Is Michael Nylander’s training camp tryout a sign that the Flyers are worried about Jaromir Jagr?

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While his $3.3 million salary is a bit bloated, the Philadelphia Flyers might get more from Jaromir Jagr than many critics expect. If nothing else, he’ll be inspired in a big chunk of Atlantic Division contests. Beyond sticking it to the Pittsburgh Penguins, many overlook the fact that Jagr will also have added motivation to get on-ice “revenge” against the New York Rangers, a team he spent parts of four seasons with. The deal would have been worthy of more ridicule if the term wasn’t right, but since it’s just a one-year deal, their risks are isolated to that hefty price alone.

Of course, the $3.3 million question is whether or not the future Hall of Famer will be an effective NHL player after spending the last three seasons in the KHL. His final season with the Rangers was a relative disappointment; after scoring 123 points in 2005-06 and 96 in 06-07, Jagr fell short of earning the right to extend his contract in New York by scoring “just” 71 points.

Jagr put up those impressive 05-06 and 06-07 numbers skating alongside fellow aging forward Michael Nylander and both forwards seemed to decline once they parted ways. Nylander’s post-Jagr path has been downright disastrous; he began that 2007 off-season by messily spurning the Edmonton Oilers to sign an ill-fated deal with the Washington Capitals. His price was a big issue, but his style wasn’t very cohesive with the Capitals’ style either, prompting the team to bury him in the minors. Things got even worse for Nylander last season, as a season-ending injury kicked him while he was down and put his career in serious jeopardy.

After navigating some serious bumps in the road over the last few years, the two forwards will be reunited – at least briefly – in Flyers’ training camp. While Jagr received that handsome one-year deal, Nylander’s situation is more fluid: he must fight for a roster spot via a training camp tryout. That invitation makes Puck Update’s Steve Ovadia wonder if the Flyers are having some concerns about how Jagr might fit into their team.

In the frenzy of the NHL off-season, the Flyers might have thought signing Jagr seemed like a great idea. They got to stick it to the Penguins, who were also interested in Jagr. And they got people talking about something other than the Flyers trading away Mike Richards and Jeff Carter.

But when the excitement of signing Jagr cleared, I’m wondering if the Flyers suddenly found themselves with doubts about just how Jagr will fit into their team. Coach Peter Laviolette loves sending forwards to the net, while Jagr lives along the side boards. Will Laviolette have to run two different offenses depending upon who’s on the ice?

I suspect the Nylander invitation is a bit of an insurance policy on Jagr. If Nylander can still play well enough, I think the Flyers like the idea of having a security blanket for Jagr. Jagr and Nylander could do their own east-west thing while the rest of the team can execute Laviolette’s north-south game plan.

Nylander centering Jagr’s line would be more than a bit comical considering the fact that Jagr cited the perks of skating alongside Claude Giroux and Danny Briere when explaining why he signed with the Flyers.

The next season will be an interesting test of Peter Laviolette’s strategic skills since the Flyers roster shifted from an overloaded offensive power to a team that is structured like many other NHL teams (a decent spread of talent on offense and defense with a high-priced goalie). Jagr’s greatest impact will probably come on the power play this season either way, so it might actually make some sense to pair him with Nylander in even strength situations and then throw him on one of the top PP units.

Ultimately, that’s for Laviolette (along with both Nylander and Jagr’s efforts in practices and training camp) to decide. Whether they resemble a Broadway play or a traveling circus, the Flyers should remain one of the NHL’s most dramatic and colorful teams next season – so stay tuned.

(H/T to Puck Daddy.)

Sabres agree with Dylan Cozens on 7-year, $49.7M extension

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BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Buffalo Sabres agreed to terms with forward Dylan Cozens on a seven-year extension worth $49.7 million.

The team announced the contract. Cozens will count $7.1 million against the salary cap through the 2029-30 season.

Cozens, who turns 22, is the latest core player the Sabres have extended over the past six months. Buffalo signed All-Star forward Tage Thompson for $50 million over seven seasons in August and defenseman Mattias Samuelsson to a seven-year, $30 million deal in October.

Rasmus Dahlin, the top pick in 2020 who’s a Norris Trophy candidate and filled in for Thompson at NHL All-Star weekend, figures to be next for a big contract. He’s signed through next season and can begin talking about an extension this summer.

Cozens, who was set to be a restricted free agent, has already set career highs with 17 goals, 26 assists and 43 points – with 30 games left in the season. The seventh pick in 2019, Cozens has 34 goals and 60 assists in 169 regular-season NHL games, all with Buffalo.

The Sabres, led by Dahlin, Thompson, Cozens and 2021 No. 1 pick Owen Power, are contending to make the playoffs. The organization’s 11-year playoff drought dating to 2011 is by far the longest in the league.

Stanley Cup champion Avalanche steadily returning to health

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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Had his coach been watching, this might have made for an anxious moment: Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar catching an edge and falling in the fastest skater contest.

Jared Bednar wasn’t tuned in, though, and had no idea what happened in the skills contest over All-Star weekend. Only that Makar emerged from his crash into the boards just fine.

These days, things are definitely looking up for the Stanley Cup champions on the injury front. Defenseman Bowen Byram returns to the lineup, along with forward Valeri Nichushkin. Defenseman Josh Manson is creeping closer to a return. Same for captain Gabriel Landeskog, who’s yet to play this season. Forward Darren Helm is progressing, too.

In spite of all their bumps and bruises, the Avalanche entered the All-Star break in a playoff spot. To weather the injury storm, Colorado has relied on 39 different skaters this season, a mark that’s tied for the most in a single season since the team relocated to Denver in 1995.

“Anybody we can get back right now is huge,” said Makar, whose team kicks off a three-game trip Tuesday night in Pittsburgh.

Byram returns after being sidelined with a lower-body injury since early November. He was an integral part of their Stanley Cup run a season ago, when he led all rookies with nine assists in the postseason. Byram was off to a fast start this season – two goals and three assists in 10 games – before his injury.

“He’s looking great. He’s buzzing out there,” Makar said of his fellow blue liner. “Hopefully it doesn’t take him too long to get back into game mode. But I think he’s a guy that can turn it on pretty quickly.”

Byram missed a chunk of games last season as he dealt with concussion symptoms. This time, he was able to be around the team as he worked his way back.

“I was just happy it wasn’t my head,” Byram said. “It was a lot easier to be out when you’re still feeling good and feel like yourself. … I’m just excited to get going again.”

Count on Byram for as many minutes as necessary, too.

“I’m 100%, so no reason to ease into it,” Byram said. “I’m confident with jumping back in.”

Manson will join the Avalanche on the trip so he can skate with the squad. He’s been out with a lower-body injury since the start of December.

“I do think it helps to get on the road, be around the guys,” Bednar said.

Landeskog could be back “fairly soon,” Bednar said, but didn’t have a definitive timeline quite yet. The longtime Avalanche captain has been sidelined since knee surgery in October.

The Avalanche entered the All-Star break on quite a roll, winning seven of their last eight. They’ve amassed 57 points, which trails Dallas (66 points at the All-Star break), Winnipeg (65) and Minnesota (58) in the Central Division.

One thing the Avalanche are guarding against is another slow start out off the break. It happened over Christmas when the team had a few days off and promptly went 0-4-1 upon their return.

“It’s just shifting the mentality back to game mode. No more vacation,” Makar said. “We still have a long way to go. We’re not where we want to be right now. But there’s a lot of time left.”

Kraken add some size, acquire Jaycob Megna from San Jose

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SEATTLE — The Seattle Kraken acquired defenseman Jaycob Megna from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for a 2023 fourth-round draft pick.

Megna is in the midst of his best season with 12 points in 48 games for the Sharks while averaging more than 19 minutes per game.

“Jaycob has shown with his play this season that he is a responsible defenseman that can be relied on in all situations,” Seattle general manager Ron Francis said. “He provides welcome depth to our defensive group and we are happy to have him join our organization.”

The 6-foot-6, 220-pound Megna will add some size and bulk to Seattle’s lineup. Megna ranked fifth for San Jose in both blocked shots and hits.

Megna previously played for Anaheim for parts of three seasons between 2016-19. The 48 games played this season is a career-high for the 30-year-old.

Seattle is tied for the lead in the Pacific Division and will return from the All-Star break beginning against the New York Islanders.

Islanders sign Bo Horvat to 8-year deal after trading for him

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The New York Islanders signed center Bo Horvat to an eight-year contract less than a week after acquiring him in a trade with the Vancouver Canucks.

The team announced the contract after their first practice following the All-Star break. Horvat’s deal is worth $68 million and carries a $8.5 million salary cap hit through the 2030-31 season.

General manager Lou Lamoriello joked to reporters at practice on Long Island that Horvat’s contract was “too long and it’s too much money.”

The Islanders sent forward Anthony Beauvillier, prospect Aatu Raty and a protected first-round pick to the Canucks for Horvat . He was set to be an unrestricted free agent after the season, and the trade was a result of Vancouver and Horvat’s camp being unable to reach a deal last summer.

Lamoriello and Horvat expressed confidence about getting a deal done after the trade. The 27-year-old has scored more than 30 goals for a second consecutive season.

Horvat was chosen as an All-Star and played for the Pacific Division despite the trade. He played with longtime Canucks teammate Elias Pettersson and combined on one last goal together before parting ways.

“I want to get going,” Horvat said after the All-Star 3-on-3 tournament. “That’s enough. Let’s start playing some games and getting to know the guys. I just want to start playing hockey again.”

Horvat was on vacation with his family in Orlando when he was traded. He said coach Lane Lambert wanted him to enjoy All-Star festivities before getting rolling with the Islanders, who play at the Philadelphia Flyers.

“Obviously getting my legs under me is going to be No. 1 and getting systems down and obviously chemistry with the new linemates and stuff like that,” Horvat said.

After facing the Flyers and Seattle, Horvat will play against his former team when Vancouver visits UBS Arena.