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.

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.

Measure of revenge: Kings delay clinching efforts for Flames, Blues

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Deep down, the Los Angeles Kings probably realize that their season will end on game 82. Still, they kept their slim playoff hopes alive on Wednesday night … and managed to spite a team they’re growing to hate.

OK, maybe the hate is almost totally focused upon Matthew Tkachuk, yet the disdain for that talented-but-tormenting rookie was palpable.

It didn’t feel like the Kings exacted physical revenge on Tkachuk, but beating his team 4-1 ranked as classic scoreboard vengeance. With that, the Calgary Flames (and by extension the St. Louis Blues) will need to wait to clinch a playoff berth.

Now, as much as tonight was about Tkachuk, the focus was also on a pugnacious player who once dazzled for the Flames: Jarome Iginla.

In what might be Iginla’s final visit to Calgary – at least as an active NHL player – he was one of the best players on the ice. His fitting curtain call included a “Gordie Howe hat trick” with a spirited fight, an assist and a goal.

Seriously, that fight with Deryk Engelland:

That goal included a bit of luck, but hey …

Iginla was named the first star of the contest, and cameras captured his big smile in enjoying a special night. For all the nastiness of that game, it was refreshing to see such a heartwarming moment.

For more on the violence, check out this post on the early stuff and this one on Tkachuk’s missed missile launch on Drew Doughty.

Kings and Canucks will square off in first NHL exhibition games in China

graphic via NHL
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It’s official: the NHL will hold preseason games in China before next season.

The league made the announcement on Wednesday night: the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks will play two exhibitions: one on Sept. 21 (Shanghai) and Sept. 23 (Beijing). How cool is that?

“It is a privilege and an honor for the L.A. Kings to represent the National Hockey League in China as part of these two games against the Vancouver Canucks,” Kings president Luc Robitaille said. “Growing the game of hockey is something we take great pride in and it is a big priority for our hockey club and AEG as a whole. This will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for our players and our staff, and we are looking forward to the games taking place in two tremendous facilities in two remarkable cities.”

The press conference inspired some jokes tonight.

Some of the best bits came in roping in … Kobe Bryant and David Beckham?

Alrighty then.

Click here for more details.

 

Video: Drew Doughty (mostly) avoids massive Matthew Tkachuk hit

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Hockey is such a fast sport that it’s probably not so easy to make someone your “target.” Instead, a big hit often comes down to the right combination of circumstance and timing.

Still, there’s no denying that Matthew Tkachuk is gunning for Drew Doughty (and the Kings are gunning for Tkachuk) on Wednesday.

Doughty isn’t oblivious to that notion, either, as you can see him avoid what looked like a pretty terrifying hit above.

We’ve already covered the early violence in this game, and it’s quite possible that there will be more carnage going forward. Stay tuned.