gretzky’s records during an eight-point night?

    Gagner’s presence could make life easier for the likes of Boone Jenner:

    It’s conceivable that Gagner could enjoy a nice rebound season if used in a specialized, protected role. The Blue Jackets may very well be the right fit.

    … And on the other hand, the deficits in Gagner’s all-around game could at least provide some John Tortorella rage and entertainment.

    Everyone wins.

    Former Sabres forward Jochen Hecht calls it a career

    NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 01:  Jochen Hecht #55 of the Buffalo Sabres against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on March 1, 2011 in New York City.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
    Getty
    1 Comment

    The Mannheim Eagles announced that German forward Jochen Hecht is retiring from hockey.

    (It’s OK to be a little bewildered that he was still playing, just don’t be too mean about it.)

    Hecht played 833 regular season games and 59 playoff contests at the NHL level, making his greatest mark as a member of the Buffalo Sabres.

    His last bit of NHL action came in 2012-13, when he scored 14 points in 47 games for Buffalo.

    Since then, he wrapped up his career with the Mannheim Eagles, a team he’s sporadically played for since 1994-95.

    Honestly, it’s weird to see Hecht in any sweater not related to German’s national teams, the Eagles or Sabres, even though the Blues actually drafted him:

    Then again, he could also look odd in a certain Sabres sweater.

    Apparently he got the NHL 16 Hockey Ultimate Card treatment:

    Plenty of Sabres fans and reporters fondly remember Hecht, so here’s to a nice career.

    Yes, it’s really happening: Vegas NHL team installs ice for first time

    vegasice2
    via Vegas is Hockey
    5 Comments

    Sometimes you just need a reminder that a remarkable thing actually is happening.

    Saturday presented the latest evidence that the NHL coming to Las Vegas isn’t just a collective fever dream, as the still-nameless franchise noted that they’ve begun the process to install ice at T-Mobile Arena for the first time.

    It’s not the prettiest picture, but it means a lot:

    While setting up the first sheet of ice is a physical sign that things are coming together, the front office side will dictate the sort of team that eventually plays on it.

    For more insight into that process, Puck Daddy takes a look at Murray Craven, who appears to be a key part of bringing things together … even if it’s difficult to nail down a specific title.