Why the Flyers might not roll the dice with a free agent goalie

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Just about anyone who discusses hockey as a whole will expect the Philadelphia Flyers to go after a goalie this summer. When you look at the big picture, it’s unclear if that would be the best move, though. Peter Laviolette, for one thing, was fairly non-committal regarding that subject today.

To some, it’s an outrageous track to take. But when you think about, there are three big reasons why the Flyers might not be as crazy as they seem.

1. The Flyers could have some salary cap issues

If the cap ceiling rises to $62.2 million for the 2011-12 season as expected, the Flyers would have about $4.5 million in cap space remaining with 18 roster spots covered. While Nikolai Zherdev and Dan Carcillo are toss-ups, the team would probably like to bring Ville Leino and Darroll Powe back. Leino could end up being a bit pricey, so that $4.5 million could go away fast.

The team also has two goalies under contract for next season. Sergei Bobrovsky’s cap hit is $1.75 million and Michael Leighton’s due to make $1.55 million. The team might be able to stash one of those goalies in the minors, but if they pay big for a starter, then they’ll also pay big for a backup.

2. There aren’t many expected gems in the goalie market, either.

The two biggest unrestricted free agents are Tomas Vokoun and Ilya Bryzgalov (and that’s assuming Breezy won’t re-sign with the Phoenix). Beyond those options, there’s two past-their-prime former No. 1 players (Jean-Sebastien Giguere and Marty Turco) and 41-year-old netminder Dwayne Roloson. (Again, that’s assuming that Roloson will even hit the market.)

How certain can the Flyers be that Vokoun or Bryzgalov would succeed in Philly? Vokoun is a stats blogger’s dream goalie while Bryzgalov has been an elite regular season performer in Phoenix, but both goalies are used to very different situations. Each netminder played in smaller markets behind low-octane systems, so what happens when they might play in a more aggressive system with brutal fans?

I’d imagine both would count as upgrades for Philly, but would they be big enough upgrades to justify their expense? The team would probably need to dilute its depth to bring one of those two players in, so they’d have to be certain that one of those goalies would make things better.

If you’re about to scream Evgeni Nabokov’s name, I have two responses: 1) can you imagine how quick Philly fans would turn on Nabby? and 2) how can we know he’ll be any good after a year away from the league?

3. Goalies are unpredictable

The funniest thing about all the Flyers-bashing is that a lot of hockey fans seem to think it’s easy to find a great goalie. It’s almost as if people expect a goalie fairy to wave its magic wand and give you a sure thing in net.

Look around the league and ask yourself: how many teams are glad they’re paying big money for supposed sure-things in net? Let’s take a look at a telling trend in the league, noting the fact that the Flyers will spend about $3.25 million combined on goaltending if they stick with Bobrovsky-Leighton.

Teams who missed the playoffs despite spending $3.5 million or more on a single goalie:

Calgary (Miikka Kiprusoff – $5.88 million); Carolina (Cam Ward – $6.3M); Dallas (Kari Lehtonen – $3.5M); Edmonton (Nikolai Khabibulin – $3.75M); Florida (Vokoun – $5.7M); Minnesota (Niklas Backstrom – $6M); New Jersey (Martin Brodeur – $5.2M); NY Islanders (Rick DiPietro – $4.5M); Ottawa (Pascal Leclaire – $3.8M); St. Louis (Jaroslav Halak – $3.75M); Toronto (Giguere – $6M).

Their results varied, but it’s stunning that 11 out of the 14 teams who missed the playoffs spent big on a single goalie.

Contrast that picture with the lower numbers paid by the Flyers, Capitals, Red Wings, Sharks, Kings, Canadiens* and Lightning. Instead of being crazy, the Flyers might just be grimly realistic about the unstable but important position.

***

Goalies are important but unpredictable beasts. Surely the Flyers would love to find a goalie they can count on, but something tells me they prefer their situation to the locked-in-a-shaky-marriage scenarios faced by teams like the Wild and Flames.

* Carey Price is a solid bargain at $2.75 million per year.

WATCH LIVE: Predators host Kings on NBCSN

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Thursday night’s matchup between the Los Angeles Kings and Nashville Predators. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

The Nashville Predators could end up being one of the biggest buyers during the impending trade deadline, but as far as Thursday’s concerned, they hope to beat the Los Angeles Kings.

If Nashville wins this game, they’d climb over the Winnipeg Jets for first place in the Central Division, at least for a little while.

[More on the Predators having the Central in their sights]

The Kings are on a five-game losing streak, so it will be a challenge to keep their heads high entering a four-game road trip. For all we know, we might see certain Kings players suit up for L.A. for the last time (or last times) before possibly being moved. That thought likely also cross the minds of various low and mid-level Predators, in the event that Nashville has to give up parts in a splashy move.

Fans can also witness the slightly under-the-radar dominance of the Predators’ top line, although it’s possible that Viktor Arvidsson might not be able to suit up alongside Filip Forsberg and Ryan Johansen on Thursday.

[WATCH LIVE – COVERAGE BEGINS AT 7 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

What: Los Angeles Kings at Nashville Predators
Where: T-Mobile Arena
When: Thursday, Feb. 21, 7 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
Live stream: You can watch the Kings-Predators stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

KINGS
Alex IafalloAnze KopitarDustin Brown
Brendan LeipsicJeff CarterTyler Toffoli
Trevor LewisAdrian KempeIlya Kovalchuk
Kyle CliffordMichael AmadioAustin Wagner

Derek ForbortDrew Doughty
Oscar FantenbergPaul LaDue
Dion PhaneufMatt Roy

Starting goalie: Jonathan Quick

PREDATORS
Filip Forsberg — Ryan Johansen — Kevin Fiala
Colton SissonsKyle TurrisCalle Jarnkrok
Brian BoyleNick BoninoRyan Hartman
Cody McLeodFrederick GaudreauRocco Grimaldi

Roman JosiRyan Ellis
Mattias EkholmP.K. Subban
Dan HamhuisYannick Weber

Starting goalie: Pekka Rinne

Alex Faust (play-by-play) and Brian Boucher (‘Inside-the-Glass’ analyst) will have the call from Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn. Pre-game coverage starts at 7 p.m. ET with NHL Live, hosted by Kathryn Tappen with Jeremy Roenick and Keith Jones.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Senators scratch Stone, Duchene as trade deadline mysteries continue

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With the trade deadline days away, it’s still unclear how things are going to pan out with Mark Stone or Matt Duchene. The Ottawa Senators are taking the logical step to make sure that injuries don’t force their hand.

(You know, barring someone slipping on ice or getting injured eating pancakes.)

It’s no surprise that Duchene is a healthy scratch for Thursday’s game against the New Jersey Devils, as that appeared to be the plan all along. The bigger surprise is that Mark Stone is also being preserved with a healthy scratch. Actually, the Senators are leaving plenty of doors open, as Ryan Dzingel was also kept from action.

All three players are pending UFAs, with Stone and Dzingel being 26, and Duchene at 28.

While there are heavy indications that Duchene is especially likely to be traded, none of them are guaranteed to go. That said, some wonder if Thursday served as an unofficial deadline for Stone negotiations. Take this from The Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch, who wrote of a possible Stone scratch earlier on Thursday:

It’s believed owner Eugene Melnyk and general manager Pierre Dorion wanted an agreement in place with Stone’s camp by Thursday evening and they don’t want to take any risk he’s going to get hurt if he’s to be moved before the deadline.

If you’re already exasperated watching the “will they or won’t they?” pendulum swing back and forth for Duchene and Stone, there’s good news and bad news. The Senators play three games before Monday’s 3pm ET deadline: Thursday against the Devils in New Jersey, Friday against Columbus in Ottawa, and a Sunday home game versus the Calgary Flames.

The good news for those who are annoyed: we’ll know for sure if they get traded very soon. Again, the deadline is Monday afternoon.

Now, if you enjoy this sort of thing, then you’re in for a treat, no matter how close to the wire things go. Could this signal that the Senators are finally going to start firing away? What kind of prices are realistic, versus rumors designed to maximize value? Could Duchene, Dzingel, and/or Stone actually end up sticking with Ottawa after all? The window’s open wider for potential extensions, but trades-wise, we’ll get some answers soon. For everyone but Senators fans, this could be very exciting.

The Devils are holding out two players for precautionary reasons of their own: forward Marcus Johansson and defenseman Ben Lovejoy.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Should Bruins add more at trade deadline after Coyle?

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After trading Ryan Donato and a pick for Charlie Coyle, GM Don Sweeney said that the Boston Bruins might be done at the trade deadline.

“I don’t know if we’re necessarily going to do anything else,” Sweeney said during a conference call, via NBC Sports Boston’s Joe Haggerty. “We are going to continue to make calls and receive calls, and we’ll continue to monitor the marketplace to see what may or may not fit with our hockey club. We’re going to continue to cross our fingers that we stay healthy. I think our club has . . . put themselves in a position to compete for a playoff spot and improve the positioning if possible as we come down to the last 21 games. We’re going to continue to look at areas. But we’re excited.”

The Bruins pushed their winning streak to seven games on Wednesday, tentatively giving them home-ice in a potential first-round series against the Toronto Maple Leafs. So, yeah, it’s understandable that Boston’s excited about its chances. The fact that they’ve accomplished this while navigated injuries to the likes of David Pastrnak, Patrice Bergeron, and Zdeno Chara only brightens their outlook.

But, should the Bruins continue to add? Let’s take a look at how much of a boost Coyle might be, what the Bruins have to work with, and try to gauge the pros and cons of more trades.

A versatile piece

As strong as the Bruins have been in 2018-19, they’ve been extremely top-heavy, counting on a mixture of staunch defense, fantastic goaltending, and the top line of Pastrnak-Bergeron-Brad Marchand.

Charlie Coyle could give David Krejci a viable winger, along with Jake DeBrusk. He has plenty of experience centering his own lines, too, so Boston may eventually decide that Coyle works best as a 3C.

When we look back on the trade, it’s possible that we’ll realize that the Bruins might have sold low on Ryan Donato’s potential. Whatever the cause (coach, his own struggles) was, the 22-year-old was only averaging 12:30 TOI per game this season, down from last year’s rookie workrate of 14:42.

Whether Coyle explodes alongside a playmaker like Krejci, merely produces at his solid Wild rate, or anchors a third line, it’s nearly certain that he’ll provide more immediate dividends than what Donato would have delivered from Bruce Cassidy’s doghouse.

If Coyle ends up being the extent of the Bruins’ trade deadline spoils, it wouldn’t be all bad.

Cap Concerns

Now, if the Bruins want more, things get interesting.

At a very affordable $3.2M cap hit (through 2019-20), Coyle doesn’t break the bank, and is likely to be more valuable than he’s getting paid. The Bruins also didn’t give up much in draft capital to land Coyle, merely handing over a conditional fifth-rounder along with Donato.

So the Bruins have their picks, most notably from the top three rounds, along with the Rangers’ fourth. For a contending team that’s already added a roster player, the Bruins have reasonable ammo to try to go after someone else.

Cap Friendly projects the Bruins’ trade deadline cap space at about $15.74M. (Things get a little tricky when you consider prorated cap hits and possible performance bonuses, but the bottom line is that they have more to work with than the full-season projection of $3.384M.)

Considering the circumstances, Boston would be best served only looking for a rental.

It’s unclear if Zdeno Chara would continue his run of one-year deals, and if he’d seek a raise from his current $5M mark. Charlie McAvoy‘s headed for a big raise from his rookie deal, with the only question being how much he’ll get. Danton Heinen‘s slated to become an RFA, too. Overall, the Bruins have enough concerns (including Torey Krug only being covered through 2019-20) that they’d be wise not to make too many longer-term additions. Again, Coyle’s only locked down through 2019-20 himself, so he’s likely to be more expensive in the future in his own right.

If the Bruins wanted to go bolder – but more awkward and complicated – they could also try to move David Backes‘ contract.

Backes, 34, carries a $6M cap hit through (whew) 2020-21. According to Cap Friendly, Backes has a no-movement clause through this season, which then morphs into a modified no-trade clause, so Boston would need Backes to OK a move.

Getting another team to absorb Backes’ contract would also require some convincing, yet maybe the Bruins could bribe a budget team to take it on in exchange for a pick or two? While his cap hit is unsightly, the term is becoming less formidable, and his total salary drops from $6M in 2018-19 to $4M in 2019-20 and 2020-21. These details make a Backes trade feel far more likely after this season, but it might not hurt to explore ideas now.

The bottom line is that the Bruins have some bullets in the chamber, but they’ll probably be hunting for mid-range targets, rather than the Artemi Panarin-level stars. If they even take any other shots, mind you.

A question of windows

We’ve gotten into nitty gritty details, but zooming out on the larger terrain makes future planning arguably even more interesting.

On one hand, this might be the Bruins’ best chance at a deep run. While they’ve been able to unearth some real gems in the draft, particularly Pastrnak and McAvoy, the Bruins are nonetheless highly dependent on some aging players.

Chara is 41, and still important. Bergeron seems ageless at 33, but you never know when Father Time will pull an about-face. Marchand is 30, and Krejci is 32. Tuukka Rask isn’t ancient at 31, and Jaroslav Halak isn’t either at 33, yet a more demanding game could open the door for both of their impressive goalies to slide.

For all we know, the Bruins’ window could close, and as we’ve seen from teams like the Kings, sometimes that collapse is abrupt.

That said, there’s no denying that the Bruins face a bumpy road to a hopeful playoff run.

The Tampa Bay Lightning are so far ahead of everyone else, it’s honestly kind of ridiculous. There’s the impression that we still haven’t seen the best of the Toronto Maple Leafs, who might still have some tricks up their sleeves at the trade deadline. And those are just the most prominent teams in the Bruins’ bracket.

Such competition serves as potential inspiration to add, but it also might feel discouraging. Should the Bruins really mortgage their future when they’d be beating long odds in getting out of the second round?

The good news is that the Coyle trade doesn’t close all doors for the Bruins, but it doesn’t mean these are easy questions to answer.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Trade: Capitals bank on Hagelin having more left in the tank

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The Washington Capitals acquired Carl Hagelin from the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday, hoping a former fixture of the Pittsburgh Penguins can help them repeat as Stanley Cup champions. Here’s the full deal:

Capitals receive: Carl Hagelin

Kings receive: 2019 third-round pick, conditional sixth-round pick in 2020.

The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun reports that the Kings will retain 50 percent of Hagelin’s salary/cap hit, which would be the second time a team retained a portion of the winger’s salary, as the Penguins retained a small chunk of his cap hit earlier this season in the Tanner Pearson trade.

Washington likely looks at Hagelin as a replacement for Devante Smith-Pelly, who cleared waivers on Thursday.

Kings add fuel to rebuild

While the Kings take on a portion of Hagelin’s contract for the remainder of 2018-19, he’s set to be a UFA, so this is a short-term cost for Los Angeles.

When you look back at the two Hagelin deals Los Angeles was involved with, they essentially turned Pearson into cap space and picks. Pearson carries a $3.75M cap hit through 2020-21, which isn’t particularly useful for a rebuilding team.

The Kings’ biggest building block for the future came in getting the Maple Leafs’ first-rounder (and two prospects) for Jake Muzzin, but this Hagelin swap buffs up the quantity for Los Angeles. Along with having their original seven picks in 2019, the Kings now have Toronto’s first-rounder, Washington’s third, and the Flames’ fourth (so 10 overall).

Capitals’ side

Washington very much needed the Kings to retain salary in this move, as Hagelin’s reduced cap hit ($1.875M) leaves the Capitals with about $116,682 in projected cap space for the trade deadline.

During some of his best recent days, Hagelin was the “H” on the Penguins’ “HBK” line, provided speedy support to compliment Nick Bonino and Phil Kessel. Hagelin also faced the Capitals as a good fit for the New York Rangers, so Washington has plenty of firsthand experience with Hagelin.

It sure seems like those playoff battles took their toll on the 30-year-old, however. After being limited to three points in 16 games with the Penguins, Hagelin didn’t have much more luck with the Kings, managing only five points in 22 games.

Naturally, production isn’t everything, and that point makes Hagelin more interesting.

Along with bringing valuable speed and battle-tested experience to the table, Hagelin checks a lot of the possession boxes, even as his scoring has dipped in 2018-19.

Considering the snug cap situation the Capitals are in, this addition makes a lot of sense. It also furthers the Kings’ goals of building toward the future by tearing down the present. Rate this as a modest win-win for both sides, with Hagelin’s playoff work determining how it will really matter for the Caps.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.