James O'Brien

Pittsburgh Penguins v Philadelphia Flyers

Under pressure: Jakub Voracek

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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?

Pondering retirement indeed: Carcillo is ’98 percent ready to move on’

2015 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Six
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Daniel Carcillo isn’t just considering retirement; it sounds like he’s strongly leaning in that direction.

During an appearance on CSN Chicago’s Kap & Haugh, Carcillo said he’s “about 98 percent ready to move on.”

“Thirty is a good age for me to get out and do some other things,” Carcillo said.

As noted in this post, Carcillo detailed his plan to help players post-retirement with “Chapter 5” in an interview with The Chicago Tribune.

He’s raising money for his not-for-profit organization, and it sounds like that is going well:

Carcillo has enjoyed some big wins at the NHL level with the Chicago Blackhawks and Los Angeles Kings, even if an increasingly reduced role meant zero playoff appearances in the Blackhawks’ 2015 postseason run (he did play in 39 regular season games, however).

Combine that declining role with Carcillo’s clear realization that the sport takes a huge toll on a person, and it’s understandable that he’s weighing his options. Perhaps he can do some good after those years of being an agitating presence on the ice?

Check out his emotional video for The Players’ Tribune, where he speaks from the heart about Steve Montador’s untimely death.

Penguins give Tom Sestito a tryout contract

Kyle Chipchura, Tom Sestito
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The Pittsburgh Penguins handed out another professional tryout contract to another familiar face, giving Tom Sestito a shot as of Wednesday.

Pittsburgh gave the same thing to defenseman Sergei Gonchar, who obviously has a more storied history with the franchise than Sestito.

In each case, it won’t be easy for either player to make the team, especially if each veteran isn’t open-minded to playing in the AHL. That would likely be less of an issue with Sestito, 27, as he played 10 games with the Utica Comets in the AHL and three with the Vancouver Canucks in 2014-15.

Last season marked his third campaign with Vancouver. Sestito has also seen reps with the Columbus Blue Jackets (who drafted him 85th overall in 2006) and Philadelphia Flyers.

In 137 career NHL games, he has 18 points and 432 penalty minutes, so that should give you a good idea about his role.

New York Rangers ’15-16 Outlook

Rick Nash
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If you’re fascinated by athletes chasing big numbers in contract years, then the New York Rangers have been a go-to source of entertainment in recent years.

It’s difficult (if not nebulous) to try to quantify the impact of “greed is good,” but the Rangers are a hungry team with plenty of motivation in 2015-16. That’s what happens when you mortgage bits of your future via trades and employ some players chasing their next checks.

You never really know how wide open a Stanley Cup window might be.

Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault saw that in action in Vancouver, as the franchise declined from a huge contender to a bubble team in little time.

We’ve asked more than once if Henrik Lundqist’s elite days are numbered. It’s also worth noting that at 31, Rick Nash is in the middle of that age in which snipers see a slide in production.

The contract year situations aren’t of “uh oh, we better re-sign Henrik Lundqvist/our current captain/Derek Stepan” enormity, but they’re still intriguing.

On defense, you have veteran Keith Yandle and fading graybeard (literally) Dan Boyle. Antti Raanta also enters a pivotal year as an NHL backup.

The forward group might be the most intriguing.

Just look at the pending RFAs alone: Chris Kreider, Kevin Hayes, J.T Miller and Emerson Etem. There’s some fascinating potential for all four of those players.

Even with Boyle’s $4.5 million cap hit set to expire, salary cap gymnastic may be required once again in the summer of 2016.

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Paying players after strong years – and learning to let some of the less essential ones go – has been a pretty rewarding process for the Rangers, even if there’s been the occasional miss (see: Anton Stralman).

Poll: Are the Rangers still Cup contenders?

Alain Vigneault
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Martin St. Louis’ final NHL season is a jarring testament to how quickly someone’s window can close in sports.

After years of being an underrated point producer and consistently defying age, it almost felt like a switch flipped for St. Louis; he looked very much like a 40-year-old during the final stretch of his career.

The New York Rangers need to do whatever they can to avoid a parallel fate.

Granted, the Rangers aren’t rife with older players. Aside from Dan Boyle (who’s 39), the Rangers are well-stocked with prime-age players. Life is pretty good when you’re worried if your 33-year-old superstar goalie can remain the star that Henrik Lundqvist is.

Still, there’s a risk that they could decline. Despite winning a Presidents’ Trophy with two teams this decade, head coach Alain Vigneault can be a little polarizing.

On top of that, there is the possibility that Lundqvist may finally hit a wall. That’s a scary thought for a team that still depends heavily upon their goalie.

Heck, the Rangers may also miss St. Louis, after all.

One would expect to see the Rangers as at least a playoff pick for most prognosticators, but what do you expect from a team still shooting for a Cup?