Often times when teams rise to the top of the standings they’re being carried by savvy elder statesmen in the NHL. All right, perhaps that’s just how it works in Detroit, but in Philadelphia they’ve been doing things sneakily different. At least it’s different compared to how previous incarnations of Flyers teams have been put together. They’re doing it riding their younger players and those guys are flourishing in the spotlight following their Stanley Cup finals appearance last season.
Sure, the Flyers still have Chris Pronger patrolling the blue line and striking fear into anyone who dares enter the Flyers zone and Daniel Briere, in spite of still looking like he’s 20 years-old, is 33 and using his skills to lead the team in goals scored. But those two older players are more the exception than the norm in Philadelphia now.
The Flyers are captained and led in scoring by 25 year-old Mike Richards. 26 year-old Jeff Carter has 20 goals already this year, and 23 year-old Claude Giroux is a first-time all-star this season and a threat to score on the power play as well as shorthanded. Former first round pick 21 year-old James van Riemsdyk is emerging from his shell and starting to make Flyers fans forget that he was the guy taken one pick after Chicago’s Patrick Kane in the draft. 23 year-old Andreas Nodl has even been a consistent contributor on the third and fourth lines.
It’s not just the forwards as 25 year-old defensemen Andrej Meszaros and Braydon Coburn are turning into solid stoppers on the backline. Meszaros is even leading the NHL in plus/minus with a +29 rating while Coburn is averaging just over 20 minutes a game in ice time. This isn’t even taking into account the play of 20 year-old rookie goalie Sergei Bobrovsky who has been a lifeline for the Flyers after Michael Leighton went down with a back injury during training camp. Bobrovsky’s .918 save percentage is tops on the team and his 2.49 goals against average is stellar for a first-year player. His 19 wins don’t look too bad either but that’s a product of how great the team is playing in front of him.
The Flyers last year were a team that eked their way into the playoffs but this year their young guys have grown up in a big way. Instead of waiting for Giroux to break out, he’s arrived and van Riemsdyk is on the verge of doing the same. Seeing Bobrovsky become a force before their eyes is a credit to the work of Flyers GM Paul Holmgren and the scouts in Philadelphia who after years of seemingly not getting how it all works have seen it all come together at once. Getting coach Peter Laviolette in there to help put it all together in just over a year’s time speaks volumes to what he’s capable of doing behind the bench.
If the Flyers can keep things rolling like this the rest of the way, it’s hard to say that we won’t see the Flyers make a run at the finals once again. While the Eastern Conference is certainly tougher to deal with now, the Flyers have played all year like they’re up to the task.
If the St. Louis Blues were enjoying another season like they enjoyed last year, they wouldn’t have traded Kevin Shattenkirk.
But in the words of GM Doug Armstrong, the Blues are currently “in a precarious playoff spot,” so yesterday Shattenkirk was dealt to Washington for a haul that included a first-round draft pick in 2017 and 22-year-old forward Zach Sanford.
“It just felt that where we are and where we need to go, it was time to make a move,” Armstrong said.
“I think when we got through last year’s playoffs, knowing that we were going to be entering unrestricted free agency with a number of players over a two- or three-year span, we wanted to turn the tide over to a different core group of players, and this just continues down that path.”
Armstrong listed Alex Pietrangelo, Vladimir Tarasenko, Jaden Schwartz, Colton Parayko, and Robby Fabbri as parts of the new core.
“There’s change in this game,” said Armstrong. “All organizations go through it.”
The Blues enter tonight’s game against the Oilers just two points clear of the Kings for the second wild-card spot in the West.
The Ottawa Senators made Alex Burrows‘ contract extension official this morning.
The day after acquiring the 35-year-old forward from Vancouver, the Sens announced that Burrows had signed a two-year, $5 million extension with a 10-team no-trade clause.
Ottawa gave up 19-year-old prospect Jonathan Dahlen to get Burrows from the Canucks.
“I think we’ve become a tougher team to play against and with the acquisition of Alex Burrows we’ve become an even tougher team to play against,” said GM Pierre Dorion, per the Ottawa Sun. “We all know how games are at this time of the year and, hopefully, when our team gets in the playoffs, how they’re grinding, difficult games.
“Getting someone of Alex’s character is something we couldn’t turn (away from). Our players have done exactly what we’ve asked of them. They’ve played hard, they’ve played a system and we just felt it was time to add another piece. In Alex Burrows, we’re ecstatic to have that piece.”
After last night’s 5-1 loss in Tampa Bay, the Sens only have a four-point playoff cushion, so there’s still work to be done down the stretch.
Ottawa hosts Colorado Thursday.
Related: Canucks GM says he isn’t done after trading ‘heart and soul’ guy Burrows
Chicago re-upped with a pair of veteran skaters on Tuesday, agreeing to one-year contract extensions with d-man Michal Rozsival and forward Jordin Tootoo.
At first glance, these deals certainly appear to be expansion draft-related. The Sun-Times notes this will allow ‘Hawks GM Stan Bowman to protect former first-round pick Ryan Hartman, who’s enjoying a breakout campaign with 15 goals through 57 games.
Rozsival, 38, has been the more active of today’s signees, appearing in 51 contests while notching a pair of points. He’s won a pair of Stanley Cups in Chicago.
Tootoo, 34, was signed last summer and has appeared in 36 games. He’s gone scoreless while racking up 21 PIM.
Rozsival’s current deal pays $600,000, while Tootoo’s is at $750,000. Terms of their extensions weren’t released but it’s fair to suggest the dollar figures will be similar, given Chicago’s pressed right up against the cap ceiling.
Bowman certainly seems to be getting his house in order ahead of the aforementioned expansion draft. Last week, he inked journeyman goalie Jeff Glass to a two-year deal, another move that appeared to be with Vegas in mind.
Having already dealt away Ben Bishop and Brian Boyle, Lightning GM Steve Yzerman could be on the verge of moving another veteran out of town:
Fippula, 32, is in the fourth of a five-year, $25 million deal with a $5M average annual cap hit. He’s had a nice bounce-back offensive campaign, with 34 points through 59 games — last year, those totals dipped to 31 in 76 — and has been a dependable, defensively responsible center during his time in Tampa Bay.
So, why might he get moved?
Yzerman has plenty of business to attend to this summer. Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Jonathan Drouin are all pending RFAs requiring new deals, and it’s going to be expensive trying to keep all three in the fold.
It’s also worth noting that Victor Hedman‘s monster extension kicks in next year and, per ESPN, Yzerman is still searching to add a top-four defenseman to the mix.
McKenzie notes it’s unclear if Filppula has agreed to waive his NTC. If he does, though, teams would undoubtedly be interested in acquiring an experienced middle man, with tons of playoff experience.
Filppula’s appeared in over 150 career postseason contests, winning a Stanley Cup with Detroit in 2008.