Flyers GM Paul Holmgren remains coy about goaltending options, trading Jeff Carter

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Whenever someone discusses the Philadelphia Flyers’ upcoming off-season, it seems like three factors are almost always interlocked: their much-critiqued goaltending, a potential Jeff Carter trade and the team’s salary cap headaches.

Even though the salary cap ceiling is expected to climb up to somewhere between $60.5-$63.5 million, the Flyers are already in a tight spot with a bit less than $59 million wrapped up in 18 players. They must deal with the unrestricted free agent status of quality winger Ville Leino and will be forced to make decisions regarding a few restricted free agents (such as Daniel Carcillo and Andreas Nodl) as well.

It’s tough to come up with an elegant set of answers for the Flyers’ questions. The hockey public wouldn’t be very tolerant toward the idea of Philly sticking with their current goalie duo of Sergei Bobrovsky and Michael Leighton, even if that would be a move that follows the team’s stubborn (and often successful) policy regarding netminders. This franchise often walks to the beat of their own drum when it comes to acquiring goalies, but considering the requests of high-ranking executives, it sounds like change will come in some way or form.

The aforementioned free agent questions already hinted that “someone will need to go,” but adding an expensive goalie such as Ilya Bryzgalov or Tomas Vokoun would require the team to move a significant chunk of salary. For that reason, gossipers churned out another round of Jeff Carter trade rumors. While that talk must be considered with a customary grain of salt, Flyers GM Paul Holmgren didn’t exactly shoot down the possibility altogether.

Does that mean we’ve seen the last of Carter in a Flyers uniform?

Not necessarily. Holmgren indicated he’d like to keep the 26-year-old center/winger.

“We’ll see,”‘ he said. “I like our team. Is it realistic to say we’ll be able to keep everybody together? Probably not, but we’ll see. I like our core of players, for sure. I think the longer you can keep a good group together, the better your odds of winning. A lot of these guys have been together for a long time now, and if we can keep them together, I think it’s an advantage.”

Chuck Gormley makes an important point in that story: despite the fact that Carter signed a substantial 11-year, $58 million contract extension, that deal does not include no-movement clause. The 26-year-old sniper isn’t the most versatile player on the Flyers roster, but he is a proven goal scorer in the NHL. He scored 115 goals in his last three regular season campaigns overall, setting a career-high with 46 tallies in 2008-09. He might have some blemishes on his overall game, but it’s hard to find a young player capable of scoring 30-45 goals each season for just a $5.27 million annual cap hit. That line of reasoning means that he could have some serious trade value, but it also indicates that the Flyers might not want to pull the trigger on a deal.

If they did move Carter or another key asset to improve their goaltending, they would risk their staggering offensive depth to roll the dice with a hopeful upgrade in net. It might be more palatable to move young defenseman Matt Carle ($3.44 million cap hit for one more season) instead, although making such a trade wouldn’t bring nearly as much value in return and wouldn’t clear as much space.

The Flyers would clearly like to improve their situation in net, but they must determine that a new goalie will be worth the sacrifices they’ll need to make in other areas. Let’s face it, the goaltending position is an unstable one, especially when a goalie goes from one system to another.

We’ll make sure to keep you updated through an interesting off-season for Philly this summer, whether the Flyers organization follows conventional wisdom by going after a Bryzgalov/Vokoun type goalie or continues to do things “their way.”

NHL ON NBCSN: Lightning, Blues square off in battle of NHL’s best

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2017-18 NHL season continues on Wednesday night, as the St. Louis Blues host the Tampa Bay Lightning at 8 p.m. ET. You can stream the game by clicking here.

The Lightning and Blue have consistently been two of the best teams in the NHL since opening night.

A healthy Tampa side has scored at will with a league-best 110 goals through 29 games and the Blues have been powered by Vladimir Tarasenko, Brayden Schenn and the now-injured Jordan Schwartz. Both teams have the fire power, but they also have played some very stingy defense, thanks to goaltenders Andrei Vasilevskiy and Jake Allen.

The Blues enter Tuesday night’s game banged up and missing Schwartz and Alex Pietrangelo, who was placed on injured reserve with a lower-body injury, so depth will be tested. Schenn’s production may also be affected as Schwartz has assisted on half of his 16 goals. And as Jeremy Rutherford of The Athletic pointed out this morning, St. Louis averaged 3 goals per game with Schwartz and 2.36 goals when he wasn’t in the lineup.

[WATCH LIGHTNING-BLUES LIVE ON NBCSN]

Tampa hits the road following an undefeated four-game homestand. Their last road trip away from Amalie Arena ended with a 1-3-0 record and only seven total goals scored. Lightning head coach Jon Cooper won’t have last change to get his preferred matchups on the ice, so will he find himself splitting up Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos at times to spread out the offensive threat?

“We’ve done what we had to at home,” Cooper said via the Tampa Bay Times. “Now we have to do it on the road, and it’s much tougher with all the travel we have to do, especially where we are here. So, we have to learn from what we did on the road before, what we have to do to prepare, but this is a good way to jump-start that.”

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Blue Jackets’ Cam Atkinson hits ‘reset button’ after healthy scratch

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The reset button has been hit and Cam Atkinson will return to the Columbus Blue Jackets’ lineup Tuesday night against the Edmonton Oilers.

Atkinson, who has six goals and nine points in 25 games this season, was made a healthy scratch on Saturday, three weeks after signing a seven-year, $40.25 million extension. John Tortorella’s decision to sit the forward who scored 35 goals last season wasn’t a hard one for the head coach, mainly because the player forced the issue.

“This isn’t to kick a player,” Tortorella said on Monday. “Cam Atkinson is a very important player, and especially for this coach. He’s in every situation, and that’s what I think of him as a player.”

It wasn’t an easy past couple of days for Atkinson. An embarrassing scratch not long after inking a big extension wasn’t an ideal way to show off his worth to the franchise. But on Sunday he received a text from Martin St. Louis, an off-season Connecticut golf buddy and someone who knows pretty well how Tortorella operates. For more than a half hour the former Tampa Bay Lightning star reminded the 28-year-old that he’s a good player and that the franchise has an incredible amount of confidence in him, as displayed by the contract they just handed him.

[Blue Jackets bet big on Cam Atkinson]

Since Saturday’s scratch, Atkinson had stayed on the ice after skates working on his shot and getting extra touches with the puck to try and restore his confidence. There was time spent watching video, too. And just as important, there was plenty of communication with Tortorella.

“It’s one of those things where once you go down that dark alley, one thing leads to another and it’s hard to get out of it,” Atkinson said. “It’s not so much pointing the fingers, but sometimes you tend to blame your teammates or linemates and that’s something you can’t do. It’s something I’ve tried not to do… Being a healthy scratch was probably the best thing for me.”

There’s more than one Blue Jackets player struggling at the moment, which Tortorella admits is a failure on his part to find a way to get them going again. To the head coach, scratching a player isn’t a form of punishment, it’s a way to help.

Atkinson has hit the 20-goal mark in each of the last four seasons, so it’s not like he’s a lost cause or being crushed under the weight of his extension. Now, after a night in the press box, he knows he needs to respond.

“Obviously, you never want to be a healthy scratch, but it gives you a chance to reassess and hit the reset button, realize where you are at that point in time in the season and what you need to do to get better,” Atkinson said.

“It’s a wake-up call. I take full responsibility. I know I need to be way better, and I will be.”

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

PHT Morning Skate: Cooper’s reinvention; Pietrangelo on IR

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• How Jon Cooper helped reinvent himself and bring the Tampa Bay Lightning back to elite status. [Tampa Bay Times]

• Days after losing Jaden Schwartz for six weeks, the St. Louis Blues placed Alex Pietrangelo on injured reserved with a lower-body injury. The good news is that he’s expected back by early next week. [Blues]

• Six skaters on Russia’s Sochi Olympic women’s hockey team — including its captain and leading points scorer — were banned from the Olympics for life by the IOC. [NBC Olympics]

Drew Doughty on the Los Angeles Kings doubters: “Yeah, you know, obviously, people are still going to doubt us. There’s always going to be people who don’t believe in the success we’re having, but we’re not too worried about those other people.” [LA Daily Times]

• The New York Islanders unveiled their plans to develop land by Belmont Park race track, which includes an 18,000-seat arena. Bidding against MLS side NYCFC, it’s unknown when the winner will be announced. [Islanders Insight]

• How the returns of Ryan Getzlaf and Jakob Silfverberg will affect the rest of the Anaheim Ducks’ lineup. [OC Register]

• Don’t trade Erik Karlsson. No, really. Just don’t do it. [Silver Seven Sens]

• Canada’s World Junior entry got a big boost on Monday when the Montreal Canadiens announced they will be loaning the defenseman to the national team. [Canadiens]

• What to make of these Columbus Blue Jackets? [The Cannon]

• The New Jersey Devils have made the most out of having some very hard practices. [NJ.com]

• So you wanna rebuild the Chicago Blackhawks? Well, about that… [Second City Hockey]

• It’s not been the greatest season in Philadelphia, but Sean Couturier is certainly shining. [TSN]

• What do the Dallas Stars need to do to find more success on the road? [Defending Big D]

• Are smelling salts actually dangerous for players? [The Star]

• Would a transatlantic hockey league be a successful one? [British Ice Hockey]

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Ducks’ Perry being evaluated at hospital for lower body injury

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The injury woes for the Anaheim Ducks continued on Monday night.

On the same night they got Ryan Getzlaf and Jakob Silfverberg back in the lineup, they lost forward Corey Perry to some sort of a lower body injury.

Perry exited the game after playing just 3:49 in the first period.

After the game Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said that Perry is being evaluated at a local hospital for the injury and that there was no other update at this time.

According to Ducks beat writer Eric Stephens of the OC Register Perry did not suffer a skate cut.

In 31 games this season Perry has scored six goals to go with 16 assists for the Ducks. The Ducks have been absolutely crushed by injuries this season, a development that has no doubt played a major role in their slow start.

The Ducks were 3-2 winners on Monday against the Carolina Hurricanes.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.