Report: Flyers looking to trade Bobrovsky

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As if the Flyers and Russian goaltenders haven’t been in the news enough, the latest out of Philadelphia combines the two topics into one big, tantalizing story. The Flyers are reportedly shopping Sergei Bobrovsky despite the rookie’s impressive 28-15-8 record. Yes, you heard that correctly. Despite having a .915 save percentage, 2.59 goals against average, and being a Calder Trophy candidate for the first half of the season, the 22-year-old is on the trade market.

In November, he was supposed to finally be the answer to the Flyers’ two decade long goaltender search. Even with veterans Brian Boucher and Michael Leighton on the roster, Bobrovsky took his opportunity and made the Flyers keep him on the roster with his stellar play between the pipes. Now it looks like he’s the goaltender left standing when the music has stopped.

Philadelphia Inquirer beat reporter Frank Seravalli has the scoop:

According to sources, the Flyers began to shop Bobrovsky – the man they called “the goaltender of the future” as recently as May – to all suitors once they struck a 9-year deal with Ilya Bryzgalov on June 23.

(snip)

“The Flyers, though, couldn’t get the exact asking price they hoped for when shopping Bobrovsky’s services on the open market. Varlamov, a fellow Russian only 5 months older than Bobrovsky, netted Washington a first- and second-round pick in a July 1 trade.

It’s plain to see that Bobrovsky – without the first-round pedigree and nearly 3 full years’ worth of experience in North America – would not garner as much as Varlamov on the market. The Flyers would have pulled the trigger at that price.”

There are three reasons why Bobrovsky is on the trading block:

1. Ilya Bryzgalov: When the team trades away two of their cornerstone centers to make room for a 9-year, $51 million contract, you know he’s the man for the future. When the organization called Bobrovsky “the goaltender of the future,” they weren’t talking about the 2020-21 season. They can either let him rot as the back-up, let him dominate the AHL in Adirondack (he’d have to clear waivers), or trade him while his value is still relatively high. Even though he’s only 22-years-old, he’s already proven that he can play in the NHL. With some seasoning and experience, he could be a very good goaltender for another team. At least that’s what the Flyers will be telling potential suitors.

2. Money: Sooner or later it always comes back to money. Bobrovsky scored a 3-year entry-level deal when he was playing with Novokuznetsk Metallurg in the KHL. His impressive play earned him a deal worth $1.75 million annually—a number that now poses problems for the Flyers and their salary cap. Only Antero Niittymaki of the San Jose Sharks is a higher paid back-up ($2 million cap hit). It’s interesting: his deal is great for the Flyers if he’s their starter, yet it’s tremendous overpayment if he’s the back-up. Teams that are annually up against the cap don’t have the luxury of overpaying back-up goaltenders.

3. Waivers: Perhaps more problematic than his salary is that he’d have to clear waivers if the Flyers wanted to send him down to Adirondack next season. Even though he never played a game in the AHL last season, the Flyers had the option of sending him down to Adirondack if they so desired without having to worry about another team snatching him up.

The Flyers have five goaltenders under contract for next season and only four spots on the NHL/AHL teams. Whoever plays behind Bryzgalov at the NHL level can pretty much expect to sit on the bench for at least 60 games next season—which means it’s not the ideal situation for a developing goaltender. Bryzgalov has the starting job locked up, Jason Bacashihua just signed a one-year deal, Michael Leighton is under contract for another season, and Johan Backlund still has a year left before he becomes a free agent. The Flyers’ organization has high hopes for Backlund and he’s almost $1 million cheaper in regards to the salary cap.

Let’s throw this out to the readers. What would you do if you were Flyers GM Paul Holmgren? Would you hold onto the young goaltender as an expensive insurance policy against Bryzgalov? Would you bury him in the AHL? Or would you trade him for assets that you could fit under the cap?

Let’s hear what you have…

UMass-Lowell junior Smith leaves school, signs with Buffalo

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C.J. Smith, the UMass-Lowell forward that finished eighth in the country in goalscoring (23) this year, has signed a two-year, entry-level deal with the Sabres, the club announced on Thursday.

Smith, 22, is coming off an impressive 51-point junior campaign for the River Hawks, which he punctuated with MVP honors in the Hockey East tournament.

According to the Buffalo News, Smith will get a crack at some NHL action this year and suit up in the Sabres’ final five games of the season.

It’s been a busy 48 hours of departures for UMass-Lowell. Walter Brown Award winner Joseph Gambardella, a senior that served as alternate captain this year, inked with Edmonton yesterday while defenseman Michael Kapla signed with the Devils.

NHL on NBCSN: Bruins continue push for playoff spot against Stars

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NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2016-17 campaign tonight when the Boston Bruins host the Dallas Stars at 7:30 p.m. ET. If you want to watch the game online, you can do so here.

With six games to go, the Bruins are in a decent spot when it comes to making the playoffs, but they’re far from a lock.

They currently sit three points ahead of Tampa Bay in the chase for the final Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference, but the Bolts have a game in hand.

Boston got off to a great start when they named Bruce Cassidy as Claude Julien’s replacement. They cooled off considerably (they lost four in a row) in the last couple of weeks. Now, they head into tonight’s action having won each of their last two games.

“I don’t have the reason why it wasn’t there for maybe a three-game stretch there,” said David Backes, per the Boston Globe. “But the fact that it’s back, and we’ve got our legs under us and we found that winning way again . . . hopefully, lesson learned.”

The good news for them, is that they can still move up the standings too. The Bruins are one point behind the Toronto Maple Leafs, who are third in the Atlantic Division. Finishing in the second Wild Card spot means likely playing Washington in the first round, while finishing third in the Atlantic would mean possibly playing Ottawa.

After tonight’s game against the Stars, the Bruins will play four of their last five games (Florida, Tampa, Ottawa, Washington) at the TD Garden. Their only road game will be in Chicago. So they’ll face some pretty good teams, but at least they’ll do so on home ice.

Last week, the Stars were officially eliminated from the playoff picture, which wasn’t exactly surprising.

Dallas was hit hard by the injury bug, as they lost Mattias Janmark, Ales Hemsky early on, while Valeri Nichushkin bolted for the KHL.

So with the playoffs out of sight and out of mind, the Stars can focus on getting their young players some more ice time over the last two weeks of the regular season.

Players like Julius Honka, Curtis McKenzie, Remi Elie and Jason Dickinson should all get an extended look.

“We’re in a place where we need them to play important roles,” coach Lindy Ruff said of his young players, per the Dallas Morning News. “and we need them to play well.

“We need to finish hard and play hard. I think we’re all focused on being professional and giving our best effort.”

 We’ll find out if they can play spoiler in Boston tonight.

PHT Morning Skate: Zdeno Chara shot catches emergency goalie in a sensitive spot

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–Sean McIndoe looks at five players who became the unlikeliest first 50-goal scorers in their franchise’s history. McIndoe chose Rick MacLeish (Flyers), Rick Vaive (Maple Leafs), Vic Hadfield (Rangers), Guy Chouinard (Flames) and Mickey Redmond (Red Wings). (The Hockey News)

–A lot of people think hockey players are the toughest athletes, but Islanders forward Anders Lee is here to tell you that they aren’t tough at all. In his story for The Players’ Tribune, Lee writes about a tough, young friend, who is battling cancer. “In the seven years since he has been diagnosed, he has gone through multiple surgeries. He’s had countless radiation treatments. He’s gone through chemotherapy, immunotherapy and stem cell transplants. And he does it all with a smile on his face. So when I hear people refer to me as tough because I play hockey, I think of Fenov and kids like him.” (The Players’ Tribune)

–The Boston Bruins needed an emergency goalie for their practice yesterday, and they settled on Massachusetts state trooper Kevin Segee. Surely, it was the experience of a lifetime for him, but it didn’t come without pain. Segee was clearly shaken up after getting a Zdeno Chara in the…well, you know. (CSN New England)

–Blackhawks forwards Artemi Panarin, Patrick Kane and Tanner Kero each had multi-point games in Wednesday’s 5-1 thumping of the Pittsburgh Penguins. You can watch the highlights from the game by clicking the video at the top of the page.

–What was the world like the last time the Detroit Red Wings missed the playoffs? Thanks to Sports Illustrated, we don’t have to wonder. In 1990, J.K. Rowling had just started writing the Harry Potter series, Donald Trump walked out of an interview with CNN because they were asking tough questions about his casino, the first known webpage was written and much, much more. (Sports Illustrated)

–Edmonton Oilers players and their significant others came together to make 400-500 bowls of homemade soup for charity. It’s pretty cool to see most of the team be involved in such a nice event, even though the onion chopping station gave some of the guys a hard time. (Edmonton Oilers on Twitter)

–Sportsnet has assembled the top hits of the week for your viewing pleasure. Hits from that Toronto, Columbus game made the video a couple of times:

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.