Flyin’ High: Philly signs Lecavalier — five years, $22.5 million

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The Philadelphia Flyers have pulled the first major stunner of free agency.

According to TSN’s Darren Dreger, Philly has won the Vincent Lecavalier sweepstakes, but at a price:

Five years, $22.5 million, an average annual cap hit of $4.5 million.

The move is wild on a number of fronts.

One, Philadelphia had already spent a ton of money this offseason buying out players, namely $28 million in total salary to Ilya Bryzgalov and Daniel Briere.

While those moves did give the Flyers some wiggle room, the Lecavalier deal puts them $300,000 over the cap — though that figure includes Chris Pronger’s deal ($4.9 million), which will be put on long-term injured reserve.

Of course, that doesn’t put Philly out of the woods.

The club is still looking for a goalie to work alongside Steve Mason, has pressing needs on defense, already expressed an interest in bringing back Simon Gagne and — next season — needs to re-up with key RFAs Claude Giroux, Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier.

(That’s going to prove difficult, considering Philly has $43.5 million committed to 13 players for 2014-15.)

As for Lecavalier, the former Bolts captain ends days of speculation about his playing future with this signing.

He’d already ruled out Detroit and Dallas — two prominent suitors — and, prior to inking in Philly, seemed to be leaning toward either Boston or a return to his hometown province of Quebec and the Canadiens.

The 33-year-old now stands to make a boatload of money over the next half decade. His Tampa Bay buyout will net him $2.3 million annually (over the next 14 seasons) while his new deal with Philly earns a cool $4.5 million per.

What’s more, ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun reports Lecavalier’s deal features a full no-movement clause, which will likely keep him in Philly until he’s 38. RDS’ Renaud Lavoie says the deal will play $6 million in salary next year and 2014-15, $4.5 million in 2015-16, and $3 million in 2016-17 and 2017-18.

One more thing to note? Lecavalier carries the exact same cap hit as defenseman Braydon Coburn ($4.5 million), believed to be a trade target for a number of NHL clubs.

Video: Connor McDavid shows off speed and skill (again)

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Connor McDavid‘s 26th goal of 2016-17 was a lot like many others: an impressive display of skill and speed. He didn’t blaze past the Anaheim Ducks like has against opponents on other occasions, but his rare wheels still came in handy.

Maybe more than sheer speed, this tally is a reminder that McDavid could do impressive things while losing little or no momentum. It’s one thing to have straight-line speed, but he has the hands and hockey IQ to take advantage of his swift skating.

McDavid already has two points in this one, pushing him to 84 points. He also extended his point streak to five games (three goals, six assists if he stays at one of each on Wednesday).

Islanders grab precious points by beating Rangers

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The goal posts might move from time to time – now they’re chasing the Boston Bruins more than the Toronto Maple Leafs – but the bottom line is that the New York Islanders need to get it done to make the playoffs.

They still have some climbing to do, but Wednesday represented a step in the right direction with a tough 3-2 win against the New York Rangers.

The Rangers built 1-0 and 2-1 leads in the second period as John Tavares struggled with a “hat trick” of penalties, but Tavares & Co. wouldn’t give up. They managed two power-play goals in the third (one by Nikolay Kulemin, the winner by Andrew Ladd) to turn things around for a significant win.

Anders Lee was also a big part of the win, grabbing a goal and an assist. The biggest difference-maker may very well have been Thomas Greiss, who stopped 34 of 36 shots (including all 11 in the third) as the Rangers created a lot of offense.

The Islanders now have 80 standings points, placing them two behind the Bruins for the East’s final wild card spot.

The Rangers’ hold over the first wild card seems quite secure, but they do have to worry ever so slightly about their play at home. With this defeat, they’ve now lost seven straight (0-5-2) at Madison Square Garden.

Video: Rick Nash scores 20th goal in sprawling style

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Rick Nash has his critics stemming from his playoff struggles in the past, but for those who support him, moments like these are satisfying.

Why? Because you’d be absurd to discredit how hard he tries when Nash scores goals like he did for the New York Rangers against the New York Islanders on Wednesday.

Nash went all-out for his 20th goal of the season, sprawling after scoring against Thomas Greiss. It’s quite a sight, and Getty Images really was on top of that one.

via Getty Images

The Rangers may need more from him tonight, however, as the Islanders just went up 3-2. Watch the remainder of the contest on NBCSN.

Leafs pass Bruins for third in Atlantic after gutsy win against Columbus

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It wasn’t pretty – especially if you’re disgusted by that Roman Polak hit – but the Toronto Maple Leafs keep generating big wins as a playoff return looks increasingly likely.

Toronto managed a 5-2 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday, passing the Boston Bruins for third place in the Atlantic Division:

Maple Leafs: 83 points in 72 games
Bruins: 82 points in 73 games

This leaves the currently in-action New York Islanders four points behind the Bruins for the final wild card in the East.

The Maple Leafs aren’t just grabbing key points; they’re doing so against some strong opponents who’ve had plenty on the line, too. They beat a Metro contender in Columbus tonight, the Bruins on Monday, grabbed an OT point against Chicago on Saturday and handled the desperate Lightning last Thursday.

This game was all about William Nylander‘s brilliant start:

And also Toronto surviving a long penalty kill after that Polak hit:

Nazem Kadri‘s 30th goal really put the game out of reach, helping Toronto nab a significant victory.

The Blue Jackets can wallow in this defeat and Oliver Bjorkstrand‘s injury, either, as they turn around to face the Washington Capitals in a big one tomorrow.