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U.S. names Hanifin, Keller to Worlds roster

USA Hockey is going young with its entry into the 2017 World Hockey Championships, a trend that continued on Friday with the additions of Noah Hanifin and Clayton Keller.

Hanifin, 20, is coming off his sophomore campaign in Carolina and will be making his second straight appearance at the worlds. Taken fifth overall at the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, the former Boston College standout scored 29 points in 81 games this season but, as Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman noted recently, might actually be on the shopping block due to Carolina’s surplus of talent on defense.

Keller, 18, just wrapped a tremendous year in which he starred at Boston University — scoring 45 points in 31 games — helped the U.S. capture gold at the world juniors, and made his NHL debut for the Coyotes. Taken seventh overall at the ’16 draft, Keller is regarded as a star in the making, and should be fun to watch (again) on the international stage.

As mentioned above, USA Hockey has undergone a youth movement for this tournament. In addition to Keller and Hanifin, the roster also includes Dylan Larkin (20), Christian Dvorak (21), J.T. Compher (22) and Keller’s former Boston University teammate, 20-year-old Jordan Greenway (a Minnesota Wild prospect.)

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    It’s Philadelphia Flyers Day at PHT

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    Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to identifying X-factors to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the Philadelphia Flyers.

    2018-19
    37-37-8, 82 points (6th in the Metropolitan Division, 11th in the Eastern Conference)
    Playoffs: Did not qualify

    IN:
    Kevin Hayes
    Matt Niskanen
    Justin Braun
    Tyler Pitlick
    Kurtis Gabriel
    Nate Prosser
    Alain Vigneault – head coach

    OUT
    Andrew Macdonald (buyout)
    Jori Lehtera
    Radko Gudas
    Cam Talbot
    Michal Neuvirth
    Wayne Simmonds
    Phil Varone
    Anthony Stolarz

    RE-SIGNED:
    Travis Sanheim
    Brian Elliott
    Scott Laughton

    2018-19 Summary

    If you’re an NHL team that sets a league record for most starting goalies used over the course of a single season, it’s unlikely that said record is synonymous with winning.

    Here’s the list, in no particular order:

    • Brian Elliott
    • Anthony Stolarz
    Calvin Pickard
    • Michal Neuvirth
    • Alex Lyon
    • Mike McKenna
    • Cam Talbot
    Carter Hart

    Eight starting goalies, one more than the previous record of seven held by three other teams with the most recent being the 2007-08 Los Angeles Kings.

    Cam Talbot set the record in February, but it was No. 7 that tied the mark that stuck out in more ways than one.

    First, when you start seven different goalies by Dec. 18, you can be damn sure things have gone horribly awry.

    But No. 7 turned out to be lucky No. 7 in the end. Of all the goalies on that list, it’s 21-year-old rookie Hart who stole the show in the city best known for its goalie graveyard.

    The good news, then, is that Hart managed to fend off the grim goalie reaper, starting 29 more times after that Dec. 18 debut and posting a very respectable .917 save percentage on a team that surrendered a pile of shots and the third most goals against. Mix in horrible power play and a porous penalty kill and a Hart was seeing all sorts of rubber.

    If he would have begun the season sooner, he would have been firmly planted in the Calder Trophy discussion, much like Jordan Binnington in St. Louis. More importantly, if the Flyers would have had him playing like he did in the second half of the season, they may have been in the playoff conversation.

    Neither ended up being true but finding a potential stud starting goaltender in another otherwise lost season would be viewed as a silver lining that’s not just an illusion.

    The offseason will be debated when it comes to its success. Yes, they got a second-line center in Kevin Hayes who will allow for Claude Giroux to play out on the wing, a place he recorded 102 points two seasons ago alongside Sean Couturier. But they paid through the ears and the nose and whatever other orifices you want to name in your head.

    Seven years and $50 million is a lot of term and a lot of cash to hand a player who has hit the 50-point plateau just once in his five-year NHL career. One can suppose that if he adds to the spine of the team, takes some pressure of Nolan Patrick and allows Giroux the freedom to do his thing offensively, then the money is well spent.

    But this is a player who couldn’t make it as Winnipeg’s second-line center when the job was handed to him at the trade deadline last season. It’s a risky contract, no doubt.

    Some of the other moves have been more targeted. Matt Niskanen comes in to help on the blue line and on the penalty kill. Justin Braun, too, is there for defensive fortifications.

    And there’s a new bench boss in Alain Vigneault after the team fired Dave Hakstol back in December and rode Scott Gordon in the interim, and a new general manager in Chuck Fletcher after the Flyers decided to ax Ron Hextall.

    Are the Flyers reverted back to old ways?

    It’s been a wild past 12 months in Philly and who knows how it is all going to turn out.

    The Flyers top brass seemed unwilling to allow Hextall’s methodical approach to building a winner. Fletcher comes with a lot more flair, for sure. The jury is still out on whether flair is needed when taking things slow would have been much more desirable, however.

    Win, lose or shootout(?), at least there’s Gritty.

    MORE:
    • ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
    • Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule


    Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

    Islanders agree to terms with Brassard on 1-year deal

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    EAST MEADOW, N.Y. (AP) — The New York Islanders agreed to terms with Derick Brassard on a one-year contract Wednesday.

    Brassard, who will turn 32 on Sept. 22, had 14 goals and nine assists in 70 games last season while with Pittsburgh, Florida and Colorado. He also had an assist in nine playoff games with the Avalanche.

    Financial terms of the deal were not announced.

    The 23 points last season was his lowest total since he had a goal and an assist in 17 games as a rookie with Columbus in 2007-08.

    For his career, Brassard has totaled 176 goals and 275 assists in 786 games while also playing for the New York Rangers and Ottawa. He also has 23 goals and 37 assists in 99 career postseason games.

    For the Islanders, his fifth team in three seasons, Brassard will likely center the third line, filling the role held by Valtteri Filppula last season. Filppula signed with Detroit earlier this summer.

    Forward Anthony Beauvillier remains the Islanders’ lone restricted free agent unsigned after the team agreed to deals with Michael Dal Colle and Josh Ho-Sang earlier in the week

    PHT Morning Skate: Backstrom, Holtby extension talks; Price right for reset?

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    Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

    Elias Lindholm has a theory about Flames’ post-season flop. (Sportsnet)

    • The top 10 candidates to be traded this season. (The Hockey News)

    • Backstrom, Holtby extension talks in Capitals’ plans before camp. (NHL.com)

    • After out-sized expectations perhaps under-sized Kailer Yamamoto can finally make his pro hockey mark. (Edmonton Journal)

    • Will the Sabres trade Rasmus Ristolainen before the season begins? (The Hockey News)

    • Former ‘Miracle on Ice’ hockey player charged in attack. (Associated Press)

    • The best (and worst) NHL teams of the past decade. (ESPN)

    Rasmus Andersson is the key to the Flames moving forward. (The Hockey Writers)

    • Can Canadiens star Carey Price hang on until GM’s reset is complete? (Montreal Gazette)

    • Steady Tavares won’t be a distraction. (Canada.com)

    • Russ Conway, acclaimed journalist who brought down Alan Eagleson, passes away at 70. (The Hockey News)

    • Five predictions for the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 2019-20 season. (Pensburgh)

    • Oilers’ Jesse Puljujarvi wants top-6 role. Is it realistic? (Sporting News)

    • Bruins talking extension with Cassidy. (TSN.ca)

    MORE:
    • ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
    • Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule


    Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

    Advice for new Wild GM Bill Guerin

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    In a lot of ways, it’s fitting that the Minnesota Wild announced Bill Guerin as their next GM during Ottawa Senators Day at PHT.

    After all, Guerin is stepping into a GM gig that might be just as tough as what Pierre Dorion is dealing with in Ottawa, even if the challenges are different.

    Despite missing the playoffs in 2018-19 and failing to win a series from 2015-16 through 2017-18, Craig Leipold continues to drink the Kool-Aid, rather than pulling off the Band-Aid. He wants the Wild to contend, so if any rebuilding happens, it needs to take place while the Wild also try to compete.

    Mock former GM Paul Fenton all you want, but that isn’t exactly an easy juggling act.

    The question, then, is will Guerin be able to juggle better than Fenton? (After all, he does have the hands of a former NHL sniper.)

    Here’s some friendly advice for Guerin because, frankly, he’ll probably need all the help he can get.

    1. Find out who wants out

    As a former player, Guerin likely has a leg up on most GMs when it comes to being able to relate to other players. That might come in handy when it comes to a sensitive subject: waiving no-trade and no-movement clauses.

    Theoretically, it would be awkward to have such a conversation with a veteran player who’s meant a lot to the franchise, whether that be Zach Parise and his seemingly eternal contract, or Mikko Koivu on a one-year deal. Yet, as we’ve seen from Parise doing some summer soul-searching with The Athletic’s Michael Russo (sub required), some of these players have already pondered moving on. It’s easier to have such chats when you’re accomodating a veteran player trying to win that elusive Stanley Cup than it is to ask if you can uproot their family via a trade, after all.

    2. Identify your core, and don’t settle

    Such clause talk brings up some tough decisions for Guerin when it comes to who is a core Wild player and who is expendable.

    As stuck as the Wild seem right now, it’s remarkable how much of a clean slate Guerin can enjoy in the not-so-distant future … at least if he makes smart calls. Via Cap Friendly, the Wild have about $9.5M in cap space, although RFAs Kevin Fiala and Joel Eriksson Ek still need deals. Even if the cap remained at $81.5M, the Wild’s 2020-21 cap space would rise to $22M, and then all the way up to about $44M heading into 2021-22.

    With that in mind, Guerin needs to be cold and calculating. Should the Wild sign Jared Spurgeon, a soon-to-be 30-year-old defenseman who figures to be expensive following this upcoming contract year, or would it be smarter to trade a quality defenseman for what could be a big haul, and build for the future? The Wild have already seen how bad a long-term contract can look, and while Spurgeon could age gracefully, he could just as easily become another albatross.

    Spurgeon isn’t the only tough call, but he’s among the toughest.

    [From Wild Day at PHT: Under Pressure | Three Questions | X-Factor]

    3. Invest in analytics

    Firing Fenton after a bit more than a year wasn’t the greatest look for the Wild, but the silver lining was that it kept Fenton from flubbing a Jason Zucker trade in the same way he made the worst blunder of his time, the atrocious Nino Niederreiter trade.

    According to Russo’s scathing, incredible rundown of Fenton’s reign in Minnesota, the Niederreiter trade was essentially made during a Florida retreat where the Wild’s top analytics staffers weren’t even invited.

    The dream would be for Minnesota to be cutting edge, yet at a minimum, Guerin can avoiding shooting himself in the Fenton … er, foot.

    4. Bring in your people

    On the other hand, Russo’s reporting also enforced why it can be so important to surround yourself with people you trust.

    As much criticism as Fenton drew in that piece regarding being paranoid about leaks … it also is worth mentioning that stunning details ended up leaking out of Minnesota about Fenton’s foibles. Is that ironic, or Alanis Morissette ironic? Considering all that surfaced, can you blame Guerin if he poaches some of the people he knew from Pittsburgh?

    Guerin must aim for the right balance between hiring people you can trust, and fresh faces who innovate. I’d wager there’s a sweet spot between Lincoln’s “team of rivals” and Jon Gruden sending his scouting staff home during draft time out of paranoia.

    5. Manage Leipold

    Perhaps reality will slowly dawn upon Leipold that the Wild need to at least reboot things a bit. In the meantime, though, Guerin needs to hit the right buttons: keeping this team reasonably competitive, without totally mortgaging the future for marginal present-day gains.

    ***

    Chances are, there will be missed shots here and there for Guerin, but if he gets big picture decisions right where Fenton right wrong, the Wild might just become the top-shelf team Leipold demands.

    Eventually.

    MORE:
    • Did the Wild learn from the Fenton era?
    • Why the Wild are better off being terrible this season
    • ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker

    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.