Flyers send Brayden Schenn to minors, waive role players

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While it may only be a temporary setback, oddsmakers might want to lower Brayden Schenn’s Calder Trophy chances a bit. CSNPhilly.com’s Tim Panaccio reports that the Philadelphia Flyers sent the injured rookie center down to the minors today. Schenn is dealing with a shoulder injury, although the severity is unclear (it kept him out for the final week of training camp).

The Flyers also put the following players on waivers: checking forward Blair Betts along with defensemen Oskars Bartulis and Matt Walker.

Schenn and Wayne Simmonds were the most noteworthy returns from a blockbuster trade that sent Mike Richards to the Los Angeles Kings. Philly hopes that Schenn and Sean Couturier can eventually close the gaps created by the Richards and Jeff Carter trades. That process looks to be delayed a bit more with this injury situation, although it was overly optimistic to expect them to plug that hole immediately anyway.

Update: Beyond injury concerns, the Flyers will enjoy considerable salary cap savings by demoting Schenn (even briefly), as commenter jsaq pointed out. Here’s the gist from TSN’s Darren Dreger.

Schenn’s contract, negotiated by the Los Angeles Kings will pay him $900,000 this year, plus $850,000 in entry level ‘A’ bonuses for a total of $1.75 million, however Schenn has substantial ‘B’ bonuses included in his deal that would be very cap unfriendly to the Flyers.

The ‘B’ bonuses in the first two years of his contract pay Schenn $1.265 million and $1.405 million if he plays 25 minutes in each of the 82 regular season games.

These are unlikely, if not impossible bonuses to achieve, although Philadelphia isn’t willing to take the chance and face the possibility of having to absorb a cap hit of just over $3 million, so to cut the cap hit to a reasonable $1.75 million for this season, Schenn will be assigned to the Philadelphia Phantoms for at least one game, therefore nullifying the ‘B’ bonus clause this season.

Trouble coming on the penalty kill?

The Betts move might not mean much to casual fans, but it raises a serious question about the Flyers’ penalty kill. Take a look at the team’s top penalty killing forwards (from an average time on ice standpoint) from 2010-11, with departed/waived players in italics.

Betts: 3:37 minutes per game
Darroll Powe: 3:10
Richards: 2:08
Claude Giroux: 2:06

The Flyers’ next two forwards (Jeff Carter and Kris Versteeg) averaged less than a minute per game, but it’s startling that they’re gone too. Now, it’s safe to assume that Maxime Talbot will take one of the top roles next season, but there are still some spots to fill. (Talbot was second among Pittsburgh forwards with 2:55 per game in 2010-11.)

Wayne Simmonds could be a candidate for PK time, even though he averaged a measly five seconds of shorthanded time per game with the Kings. The team certainly can’t expect Jaromir Jagr to play that role and his countryman Jakub Voracek averaged a measly one second time of SH time per game with Columbus in 10-11.

Considering that teams typically roll with four top penalty kill checkers, anywhere between one and three forward spots seem unclear. (One could even argue that they might not want Giroux playing as many minutes shorthanded now that he’ll carry more of the offensive workload.)

This situation reinforces my feeling that the Flyers were justified in trading Carter but are likely to rue the day they moved versatile former captain Richards. He’ll go to the Kings and make Anze Kopitar’s life significantly easier, while defenses can clamp down on Giroux, Danny Briere and the rest of Philly’s new top guns.

Don’t be surprised if the Flyers end up being a contender even despite their issues next season – especially if their new Czechs click – but their penalty kill could be a problem, unless Ilya Bryzgalov makes an even bigger difference than expected.

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.