Ottawa Senators v Philadelphia Flyers

Philadelphia Flyers raise ticket prices for first time in three years, point to rising salary cap

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For the first time in three years, fans of the Philadelphia Flyers will need to fork over more money to buy season tickets to watch their team. Some might reasonably call it the price of winning while the Flyers front office points to the NHL’s rising salary cap as one of the primary reasons for the price increases.

Before you jump all over the Flyers organization for raising ticket prices, they deserve at least some credit for avoiding a hike for the last three years. A cynical type might point out that it’s sad to make such a comment, but let’s face it: consistent playoff teams in hockey-loving markets can sometimes name their prices.

Moving on, CSN Philly’s Tim Panaccio has the lowdown on the changes. One focus is that the team will charge different prices based on seats with a better overall fan perception, meaning that the best seats will go for the highest prices. Before we delve into the team’s PR-spin on the price changes, here are the bottom-line facts of the Flyers’ ticket hikes, as reported by Panaccio.

The average season ticket will increase $6 per ticket or $260 overall in the full season package. The top seats currently at center ice cost a season ticket holder $79 (discounted). That price will increase to $95.

(snip)

The ticket increase amounts to an average 8-10 percent. However, the lower bowl is now restructured into six different price ranges. For instance, those seats behind the south net where the Flyers shoot twice a game will cost more than the seats at the north end where the team shoots once.

The seats directly in the middle of the ice will cost more than those near the corners.

The upper mezzanine will also change. There will be 15 different prices for all 15 rows. The farther back you are, the less you pay.

Current season ticket holders will be offered a chance to move to cheaper seats if they prefer.

Flyers executive Shawn Tilger leans on the league’s rising salary cap and an urge to earn revenues that “are more in line with other top teams” in the NHL to explain the price increase. (These quotes are also from Panaccio’s report.)

“We are rescaling the arena so that our revenues are more in line with other top teams in the National Hockey League,” said Comcast-Spectacor President Peter Luukko. “This rescaling still allows us the opportunity to provide affordable pricing options for our fans.”

Tilger said the Flyers marketing and sales department researched this for eight months using statistics from the NHL, in-house and outside sales, secondary market research (StubHub, eBay etc.), plus input from a fans’ advisory board on what they felt were the best locations in the arena.

(snip)

Tilger said the price increase was spurred, in part, by the dramatic rise in the salary cap from $39 million in 2005-06 to nearly $60 million this season.

Tilger pointed out that ticket prices here have risen 5 percent in eight years, while the salary cap has increased 52 percent.

To add a little more perspective to the discussion, Travis Hughes of Broadstreet Hockey offers a calm rebuttal for some of Tilger’s points.

Hughes points out that the team’s revenues are already among the top in the NHL, citing a Forbes report that ranked the Flyers fourth in revenue with $121 million in 2010. He also soberly debates the merits of the cap-related argument.

Secondly, on Tilger’s comment that one of the big reasons for the jump in ticket pricing has to do with the salary cap. We all know that just isn’t true at all. If ticket prices are directly related to the salary cap, how come they didn’t go down dramatically in 2004 when team payroll dropped from $65 million to $42 million?

They only dropped about two dollars following the lockout, from an average of $57.06 to $54.81. By comparison, the average ticket price this season is $60.25, up from $55.93 in 2007-08. Again, increases in ticket prices are expected, especially as the team sits atop the Eastern Conference, but can’t they just tell us the real reason why prices are going up?

Ultimately, Hughes comes to the same conclusion many would get from reading between the lines: the Flyers simply want to make more money and they have every right to attempt to do that. Now it just comes down to whether or not their fans will accept the price changes with their wallets.

Deadline target Streit says ‘it’s too early’ for extension talks in Philly

PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 09:  Mark Streit #32 of the Philadelphia Flyers completes a pass against the Carolina Hurricanes on April 9, 2015 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)
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Yesterday, we touched on the dynamic at play between Buffalo and veteran captain Brian Gionta.

Today, a similar situation to discuss — but it’s in Philly, and involves alternate captain Mark Streit.

Streit, 39, is in the last of a four-year, $21 million deal with a $5.25M cap hit. Like Gionta, he’s a pending UFA and — also like Gionta — has a limited no-trade clause (Streit can list 10 teams he’d accept a trade to.)

Like the Sabres, the Flyers are in a tricky spot.

Right on the wild card bubble, they’re cognizant that a veteran presence like Streit — who has 17 points in 35 games, averaging 19:43 per night — would be valuable come playoff time.

But if Philly falls out of playoff contention, Streit would undoubtedly be an asset worth flipping at the deadline. It’s something the team is surely aware of.

The Swiss rearguard has more than 30 games of playoff experience and, as we’ve seen at previous deadlines, the return for rental defensemen can be high.

More on this situation, from the Burlington County Times:

So if the Flyers were to keep him past the deadline and offer him a new contract, would he be willing to stay?

“At this point, I just want to play and I want to make it into the playoffs with the Flyers,’’ the Swiss native said. “That’s on my mind. I love it here, love playing for the Flyers.”

The subject of a new contract is tricky because the Flyers are currently right on the bubble for a playoff spot.

There’s really no point in opening contract negotiations if he’s only going to be here another five weeks, is there?

“Not yet, it’s too early,’’ Streit said. “I’d like to stay here. I’ve been part of this organization for four years now. I love the guys, I believe in the group.”

Flyers GM Ron Hextall told the Times he hasn’t made any decisions on his UFAs, adding he’s in no rush to sign them.

There’s actually quite a lot of business for Hextall on that front — in addition to Streit, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Michael Del Zotto, Nick Schultz, Steve Mason and Michal Neuvirth are all up on July 1 — so it’s not surprising he’s taking a wait-and-see approach.

As for Streit, he said he’d like to stick in Philly beyond this year… and, per the Times, even joked with reporters that he’d love to sign another four-year deal.

We assume he was joking, anyway.

Sens nab Wingels in trade with Sharks

SAN JOSE, CA - NOVEMBER 25:  Tommy Wingels #57 of the San Jose Sharks looks to pass the puck while covered by Artem Anisimov #15 of the Chicago Blackhawks at SAP Center on November 25, 2015 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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The Ottawa Senators have acquired forward Tommy Wingels from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for two AHL forwards, Buddy Robinson and Zack Stortini, and a 2017 seventh-round draft pick.

The Sens announced the trade via Twitter. As part of the deal, the Sharks will retain 30 percent of Wingels’ $2.6 million salary this season. The 28-year-old is a pending unrestricted free agent. His total cap hit is $2.475 million.

Wingels has just five goals and three assists in 37 games this season, and his average ice time under head coach Pete DeBoer had fallen from 13:38 last season to just 10:03.

Perhaps he’ll find a bigger role now under Guy Boucher. Wingels is expected to join the Sens tomorrow in Ottawa.

In a press release, Sharks GM Doug Wilson called Wingels “a valuable member of our franchise for many years, a phenomenal teammate and a true role model on and off the ice for our organization and the NHL.”

Wilson added, “As a team evolves and younger players push for roster spots, unfortunately tough decisions have to be made. We wish Tommy and his wife, Molly, nothing but success in the future.

“We also want to welcome Buddy and Zach to our organization. They add size and depth to our reserve list and we look forward to having them in San Jose.”

It’s crunch time for the Lightning

Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Ben Bishop stays on the ice after giving up a goal to Arizona Coyotes defenseman Michael Stone during the second period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
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The Tampa Bay Lightning are desperate for wins.

How desperate?

Well, it’s estimated they’ll have to win around 21 of their final 34 games in order to make the playoffs.

So, pretty darn desperate.

It is shocking, frankly, that the Lightning have found themselves in this position. After 48 games, they sit dead last in the Eastern Conference with a record of 21-22-5. Even without Steven Stamkos, most observers thought they’d hang in there.

But if it’s not one thing (allowing too many goals), it’s been another (not scoring enough) for Jon Cooper’s bunch. Heading into tonight’s game in Chicago, the Bolts have just two wins in their last 10 games.

Saturday’s 5-3 loss to the Coyotes, one of the NHL’s worst teams, was a low point.

“Disappointing is probably not even the right word,” veteran forward Brian Boyle said, per the Tampa Bay Times. “We’ve got to do a better job in (the room), I guess, especially the veteran guys. It’s got to be way better from the start, maybe in preparation? Obviously, our focus wasn’t where it needed to be. That’s a hard one to swallow.”

The Lightning outshot the Coyotes by a big margin, 48-23, but for the 13th time this season they lost a game in regulation despite finishing ahead on the shot clock. Only Carolina (17) and Boston (15) have lost more games that way. 

In a related story, Ben Bishop‘s save percentage has fallen from .926 last season, when he was a Vezina Trophy finalist, to .905. He was pulled Saturday after allowing five goals on just 17 shots.

To be fair, Bishop had played well in his three previous starts since returning from an injury. But Saturday was a bad time to have a bad game. Those were two points the Lightning really needed, and they didn’t even get one.

Tampa Bay has two games before the All-Star break — tonight in Chicago and Thursday at the Panthers in Sunrise.

That game Thursday will be huge for both teams, each of which went into the season with high hopes, before injuries and other frustrations arose.

The reality now is that both Florida clubs are likely to miss the playoffs. Yes, there’s still time to climb out of their respective holes, but the odds say they’ll probably fail.

Sabres welcome back oft-injured Kulikov, who has missed 26 games

CALGARY, AB - OCTOBER 18: Dmitry Kulikov #77 of the Buffalo Sabres in action against the Calgary Flames during an NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on October 18, 2016 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
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Dmitry Kulikov‘s first year in Buffalo has largely been defined by his lingering back injury, but he’ll set about changing that narrative when he returns to the lineup tonight in Nashville.

Today, Sabres head coach Dan Bylsma confirmed Kulikov would play for the first time since Dec. 27, having missed nearly a month with his lingering ailment.

Kulikov also missed 13 games earlier in the year with the same back problem.

Acquired at last year’s draft in a deal that sent Mark Pysyk to Florida — along with picks being exchanged — Kulikov was expected to play a big role in Buffalo this season, and projected to play on the club’s top defensive pairing with Rasmus Ristolainen.

“You watch Florida when they go on the PK; he was the first guy on the ice, when they needed a goal on the playoffs he was on the ice, when they needed to protect a lead late in the game he was on the ice,” Sabres GM Tim Murray said at the time of the trade, per NHL.com. “So we certainly liked what we saw.”

All told, the 26-year-old Russian’s appeared in just 20 games this year, registering a single point. He has averaged over 22 minutes per, though — meaning head coach Dan Bylsma has used Kulikov quite a bit, when available.

Kulikov didn’t take this morning’s skate, so no clear indication on who he’ll pair with this evening.