Philadelphia Flyers 2010-11 cap situation: Now or later?

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for jeff carter.jpgThe Philadelphia Flyers are probably still a little sore about Wednesday’s loss. After all, they were one overtime goal away from preparing for a penultimate Game 7 bout tonight. Instead, their season is over, two wins short of a Stanley Cup.

Still, as I’ve written many times before, this team exceeded most people’s expectations. They also saw key contributions from a few expected sources (Chris Pronger, Mike Richards) but also the rise of some young players (Claude Giroux, Ville Leino) and heroism from unexpected guys (Danny Briere, Michael Leighton).

Yet while everyone is harping on the Chicago Blackhawks salary cap situation (jeez, guys, I was obsessing about that last year), few people have given much of a look at the very interesting situation the losing Cup finalist is in. Here’s a screen capture of the next few years of commitment for the team, from the always valuable CapGeek.com. (Click to enlarge)

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Here are a few other important tidbits. Keep in mind these numbers are based on CapGeek’s active roster, with no assumptions about minor league players filling roster spots.

2010-11 Cap space: About $8.83 million

Needed: 1 forward, 2 defensemen and 1 goalie + 2 reserves.

Biggest free agent(s): Braydon Coburn (restricted)

The Flyers’ 2011 summer might look a lot like the Blackhawks’ pending headache-filled July. It’s true that the team can put off most of its toughest decisions until then, but if they’re forward-thinking, they’d recognize that the franchise is at a true crossroads right now. After the jump, I’ll take a look at some of the most fascinating questions.


Now or later?

As I said before, the Flyers almost seem like last year’s Blackhawks. Chicago – to me at least – clearly made a decision to go for the Cup at the possible expense of their future last summer. With three major deals set to expire after next season, the Flyers are going to get some bargain seasons next year. Should they see how that pans out or take a long-term view? Let’s expand on that.

Giroux and Leino

One of the stories of Philly’s run was the emergence of Ville Leino and Claude Giroux. Each guy brought plenty of skill and productivity to the table in a lost cause. There’s some good news and bad news about their cap situations. On one hand, both are making less than 900k next season, giving the Flyers two resounding bargains (especially if they can be anywhere near as effective as they were in the playoffs). Of course, there’s a catch; both only have one more year on their contracts (Leino will be unrestricted while Giroux will be restricted). The team could roll the dice short-term by letting them play out their contracts or gamble long-term by signing them now.

Certainly, it will be interesting to see how Philly handles those two.

Move Jeff Carter or Danny Briere?

If Giroux and Leino prove to be consistent scoring threats, the Flyers might need to move a contract or two to keep them with the team.

That brings me to two interesting cases: Carter and Briere.

In the case of Carter, his affordable $5 million cap hit will come off the books after this season. The sniping, right-handed center brings some undeniable skill to the table but I’ve always had some misgivings regarding his overall usefulness when games get a little tighter.

Briere, on the other hand, made a lot of critics eat some crow after he scored more points than any other player in this year’s playoffs (more on that later, maybe). You could look at his resurgence two ways; either he’s a special weapon suddenly worth his $6.5 million cap hit or – conversely – his highly productive playoff run could really boost his trade value.

Conclusions

Putting myself in Paul Holmgren’s shoes, my first act would be to sign Michael Leighton to a short, cheap deal (or find another goalie who will be frugal). I’d probably let Leino and Giroux prove they could produce now that they’re not flying under the radar. Then I’d seriously consider trading Carter or Briere, possibly for a solid young defenseman who could ease some of Chris Pronger’s blueline burden.

What do you think about the Flyers’ cap situation? Would you go for broke next year or try to arrange the team for a brighter future? Share all in the comments.

Red Wings approach training camp with an expensive goalie situation

Detroit Red Wings' Petr Mrazek (34) replaces goalie Jimmy Howard (35) during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2015, in Winnipeg, Manitoba. (Trevor Hagan/The Canadian Press via AP)
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This post is part of Detroit Red Wings day at PHT…

There was a stretch in January when Petr Mrazek wasn’t unbeatable, but it may have felt that way. He allowed only 12 goals during a nine-game stretch. Subsequently, he posted a 7-1-1 record that month.

Then, there was a stretch in February and into March when he gave up 24 goals in eight appearances, including a trio of five-spots and that got people talking. His coach, Jeff Blashill, said at the time that such a run in January — citing a .956 save percentage — simply wasn’t sustainable and that Mrazek’s struggles a short time later were part of the ebb and flow of a season.

When the playoffs began, Jimmy Howard started the first-round series versus Tampa Bay but gave up seven goals in two games, before giving way to Mrazek for the final three games.

Over the summer, the Red Wings and Mrazek were able to come to an agreement on a two-year, $8 million deal just before the two sides were to have a scheduled arbitration hearing.

That is a large raise from the $737,500 average annual value Mrazek was making on his entry-level contract. The Red Wings now have more than $9 million dedicated to both Mrazek and Howard in the salary cap.

Howard, 32, is signed for three more years at $5.29 million. He posted a 14-14-5 record, with a .906 save percentage, which is well below his career average of .915.

General manager Ken Holland — he’s under pressure — has offered conflicting takes on Howard’s future prospects in Detroit, saying he had thought about trading the veteran goalie but then he made the case to keep Howard almost as insurance in goal, as Detroit continues to develop Mrazek as the true No. 1.

“Some teams have goalies that make $8 million, $7 million,” Holland told the Detroit Free Press. “We’re on the higher end in terms of the money we’ve got in net, but we see goaltending as a strength for us.”

Blashill told MLive.com during the winter that he went into last season with a three-week plan to alternate between Howard and Mrazek, to see which of those two goalies could separate themselves and take charge of that No. 1 position.

The plan this time around will be one to keep an eye on when the season begins. It’s shaping up right now to be an expensive one.

Coyotes hire skating guru Dawn Braid, believed to be first full-time female coach in NHL history

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GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) The Arizona Coyotes have hired Dawn Braid as skating coach and say she is believed to be the first full-time female coach in NHL history.

Braid has a long association with the NHL.

She worked part-time for the Coyotes last year and has served as a skating consultant with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Anaheim Ducks, Buffalo Sabres and Calgary Flames.

Braid also spent seven years with the Athletes Training Center as director of skating development. Among the skaters she worked with while there is New York Islanders center John Tavares.

From NHL.com:

“Dawn has wanted to put me in to make myself a more powerful and efficient skater,” Tavares told NHL.com in 2012. “Dawn always says, ‘If you didn’t train properly and do the certain things you need to do, you’re not going to be strong enough to do the things I want you to do.'”

Braid’s hiring continues the trend of full-time female coaches in men’s pro sports; she follows Becky Hammon of the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs (2014) and Kathryn Smith of the NFL’s Buffalo Bills (2016) as the first full-time women’s coach in their respective leagues.

It’s all about experience for Red Wings sophomore bench boss Blashill

Detroit Red Wing training camp, day one
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This post is part of Detroit Red Wings day at PHT…

Let’s be honest: It’s probably not easy to replace a coach of Mike Babcock’s repute.

More than a year ago, Babcock went to the rebuilding Toronto Maple Leafs and is being paid a lot of money — an estimated $50 million over eight years — to coach in that market. Meanwhile, back in Detroit and with Babcock out of the picture, the Red Wings turned to Jeff Blashill as their new bench boss.

True, Blashill had spent time as a head coach in the USHL, college ranks and with the Grand Rapids Griffins of the AHL. But he had no experience as an NHL head coach prior to the 2015-16 season and just one season as an NHL assistant when he was part of Babcock’s staff in 2011-12.

After a 41-30-11 regular season record and another playoff appearance, the 25th straight in Detroit, the Red Wings were bounced in the first round. One of the priorities for general manager Ken Holland this offseason was to insulate Blashill by bringing in more experienced assistants.

The Red Wings hired John Torchetti, previously the interim head coach in Minnesota, and long-time Boston assistant Doug Houda. Those moves were part of a larger coaching shake-up within the organization, as Tony Granato left for a head coaching job at Wisconsin, goalie coach Jim Bedard was not brought back and assistant Pat Ferschweiler, who ran the team’s 13th-ranked power play last season, was reassigned.

Blashill told MLive.com that “player development” will be a large part of Ferschweiler’s role going forward.

“I think it’ll be a real benefit,” Blashill told the Detroit Free Press of the additions to the Red Wings staff. “Lots of years behind NHL benches. I’ve only had two years on an NHL bench. That’s a scenario where I can learn from their past experiences.”

It’s all about experience.

Two years ago, Blashill was touted by Holland as an “NHL coach in the making.” A month later, he was given a three-year contract extension to coach the Griffins, so clearly they thought highly of Blashill by keeping him as opposed to potentially losing him to another NHL club. A year later, he was tapped on to replace Mike Babcock.

In this case, patience may be required, too. That may be easier said than done from a fan’s perspective because as impressive as Detroit’s current run of consecutive playoff appearances is, they haven’t made it out of the first round in their last three tries.

“I think he’s a tremendous coach and I think he’s going to be in the League a long time. He’s had a lot of success at every level he’s been at except the NHL,” Holland told NHL.com.

“He did guide us to a playoff spot in a League when it’s hard to qualify for the playoffs, but I also think as you looked at our team last year, there were lots of decisions to be made and I think the experiences of last year are going to be important for Jeff.”

If the Red Wings place such a great deal of value on Blashill gaining experience, and leaning on the experience of veteran coaches beside him, it would seem then that they are willing to invest a substantial amount of time in him as he continues to grow and establish himself as an NHL coach.

But with such experienced assistant coaches having joined his staff this offseason, it makes you wonder about what could happen if the Red Wings struggle significantly or fail to make the playoffs.

“I think there’s always pressure in this job and there always will be and I welcomed that when I took the job,” Blashill told MLive.com this summer.

“But really, I don’t spend lots of time worrying about what could happen bad. I spend all my time worrying about how we’re going to do things to make sure we win.”

Bouwmeester named to Canada’s World Cup team, replacing the injured Duncan Keith

KANATA, ON - AUGUST 25:  Jay Bouwmeester #3 of Team Canada skates against Team USA during their exhibition game in the World Cup of Hockey on August 25, 2004 at the Corel Centre in Kanata, Canada.  (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/WCOH via Getty Images)
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St. Louis Blues veteran defenseman Jay Bouwmeester has been named to Canada’s 23-man roster for the upcoming World Cup of Hockey.

He will replace Chicago Blackhawks blue liner Duncan Keith, who is rehabbing a right knee injury.

“As Duncan continues offseason rehabilitation on the right knee injury that he sustained last season, we understand his decision not to participate in next month’s World Cup of Hockey,” Blackhawks team physician, Dr. Michael Terry, said in a statement.

“We believe it is in his best interests to focus on getting stronger and not risk further injury.”

Bouwmeester, a left-handed shot just as Keith is, which maintains the left-right philosophy for defensive pairings, joins his Blues teammate Alex Pietrangelo on the Canadian roster.

The two not only play together in St. Louis, but they were matched together on the blue line for Canada when it won gold at the 2014 Olympics.

The decision is, well, an interesting one and open to plenty of debate, as the Team Canada brass opted to take Bouwmeester over other Canadian blue liners — right-handed shots P.K. Subban and Kris Letang among the names — with far more offensive production from the back end.