Philadelphia Flyers v New Jersey Devils

Flyers sign budding star James van Riemsdyk to a six-year, $25.5M contract extension

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The Philadelphia Flyers will have some decisions to make next summer, but one thing they won’t have to worry about is re-signing James van Riemsdyk. The team came to terms on a six-year extension with the budding star today to avoid a prolonged negotiation process next summer, when JVR was primed to become a restricted free agent. David Isaac reports that the six-year total is $25.5 million, which means that his annual salary cap hit will be $4.25 million beginning in the 2012-13 season.

However you might feel about the way the Flyers do business, they’ve shown some solid foresight in wrapping up soon-to-be stars before. They did so in November 2010 when they re-signed Claude Giroux to a three-year contract extension that will pay him just $3.75 million per season. That’s the kind of contract that opens up wiggle room for the team to reinvent itself with splashy moves such as trading Mike Richards and Jeff Carter while giving Ilya Bryzgalov a high-risk contract.

We’ll have to wait and see if this signing is as much of a home run as the Giroux deal. The Flyers are putting a lot of stock in the idea that JVR’s impressive 2011 playoff performances are a sign of a true breakout rather than just a brief run of excellence. No doubt about it, he was downright sensational at times in the postseason; it seemed like he could have scored four goals during his two-goal game against the Boston Bruins in the team’s overtime Game 2 defeat.

JVR needs to keep firing away

If you ask me, it could come down to confidence, which might be most tangibly illustrated by the staggering difference in the amounts of shots he put on net in the playoffs versus the regular season. In 75 regular season games in 2010-11, JVR scored 21 goals on 173 shots (2.31 shots per game). In 11 playoff games, he scored seven goals and put a dizzying 70 shots on net, which comes out to about 6.36 shots per game.

It’s not realistic to expect him to maintain that pace over 70+ games, but if he can hit somewhere around four shots per game, it’s not crazy to expect a 30 goal season in 2011-12. Hopefully he’ll share the vulcanized rubber with teammates every now and then, though; he didn’t register a single assist during his impressive 2011 playoff run.

Following in Bobby Ryan’s footsteps

JVR was part of a watershed moment for USA Hockey, as he went second overall behind fellow American-born winger Patrick Kane in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. The Chicago Blackhawks reaped immediate rewards from their top pick while the Flyers have been patient with van Riemsdyk’s development process, bringing him along slowly as he debuted with the team in 2009-10. In a way, his path is reminiscent of fellow U.S.-born second overall pick Bobby Ryan; the impressive power forwards may always be “the guys who were drafted after Sidney Crosby/Kane” but their teams’ patience is paying off on the ice and on accounting spreadsheets as well.

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Philly now has 16 players and about $51.3 million in cap commitments for the 2012-13 season, with Jaromir Jagr, Jakub Voracek, Matt Carle and Braydon Coburn ranking as their most prominent pending free agents next summer. The latter three will represent some tough choices for the Flyers, but they took care of their biggest concern today.

The Flyers’ investment is clearly based on their internal projections that JVR is primed to be a star. Every indication is that they were right about making a similar decision with Giroux, so this could be another huge move for the long-term viability of the franchise. There are always risks involved with these types of moves – especially when it comes to contracts as lengthy as these – but overall it looks like both sides won big.

Sharks scratch Flames’ big lead, Calgary wins anyway

Calgary Flames' Mikael Backlund (11) chases down the puck against San Jose Sharks' Tomas Hertl (48) during the second period of an NHL hockey game in San Jose, Calif., Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
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If you turned off Thursday’s Calgary Flames – San Jose Sharks game early, you’ll probably be stunned to see that Calgary won 6-5 via a shootout.

For instance:

  • A Sharks fan may have bitterly called it a night when Calgary went up 4-1.
  • Conversely, a Flames devotee might have retired after San Jose took a 5-4 lead, possibly with a broken remote.

The Flames only trailed for about two minutes before scoring the last “real” goal of the game, eventually taking their third straight win thanks to a shootout triumph.

It’s been a strange ride for Calgary, with its most recent win happening after Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Lance Bouma were punished with a healthy scratch. As strange as this game was, the “charity point” can leave both teams looking through a lot of film, yet with something gained as well.

Ultimately, the message may very well be: don’t sleep on these teams.

(In less positive news, Karri Ramo is injured, and it doesn’t look good.

Jonas Hiller closing out the game on a hot streak could be pretty important if Ramo’s out for some time.)

By winning fifth straight, Caps extend Wild’s slump to seven losses

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ST. PAUL, Minn. — Alex Ovechkin scored three times in the second period for his 14th career hat trick, and the Washington Capitals beat the Minnesota Wild 4-3 on Thursday night.

Ovechkin, who leads the league with 34 goals, has 13 in his past 13 games. Nicklas Backstrom had three assists and Jason Chimera added an empty-netter for Washington, which improved to a league-best 20-5-2 on the road.

Braden Holtby made 33 saves for the Capitals, who won their fifth consecutive game and became the first team to reach 40 victories this season.

Charlie Coyle, Ryan Suter and Mikael Granlund scored for the Wild, but Minnesota lost for the 12th time in its past 13 games (1-10-2). Devan Dubnyk made 29 saves for the Wild, who have lost seven in a row at home (0-4-3).

Ovechkin’s third goal, which deflected off both the post and the back of Dubnyk into the net, was upheld following a coach’s challenge. Wild coach Mike Yeo challenged that the puck had left the zone for offsides, but the call stood after a review showed that Backstrom stopped the puck before it crossed the blue line.

The goal gave Ovechkin his first hat trick since he scored four goals against Tampa Bay on Dec. 10, 2013.

It wasn’t the only fortunate bounce for Ovechkin on the night, and the five-time 50-goal scorer capitalized on each opportunity.

A shot from T.J. Oshie deflected off of Minnesota forward Zach Parise across the ice right to Ovechkin in the left faceoff circle and Ovechkin quickly snapped off a shot to beat Dubnyk, who couldn’t get across the crease to get into position. Three minutes later, Ovechkin scored on the power play when a point shot bounced off the end boards right to Ovechkin in front of the net.

The tally provided some relief for the Capitals’ surprisingly ineffective power play. Washington had one power play in its previous six games, an empty-netter for the only goal in its previous 20 power-play chances. The Capitals were 1 of 5 on the power play on Thursday.

Coyle scored for the fifth time in eight games in the second, but second periods have doomed the Wild during their slump. Minnesota has been outscored 13-3 in the period in five straight losses.

Suter scored his sixth goal of the season on the power play in the third as Minnesota went 1 of 5 with the man advantage.

NOTES: Washington C Evgeny Kuznetsov left in the third period after he was hit in the face by the stick of Mikael Granlund off a faceoff. … Backstrom has 20 points in his last 17 games. … Minnesota D Jared Spurgeon missed his second straight game with an unspecified deep bruise. Spurgeon has returned to practice, but was held out again. … Holtby is 27-1-3 in his last 31 games with two shutouts, a 2.10 goals-against average and .927 save percentage.

Watch the Blackhawks’ Patrick Sharp tribute video

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Over the years, the Chicago Blackhawks have been forced to let some important players leave to keep their core together, which ultimately meant parting ways with Patrick Sharp.

The talented winger now wears a Dallas Stars jersey, so Blackhawks fans must face the reality of watching Sharp ply his trade for a formidable Central Division opponent.

Even if that might feel awkward, Blackhawks fans gave Sharp (and Johnny Oduya) a warm reception in Chicago on Thursday.

CSNChicago.com provides video of that ovation, which you can see in the clip above.

The Stars currently lead the Blackhawks 4-2, thanks in large part to Patrick … Eaves.

Ovechkin’s 14th career hat trick helps him make more history

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Death, taxes and Alex Ovechkin winning the Maurice Richard Trophy.

OK, the third thing on that list isn’t technically inevitable. It just feels that way lately in the NHL.

It’s unclear if the Washington Capitals can hold on against the Minnesota Wild, but we know for certain that Ovechkin already has a hat trick, the 14th of his high-scoring career.

(He also passed Jean Beliveau for 39th all-time in goals with his 509th, as NHL.com notes.)

This propels Ovechkin to the goals lead as of this writing, as he already has 34. As impressive as Patrick Kane has been, No. 8 is heating up, and may just edge No. 88 if Ovechkin can remain healthy.

One has to feel a little sympathy for the struggling Wild. They played well but lost against the Dallas Stars earlier this week and now must deal with Ovechkin and the just-as-hot Capitals.

Update: Minnesota managed three goals, but it wasn’t enough, as Washington got the edge 4-3.