Flyers acquire negotiating rights to Ilya Bryzgalov

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The Philadelphia Flyers are getting a jump on the offseason by trading for the exclusive negotiating rights to former-Phoenix goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov. Bryzgalov is set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1st, but the Flyers would like to lock-up the netminder before he hits the open market. The proactive move gives GM Paul Holmgren and the organization the opportunity to negotiate a contract without any competition for the rest of the month. In exchange for the chance to sign the talented Russian, the Flyers had to give up a few assets.

From the Philadelphia Flyers official site:

“The Philadelphia Flyers announced today that they have acquired the rights to goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov from the Phoenix Coyotes in exchange for LW Matt Clackson, the Flyers’ 3rd round draft choice in 2012 and a conditional draft choice, according to general manager Paul Holmgren.”

One of the worst kept secrets of the offseason is that the Flyers are in the market for a capable goaltender to go with the rest of their capable team. Rumors involving everyone from veterans Bryzgalov and Florida’s Tomas Vokoun to youngsters like Canucks’ back-up Cory Schneider and Kings’ back-up Jonathan Bernier have been floating around for a while. The search hit another level about a month ago when Flyers executive Ed Snider said he wanted a true #1 netminder and “(the Flyers) are NEVER going to go through the goalie issues we’ve gone through in the last couple of years again.” With this move, it looks like Paul Holmgren got the memo.

If the Flyers are looking for an elite goaltender, Bryzgalov certainly fills the bill. He finished second in the Vezina voting at the end of the 2009-10 season helping surprise most of the hockey world in leading the Coyotes to the 4th seed in the playoffs. Last season, he followed up his career year with another impressive campaign and another trip the post-season. His play slipped in the first round against the Detroit Red Wings—but then again, the entire team saw their play slip.

This isn’t the first time Philadelphia has been proactive in the free agent market. Last season, the Flyers traded for the rights to impending free agent Dan Hamhuis at the NHL Entry Draft in hopes of signing him before he hit the open market a week later. It didn’t work, but the experience didn’t deter them from trying it again with Bryzgalov this season. If it becomes clear that they won’t be able to sign the netminder before July 1st, they’ll also have the option of trading his rights to another potential suitor before the market opens.

If the Flyers can find a way to sign Bryzgalov, they’ll still have quite a bit of work to do in the summer. As it stands today, they’re right up against the salary cap ceiling. Even if the cap increases into the $62.2-$62.4 range as expected, they still need to make decisions on Ville Leino, Sean O’Donnell, Nick Boynton, and Nikolai Zherdev. It wouldn’t be a surprise to anyone involved if all four were allowed to walk away, but they’ll still need to fill those holes on the roster with other capable NHL players. Needless to say, if the Flyers are able to sign Bryzgalov, expect someone’s salary to be sent out of town sometime this summer.

Wherever there’s a will, there’s a way. If GM Holmgren has taught us anything, it’s that the Flyers always find a way to fit any salary they want under the cap. It may be at the expense of someone like Jeff Carter or Scott Hartnell (if he waived his no trade clause), but if the Flyers want a goaltender they can depend on, it might be the price they have to pay.

First thing is first: will they be able to get him to sign before July 1?

Milbury, Jones: Tkachuk walked the walk; Kings’ response was embarrassing

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The Los Angeles Kings got revenge on Matthew Tkachuk and the Calgary Flames on the scoreboard on Wednesday. But was that 4-1 win enough?

Mike Milbury and Keith Jones provided a lengthy “overtime” segment on NBCSN that brought about some really fascinating takes on the situation between Tkachuk and the Flames versus Drew Doughty and the Los Angeles Kings.

Watch the full video above, as it’s worth your time.

A few interesting lines if you’re (tsk tsk) skipping it:

Milbury: Believes that Doughty didn’t “do enough,” noting that star players sometimes have to stick up for themselves. On the other hand, Tkachuk showed that he can “walk the walk.”

He also gave the Kings a “C-, D+ if not worse” for their overall response. “Fight your own battles,” Milbury said of Doughty.

Jones disagreed to some extent, believing that Kings teammates won’t look at Doughty differently. But Jake Muzzin? He believes that Muzzin’s frequent defensive partner (at least over the years, maybe not this season) backing down from a fight was an embarrassment.

Spicy stuff.

For what it’s worth, Drew Doughty has one career fight (against Joe Thornton [!] in 2011-2) while Jake Muzzin’s lone bout came against Andrew Desjardins in 2012-13, according to Hockey Fights. Does that mean they shouldn’t have dropped the gloves on Wednesday? Milbury and Jones seem to believe that they should have answered the bell.

For more, check out a collection of the early violent moments and Tkachuk’s attempted shot at Doughty. The Kings win is summarized in greater detail here.

Measure of revenge: Kings delay clinching efforts for Flames, Blues

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Deep down, the Los Angeles Kings probably realize that their season will end on game 82. Still, they kept their slim playoff hopes alive on Wednesday night … and managed to spite a team they’re growing to hate.

OK, maybe the hate is almost totally focused upon Matthew Tkachuk, yet the disdain for that talented-but-tormenting rookie was palpable.

It didn’t feel like the Kings exacted physical revenge on Tkachuk, but beating his team 4-1 ranked as classic scoreboard vengeance. With that, the Calgary Flames (and by extension the St. Louis Blues) will need to wait to clinch a playoff berth.

Now, as much as tonight was about Tkachuk, the focus was also on a pugnacious player who once dazzled for the Flames: Jarome Iginla.

In what might be Iginla’s final visit to Calgary – at least as an active NHL player – he was one of the best players on the ice. His fitting curtain call included a “Gordie Howe hat trick” with a spirited fight, an assist and a goal.

Seriously, that fight with Deryk Engelland:

That goal included a bit of luck, but hey …

Iginla was named the first star of the contest, and cameras captured his big smile in enjoying a special night. For all the nastiness of that game, it was refreshing to see such a heartwarming moment.

For more on the violence, check out this post on the early stuff and this one on Tkachuk’s missed missile launch on Drew Doughty.

Kings and Canucks will square off in first NHL exhibition games in China

graphic via NHL
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It’s official: the NHL will hold preseason games in China before next season.

The league made the announcement on Wednesday night: the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks will play two exhibitions: one on Sept. 21 (Shanghai) and Sept. 23 (Beijing). How cool is that?

“It is a privilege and an honor for the L.A. Kings to represent the National Hockey League in China as part of these two games against the Vancouver Canucks,” Kings president Luc Robitaille said. “Growing the game of hockey is something we take great pride in and it is a big priority for our hockey club and AEG as a whole. This will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for our players and our staff, and we are looking forward to the games taking place in two tremendous facilities in two remarkable cities.”

The press conference inspired some jokes tonight.

Some of the best bits came in roping in … Kobe Bryant and David Beckham?

Alrighty then.

Click here for more details.

 

Video: Drew Doughty (mostly) avoids massive Matthew Tkachuk hit

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Hockey is such a fast sport that it’s probably not so easy to make someone your “target.” Instead, a big hit often comes down to the right combination of circumstance and timing.

Still, there’s no denying that Matthew Tkachuk is gunning for Drew Doughty (and the Kings are gunning for Tkachuk) on Wednesday.

Doughty isn’t oblivious to that notion, either, as you can see him avoid what looked like a pretty terrifying hit above.

We’ve already covered the early violence in this game, and it’s quite possible that there will be more carnage going forward. Stay tuned.