Flyers sign budding star James van Riemsdyk to a six-year, $25.5M contract extension

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The Philadelphia Flyers will have some decisions to make next summer, but one thing they won’t have to worry about is re-signing James van Riemsdyk. The team came to terms on a six-year extension with the budding star today to avoid a prolonged negotiation process next summer, when JVR was primed to become a restricted free agent. David Isaac reports that the six-year total is $25.5 million, which means that his annual salary cap hit will be $4.25 million beginning in the 2012-13 season.

However you might feel about the way the Flyers do business, they’ve shown some solid foresight in wrapping up soon-to-be stars before. They did so in November 2010 when they re-signed Claude Giroux to a three-year contract extension that will pay him just $3.75 million per season. That’s the kind of contract that opens up wiggle room for the team to reinvent itself with splashy moves such as trading Mike Richards and Jeff Carter while giving Ilya Bryzgalov a high-risk contract.

We’ll have to wait and see if this signing is as much of a home run as the Giroux deal. The Flyers are putting a lot of stock in the idea that JVR’s impressive 2011 playoff performances are a sign of a true breakout rather than just a brief run of excellence. No doubt about it, he was downright sensational at times in the postseason; it seemed like he could have scored four goals during his two-goal game against the Boston Bruins in the team’s overtime Game 2 defeat.

JVR needs to keep firing away

If you ask me, it could come down to confidence, which might be most tangibly illustrated by the staggering difference in the amounts of shots he put on net in the playoffs versus the regular season. In 75 regular season games in 2010-11, JVR scored 21 goals on 173 shots (2.31 shots per game). In 11 playoff games, he scored seven goals and put a dizzying 70 shots on net, which comes out to about 6.36 shots per game.

It’s not realistic to expect him to maintain that pace over 70+ games, but if he can hit somewhere around four shots per game, it’s not crazy to expect a 30 goal season in 2011-12. Hopefully he’ll share the vulcanized rubber with teammates every now and then, though; he didn’t register a single assist during his impressive 2011 playoff run.

Following in Bobby Ryan’s footsteps

JVR was part of a watershed moment for USA Hockey, as he went second overall behind fellow American-born winger Patrick Kane in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. The Chicago Blackhawks reaped immediate rewards from their top pick while the Flyers have been patient with van Riemsdyk’s development process, bringing him along slowly as he debuted with the team in 2009-10. In a way, his path is reminiscent of fellow U.S.-born second overall pick Bobby Ryan; the impressive power forwards may always be “the guys who were drafted after Sidney Crosby/Kane” but their teams’ patience is paying off on the ice and on accounting spreadsheets as well.

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Philly now has 16 players and about $51.3 million in cap commitments for the 2012-13 season, with Jaromir Jagr, Jakub Voracek, Matt Carle and Braydon Coburn ranking as their most prominent pending free agents next summer. The latter three will represent some tough choices for the Flyers, but they took care of their biggest concern today.

The Flyers’ investment is clearly based on their internal projections that JVR is primed to be a star. Every indication is that they were right about making a similar decision with Giroux, so this could be another huge move for the long-term viability of the franchise. There are always risks involved with these types of moves – especially when it comes to contracts as lengthy as these – but overall it looks like both sides won big.

Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

Ilya Mikheyev
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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

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Nick Turchiaro/USA TODAY Sports
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Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

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MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

“I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

“I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

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SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.