Youthful newcomers excited to join Flyers

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Much of the attention over the last few days has focused on Jeff Carter, Mike Richards, and their exodus from the City of Brotherly love. But as time passes, a storyline that will gradually become just as important as the players lost will be the young NHLers coming back to the Flyers in the trade. There’s the 8th overall pick in this year’s draft (Sean Couturier), the 7th overall pick in 2007 (Jakub Voracek), and the 5th overall pick in the 2009 draft (Brayden Schenn). The three lottery picks will certainly have their hands full trying to replace two of the best players on one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference. No pressure guys.

Their development within their new organization and ability to handle the pressure of Philadelphia will be the determining factors when people look back at these trades. If they blossom into the players the Flyers envision, the trades will help the team’s success for the next 5-10 years. If they wilt under the pressure, then GM Paul Holmgren may need a helicopter and personal bodyguard to survive the lynch mob in South Philly.

Each of the former top 10 draft picks sounds like they’re excited for their newfound opportunity with the Flyers. Even though Couturier and Schenn want to make the big club next season, Holmgren has reiterated that he’s going to do what’s right for their long-term development.

“I think with both of these young men we’re going to be patient,” Holmgren said. “We believe [Schenn is] ready, but again, those players, ultimately, answer the questions [if they are ready].”

(snip)

“My main goal is to make the NHL next year,” Couturier said. “Once I get to camp I’ll be prepared.”

For his part, Brayden Schenn is saying all the right things about the trade as well:

“It’s pretty crazy. It’s a big deal. Myself and Wayne Simmonds got traded for a great player.

“It’s a thrill, a little bit shocking to be here … I’m thrilled to be part of the organization and history there. I’m going into a great organization that’s close to winning [the Stanley Cup] and that’s what I’m excited for.”

The Kings had been patient with Schenn’s development over the last two seasons, but all indications point towards a player who’s ready to show his stuff at the NHL level. Last season he bounced all over North America as the Kings organization tried to decide what they wanted to do with him. He got into 8 NHL games (2 assists) with the Kings, 7 AHL games with the Manchester Monarchs (3 goals, 4 assists), a couple of games with the Brandon Wheat Kings in the WHL, and finally 27 more games with the Saskatoon Blades where he had 21 goals and 53 points. Sandwiched in between his stints in three separate leagues, he also had a spectacular showing at the World Junior Championships with Team Canada. The younger Schenn managed to tie a Team Canada record by netting 18 points in only seven games.

By all accounts, he was one of the most promising hockey players in the world outside in the NHL last year.

Finally, the 21-year-old Jakub Voracek is the veteran of the first round trifecta. Voracek already has three NHL seasons under his belt; he has 39 goals and 95 assists in 241 career games. Whether it was the way Columbus handled his development, the lack of high-end linemates, or an overrated skill set, the young Czech has been a bit of a disappointment thus far. He’s looking forward to his opportunity with the Flyers:

“There’s going to be a lot of expectations from me as well and that’s why I’m working hard in the summer; I’m in Montreal right now and trying to get ready as much as possible, and I hope everything is going to work out well.”

“When I’m on my game I like to play along the boards. I’m an up-and-down, up-and-down, up-and-down winger and I try to play the best I can on both ends and obviously I have to work on my shot a little bit more in this off-season, but I would say that I’m more of a play-maker than a shooter or scorer.”

 

Up next for all three promising players is the opportunity to jump into Philadelphia’s lineup next season. Voracek will clearly get a chance to show his stuff on the wing, but both Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier will be battling to fill the void at center left by Richards’ and Carter’s departure. There are question marks behind Claude Giroux and Danny Briere—so there’s a chance they both could make the NHL at bottom-six centers. Either way, the Flyers should be happy with the newfound, high-end talent they have in the organization.

It certainly sounds like the players are just as excited.

Blockbuster: Rangers send Stepan, Raanta to Coyotes for No. 7 pick, DeAngelo

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Just when you thought Stan Bowman was the busiest man at draft weekend, John Chayka upped the ante.

Just minutes after acquiring Niklas Hjalmarsson from the ‘Hawks, Chayka went out and acquired veteran Rangers center Derek Stepan — along with netminder Antti Raanta — in exchange for the No. 7 overall pick at tonight’s draft, and young d-man Anthony DeAngelo.

The trade was first broken by TSN’s Darren Dreger, later confirmed by fellow TSNer Bob McKenzie.

Phew.

In Stepan the Coyotes get a massive upgrade at the center position, which was bereft of talent for all of last season. It’s why Arizona had been tied to Stepan for most of this week. The 27-year-old has consistently been able to go beyond the 50-point plateau, with 17 goals and 55 points last season, and will certainly be a boost to Arizona’s crop of talented young forwards.

Stepan’s entering the third year of a six-year, $39 million contract that comes with an annual cap hit of $6.5 million. And, importantly, the Rangers moved him prior to his no-trade clause kicking in next season. The money freed up by trading Stepan could be used in free agency to land, say, defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk.

As for the other part of this deal, the Coyotes could also have their starting netminder of the future in Raanta, now that Mike Smith has been shipped off to Calgary. Raanta has been one of the league’s best backups working behind Henrik Lundqvist in New York, and a new No. 2 goalie is probably on the Rangers’ revised shopping list.

This trade also gives New York a pair of first-rounders this evening — the Rangers already held the No. 21 overall selection — which is important, given GM Jeff Gorton is without second- and third-round picks. They Blueshirts also received a good puck mover in DeAngelo, a former first-round pick himself.

DeAngelo, 21, made his NHL debut last year and scored 14 points in 39 games. He’s been described as a skilled offensive defenseman, but one with a history of disciplinary issues. That continued last year in Arizona, when he was suspended three games for abuse of an official.

More to follow…

 

Chicago Fire: ‘Hawks re-acquire Saad, send Panarin to Columbus as massive shakeup continues

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Stan Bowman has made good on his promise for big changes in Chicago.

Just minutes after sending longtime defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson to Arizona, Bowman got the band back together by re-acquiring former ‘Hawk Brandon Saad, who he traded to Columbus two years ago.

Per Sportsnet, the Blue Jackets will receive Artemi Panarin in exchange. Right now it’s unclear if any other pieces are involved in the deal, though earlier the ‘Hawks were reportedly looking to move up to the No. 7 pick in tonight’s draft, a pick Arizona currently holds.

UPDATE: Per TSN’s Pierre LeBrun, Chicago will also get goalie Anton Forsberg and Columbus’ fifth-round pick in 2018. Columbus will get Tyler Motte and Chicago’s sixth-round pick this year.

Saad left Chicago shortly after the 2015 Stanley Cup win, in a deal that landed the ‘Hawks Artem Aninisov and a handful of others. The 24-year-old has since gone on to score 31 and 24 goals in his two years with the Blue Jackets.

Immediately after Saad left, Panarin joined the ‘Hawks and immediately stepped in as a frontline contributor. He’s posted back-to-back 30-goal campaigns — capturing the Calder as the NHL’s top rookie in 2016 — and has been a dynamic offensive player, often alongside Patrick Kane.

As for the money involved, both carry identical $6 million hits. Big difference is that Saad’s locked in through 2021, whereas Panarin is eligible to be a UFA in 2019. So there’s certainly more cost certainty for Bowman with this trade.

More to follow…

After helping ‘change the culture,’ Greene’s Kings career ends with buyout

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The Los Angeles Kings made it official on Friday and bought out the remaining years of defenseman Matt Greene‘s contract.

Greene spent nine years as a member of the Kings, winning two Stanley Cups with the team in 2011-12 and 2013-14.

In a statement announcing the move, team president Luc Robitaille spoke about Greene’s impact on the organization and how he helped change the team’s culture as soon as he arrived.

“Matt has made incredible contributions to our hockey club and we are very grateful for everything he has done since joining our organization including his outstanding leadership,” said Robitaille.

“Upon his arrival to Los Angeles he played a significant role in helping change the culture of the Kings and his contributions to our two Stanley Cups in particular is immeasurable.”

Injuries have completely decimated Greene’s career in recent years, limiting him to just 154 games over the past five seasons.

The buyout will cost the Kings a salary cap hit of $833,333 for the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons.

Trade: Chicago sends Hjalmarsson to Coyotes for Murphy, Dauphin

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One of the key pieces of Chicago’s three Stanley Cup championships is on the move.

Blueliner Niklas Hjalmarsson, who’s spent his entire 10-year career with the Blackhawks, has been dealt to Arizona in exchange for fellow defenseman Connor Murphy, and prospect Laurent Dauphin.

Hjalmarsson, 30, has been a staple of the Chicago defense for quite some time. He’s durable, having only missed 11 games over the last four seasons, and has earned his reputation as a reliable top-four defensive defenseman.

As for the financials, Hjalmarsson has two years remaining on a five-year, $20.5 million deal with a $4.1M average annual cap hit. It’s worth noting he has a modified no-trade clause, in which he had to submit a 10-team trade list.

Murphy, 24, just wrapped the first of a six-year, $23.1 million deal with a $3.85M hit. That he was moved has to come as some surprise, given he signed a lengthy extension just last summer and, at the time, GM John Chayka said Murphy was “a guy we think can be part of our leadership group for a long time moving forward.”

Murphy appeared in 77 games for the Coyotes last year, scoring 17 points. It’s probably worth noting his TOI actually decreased after signing his extension, from 20:30 in ’15-16 to just 19:11 last year.

Dauphin, 22, was the 39th overall pick in 2013. He split last year between Arizona and AHL Tucson, and was a good scorer at the minor league level (28 points in 38 games).