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…

Huge step? Doctors may find a way to identify CTE in living NHL players

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Pro Football Talk’s Josh Alper and TSN’s Rick Westhead pass along what could be a breakthrough Boston University study  – or at least the early stages of a breakthrough – in how concussions/CTE are handled in sports.

The key: after only being able to study brains of deceased athletes, there’s a chance that living athletes with CTE might eventually be identified.

On face value, that’s great news for player health. Hockey, like other contact sports such as football, is no stranger to careers and lives being derailed by brain injuries.

Of course, the NHL and NHLPA would need to cooperate to make the most of potential progress. If you’ve watched hockey long enough, particularly postseason hockey, you know that certain protocols can stand as great concepts met with hesitant execution.

Westhead expounds on such thoughts, and some of his findings aren’t very pretty.

The league is embroiled in a class-action lawsuit regarding concussions, and its actions have been elusive enough that politicians have gone as far as to accuse Gary Bettman and the NHL of being “delusional” about the issue.

Don’t just put this on the league, though.

Players might be hesitant to take such tests if it means that they’ll miss playing time (or even see their careers end). It brings back memories of Peyton Manning willfully sandbagging his baseline concussion test. For better or worse, these guys want to play.

Not great, yet you can also understand the human element.

Of course, it’s crucial to realize that potential breakthroughs from this study could take quite some time to trickle into functional practices, even if leagues and players end up being more willing to comply than expected.

Overall, this is promising news. Hopefully such changes could help athletes during their careers and into retirement.

Sprong continues to impress, just not enough to make Penguins (yet)

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The Pittsburgh Penguins frequently give prospect Daniel Sprong rave reviews, yet it seems like they believe that he still needs some seasoning before making a dent at the NHL level.

Sprong and fellow intriguing forward Zach Aston-Reese headlined a group of 21 players the Penguins demoted to the AHL on Tuesday.

Here is the full list:

Forwards Zach Aston-Reese, Teddy Blueger, Jean-Sebastien Dea, Thomas Di Pauli, Adam Johnson, Sam Miletic, Dominik Simon, Colin Smith, Daniel Sprong, Christian Thomas, Freddie Tiffels and Garrett Wilson; defensemen Lukas Bengtsson, Frank Corrado, Kevin Czuczman, Ethan Prow, Chris Summers, Jarred Tinordi and Zach Trotman; and goalies Casey DeSmith and Tristan Jarry have all been returned to WBS.

Sprong, 20, was the 46th pick of the 2015 NHL Draft. He’s been generating solid numbers at the OHL, so it will be interesting to see how he converts that to AHL work. Sprong played 18 regular-season games for the Penguins back in 2015-16, notching two goals.

Sprong discussed that experience with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette this summer.

“I played [in the NHL] at 18 for a reason,” Sprong said. “With the shoulder surgery last year, that was kind of a setback. But I’m excited for this year and hopefully I can start the season here.”

That won’t happen, but perhaps we’ll see Sprong in 2018-19 … or maybe sooner?

Aston-Reese, 23, already showed some promise in that regard; he scored eight games in a 10-game audition at the AHL level in 2016-17.

These moves narrow the Penguins’ training camp roster down to 26 players. They have until Oct. 3 to settle on 23.

Penguins, Kings among teams with notable waiver moves

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If an NHL team wants to add a big winger with two Stanley Cup rings,* they merely need to make a waiver claim.

TVA’s Renaud Lavoie tweeted out Tuesday’s list of waived players, with the Los Angeles Kings and Pittsburgh Penguins making some of the most interesting moves.

In the case of the Kings, they waived Jordan Nolan and former Penguins backup Jeff Zatkoff. Here’s the full list, via Lavoie:

There are some bullet points that can sell Nolan, but the 28-year-old’s production was quite limited at the NHL level. Nolan’s never scored 10 goals in a single season; in fact, he’s only reached 10 points once in his career (six goals and four assists in 64 regular-season contests back in 2013-14).

Overall, it wouldn’t be surprising if a team targeted Nolan as a depth guy, even if his ceiling is limited.

While the Penguins’ entries seem notable for sheer volume as much as anything else, Frank Corrado is another name that stands out.

Corrado was often the catalyst for debates about his playing time (or lack thereof) with the Toronto Maple Leafs, but it doesn’t seem like the defenseman is having much success catching on with the Penguins, either.

Zatkoff, meanwhile, fits in with quite a few other names on this list: possibly prominent in the AHL, only likely to get the occasional cup of coffee in the NHL, at this point.

* – Yes, it’s OK to think of Jaromir Jagr before that sentence ends.

Red Wings are ‘excited’ about Michael Rasmussen’s offensive upside

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The Detroit Red Wings missed the playoffs for the first time in 25 years, but there appears to be something good that came from that.

Instead of drafting in the back half of the first round, the Wings were able to get a top 10 selection in last June’s NHL Entry Draft. With the ninth overall pick, they chose power forward Michael Rasmussen.

Rasmussen is listed at 6-foot-6 and 215 pounds. NHLers of that size are a rare breed. Add the fact that he’s gifted offensively, and it looks like the Red Wings may have a gem coming through the pipeline.

In his first three career preseason games, the 18-year-old has already picked up two goals. His play hasn’t gone unnoticed by the organization.

“I’m excited about him as a prospect,” head coach Jeff Blashill said, per MLive.com. “He’s big, he’s smooth, he’s got good hands, he’s got good offensive sense.”

With all big forwards, a lot of their success will be determined by their skating ability. In today’s NHL, it’s pretty clear that you need to be able to move if you’re going to have a long and productive career. But according to Blashill, skating isn’t a big issue with Rasmussen.

“I think he skates well. People have questioned that, but I don’t see that at all. I think he covers lots of ground in a hurry. I think he needs to move his feet a little bit more at times in the D-zone, but overall I’ve been happy with his play.”

No matter what he does between now and the end of training camp, it sounds like Rasmussen will be heading back to the WHL’s Tri-City Americans, where he’ll look to improve his numbers from last year (32 goals, 55 points in 50 games).