Flyers hand GM Paul Holmgren three-year extension reportedly worth $4.5M

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The Philadelphia Flyers announced the signing of a high profile figure today, but the good news is that it won’t have an impact on the team’s paper-thin salary cap. Well, not directly, at least.

That’s because the Flyers signed a deal with someone who doesn’t skate with the team, as they handed general manager Paul Holmgren a three-year extension reportedly worth $4.5 million.

While I look at the disastrous 2006-07 season that resulted in the dismissal of Bobby Clarke and Ken Hitchcock as a bit of an aberration akin to the San Antonio Spurs being awful long enough to draft Tim Duncan, it’s undeniable that Holmgren is responsible for the club’s impressive makeover.

His tenure began by raiding some of the Nashville Predators’ best talents, as he engineered trades to bring in important defenseman Kimmo Timonen and useful pest/scorer Scott Hartnell. He was in charge when the team drafted James van Riemsdyk. Holmgren made savvy pickups like a waiver claim on Michael Leighton last season, the signing of Sergei Bobrovsky and a crafty trade to land playoff standout Ville Leino. Perhaps his most important long-term moves might be the cap-friendly contracts he negotiated with Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, though.

Of course, there’s also the dramatic improvement the team made once Holmgren decided to hire Peter Laviolette last season to boot.

Even some of his “biggest missteps” such as giving Danny Briere a lengthy, expensive deal and flubbing on the 35+ rule with Chris Pronger have worked out pretty well. Maybe those contracts will devolve into albatrosses later on, but Briere was the leading scorer of the 2010 playoffs while Pronger was a huge difference maker as the team struggled with goalie injuries. It’s hard to call either move bone-headed now.

The team may always have questions in net, although that situation is greatly improved (and besides, skimping on goaltending has been their M.O. for years, with mostly solid results).

Beyond that flippant goalie criticism, the only consistent problem facing the Holmgren years has been getting under the salary cap. Yet when you look at other contenders in Pittsburgh, Detroit and Vancouver, it’s clear that most top teams acknowledge that’s just the price of doing business.

Considering his impressive track record so far, the Flyers are wise to allow Holmgren to manage their business going forward.

Bolts close gap on struggling Bruins in playoff race

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Well, that was quite a third period.

For the Boston Bruins, it was disastrous. For the Tampa Bay Lightning, it propelled them to a critical victory in the playoff race.

Nikita Kucherov completed the hat trick with a pair of goals in the final period and Jonathan Drouin scored what would eventually be the winner, as Tampa Bay snapped its own three-game losing streak in a 6-3 victory, putting the Bolts within three points of the final wild card spot — held by the Bruins — in the Eastern Conference.

The Drouin goal — his 18th of the season but first since Feb. 19, a span of 13 games — is probably one Tuukka Rask would like back.

Drouin teed up the slap shot from the faceoff circle, beating Rask under the left arm.

And just like that, the Bruins have lost four consecutive games. On Saturday, they face the New York Islanders, another team looking to catch Boston in the wild card race.

Read more: Remember this stretch if Bruins settle for a wild card spot (or worse?)

The Islanders are only two points back of Boston.

Despite the win, there was bad news for the Lightning during this game, as defenseman Jason Garrison left with an injury.

From NHL.com:

The play occurred behind the Lightning goal, Garrison appearing to get his left leg rolled up from behind by a Bruin. Garrison had to be helped off the ice by Anton Stralman and Brayden Point and headed back to the Bolts’ locker room.

The team announced during the second intermission that Garrison sustained a lower-body injury. He did not return to the game.

Video: Ovechkin rocks custom skates for Russian Heritage Night

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As promised, Capitals star Alex Ovechkin rocked a pair of custom skates in honor of Russian Heritage Night on Thursday.

On his right skate, he paid tribute to the United States with a custom design, and paid tribute to his home nation on his left skate while taking the pre-game warm-up prior to facing the Columbus Blue Jackets.

He’ll be auctioning off the skates, as well.

From CSN Mid-Atlantic:

The skates were painted by noted custom shoe artists Nick Avery and Polo Kerber, whom Ovechkin personally selected. The skates feature the U.S. and Russia flags as well as the Capitol Building and Moscow’s St. Basil’s Cathedral.

Video: Crosby slash leaves Methot’s finger bloodied and injured (Updated)

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Sidney Crosby has made news lately for his goal scoring and his use of the stick.

He speared Sabres forward Ryan O’Reilly below the belt the other night, and on Thursday he delivered a slash to Senators defenseman Marc Methot, who has since not returned to the game.

The slash rendered a finger on Methot’s left hand bloodied and injured. It certainly didn’t look good as Method (calmly) skated to the bench.

There was no call on the play.

Updated: Methot won’t return to this game.

Show me the money! Nylander sets Leafs rookie record with latest assist

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Toronto’s talented rookies were back at it again Thursday, as William Nylander and Auston Matthews combined to set up the Maple Leafs’ first goal versus the New Jersey Devils.

Nylander added the second assist on the power play goal, giving him 35 helpers on the season.

That’s significant for a couple of reasons: He extends his point streak to 10 games, which sets a new Leafs rookie record. And the assist reportedly secured him another entry-level bonus:

Not bad.