Bryan Bickell

‘Big summer for me to get in shape,’ says Blackhawks’ Bickell


He cashed in last summer after a standout playoff performance for the Chicago Blackhawks.

This time around, Bryan Bickell appears more focused on getting into better shape, with the goal of being a more consistent offensive threat not just in the post-season, but the regular season as well.

“I think this is a big summer for me to get in shape and to be more of a regular-season guy, not just a playoff guy,” Bickell said earlier this week, as per ESPN Chicago.

After nine goals and 17 points in 23 games during the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs, which ultimately ended with a championship for Chicago, Bickell re-signed with the Blackhawks for four years at $16 million and an annual cap hit of $4 million. His breakout playoffs combined with a huge raise in salary left Bickell as one of the players under pressure heading into this past regular season.

But his numbers during 59 games this past regular season didn’t even match up to what he the previous spring. Just 11 goals and only 15 points. His decline led head coach Joel Quenneville to call him out, saying the Blackhawks needed more out of the big and now 28-year-old power forward. He was eventually made a healthy scratch.

A knee injury midway through the season certainly could’ve played a substantial part in his low contributions, although when the playoffs began in April, he once again seemed to thrive, with seven goals and 10 points in 19 games.

Said Quenneville to ESPN Chicago: “We’d like to see more consistency out of him.”

Raffl coverts PTO into one-year, $575K deal with Jets

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There’s another Raffl in the NHL.

On Tuesday, the Jets announced that Thomas Raffl — the older brother of Flyers forward Michael Raffl — has signed a one-year, one-way deal worth $575,000.

Raffl, 29, was in Winnipeg’s camp on a PTO after a lengthy career in Europe. He spent time playing in Sweden and his native Austria, most recently with powerhouse EC Red Bull Salzburg — last year, Raffl scored 53 points in 52 games for Salzburg and three in seven games for Austria while serving as team captain at the World Hockey Championships.

“We would like to recognize and express our appreciation to the EC Red Bull Salzburg organization for allowing Thomas and the Winnipeg Jets this opportunity,” Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said in a statement.

With the Jets, Raffl projects to play in the bottom-six forward group, where he can utilize his 6-foot-4, 215-pound frame in a checking-slash-energy role.

For now, though, he’ll start out with the club’s AHL affiliate in Manitoba.

Flyers to start season with seven d-men; MacDonald sent to AHL

Andrew MacDonald, Matt Calvert
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Seven defensemen will comprise the Philadelphia Flyers’ opening-day roster, which the club finalized today.

Those seven are Radko Gudas, Michael Del Zotto, Luke Schenn, Nick Schultz, Brandon Manning, Mark Streit, and Evgeny Medvedev.

Not on the list? Andrew MacDonald, who has cleared waivers and been assigned to AHL Lehigh Valley. (That move allowed the Flyers to keep both Manning and youngster Scott Laughton.)

Also not on the list were prospects Shayne Gostisbehere, Robert Hagg, Sam Morin, Ivan Provorov and Travis Sanheim. The first three will start the season in the AHL. The last two have been sent back to junior.

But the opening-day roster is not where this story ends. How the Flyers’ defensive mix changes as the season progresses will be worth watching.

They’d no doubt love to move Schenn, a pending unrestricted free agent with a $3.6 million cap hit. He could also end up in the AHL, a la MacDonald.

Medvedev, the 33-year-old who came over from the KHL and put up five points in five preseason games, is another pending UFA. The club could either look to re-sign or flip him.

Might 37-year-old Streit be a chip worth cashing in at the deadline, especially if the Flyers aren’t in a playoff position on Feb. 29? He’s only got two years left on his contract.

Meanwhile, GM Ron Hextall will be watching pending restricted free agents Manning and Gudas closely. Are they part of the future?

So, lots of decisions to make in Philly as the blue line continues its much-needed transition.