Author: Mike Halford

New York Rangers v Philadelphia Flyers - Game Four

Flyers re-sign Couturier: six years, $26 million


The Flyers opened up the checkbook in extending young center Sean Couturier.

On Tuesday, Philly announced it signed Couturier to a multi-year extension — per Sportsnet, it’s a six-year, $26 million deal with a $4.33 million average annual cap hit.

Courturier’s new contract comes with year left on his existing deal, which pays $1.75 million annually.

So yeah, nice raise.

The 22-year-old cashed in after scoring a career-high 15 goals and 37 points in 82 games last year, then chipping in with seven points in 10 games to help Canada win gold at the 2015 World Hockey Championships.

The eighth overall pick at the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, Couturier holds the distinction of ranking first among all players in his draft class in games played — 287 thus far.

Today’s signing is a key building block for the Flyers, but there’s still work to be done. Couturier is one of three key Flyers needing an extension beyond this season; fellow RFA Brayden Schenn is up after this year, while Jakub Voracek — who led the team in scoring last year with a career-high 81 points — is slated to go unrestricted after this year.

For Pens, Tuesday’s moves were all about depth and finances up front

Jim Rutherford

Following a busy day in which he flipped Brandon Sutter to Vancouver for Nick Bonino and Adam Clendening, then signed ex-Capital Eric Fehr, Pens GM Jim Rutherford explained how those moves met two of his biggest objectives.

“The two deals went hand-in-hand so we can add more depth,” Rutherford said. “We have enough good players now that guys are going to have to compete for those spots [in training camp] and compete for them all year.”

He then addressed the money issue.

“When you look at the structure of our salaries and our cap, it’s important to get those bottom-six cap hits in better shape,” Rutherford explained. “That’s what we were able to do with these two deals.”

It’s not surprising that depth and finances were two of Pittsburgh’s biggest offseason priorities. Money allotment has been an issue — Sutter, a pending UFA potentially in line for a raise, was making $3.3 million while playing what amounted to a third-line center role.

Combined, Bonino and Fehr are a $3.9M cap hit.

(Lest we forget that, in the Phil Kessel trade earlier this month, Rutherford dealt away another relatively expensive third-liner in Nick Spaling, who makes $2.2M annually.)

Earlier, veteran depth guys Steve Downie, Blake Comeau, Daniel Winnik and Craig Adams were allowed to walk in free agency, giving likes of Beau Bennett ($800K), KHLer Sergei Plotnikov ($925K), Swedish prospect Oskar Sundqvist ($700K) and Czech Leaguer Dominik Simon ($692K) a chance to get into the rotation.

So that’s the financial side.

In terms of depth up front, Pittsburgh seems far better suited to deal with injuries — something that, you may remember, was a recurring issue in ’14-15. Kessel gives the club a bonafide scoring winger to play alongside either Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, while Fehr and Bonino, both natural centers, provide nice depth down the middle.

Fehr could even bounce outside if need be.

“Eric is definitely comfortable as a two-positional player,” Rutherford said. “He could possibly jump up into the top six, if that situation presented itself, but he’s coming off of a year where he played center.”

Pascal Dupuis is expected to return after playing just 16 games last year, and the club will get a full season of David Perron, acquired from Edmonton in January. Add it all up, and it’s easy to see why Rutherford is so pleased with Pittsburgh’s new-look forward group — it’s deeper, with a more sensible financial structure.

“If a guy falls off, there’s a guy waiting to jump right in there,” he explained. “I like the fact that we have enough guys that each guy can push each other.

“I like our depth at forward now.”

Journeyman Steckel signs in German League

David Steckel

David Steckel, a veteran of over 400 NHL games that last played for Anaheim in ’13, has signed with the Nurnberg Ice Tigers of Germany’s Deutsche Eishockey Liga, the club announced on Tuesday.

Steckel, 33, spent all of last season with Anaheim’s AHL affiliate in Norfolk.

A former first-round pick — 30th overall in 2001 — Steckel spent the majority of his NHL career in Washington, scoring a career-high eight goals and 19 points during the 2008-09 campaign. From there, he spent time in both New Jersey and Toronto before catching on with Anaheim.

At 6-foot-6, Steckel has always been known for his size, defensive prowess and ability in the faceoff circle. In Germany, he’ll play on an Ice Tigers team featuring ex-NHLers Kurtis Foster, Steven Reinprecht, Brandon Segal and Colin Fraser.