Simon Gagne

Flyers West? Los Angeles Kings shrewdly sign Simon Gagne to two-year, $7M deal

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If you ask me, the Los Angeles Kings dodged a bullet two years in a row. They came up just short of nabbing Ilya Kovalchuk last season after the New Jersey Devils locked him up (and then went on to flop their way out of the playoffs). This time around Kings GM Dean Lombardi probably flinched at the kind of term that 31-year-old star Brad Richards was asking for and his team will likely be better for it.

The Kings backed into a better move for their team this afternoon after they signed injury-prone but extremely useful winger Simon Gagne to a two-year deal worth $7 million. That’s one heck of a value when you consider the fact that the Toronto Maple Leafs handed even-more-fragile (and less proven) center Tim Connolly a two-year deal worth $9.5 million today.

Yes, it’s another risky deal

Again, there’s no denying the notion that Gagne might miss some serious time in Los Angeles. He missed  19 games with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2010-11 and 24 contests with his long-time team the Philadelphia Flyers in 2009-10 and dealt with concussion issues in the past and during the 2011 playoffs. For a franchise that has a checkered past with injury-prone players, this signing might not work out.

Why it’s worth the risk

Yet when you look at the big picture, this might be one of the best deals of the 2011 free agent frenzy. That might be something of a backhanded compliment, but $3.5 million per year is an absolute steal for a player of Gagne’s caliber.

Injuries limited him to dual 40-point seasons the last two years, but Gagne is a two-time 40+ goal scorer, scored at least 30 goals two more times and has three other 20+ goal seasons. It’s very rare to find a scorer on his level at such a reasonable price; would you rather roll the dice with Gagne’s health or give Michael Ryder a similar deal and hold your breath that he’ll even show up to games?

Gagne brings Flyer familiarity and fits a need

I’ve joked about this before, but it’s become clearer and clearer that the Kings are turning into Philadelphia Flyers West. GM Lombardi and head coach Terry Murray have ties to the Flyers organization. Mike Richards was the captain of the 2010-11 team. Justin Williams was once a hot prospect for the Philly organization while recently departed center Michal Handzus also cut his teeth in Philadelphia. Now the Kings added a long-time Flyers who was so popular in that area, he received an ovation when he played against the Flyers as a member of the Lightning.

Beyond that, the move makes a lot of hockey sense. The Kings were shifting from a team that was rich on wingers and poor on centers to the opposite. They added Richards to make them strong down the middle with Anze Kopitar and Jarret Stoll also in the lineup, but parting with Ryan Smyth and Wayne Simmonds weakened them at the wings. If reasonably healthy, Gagne’s speed and scoring would make him an extremely valuable left wing in Los Angeles. It wouldn’t be surprising if he skated with Richards considering their comfort level with each other, but Gagne could be a nice compliment to Kopitar too.

The best part is that Kings fans can breathe a sigh of relief because they won’t have too depend too much on lethargic, unpopular acquisition Dustin Penner.

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Overall, I think this is one of the best moves of free agency. There’s almost always a risk factor in this area and Gagne’s health is the blaring red flag. That being said, the term is palatable and the $3.5 million cap hit is about as good as it gets for a guy with 276 regular season goals on his resume.

Score a big win for the Flyers … er, I mean the Kings, this afternoon.

Will the bad blood between the Canucks and Maple Leafs spill over into tonight’s rematch?

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There will be plenty to keep an eye on tonight when the Vancouver Canucks host the Toronto Maple Leafs.

— There are the extra curricular activities:

Tempers boiled over in the last meeting on Nov. 5. It started when Toronto forward Nazem Kadri delivered a controversial hit to Daniel Sedin, resulting in a fight between Kadri and Jannik Hansen.

There was no suspension to Kadri, which obviously disappointed the Canucks.

Alex Burrows speared Morgan Rielly.

That third period turned into a throwback to a much grittier era in hockey, with Derek Dorsett fighting Leo Komarov and then Matt Martin grabbing rookie blue liner Troy Stecher in the corner, prompting goalie Ryan Miller to leave his crease and grab Martin, resulting in a heated skirmish. The two teams combined for 171 penalty minutes that night.

Canucks defenseman Erik Gudbranson also made a threat to Martin once the game was over. His words were overheard by reporters.

It’s no surprise the league and its department of player safety is paying extra attention to this game.

“It was wrong,” Gudbranson told the Vancouver Sun. “But the number of times I’ve said that (on the ice) is probably higher than most would expect. But do I mean it? No. That’s the honest truth. No, I’m not going to kill the guy. That’s insanity. I was just frustrated at that point, and unfortunately it got taken to a level that I didn’t expect.”

— Two teams with apparently different philosophies of how to build a winning team:

The Maple Leafs are in a rebuild. And while the consistency hasn’t been there this season, they’ve proven on a number of occasions to be an exciting team with a very talented, promising crop of young players.

Auston Matthews is the face of this rebuild.

The Canucks, meanwhile, don’t seem to want to venture down the path of an aggressive rebuild. Did we mention they sit 28th in the overall standings? Did we mention they’ve had difficulty scoring? They’re 29th in that category. Did we mention they’ve had their struggles in goal? They have the 29th-ranked save percentage at five-on-five.

Canucks president Trevor Linden discussed the notion of a rebuild in a wide-ranging interview with Sportsnet, but it still appears the Canucks aren’t in favor of such a drastic step.

“What people fail to realize is the older group of players we had here—the Garrisons and Keslers and Bieksas and Higgins and Hamhuises—which are no longer with us, these are good people. These are leaders. Perhaps in Toronto that wasn’t the case,” said Linden.

“We have Daniel and Henrik Sedin here, who are very important to this organization and icons in the city. They’re not going anywhere. I don’t know how I walk into the room and tell these guys, “Strip it down.” I’m not sure it’s fair to these guys. There’s different circumstances, be it in Toronto or Carolina or Vancouver, that require different routes. It’s not perfect, but I’m encouraged by the young players we’ve introduced, and we’ve got some young prospects.”

Indeed, plenty to keep an eye on between these two teams tonight. Plenty to debate, too.

Sharp placed on IR with concussion symptoms

GLENDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 18:  Patrick Sharp #10 of the Dallas Stars during the NHL game against the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena on February 18, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona. The Coyotes defeated the Stars 6-3.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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The Dallas Stars wrap up a four-game road trip tonight against the Colorado Avalanche, but they will be without forward Patrick Sharp.

It’s unknown when, exactly, he’ll be back in the lineup.

On Saturday, the Stars placed Sharp on injured reserve retroactive to Dec. 1 with concussions symptoms.

“He has concussion symptoms. We don’t know if it is related to the last one,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “He’s going to be evaluated, and obviously he is going to be out. It’s something he missed a lot of time with and something we want to be really careful with.”

Per the Dallas Morning News, Sharp must be out at least seven days, but it’s almost impossible to put a timeline on concussions given their complex nature.

Sharp has already missed time this season — 14 games to be specific — with a concussion he suffered in October.

“Most injuries you can circle a date, but the injury I suffered was a day-to-day thing I thought I had experienced in the past, but never quite like this,” Sharp said recently.

“The type of injury that I had, you hear some scary stories from around the league. … I’m thankful I was able to come out of it and feel healthy and strong.”

Matt Beleskey suffers lower-body injury in Bruins win in Buffalo

BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 20:  Matt Beleskey #39 of the Boston Bruins takes a shot against New Jersey Devils  during the third period at TD Garden on October 20, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Bruins defeat the Devils 2-1.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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The Boston Bruins have back-to-back wins, as they held on to defeat the Buffalo Sabres 2-1 on Saturday.

However, there was bad news for the Bruins as forward Matt Beleskey left the game after the first period and didn’t return due to a lower-body injury. The injury occurred as Beleskey was hit by Taylor Fedun as he was cutting across the Buffalo blue line. There was no call on the play.

Beleskey’s right knee collided with Fedun’s hip, as the Buffalo defender pivoted at the last second.

So far, there has been no word on the severity of the injury.

Patrice Bergeron scored the winning goal for Boston.

In 24 games this season, Beleskey has two goals and five points. The Bruins host the Florida Panthers on Monday.

Provorov scores two goals in 30 seconds to lead Flyers over Blackhawks

PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 03:  Ivan Provorov #9 of the Philadelphia Flyers is congratulated by teammate Andrew MacDonald #47 after Provorov scored a goal in the second period against the Chicago Blackhawks on December 3, 2016 at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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One of the biggest reasons the Philadelphia Flyers should be optimistic about their future is the fact their farm system has produced a couple of potential top-pairing defensemen the past two years in Shayne Gostisbehere and Ivan Provorov.

We already saw the impact Gostisbehere’s debut made a year ago when finished second in the Calder Trophy voting and was perhaps their most important player in the second half of the season on their way to earning a playoff spot. This year it is Provorov’s turn to make his debut, and while he hasn’t been quite as dominant as Gostisbehere was in his rookie season, he played his best game of the season on Saturday afternoon in a 3-1 win over the Chicago Blackhawks.

In just a little more than 20 minutes of ice-time, Provorov scored a pair of goals (both as part of a three-goal second period for the Flyers), recorded four shots on goal, and was a plus-six in shot attempt differential for the day. His two goals came just 30 seconds apart, with the first one tying the game at one, and the second one going in the books as the game-winner.

Have a look at both goals.

Both shots beat Blackhawks goalie Scott Darling from similar spots on the ice. Darling ended up getting the start on Saturday because Corey Crawford was undergoing an appendectomy and will be sidelined for the time being. The Blackhawks had to sign a backup goalie pretty much off of the street to serve as the backup. Coach Joel Quenneville said after the game they could not use goalie coach Jimmy Waite as the emergency backup because he would have counted against the salary cap. It had to be an amateur with no pro experience.

The win on Saturday keeps a couple of streaks going for the Flyers.

First, it was their fourth win in a row and is now their longest winning streak of the season. It is also the 13th consecutive time they have beaten the Blackhawks in Philadelphia during the regular season. You have to go back to 1996 to find the last time the Blackhawks won a regular season game in Philadelphia. We emphasize the regular season part of that because the Blackhawks did win a pretty big playoff game in the city back in 2010.