James O'Brien

Edmonton Oilers v Philadelphia Flyers

Del Zotto deal is a reminder: Flyers are in salary cap jail


Every GM experiences a hiccup or two, but there are many signs that Ron Hextall has a sound plan for the Philadelphia Flyers. Unfortunately, Paul Holmgren left behind quite the mess.

Michael Del Zotto’s two-year contract more or less takes up Philly’s cap space for 2015-16 (unless Hextall clears some room with a move or two). That spending has to sting, especially since this largely similar roster failed to earn a playoff bid last season.

By signing Del Zotto to a two-year deal at that $3.875 million cap hit, this also reminds us that the Flyers could take some time to break themselves out of salary cap jail. At the moment, the outlook doesn’t look so great for 2016-17 and maybe beyond:

Indeed, $48.5 million for 13 players is rough when you start to forecast a possible deal for Jakub Voracek, assuming the Flyers can find a compromise with their outstanding winger.

It doesn’t stop there, either.

The summer of 2016 could be challenging

While Sam Gagner’s $3.2 million cap hit could very well be funneled into other bank accounts, the Flyers really might need to fork over some money to keep RFAs Brayden Schenn ($2.5 million next season) and Sean Couturier (a steal at $1.75 million in 2015-16) in the fold.

Much-criticized deals, especially Andrew MacDonald’s $5 million cap hit, only sting that much more when you start to think about the raises Philly may need to hand out.

New life – but also uncertainty – in a few years

Beyond those payouts, there’s also the fact that many contracts run out after 2016-17 … although maybe that’s the time when we’ll really get a sense of what Hextall can do?

That’s actually the enticing thing for Flyers fans: the impressive array of draft picks Hextall has been compiling might start to really pay off by right at the time when the organization could finally enjoy some financial breathing room. Hextall is doing what he can with the situation he’s been given, so it’s intriguing to imagine what he might do with more cash to burn.

You know, if he makes it that far.

Schaller among three Sabres who accepted qualifying offers

New York Rangers v Buffalo Sabres

The following players agreed to qualifying offers with the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday: Tim Schaller, Jerome Leduc and Nathan Lieuwen.

Schaller (pictured) generated two points in 18 games with the Sabres, representing his first NHL reps. The 24-year-old also generated 43 points and 116 PIM in 65 games at the AHL level with the Rochester Americans.

Leduc, 22, was selected 68th overall in the 2010 NHL Draft. He hasn’t appeared in an NHL game just yet, but he scored 25 points in 76 games in the AHL.

Lieuwen, 23, played seven games with the Sabres in 2014-15, going 1-4-0 with a .906 save percentage. The big goalie went in the sixth round (167th choice) in 2011.

Ducks bring back O’Brien, sign Sgarbossa and Wagner

St Louis Blues v Florida Panthers

The Anaheim Ducks reached multiple one-year deals on Thursday, inking Shane O’Brien, Michael Sgarbossa and Chris Wagner.

O’Brien, 31, is an interesting case, as the Ducks drafted him with the 250th pick of the 2003 NHL Draft. O’Brien only ended up playing 62 games for the Ducks in 2006-07, beginning a journeyman career that included nine games with the Florida Panthers in 2014-15.

His career stats should tell the story of his role with the Ducks, when he’d manage to play beyond the AHL level: 92 points and 916 PIM in 537 career NHL games.

Wagner, 24, was the 122nd pick of the 2010 NHL Draft. He played in nine games with the Ducks in 2014-15, but failed to score a point. He’d likely provide injury insurance.

Sgarbossa, 22, has appeared in nine NHL games, with three of those contests coming with Colorado in 2014-15.

Oilers reach deals with Pitlick, Davidson

San Jose Sharks v Edmonton Oilers

The Edmonton Oilers signed Tyler Pitlick and Brandon Davidson to one-year contracts on Thursday.

Pitlick (pictured) spent part of the 2014-15 season at the AHL and NHL level, at least when he wasn’t injured. The 23-year-old forward generated two goals in 17 games with the Oilers and nine points in 14 contests with the AHL’s Oklahoma City Barons in 2014-15. Pitlick was the 31st pick of the 2010 NHL Draft.

Davidson, also 23, spent time at both levels last season as well. He managed a goal in 12 games with the Oilers and 10 points in 55 games in the AHL. The blueliner was the 162th pick in 2010.

He told the team website that he’s OK with the possibility of being the team’s seventh defenseman.

“That’s very fair,” Davidson said. “That’s my goal right now, to get my foot in that door and if that’s that seventh spot then I’m going to relish that and run with that. Any chance I can be there and stay there, I’m going to take it, make the best of it and work my way to through the ranks kind of thing.”

The Oilers didn’t provide specifics regarding either contract beyond the length of the deals.

Avs grab Grigorenko for one year

Carolina Hurricanes v Buffalo Sabres

The Colorado Avalanche signed Mikhail Grigorenko – a significant part of the Ryan O’Reilly trade – to a one-year contract on Thursday.

This isn’t official, but word from Bleacher Report’s Adrian Dater is that the contract is one-way and worth $675K.

As you may remember, the Buffalo Sabres weren’t pleased that Grigorenko insisted on a one-way deal, so that factor is pretty significant. The 21-year-old was part of a trade package that also sent the 31st pick of the 2015 NHL Draft, Nikita Zadorov and J.T. Compher from Buffalo to Colorado.

The 12th pick of the 2012 NHL Draft endured a bumpy start with the Buffalo organization, as he struggled at the NHL level with the Sabres but put up often-impressive numbers in the QMJHL and AHL over the years.

Grigorenko probably needed a fresh start, and Colorado could very well be a nice fit for the Russian. His development will likely play a key role in how that trade his viewed a few years down the line.