Tag: Chris Pronger

Steve Mason

It’s Philadelphia Flyers Day at PHT


Throughout the month of August, PHT will be dedicating a day to all 30 NHL clubs. Today’s team? The Philadelphia Flyers.

In 2013-14, the Philadelphia Flyers endured a terrible 1-7-0 start, but they improved as the campaign went on and still managed to make the playoffs. Last season they once again struggled out of the gate (0-2-2), but this time no comeback of significance was forthcoming.

There were silver linings to be sure. Steve Mason showed that his solid 2013-14 campaign wasn’t a fluke as he posted a 2.25 GAA and .928 save percentage in 51 games. After years of goaltending headaches, the fact that the 27-year-old netminder is secured for another two seasons with a reasonable $4.1 million annual cap hit is a big plus for Philadelphia. However, the Flyers largely squandered his strong play in 2014-15 as he had the NHL’s best GAA in losing efforts (2.67) among goaltenders that were charged with at least 10 defeats.

Philadelphia was credited with just 215 goals for, which left them in 22nd place. That’s despite the fact that Jakub Voracek stepped up in 2014-15 with 22 goals and a career-high 81 points in 82 contests.

Claude Giroux and Wayne Simmonds were the only other Philadelphia forwards that recorded at least 50 points as Sean Couturier and Brayden Schenn weren’t able to make a significant leap offensively, Vincent Lecavalier was used sparingly under coach Craig Berube, and R.J. Umberger struggled in his first season following the Scott Hartnell trade.

That all culminated in Philadelphia ending the season with a 33-31-18 record.

Off-season recap

After missing the playoffs, Flyers GM Ron Hextall fired Berube and replaced him with Dave Hakstol, who previously served as North Dakota’s bench boss. Philadelphia stayed busy in the lead up to the UFA period by inking veteran KHL defenseman Evgeni Medvedev, shipping forward Zac Rinaldo to Boston for a 2017 third-round pick, and trading Nicklas Grossmann along with Chris Pronger’s contract to Arizona in exchange for Sam Gagner.

When it came to the draft, Philadelphia realized it needed a forward, but with Ivan Provorov available for the seventh pick, Hextall couldn’t pass on the opportunity to grab the highly regarded defenseman.

The Flyers were relatively quiet during the free agent period, likely due in large part to their cap situation, but they did ink 27-year-old goaltender Michal Neuvirth to a two-year, $3.25 million deal. A veteran of 168 games, he’ll enter the season as Mason’s understudy.

Philadelphia might not be done yet though as they do have eight defensemen signed to one-way contracts, so the squad might part ways with one via the trade market. There’s also always the possibility that the Flyers will find a suitor for Lecavalier, although the fact that he has three seasons left on his contract with a $4.5 million annual cap hit makes moving him a challenge.

It’s Arizona Coyotes day at PHT

Shane Doan

Throughout the month of August, PHT will be dedicating a day to all 30 NHL clubs. Today’s team? The Arizona Coyotes.

The Arizona Coyotes struggled both offensively and defensively last season, and as a result they finished 29th overall with a 24-50-8 record.

Their 11-25-5 record at Gila River Arena was their worst home record since moving to Arizona 19 years ago.

Arizona finished 29th overall scoring 2.01 goals-for per-game and allowed 3.28 goals-for per-game good for 28th overall.

“Not only couldn’t we score last year, we couldn’t defend,” GM Don Maloney told NHL.com.

Oliver Ekman-Larsson led the way offensively with a career-high 23 goals and 43 points in 82 games for the Coyotes in 2014-15. His 23 goals were the most by a defenseman last season. The 24-year-old also represented Arizona at the NHL All-Star Game in Columbus.

Up front, Sam Gagner led all Coyotes’ forwards with 15 goals and 41 points – both were his highest totals since the 2011-12 season while a member of the Edmonton Oilers.

Mike Smith carried the load in goal making 62 appearances going 14-42-5 while posting a 3.16 G.A.A. and a .904 save percentage.

Off-season recap

The Arizona Coyotes solved their off-ice dispute over a lease agreement with the City of Glendale last month. The new deal will keep the Coyotes at Gila River Arena for at least the next two seasons.

Not surprisingly, the team is already pushing to have the deal extended.

As far as on-ice moves go, Maloney brought back Antoine Vermette after trading him to the Chicago Blackhawks prior to the trade deadline. Arizona also signed free-agent forwards Steve Downie and Brad Richardson.

On the blue line, the Coyotes brought back Zbynek Michalek, who was dealt to the St. Louis Blues at the trade deadline. Arizona also acquired Nicklas Grossmann in the trade, which also landed them the contract of Chris Pronger.

In goal, the Coyotes signed Anders Lindback to back up Smith.

“I think we’ll play better defense in front of [Smith], which is important,” Maloney said. “I think we’ll have a better structure in front of Mike so he doesn’t feel like he has to be all-world every night and he can just do his thing.”

Oilers’ biggest question: What about the blue line?

Darnell Nurse poses for a portrait after being selected number seven overall in the first round by the Edmonton Oilers during the 2013 NHL Draft at the Prudential Center on June 30, 2013 in Newark, New Jersey.
(June 29, 2013 - Source: Jamie Squire/Getty Images North America)

For all the young talent they’ve amassed up front, and even if the goaltending proves better next season, you can’t help but look at the Edmonton Oilers’ blue line and think, Oy, that’s not a very good blue line.

And in a league where it’s rare to win a championship without at least one elite defenseman, that’s a problem.

Case in point, when the Oilers made the finals in 2006, they had a guy by the name of Chris Pronger on the back end. He was traded that summer and they haven’t been back to the playoffs since.

From 2006 to 2012, Edmonton drafted 17 defensemen. The best was Jeff Petry, who’s in Montreal now. Today, the Oilers’ best veteran is probably the newly acquired Andrej Sekera. A solid player, sure. But certainly no threat to win the Norris Trophy. 

Which is why Oilers fans are so hopeful that 20-year-old Darnell Nurse, drafted seventh overall in 2013, can become a cornerstone defender, a la Duncan Keith, Drew Doughty, etc.

It’s also why GM Peter Chiarelli doesn’t want to screw up Nurse’s development by throwing him into an NHL role too soon.

“For a defenseman, it is harder to break into the league properly,” Chiarelli said, per OilersNation.com. “With Dougie Hamilton (in Boston), he had a good strong core around him, and they are completely different players. Darnell is a defender and a puck transporter. He has a few more nuances to learn as far as defending, but I saw him play at the end of his playoffs and he played well. He has world class speed and strength.

“That is a hard one (whether Nurse is NHL ready). I want to be patient with these guys knowing that they are good young players and you’d like to have them help you as soon as you can.”

The Oilers have a few other promising defensive prospects, including Oscar Klefbom and Griffin Reinhart. They’re also still hoping Justin Schultz will realize the potential they see in him.

Bottom line: Without a much improved defense, even Connor McDavid will find it tough to bring the glory back to Edmonton.

Related: Todd McLellan is under pressure

Hextall: It’s status quo between Flyers, Lecavalier

Vincent Lecavalier

We’ve seen quite a few “impossible-to-move” contracts actually get traded lately (see: Chris Pronger’s dead money), but it sounds like Vincent Lecavalier and the Philadelphia Flyers are stuck together. For now.

GM Ron Hextall described the situation as “status quo” on Friday, as CSNPhilly.com notes.

“We’re status quo,” Hextall said. “We’re planning on going into the season with Vinny and see what happens. Do I get a call with interest? I don’t know. At this point, we’re status quo.”

Tough sell

Simply put, it’s not easy to market a 35-year-old who was an occasional healthy scratch on a non-playoff team and also happens to carry a $4.5 million cap hit through 2017-18.

Hextall was describing the salary cap situation as a whole when he called it “not ideal” yet manageable, but perhaps those descriptions work best for Lecavalier’s situation.

Light at the end of the tunnel?

One thing to note is that Philly has already stomached some of the biggest financial burdens of his deal, so his contract might be easier to move later on.

After receiving $6 million in salary during 2013-14 and 2014-15 (not to mention hefty signing bonuses), Lecavalier’s receiving $4.5 million in salary in 2015-16 and already received his $2 million bonus in July, according to CSNPhilly.com.

Things get more affordable toward the end of the deal: he receives $3 million in salary in 2016-17 and 2017-18 and his final bonus is a little easier to stomach: $500K in July 2016. Teams hoping to save some cash while getting to the salary cap floor in 2016-17 may just find Lecavalier more interesting right after he gets that half-million bonus next summer.

Waiting another full year to get rid of Lecavalier’s contract obviously isn’t the most desirable thought, but it might be the most realistic scenario.

You can bet that Hextall will take other general managers’ calls about the floundering veteran whenever they come, though.

Related: Flyers are still stuck in salary cap jail

Trade: B’s send Smith, Savard’s contract to Florida for Hayes

Reilly Smith, Patrick Wiercioch

Boston GM Don Sweeney remained a busy man on Wednesday, shipping forward Reilly Smith to Florida in exchange for Panthers winger Jimmy Hayes.

Oh, the B’s also sent Marc Savard’s contract to South Florida in the deal as well.

A quick look at the particulars:

• Hayes, 25, is a former Boston College standout that spent the last two years in Florida, scoring 11 and 19 goals in each of the last two seasons. A big man (6-foot-6, 221 pounds) and current RFA, it sounds as though his camp couldn’t agree on a new contract with Panthers GM Dale Tallon, hence the move to the Bruins.

• Smith, 24, was one of the pieces the Bruins acquired in the Tyler Seguin-to-Dallas trade. After a good first year in Boston, scoring 20 goals and 51 points, Smith tailed off a bit this year and saw his totals drop to 13G and 40PTS. Unlike Hayes, Smith is under contract for two more years with a cap hit of $3.425 million.

• The Savard contract was rumored to be in play. At the draft, Philly moved Chris Pronger’s deal to Arizona, setting the stage for Boston to do the same with Savard. Brough touched on this yesterday:

Sweeney confirmed today that he’s spoken to a few teams about a transaction that would clear Savard’s $4 million cap hit (through 2016-17) off Boston’s books, and put it on a team that could perhaps use it.

No longer able to play due to concussion issues, Savard has an actual salary of just $575,000 in the final two years of his contract.

Dealing Savard would help the B’s in that they wouldn’t be as prone to the bonus-related overage issues that have plagued them recently. On that note, Sweeney suggested the Bruins intend to keep spending to the cap, and that they’re dealing with a current overage of approximately $1 million.

The Savard move was done so the B’s could ink former Anaheim forward Matt Beleskey in free agency.