James O'Brien

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Lightning’s Vasilevskiy out 2-3 months after getting blood clot removed

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The Tampa Bay Lightning announced some tough news on Friday: promising goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy will miss two-to-three months after getting a blood clot removed from an area near his left collarbone.

The team revealed that he was being treated for a type of “Vascular Thoracic Outlet Syndrome.”

You can read up on the ailment at Vascular Web, but here’s a quick rundown of what the 21-year-old netminder might be going through:

Your thoracic outlet is a small space just behind and below your collarbone. The blood vessels and nerves that serve your arm are located in this space. Thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS) is the presence of hand and arm symptoms due to pressure against the nerves or blood vessels in the thoracic outlet area.

The Lightning seemed comfortable at least leaving the door slightly ajar for Vasilevskiy to push Ben Bishop for starts, even with the latter commanding a $6 million salary cap hit and some pretty nice accomplishments over the last two seasons. That tug-of-war is obviously on pause for the moment.

It’s a tough setback for the 19th pick of the 2012 NHL Draft, but one hopes that it won’t be a problem that arises again.

On the bright side, Bishop seems to be over his own injury issues:

The Tampa Bay Times’ Joe Smith believes that the Lightning might make a signing to deal with Vasilevskiy’s absence, even with promising prospect Kristers Gudlevskis waiting in the wings. Perhaps giving Gudlevskis a little taste of the NHL would be wiser, though?

Erik Karlsson has an interesting take on (not) training

Erik Karlsson
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After years of working hard in the weight room during each off-season, Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson realized that it made more sense for him to take a different approach.

TSN shared video of his discussion with reporters, which provided candid insight on his viewpoints regarding getting prepared for a coming season.

“I do all my conditioning on the ice. I don’t do any conditioning during the summer,” Karlsson said Tuesday. “My issue has always been keeping weight on and trying to get bigger and stronger and if I do that throughout the summer as well, I can’t put any weight on and keep it on during the year.”

It’s strange to hear Karlsson – still just 25 – discuss how he’s adapted his regimen compared to when he was younger. Then again, maybe the Swedish defenseman simply knows his body that well, and perhaps even understands how quickly things can change for NHL athletes.

It certainly doesn’t seem like fitness is an issue for him. He generated 21 goals and 66 points in 2014-15, taking home the second Norris Trophy of his career.

Karlsson also didn’t see a dip in ice time, as he came in a little past 27 minutes per game (27:15) for the third straight season.

It’s not exactly as if he’s loafing out there, as he uses his exceptional skating ability to lead the rush and dramatically improve Ottawa’s transition game.

Some might point to comments like these when scapegoating – that always seems to happen with a small segment of fandom, doesn’t it? – but it seems like Karlsson probably knows what he’s doing.

(H/T to The Score)

Poll: Are the Flyers better off losing (a lot)?

Dave Hakstol
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When you ponder the Philadelphia Flyers’ roster, it doesn’t immediately scream “hopeless.”

That’s especially true if you scroll down starting with the forwards; the one-two punch of Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek is complemented by the unusual power play + power forward work of Wayne Simmonds as well some other nice pieces. Combine that group with redemptive goalie Steve Mason and one can understand the optimism.

The glass gets closer to half-empty as you scan that blueline.

Mark Streit is probably the brightest light in that group, and he’s 37. Things get pretty dicey from there, and GM Ron Hextall’s hands were tied with a clogged cap situation.

Could this roster churn out a wild card berth? One would think it’s a possibility, so we’ll start with that poll:

Feel free to disagree in the comments, yet as plausible as a postseason bid might be, it’s tough to imagine the Flyers contending with that bumbling blueline.

Flyers owner Ed Snider won’t like this, but it could be best to swallow a bitter pill of defeat in 2015-16 and gear up for better days.

You never want to throw away peak years for the likes of Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek. That said, they’re young enough (Giroux is 27 and Voracek is 26) that they could still be elite producers when the smoke may start to clear in a year or two.

Between Luke Schenn and Sam Gagner alone, the Flyers will see $6.8 million in cap space dissolve in the summer of 2016 alone. They’ll also be free of R.J. Umberger’s $4.6 million mark after 2016-17.

(Vincent Lecavalier’s $4.5 million cap hit taunts them through 2017-18, though. Hey, you can’t win them all.)

Beyond gaining financial breathing room, Hextall collected nine draft picks in 2015, 2016 and 2017, so the farm system could be impressive down the road. Naturally, that would only be more apparent if the Flyers end up with a premium pick in 2016.

So, long story short: should the Flyers go into tank mode next season?

Flyers’ biggest question: Will patience persist?

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GM Ron Hextall has introduced something the Philadelphia Flyers’ front office hasn’t seen in some time: rationality.

OK, that’s a little hyperbolic, but it’s been fascinating to watch him run the team with a slow-and-steady approach after years of reckless spending on quick-fix solutions.

Unfortunately, Hextall was handed the salary cap equivalent of a hand grenade while managing a franchise that still aims for the postseason every year. It’s a bit like asking for lightning-fast meals and only providing a cook with an oven.

Really, it would be best if Hextall could let everything marinate for a while.

Through some brilliant maneuvering, the Flyers selected nine players in the 2015 NHL Draft, including two first-rounders who carry positive buzz. Hextall has been stockpiling future selections, too, as the Flyers also currently hold nine picks in both 2016 and 2017.

Again, masterful stuff, but that bodes well for the future. Will the pressures of the present force the ship off course?

As Philly.com reports, Flyers owner GM Ed Snider spoke directly to that issue back in March, and his comments don’t exactly guarantee Hextall the opportunity to ride through what looks like a transitional period on the ice.

“You don’t say when you’ve got Giroux, and you’ve got Voracek, and you’ve got Mason and you’ve got the kind of pieces like Simmons that we have, that, ‘Hey, you’ve got to be patient, we might make the playoffs in 2 or 3 years,’ ” Snider said. “[Bleep] that.”

“We’ve got to make sure our message gets through properly. Patience is great with the kids. But patience isn’t great with the team we have on the ice.”

Uh oh. That puts a lot of heat on Hextall to win now, even with a team sporting possibly fatal flaws.

If expectations aren’t adjusted, a different GM might reap the rewards of Hextall’s reasonable, forward-thinking approach.

Under pressure: Jakub Voracek

Pittsburgh Penguins v Philadelphia Flyers
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Jakub Voracek’s big contract extension won’t kick in until 2016-17, but expectations rose the minute the ink dried.

Fair or not, Philadelphia Flyers fans (and just about everyone else) may struggle to keep perspective regarding his huge contract extension if next season goes poorly. That’s the nature of the beast when you sign an enormous eight-year, $66 million extension.

The jump from a $4.25 million cap hit in 2015-16 to $8.2 million going forward means that the Czech winger will be placed under the microscope, yet it was easy to see the logic that GM Ron Hextall laid out after the big deal was announced.

“Once the season ended, you start looking at your priorities and clearly it was our No. 1 priority,” Hextall said in late July. “The Jake Voraceks of the world are few and far between. He certainly wasn’t a player we wanted to risk losing.”

If nothing else, it doesn’t sound like Voracek got a big head after scoring 22 goals and 81 points last season, the fourth-highest scoring total in the NHL. Really, it sounds like he needs to prove to himself that he is in select company.

“It’s hard,” Voracek said back in April, per CSNPhilly.com. “It’s been a long season. If I do it next year, maybe I can admit that I belong there [in that club]. Right now, I had one good season. It doesn’t end for me. Nothing changes. I will work hard this summer.”

Really, though, he’s been outstanding from more or less the moment he arrived in Philadelphia.

Since 2012-13, Voracek generated 189 points, the 10th best total in that span. (Claude Giroux is in third with 207.) You don’t do that well thanks to just “one good season.”

The most promising thing is that, even with more than 500 games of regular season experience, Voracek’s still quite young.

He turned 26 on Aug. 15, so he’ll be 27 when the extension begins. The Flyers still get some of his peak years, and his chances of living up to that contract increase greatly.

Maybe that’s why Jeremy Roenick believes he has plenty left in the tank?