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.

The Ducks look pretty mighty right now after six consecutive wins

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In what should be a disturbing trend for every other team in the Pacific Division, the Anaheim Ducks have now won six consecutive games, and eight of their last 10.

After dominating the shot clock for pretty much all of Friday’s game against the Arizona Coyotes, the Ducks completely took over on the scoreboard in the third period. It seemed like only a matter of time before a breakthrough would occur.

Just 24 hours after beating the L.A. Kings, the Ducks earned a 5-2 victory over the Coyotes.

Ryan Kesler has eight points in his last six games. Corey Perry has seven points in his last six games. Patrick Maroon, who had only eight points all season prior to Friday, had a three-point night versus Arizona.

Again. Bad news for every other team in the Pacific.

The Ducks now have a three-point lead over the Coyotes for third place in the division. They’re one point back of second-place San Jose and eight back of division-leading L.A.

As for everyone else, more specifically the Canucks, Flames and Oilers, well it might be time to start focusing more on the upcoming trade deadline and, beyond that, the draft.

The Ducks had a terrible start to this season, one that started with so much hype about a team seen as an immediate Stanley Cup contender for 2015-16.

Count Corey Perry as one who believes those early season struggles could pay off at playoff time.

And remember all of that talk in October about Bruce Boudreau perhaps at the end of his days as coach of the Ducks?

At the end of October, GM Bob Murray vowed to be patient despite such a poor start just a few months after being one win away from the Stanley Cup Final last June.

There is still plenty of hockey remaining in the regular season. The Ducks have 32 games remaining on their schedule. But it appears that patience Murray showed in October is paying off.

Jets can’t complete the comeback after miserable start against Hurricanes

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WINNIPEG, Manitoba (AP) Phillip Di Giuseppe, Andrej Nestrasil, Jordan Staal and Justin Faulk scored in the first period, and the Carolina Hurricanes held on for a 5-3 victory over the Winnipeg Jets on Friday night.

The Hurricanes scored four times on their first nine shots, taking a 4-0 lead just 10:04 into the game. Nestrasil added another goal in the third period, and Cam Ward made 33 saves. Staal and Joakim Nordstrom each had a pair of assists.

Alexander Burmistrov, Andrew Ladd and Blake Wheeler scored for Winnipeg.

Jets rookie Connor Hellebuyck allowed three goals while facing only six shots before being replaced by Michael Hutchinson after Staal’s power-play goal just 4:33 in. Hutchinson, who hadn’t played since a 4-1 loss in Anaheim on Jan. 3, finished with 21 saves.

The loss wrapped up Winnipeg’s season-high six-game homestand, which included just one victory.

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Carolina’s first goal came after the Jets turned over the puck and Di Giuseppe scored on a sharp-angled shot at 1:43.

Hellebuyck then kicked out a bad rebound and Nestrasil tallied his 16th goal of the season in his 100th NHL game from almost the same angle at 3:05.

With Byfuglien in the penalty box for delay of game, Staal’s shot beat Hellebuyck, ending the young goalie’s night.

Faulk made it 4-0 when his team’s third shot at Hutchinson went between his pads at 10:04.

The Jets came out at a faster, more aggressive pace to start the second period and it paid off with 1:25 remaining.

Andrew Copp and Chris Thorburn were battling a pair of Hurricanes behind the net when Thorburn poked the puck out front as he was falling and Burmistrov got his sixth goal of the season.

Ladd, who hit the post late in the second period, banged home a rebound with Hurricanes winger Jeff Skinner off for hooking at 9:07 of the third.

Byfuglien one-timed a pass from Nikolaj Ehlers that Wheeler deflected to make it 4-3 with 6:12 remaining.

Nestrasil sealed the win with his second goal at 18:40.

NOTES: Ehlers’ assist extended his point streak to six games, with four goals and four assists. … Winnipeg heads out for a two-game road trip starting in Colorado on Saturday. Carolina visits Montreal on Sunday.

Video: Zatkoff robs Condra with sprawling paddle save

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All Erik Condra had to do was lift the puck off the ice.

He didn’t, and as a result, he was robbed by sprawled out Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Jeff Zatkoff, who made a spectacular desperation save with the paddle of his stick on the Lightning forward.

The save occurred just past the midway point of the third period. That kept the Penguins in the game, down by a goal at the time.

However, the Penguins couldn’t get the equalizer. The result was a 6-3 loss for Pittsburgh, as Tampa Bay scored twice later in the period.

Defending Eastern Conference champion Bolts continue hot streak

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Remember those distractions the Tampa Bay Lightning had to endure?

— The future of captain Steven Stamkos, who is a pending unrestricted free agent and whose contract situation has been an ongoing discussion point for months now.

Jonathan Drouin‘s camp publicly requesting a trade, then having the 20-year-old forward sent to the minors and then suspended by Tampa Bay, etc.

Well, through it all, the defending Eastern Conference champions have emerged and are now one of the hottest teams in the National Hockey League . Since the start of January, the Bolts have lost twice. In 13 games.

They continued their hot streak Friday, defeating the Pittsburgh Penguins — another of those teams on an impressive streak — by a final score of 6-3, with Tyler Johnson leading the way with three points. He was one of six Tampa Bay players to record a multi-point night.

Penguins’ goalie Marc-Andre Fleury was pulled in the second period after allowing four goals on 14 shots.

Tampa Bay is now five points behind the Florida Panthers for first in the Atlantic Division.

For the Penguins, the loss keeps them on the outside of the playoff bubble for now. They remain one point back of New Jersey for the final Wild Card spot in the East.

Sidney Crosby extended his point streak to nine games. He also has goals in five straight and is one point shy of 900 for his career.