Flyers work towards a deal with Bryzgalov this week, must wait to make corresponding moves

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After trading for his rights ten days ago, this week was when the Flyers planned to give Ilya  Bryzgalov their best sales pitch. They flew him from his home in Russia to JFK Airport aboard Ed Snider’s private jet. They talked dollars, they talked years, they showed him the city, and gave him an idea of what to expect if he were to become the newest member of the Philadelphia Flyers. Now that Bryzgalov has experienced a few days of brotherly love, what do we know that we didn’t know before he arrived from Russia.

Explicitly, nothing—which is exactly how the Flyers brass and Bryzgalov’s agent want it. Here is Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren’s official statement:

“We have spoken with Ilya and his agent Ritch Winter about many different scenarios. As for now, we both know each other’s position and have agreed to speak again next week.”

For better or worse, Holmgren’s statement is the only comment that’s been released for public consumption. Fans who want Bryzgalov to wear the creamsicle orange and black can read into the comment that they made progress and working towards a contract as early as next week. Pessimists (or opponents who want Bryzgalov) can read the prepared statement as something like, “we know each other’s position and we’re not close enough to continue negotiating at this time.” That’s why these public comments can cause so much debate. The beauty of subjectivity.

Adding another twist to the plot is the Flyers current salary cap situation. Even if they had reached an agreement with Bryzgalov, they can’t sign the former Coyotes netminder quite yet. Though it’s the offseason, Bryzgalov would put the team too far over the cap. They’d need to make a corresponding move (or two) that sheds salary before they could bring Bryzgalov’s contract into the fold. Tim Panaccio from CSN Philly breaks it down:

“Ideally, Holmgren would like to have a deal in place before he goes to next weekend’s NHL Draft in Minnesota so he can move players for draft picks (the Flyers don’t have a first- or second-round pick).

Here’s the rub: it’s entirely possible that the Flyers already have the framework for a deal with Bryzgalov, but it’s unfinished. Even if the deal got done this weekend, the Flyers can’t announce it until June 30.

Why? Because this is where the tagging issue comes in under the CBA. The new salary cap is slated to be announced on June 30. At present, the Flyers have less than $450,000 in cap space for next season under the current cap ceiling of $59.4 million.”

The point about making a deal before the NHL Draft next weekend is a valid one. If the Flyers are going to make multiple moves to clear up salary space for Bryzgalov, obviously they won’t want to take much salary back in each trade. Instead of roster-ready players, they’d like be looking for high-end prospects and draft picks. Since the Flyers won’t pick until the 83rd pick in the draft (Dan Hamhuis trade), Holmgren would love to get a few picks in first couple of rounds.

For better or worse, the Flyers can’t do anything until they internally figure out the Bryzgalov’s deal. Once they have an idea of Bryzgalov’s contract number (or if they’ll sign him at all), then they’ll be able to start clearing out space for the goaltender. Unfortunately, there’s no point to clearing out cap space with guys like Jeff Carter or Scott Hartnell if they can’t guarantee that Bryzgalov will sign on the dotted line. But if/when they know Bryzgalov will be a Flyer, it’ll be interesting to see which players the team chooses to sell off and what assets they can acquire in return.

For now, first thing’s first.

Eddie Lack expects to be released from hospital on Monday night

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As scary as the situation was for Carolina Hurricanes goalie Eddie Lack, the good news continues to pour in.

First, the Hurricanes provided an update that he had “full feeling in his extremities” while under observation at a hospital. This followed the promising sign that he was able to give a “thumbs up” gesture while being taken off the ice on a stretcher after the Hurricanes’ 4-3 overtime loss to the Detroit Red Wings.

The best news came late on Monday night, however, as Lack himself tweeted that he expects to head back home as early as this late evening/early morning:

That’s fantastic news. Video of that scary collision with Andreas Athanasiou can be seen in the video above this post’s headline.

Blues, Flames take care of business (Islanders … do not)

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For a while there, it seemed like the idle Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs would be Monday’s “winners.” That changed when the Carolina Hurricanes salvaged a standings point and the Tampa Bay Lightning stormed back to beat the Blackhawks.

Still, there were some teams who came through (beyond the Lightning) and those who fell flat, so let’s cover some of the results in short.

West teams get it done

Unlike their counterparts out East, West teams jockeying for position avoided “unforced errors” in losing to non-playoff teams.

The St. Louis Blues beat the Arizona Coyotes 4-1 while the Calgary Flames topped the Colorado Avalanche 4-2. Johnny Gaudreau generated his 200th point (and 201st) in Calgary’s win, while Alex Steen generated four assists. (Vladimir Tarasenko also enjoyed a three-point night.)

This keeps the Blues and Flames in position to advance. St. Louis is one point behind the Nashville Predators for third in the Central while the Flames are a point behind both the Sharks and Oilers for second and third in the Pacific (while remaining in shouting distance of the division title).

East teams stumble, some get over it

Again, the Lightning fought through hurdles to win and the Hurricanes managed that “charity point.”

Overall, East teams struggled. The New York Islanders fell to the Predators by a score of 3-1. Your mileage may vary on the Florida Panthers’ chances, especially after they fell 4-2 to the Buffalo Sabres.

Brian Gionta scored in his 1,000th game as Buffalo won, by the way.

Here’s what the race for the final spot in the East looks like after tonight:

Final wild card: Bruins – 84 points in 75 games played

Lightning – 83 points in 75 GP
Islanders – 82 points in 75 GP
Hurricanes – 80 points in 74 GP

Victor Hedman might just force his way into the Norris argument

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For quite some time this season, the Norris Trophy race felt a bit like “Brent Burns, Erik Karlsson and [insert token finalist].” As it turns out, Victor Hedman is making it a pretty interesting three-horse race.

With Burns and Karlsson idle on Monday, Hedman continued to go on the best offensive tear of his already-impressive career, contributing three assists to the Tampa Bay Lightning’s 5-4 overtime win against the Chicago Blackhawks.

As much credit as forwards Nikita Kucherov and Jonathan Drouin deserve in pushing Tampa Bay in Steven Stamkos‘ absence, Hedman has been an all-world blueliner for a Lightning team with a defense that isn’t really surrounding him with great talent.

He’s serving as a workhorse when his team needs him the most:

Now, when you look at the numbers, it’s probably fair to say that Hedman comes in third among the likely finalists in simple categories:

Brent Burns: 27 goals (!), 72 points in 75 games, +16 rating, 24:52 time-on-ice average

Erik Karlsson: 14 goals, 67 points in 74 games, +7, 26:53 minutes per game (fourth highest average in the NHL)

Victor Hedman: 15 goals, 65 points in 72 games, +2 rating, came into Monday with average of 24:15 minutes per game.

Looking at those breakdowns, you might wonder why someone wouldn’t just flippantly hand Hedman the “bronze medal” and a pat on the back … but things get more interesting if you ponder the all-around impact of those three.

Now, traditional-thinkers who slam risky defensemen for their mistakes often overstate such arguments. Both Burns and Karlsson tilt the ice in their teams’ favors, usually to profound degrees.

Still … Hedman locks opponents down to a truly elite degree and scores at a similar rate. Hedman could very well own the “two-way” argument; you could perhaps see his case most clearly when you compare his “HERO” chart to those of Burns and Karlsson, especially from the perspective of conceding shots.

Again, Burns remains the likely winner, and he would be a deserving one. You could make a solid Hart Trophy argument for Burns, in addition to tabbing him as the Norris frontrunner.

Even so, voters would be wise to take Hedman’s case seriously, especially as the Lightning continue their improbable playoff push.

Lightning storm back against Blackhawks, finish one point out of playoffs

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Who would have thought that the Tampa Bay Lightning would rally back from a 4-1 deficit tonight? Then again, who expected them to be so close to a playoff spot mere weeks ago, when they were sellers at the trade deadline?

The Lightning continue to show that they won’t just roll over and die, scoring four unanswered goals to beat the Chicago Blackhawks 5-4 in overtime on Monday.

While Jonathan Drouin was a catalyst for the second-period rally, it was an unlikely scorer who clinched the victory, as Yanni Gourde ended a thrilling run of 3-on-3 chances with the overtime-winner.

Really, it might have been fitting. Things looked glum when Tomas Jurco scored his first goal of the season against the Lightning, then the mood was totally flipped when Gourde’s second tally of 2016-17 grabbed a huge win.

With the Islanders losing to the Predators, the Hurricanes only managing a “loser point” against the Red Wings and the Bruins idle, Tampa Bay is a breath away from a playoff berth:

Final wild card: Bruins – 84 points in 75 games played

Lightning – 83 points in 75 GP
Islanders – 82 points in 75 GP
Hurricanes – 80 points in 74 GP

Yes, all of a sudden, a long-shot postseason run seems quite attainable.

Maybe the Lightning would prefer it if we kept counting them out, though?