Brian Boucher, Sergei Bobrovsky

Will the Flyers lean on Brian Boucher instead of Sergei Bobrovsky in the playoffs?

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It’s easy to overlook the value of an experienced, stable backup like Philadelphia Flyers goalie Brian Boucher. Boucher won 15 games already this season and showed that he could carry a team in the postseason last year, as he helped the Flyers intermittently when Michael Leighton went down with an injury (even though he eventually would pass the torch after his own ailment).

The Flyers might be glad that they developed so much trust for the 34-year-old veteran, because CSN Philly’s Tim Panaccio writes that Boucher has the inside track over impressive rookie Sergei Bobrovsky for the No. 1 job come playoff time.

Panaccio points out that Boucher holds one glaring advantage over Bobrovsky when it comes to puck handling.

While it’s no guarantee that a weak puck handling goalie will ever make significant improvement, it’s a skill that netminders develop over time. Being that Bobrovsky made a name for himself unexpectedly soon during what’s been mostly a smash hit rookie season, he didn’t have the time to improve his decision making with the puck before he advanced to the NHL level. He rarely (if ever) left the net in Russia, creating a glaring weakness – especially when you consider the fact that he speaks limited English.

Bobrovsky speaks very little English and it makes it harder to communicate with his defense. That will improve over time.

Yet unless his puck-handling skills improve against quick teams, the Flyers are going to struggle on the breakout.

“It’s going to make it hard for us to make a good first pass,” Timonen said. “If you look at the goalies who are good at stopping pucks, it helps the defense a lot. More than you think.

“There are so many teams coming with a lot of speed and if the puck goes around, they can create a forecheck and turnovers and everything.  If you stop the puck behind the net, you break out right away. It’s a simple thing but it makes a huge difference.”

Elite puck handling skills helped well-known Flyers standout Ron Hextall and future Hall of Fame goalie Martin Brodeur in ways that stat guys are still trying to grasp. It’s a tough thing to quantify, but it’s hard to deny the impact it had on many New Jersey Devils teams in particular.

Could Bobrovsky’s struggles with the puck on his goalie stick cost him the starting job when every little mistake his magnified in the heat of playoff play? We’ll just have to wait and see, but Boucher obviously has that ace up his sleeve.

With DeKeyser locked up, Holland still has work to do in Detroit

Ken Holland
AP
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There’s nothing too flashy about Danny DeKeyser‘s game.

“Basically,” he told reporters today, “my game, I just try to move the puck well, play solid defensively, chip in some points or goals here or there when I can, and just try to be a good team player and do things that help the team win.”

For that, the Red Wings gave the steady defenseman a six-year, $30 million contract, avoiding an arbitration hearing in the process. Yes, it’s a significant amount of money for a d-man that doesn’t contribute a ton of offense, but as we’ve already seen this offseason, players like DeKeyser have significant value. The Edmonton Oilers gave up Taylor Hall to get one.

Re-signing DeKeyser is not expected to stop GM Ken Holland from trying to add to his blue line. The Wings have a surplus of forwards, and Holland has said he’d “love to get a top-three defenseman” prior to the start of next season.

If Holland can’t swing a deal, Detroit’s pairings could look something like this:

DeKeyser — Mike Green
Jonathan Ericsson — Niklas Kronwall
Brendan SmithAlexey Marchenko
Xavier Ouellet

It’s not a particularly young group. Kronwall is 35, Ericsson is 32, and Green is 30. The Red Wings chose not to re-sign veteran Kyle Quincey, and so far he has not been replaced. In June, they drafted a defenseman in the first round, but Dennis Cholowski is a ways away from playing in the NHL; he’s off St. Cloud State in the fall. There are a few other young blue-liners in the system, like Joe Hicketts, Ryan Sproul and Robbie Russo, but they all still have some developing to do.

At the very least, Holland now has some cost certainty with DeKeyser. The next step will be getting Petr Mrazek‘s deal done, possibly with the aid of tomorrow’s arbitration hearing. After that, it’ll be working to get that defenseman he covets.

Related: Blues GM says he might just keep Kevin Shattenkirk

Nugent-Hopkins trying to ignore trade rumors — ‘If it happens, it happens’

BOSTON, MA - DECEMBER 14:  Ryan Nugent-Hopkins #93 of the Edmonton Oilers skates against the Boston Bruins during the first period at TD Garden on December 14, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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The Ryan Nugent-Hopkins trade speculation may have died down since it peaked at the draft in late June, but it’s not entirely dead.

The 23-year-old former first overall draft pick was asked to address the ongoing rumors Monday at an Oilers charity golf tournament.

“I try not to pay attention too much,” Nugent-Hopkins said, per the Edmonton Journal. “If it happens, it happens. I know it’s definitely a different group than the one we finished with last season.”

Indeed it is. Most notably, Taylor Hall is in New Jersey now, traded for defenseman Adam Larsson. The Oilers also signed Milan Lucic and drafted Jesse Puljujarvi.

What’s still lacking is an offensive defenseman who can run the power play, which is why the names Tyson Barrie (Avalanche) and Matt Dumba (Wild) have been floated as potential targets.

The Wild in particular could use a good, young center like Nugent-Hopkins, and the expansion draft is looming for a Minnesota club that already has defensemen Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin, and Marco Scandella locked up in long-term contracts.

Barrie, meanwhile, has an arbitration hearing scheduled for Friday.

Blues d-man Kevin Shattenkirk is another name that’s come up; however, he can become an unrestricted free agent after next season, and whether he’d re-sign in Edmonton is in doubt.

Flyers reportedly avoid arbitration with Manning, sign him for two more years

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Chalk up another arbitration hearing that won’t be required. This time it’s Brandon Manning‘s. The 26-year-old defenseman has agreed on a two-year, $1.95 million deal with the Philadelphia Flyers, according to CSN Philly.

Manning’s hearing was scheduled for next Tuesday. He was the last restricted free agent on the Flyers, after Brayden Schenn re-signed Monday.

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman was the first to report the Manning signing.

Manning played 56 games for the Flyers in 2015-16, his first full season in the NHL. He had one goal and six assists while logging an average ice time of 16:32.

Report: Blackhawks, Rundblad agree to terminate contract

DALLAS, TX - OCTOBER 09:  David Rundblad #5 of the Chicago Blackhawks in the second period at American Airlines Center on October 9, 2014 in Dallas, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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The Chicago Blackhawks are reportedly parting ways with defenseman David Rundblad. The two sides have agreed to a contract termination, according to Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times.

Rundblad, 25, was set to earn $1.1 million this season, per General Fanager. His cap hit was $1.05 million, meaning the ‘Hawks will gain $100,000 in cap space by not having to bury his contract in the AHL next season.

Rundblad was unlikely to make the Blackhawks in 2016-17 — not after the additions of Brian Campbell and Michal Kempny, and also the re-signing of Michal Rozsival.

It remains to be seen where Rundblad will end up. One possibility is back in Switzerland, where he spent part of last season before dressing three times for the ‘Hawks in the playoffs.