With plenty of talented, young defensemen already in the system, the Philadelphia Flyers seem likely to select a forward when they pick seventh overall at the upcoming draft.
But what if there happens to be a blue-liner they really, really like?
“From a needs standpoint, [a forward] would be obvious, but we’ve always had the philosophy of ‘best player available’ and [GM Ron Hextall has] been taking the same approach,” Flyers director of scouting Chris Pryor told the Daily News.
“A conversation is going to arise if there are two players you deem comparable, pretty close, and we’re going to have to make that call as a group at the table. But if there’s a discrepancy between the two and there’s a gap, you have to take the best player.”
Noah Hanifin and Ivan Pronorov are a couple of d-men that are expected to be snapped up early. But in what’s considered an especially deep draft, there won’t be any shortage of forwards after the first six players are off the board.
The Flyers also have Tampa Bay’s first-round pick from the Braydon Coburn trade.
Actually, if you dig a little deeper, their opponents should panic instead. Just ponder these nuggets:
Note: As mentioned in the comments, the original version of this article had a mix-up regarding the Lightning’s available cap space. They’re actually closer to $1.1 million. This post has been modified with that in mind. Apologies for the error.
Almost unfair bargains
Just consider this: Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, Nikita Kucherov and Alex Killorn carry a combined salary cap hit of about $10 million. Johnson and Palat are locked up at their bargain rates of $3.33 million apiece through 2016-17.
Jonathan Drouin didn’t make an impact at the NHL level, yet players of his ilk often make big jumps … and he’s just one of some impressive players Tampa Bay has in its pipeline.
The flip side of that previous point is that said players will eventually get raises, but their RFA statuses could greatly reduce those worries, anyway.
Either way, relief could come in other forms. Braydon Coburn’s $4.5 million could very well be diverted into Stamkos’ bank account. Mattias Ohlund’s LTIR-bound deal ends after 2015-16. Heck, the Lightning may decide to save some cash and turn to Andrei Vasilevskiy over Ben Bishop long-term, as Bishop’s $5.95 million cap hit expires after 2016-17.
(And Bishop’s surplus could go to Hedman’s raise. Yup, GM Steve Yzerman is practicing some black magic …)
What if the 2016-17 salary cap is a lot friendlier than what we expect from next season? Could a possible expansion help teams like the Lightning farm off less-than-friendly contracts? Yzerman may just have a deft hand in getting players to sign cheaper deals, too.
The Lightning aren’t necessarily on easy street – those young players and stars like Stamkos won’t be cheap – yet the team’s outlook indicates that they’ll remain a team to beat for some time.
As Bolts deal with illness, extra day of rest could prove beneficial
There have been rumblings of a team-wide bug going through the Lightning over the last few days — Braydon Coburn, um, refunded during Game 5 and there were whispers of The Triplets falling ill — but for the most part, the team had stayed mum.
On Wednesday, though, forward Alex Killorn all but made it official during a media conference call.
“It’s tough,” Killorn said. “We had a few guys under the weather. Not that that’s any excuse. Most of the guys have been ready for games. Today is going to be huge, not only for injured guys, but guys feeling kind of sick.
“We’re going to use those kind of days to get healthy. We’re not going to use that as an excuse.”
Today, of course, is the first of two off prior to Friday’s Game 7 versus the Rangers at MSG. The scheduling quirk could definitely prove useful for a Tampa Bay team that looked flat and disjointed in the third period of Tuesday’s 7-3 home loss; the Lightning went into the final frame down just 2-1 but proceeded to surrender four goals in a span of 7:19, blowing their chance to advance to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in 11 years.
This is the first two-day break of the series. Last round, Tampa had a two-day break between Games 5 and 6 and proceeded to eliminate Montreal in the latter.
As for the club’s health, Lightning coach Jon Cooper danced around questions regarding it hinting that while players might be dealing with some sort of flu bug, we’d have to wait until the playoffs were over to get the full story.
“Maybe after it’s all said and done, more things will come out what happened in our room,” Cooper said. “We’re putting the best lineup we can possible.”
Bolts’ Coburn missed final two periods due to illness
Tampa head coach Jon Cooper suggested the blue liner was physically ill on the team’s bench.
“I don’t know what TV cameras picked stuff up. We had issues on the bench, so I’ve got to find out more of what’s going on,” said Cooper. “But, there was, yeah. Don’t walk on our bench. That’s what I’m going to say.”
Coburn, who has a goal and two assists while averaging 16:36 in ice time in 18 playoff games, was limited to just eight shifts and 5:43 of ice time on Sunday.
With Ben Bishop allowing five goals in each of his last two starts for the first time since March 2011, Bolts’ head coach Jon Cooper was asked on Saturday whether he’d consider a change in goal ahead of Game 5 Sunday night in New York.
“I understand your question,” Cooper said of a potential change in goal. “For someone to sit here and say, are we changing (in) goal? That is asinine to me.”
Bishop has 5.00 G.A.A. and an .807 save percentage as the Lightning split a pair of games on home ice.
“You never like to give up five goals in back-to-back games, but the best part is we’ve got another game,” said Bishop following Friday’s 5-1 loss.
The 28-year-old has a 3.50 G.A.A. and an .882 save percentage through the first four games of the series.
“He’s a great goaltender and we lean on him a lot, and we expect him to be better as we expect our team to play better,” said defenseman Braydon Coburn.
Added Jason Garrison: “I think he’s probably not happy about that, and I don’t think any of his teammates are really, so collectively as a team we’ve got to make sure that doesn’t happen. You can’t win in the playoffs very much letting those kind of goals up.”
Game 5 goes Sunday night at MSG. Puck drop is at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN.