Claude Giroux

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?

It’s Philadelphia Flyers Day at PHT

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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.

How do Voracek, Giroux compare to the most expensive duos?

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How would you rate Philadelphia’s Jakub Voracek and Claude Giroux compared to the other elite duos in the league?

Once Voracek’s new eight-year, $66 million extension begins in 2016-17, the Flyers top two forwards will cost a little over $16.5 million annually in cap space. There are just three duos that are currently more expensive: Chicago’s Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews ($21 million combined), Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby ($18.2 million), and Anaheim’s Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf ($16.9 million).

That’s some pretty tough company to be compared to. Toews and Kane have led Chicago to three Stanley Cup championships while Malkin and Crosby have also won the Cup and combined for three Hart Trophies. Perry and Getzlaf have their names on the Cup too and while that was back in 2007, Perry is also a Hart Trophy and Rocket Richard Trophy winner while Getzlaf has ranked fourth in total points over the last three seasons.

By comparison, over the four seasons since Voracek was acquired from Columbus, the Flyers have only won one playoff series and neither Voracek or Giroux have claimed a major award. The closest either came was when Giroux finished third in the Hart Trophy vote in 2014.

That being said, even if the top items of their resumes don’t measure up to some of the other elite duos, they certainly compare favorably in other ways. Over the last three season, Voracek and Giroux have combined for 396 points, putting them behind Malkin/Crosby (419), but ahead of Perry/Getzlaf (379), and Toews/Kane (370). On top of that, at 25 years old (26 in August), Voracek is the youngest player of those listed, so he’s had the least amount of time to work on his resume.

Finally, there’s the matter of the team built around each set of elite forwards. Philadelphia over the last few years has suffered under the weight of bloated contracts to older players. Part of that has come from a need to use band aid solutions defensively to compensate for a lack of desirable homegrown blueline options. With some promising defensemen now developing in the Flyers’ system, perhaps that will change.

Because at the end of the day, it won’t be about how many points Voracek or Giroux accumulate in the regular season. That’s certainly is relevant, but they will ultimately be judged on what happens in future playoff runs.

Voracek turns monster season into massive eight-year deal

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After two strong seasons, Jakub Voracek firmly established himself as a top-tier forward in 2014-15 and now he’s going to get paid like one.

The Philadelphia Flyers have inked Voracek to an eight-year, $66 million contract extension, per the Philadelphia Daily News’ Frank Seravalli. He still has a season left on his four-year, $17 million deal, so that means he’ll carry a $8.25 million annual cap hit starting in 2016-17 and through the 2023-24 campaign.

The 25-year-old forward (26 on Aug. 15), had 22 goals and a career-high 81 points in 82 games last season. That’s after he recorded 108 points in 130 contests over his previous two campaigns.

He was originally acquired in 2011 from the Columbus Blue Jackets as part of the Jeff Carter trade. Philadelphia also got the 2011 eighth overall selection in that deal, which the Flyers used on Sean Couturier. The two forwards now seem set to stick with each other for a long time as Couturier signed a six-year, $26 million deal just a few days ago.

In addition to those two, Philadelphia also has Claude Giroux inked through the 2021-22 campaign at roughly $8.3 million annually. It seems safe to say that the Flyers hope those three will serve as the team’s core for years to come.

Flyers’ Lecavalier will not retire ‘under any circumstances,’ says agent

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It appears as though Vincent Lecavalier could spend a third season in Philadelphia.

Speaking to TSN’s Frank Seravalli, Lecavalier’s agent Kent Hughes said his client would not retire “under any circumstances”. The Flyers have not contacted Lecavalier about a possible buyout either.

According to Capfriendly.com, buying out Lecavalier would cost the Flyers $2.9 million against the cap in each of the next three seasons. He would then be on the books for an $888,889 cap hit from 2018-21.

Hughes’ latest comments come after he suggested in March that his client could retire before his five-year, $22.5 million contract expires.

The 35-year-old appeared in 57 games for the Flyers in 2014-15 scoring eight goals and 12 assists to go along with a minus-7 rating while averaging 12:39 in time on ice.

Lecavalier’s name surfaced in trade rumors last May, as he was unable to fit into Craig Berube’s system.

It was suggest then that a move to Nashville, where he could reunite with Peter Laviolette, would be a good fit. Laviolette reportedly lobbied for the Flyers to sign Lecavalier after the Tampa Bay Lightning bought him out.

During the 2014-15 season Lecavalier told The Canadian Press that he would likely benefit from a change of scenery.

“Maybe it’s just a better opportunity I need,” said Lecavalier. “It happens to a lot of guys. Sometimes you just have to get out of it, try to get out of it and work hard through it and maybe another opportunity will happen.”

His comments came just days after Berube said he felt more comfortable with Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare as his centers.

In 126 games over two seasons with the Flyers Lecavalier has 28 goals, 57 points and a minus-7 rating.