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Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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2018-19 NHL on NBC Schedule Features Most Games Since NBC Sports Acquired Rights Prior to 2005-06 Season

New “Wednesday Night Hockey” on NBCSN to Showcase Its Most Diverse Exclusive Schedule to Date and NHL’s Rising Stars 

2019 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic Features Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins on Jan. 1 on NBC from Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Ind.

NBC Sports Presents 2019 NHL All-Star Game from San Jose, Calif., Live in Primetime on Broadcast Television for First Time Since 1997 

NBC Sports is scheduled to present 109 NHL regular-season games during the 2018-19 season – its most since acquiring NHL rights prior to the 2005-06 season. Coverage begins Wednesday, Oct. 3, at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, when Alex Ovechkin and the Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals raise their championship banner to the rafters and host the Boston Bruins. All games will be streamed live on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app to authenticated users via TV Everywhere.

NBC Sports’ 2018-19 NHL schedule is highlighted by the debut of “Wednesday Night Hockey” on NBCSN, which will showcase the network’s most diverse schedule since it acquired NHL rights prior to the 2005-06 season, as well as NHL’s current and rising stars. Highlights of NBC Sports’ “Wednesday Night Hockey” schedule on NBCSN include: 

  • Doubleheaders – 17 of 25 “Wednesday Night Hockey” showcases on NBCSN will be doubleheaders, the most in the network’s history, with a nearly equal balance of Eastern and Western Conference teams;
  • Diverse schedule – “Wednesday Night Hockey” will feature NBCSN’s widest variety of teams to date on Wednesday nights, including multiple appearances by Tampa Bay, Colorado, Toronto, Vegas, Edmonton, Nashville, and Winnipeg. The defending champion Washington Capitals lead all teams with eight “Wednesday Night Hockey” appearances;
  • Earlier start times – While some games will begin at 8 p.m. ET, the majority of “Wednesday Night Hockey” games and doubleheaders will begin at either 7 p.m. ET or 7:30 p.m. ET. On many occasions, coverage of the second game of “Wednesday Night Hockey” doubleheaders begins at 9:30 p.m. ET, earlier than past years. 

“With the impressive growth of fan interest in non-traditional NHL markets combined with the emergence of a number of rising stars, we felt the time was right to broaden our Wednesday night schedule and evolve the brand,” said Sam Flood, Executive Producer and President, Production, NBC Sports and NBCSN. “Fans will still see plenty of games between traditional powers, but our new approach to Wednesday nights – including a record number of doubleheaders – allows us to show more rising stars and more Western Conference and Canadian teams than ever before.”

Following are highlights of NBC Sports’ 2018-19 NHL regular-season schedule:

  • The season opens with a “Wednesday Night Hockey” doubleheader on Oct. 3 at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN as the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals host the Boston Bruins, followed by the Anaheim Ducks vs. San Jose Sharks at 10:30 p.m. ET;
  • NBC Sports will present the 2019 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic between the Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks from iconic Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Ind., on Jan. 1, 2019, at 1 p.m. ET on NBC;
  • NBC Sports will present exclusive primetime coverage of the 2019 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers from Lincoln Financial Field, home of the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles, on Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019 at 8 p.m. ET on NBC;
  • NBC will present coverage of the 2019 NHL All-Star Weekend from SAP Center in San Jose, Calif., home of the San Jose Sharks, on Jan. 25-26, highlighted by live coverage of the All-Star Game on Saturday, Jan. 26, in primetime on NBC, the first time the All-Star Game will be televised live on a broadcast network since 1997;
  • NBC Sports will present 13 NHL games on NBC, beginning with the 2018 Discover Thanksgiving Showdown on Friday, Nov, 23, when the Philadelphia Flyers host the New York Rangers;
  • 67 of 110 scheduled regular-season games on NBC and NBCSN – more than 60% – will feature at least one Western Conference team.

NHL WINTER CLASSIC AND NHL STADIUM SERIES

On Jan. 1, the 2019 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic will feature the Boston Bruins and the Chicago Blackhawks from Notre Dame Stadium in Notre Dame, Ind., on NBC. The NHL Winter Classic has produced the five most-watched regular-season games in NHL history. The 2019 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series will feature the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers on Feb. 23 in primetime on NBC at Lincoln Financial Field, home of the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles.

WEDNESDAY NIGHT HOCKEY

NBCSN’s exclusive “Wednesday Night Hockey” coverage will feature the NHL’s established stars and young phenoms, and NBC Sports’ most diverse schedule to date. In addition, many “Wednesday Night Hockey” games and doubleheaders will feature earlier start times (7-7:30 p.m. ET). In many cases, Eastern Conference teams will be featured in the first game of the doubleheader, followed by a Western Conference matchup in the nightcap. Notable games on the “Wednesday Night Hockey” schedule include:

  • October 10 – A 2018 Stanley Cup Final rematch between the Vegas Golden Knights and Washington Capitals;
  • October 24 – Two of the best young stars in the NHL will clash when Auston Matthews and the Toronto Maple Leafs visit Patrik Laine and the Winnipeg Jets;
  • January 23 – Ovechkin and the Capitals host Matthews and the Maple Leafs, followed by a battle out west between P.K. Subban and the Nashville Predators vs. Marc-Andre Fleury and the Golden Knights;
  • February 13 – Three-time Stanley Cup champion Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins host Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers in Edmonton’s only visit to Pittsburgh;
  • March 20 – A rematch of the 2018 Eastern Conference Final, as Ovechkin and the Capitals host Steven Stamkos and the Tampa Bay Lightning.

NBCSN 2018-19 NHL “Wednesday Night Hockey” schedule (subject to change):

Date Away Home Time (ET)
October 3* Boston Washington 7:30 p.m.
Anaheim San Jose 10:30 p.m.
October 10 Vegas Washington 8 p.m.
October 17 N.Y. Rangers Washington 7 p.m.
Boston Calgary 9:30 p.m.
October 24 Toronto Winnipeg 7 p.m.
Tampa Bay Colorado 9:30 p.m.
November 7 Pittsburgh Washington 7:30 p.m.
Nashville Colorado 10 p.m.
November 14 St. Louis Chicago 8 p.m.
Anaheim Vegas 10:30 p.m.
November 28 St. Louis Detroit 7 p.m.
Pittsburgh Colorado 9:30 p.m.
December 5 Edmonton St. Louis 8 p.m.
Chicago Anaheim 10:30 p.m.
December 12 Pittsburgh Chicago 8 p.m.
December 19 Pittsburgh Washington 8 p.m.
January 2 Pittsburgh N.Y. Rangers 7 p.m.
San Jose Colorado 9:30 p.m.
January 9 Nashville Chicago 8 p.m.
January 16 Boston Philadelphia 7:30 p.m.
San Jose Arizona 10 p.m.
January 23 Washington Toronto 7:30 p.m.
Nashville Vegas 10 p.m.
January 30 Tampa Bay Pittsburgh 8 p.m.
February 6 Boston N.Y. Rangers 8 p.m.
February 13 Edmonton Pittsburgh 8 p.m.
February 20 Chicago Detroit 7:30 p.m.
Boston Vegas 10 p.m.
February 27 Tampa Bay N.Y. Rangers 7:30 p.m.
Chicago Anaheim 10 p.m.
March 6 Washington Philadelphia 7:30 p.m.
St. Louis Anaheim 10 p.m.
March 13 Chicago Toronto 7 p.m.
New Jersey Edmonton 9:30 p.m.
March 20 Tampa Bay Washington 7:30 p.m.
Winnipeg Anaheim 10 p.m.
March 27 N.Y. Rangers Boston 7:30 p.m.
Vegas Colorado 10 p.m.
April 3 St. Louis Chicago 8 p.m.
Calgary Anaheim 10:30 p.m.

NBC SPORTS PRESENTS 2019 NHL ALL-STAR GAME LIVE IN PRIMETIME ON BROADCAST TELEVISION FOR FIRST TIME SINCE 1997 

NBC and NBCSN will present extensive coverage of the 2019 NHL All-Star Weekend from SAP Center in San Jose, Calif., home of the San Jose Sharks, highlighted by the NHL All-Star Game in primetime on NBC on Saturday, Jan. 26, marking the first time the NHL All-Star Game will be shown in primetime on broadcast television since 1997. NHL All-Star will take place January 25-26, 2019, and will include the NHL All-Star Skills Competition™ on Friday, Jan. 25, on NBCSN. Last year’s NHL All-Star Game in Tampa, Fla., was the third consecutive All-Star Game to feature the popular 3-on-3 tournament style format.

NHL ON NBC

NHL on NBC coverage begins on Friday, Nov. 23, at 1 p.m. ET, with the 2018 Discover NHL Thanksgiving Showdown featuring the New York Rangers and the Philadelphia Flyers, marking the first of 13 games scheduled to air on NBC during the regular season. Beginning on Jan. 20, and continuing through the end of the regular season, NBC will present the NHL Game of the Week, generally occurring on Sunday afternoons. Following is the 2018-19 NHL on NBC regular season schedule:

Date Away Home Time (ET)
Fri., Nov. 23# N.Y. Rangers Philadelphia 1 p.m.
Tues., Jan. 1* Boston Chicago 1 p.m.
Sun., Jan. 20 Washington Chicago 12:30 p.m.
Sat., Feb. 2 Tampa Bay N.Y. Rangers 8 p.m.
Sat., Feb. 2 Minnesota Chicago 8 p.m.
Sun., Feb. 3 Boston Washington 12:30 p.m.
Sun., Feb. 10 St. Louis Nashville 12:30 p.m.
Sun., Feb. 17 N.Y. Rangers Pittsburgh 12:30 p.m.
Sun., Feb. 17 St. Louis Minnesota 3 p.m.
Sat., Feb. 23^ Pittsburgh Philadelphia 8 p.m.
Sun., March 3 Washington N.Y. Rangers 12:30 p.m.
Sun., March 24 Philadelphia Washington 12:30 p.m.
Sun., March 31 N.Y. Rangers Philadelphia 12:30 p.m.

#2018 Discover NHL Thanksgiving Showdown; *2019 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic; ^2019 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series

NHL ON NBCSN

NBCSN will televise at least 96 NHL regular-season games this season, including the Opening Night doubleheader, 40 “Wednesday Night Hockey” games, and 21 doubleheaders, as well as NHL All-Star coverage from San Jose, Calif. In addition, NBC Sports has left the majority of the final week of the regular season on NBCSN open to allow for the biggest games with playoff implications to be added to the schedule.

NHL LIVE AND NHL OVERTIME

NHL Live and NHL Overtime, NBC Sports’ live pre- and post-game show with highlights and analysis of NHL matchups, will air before and after most games on NBCSN. A 60-minute edition of NHL Live will air prior to most games, while NHL Overtime will air immediately following most games.

STREAMING COVERAGE ON NBCSPORTS.COM AND THE NBC SPORTS APP

NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app — NBC Sports Group’s live streaming platforms for desktops, mobile devices, tablets, and connected TVs — will provide live streaming coverage of the Stanley Cup Playoffs via “TV Everywhere,” giving consumers additional value for their subscription service, and making high quality content available to MVPD customers both in and out of the home and on multiple platforms. 

NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app are powered by Playmaker Media and available on the iTunes App Store, Google Play, Windows Store, Roku Channel Store, Apple TV, Amazon Fire, Samsung Smart TVs, Xbox, and Chromecast.

NBC Sports Group 2018-19 NHL regular-season schedule (subject to change):

Date Away Home Network Time (ET)
Wed., Oct 3 Boston Washington NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Anaheim San Jose NBCSN 10:30 p.m.
Thur., Oct. 4 Nashville N.Y. Rangers NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Philadelphia Vegas NBCSN 10 p.m.
Tues., Oct. 9 San Jose Philadelphia NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Wed., Oct. 10 Vegas Washington NBCSN 8 p.m.
Tues., Oct. 16 Arizona Minnesota NBCSN 8 p.m.
Wed., Oct. 17 N.Y. Rangers Washington NBCSN 7 p.m.
Boston Calgary NBCSN 9:30 p.m.
Fri., Oct. 19 Minnesota Dallas NBCSN 8 p.m.
Tues., Oct. 23 San Jose Nashville NBCSN 8 p.m.
Wed., Oct. 24 Toronto Winnipeg NBCSN 7 p.m.
Tampa Bay Colorado NBCSN 9:30 p.m.
Tues., Oct. 30 Vegas Nashville NBCSN 8 p.m.
Thur., Nov. 1 Winnipeg Florida NBCSN 2 p.m.
Tues., Nov. 6 Edmonton Tampa Bay NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Wed., Nov. 7 Pittsburgh Washington NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Nashville Colorado NBCSN 10 p.m.
Tues., Nov. 13 Tampa Bay Buffalo NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Wed., Nov. 14 St. Louis Chicago NBCSN 8 p.m.
Anaheim Vegas NBCSN 10:30 p.m.
Tues., Nov. 20 Edmonton San Jose NBCSN 10:30 p.m.
Wed., Nov. 21 Philadelphia Buffalo NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Fri., Nov. 23 N.Y. Rangers Philadelphia NBC 1 p.m.
Chicago Tampa Bay NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Tues., Nov. 27 Vegas Chicago NBCSN 8 p.m.
Wed., Nov. 28 St. Louis Detroit NBCSN 7 p.m.
Pittsburgh Colorado NBCSN 9:30 p.m.
Tues., Dec. 4 Toronto Buffalo NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Wed., Dec. 5 Edmonton St. Louis NBCSN 8 p.m.
Chicago Anaheim NBCSN 10:30 p.m.
Tues., Dec. 11 Detroit Washington NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Wed., Dec. 12 Pittsburgh Chicago NBCSN 8 p.m.
Tues., Dec. 18 Nashville Chicago NBCSN 8:30 p.m.
Wed., Dec. 19 Pittsburgh Washington NBCSN 8 p.m.
Fri., Dec. 21 Buffalo Washington NBCSN 7 p.m.
Thur., Dec. 27 Philadelphia Tampa Bay NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Tues., Jan. 1 Boston Chicago NBC 1 p.m.
Wed., Jan. 2 Pittsburgh N.Y. Rangers NBCSN 7 p.m.
San Jose Colorado NBCSN 9:30 p.m.
Thur., Jan. 3 Chicago N.Y. Islanders NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Sun., Jan. 6 Chicago Pittsburgh NBCSN 8 p.m.
Tues., Jan. 8 Philadelphia Washington NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Wed., Jan. 9 Nashville Chicago NBCSN 8 p.m.
Thur., Jan. 10 Winnipeg Minnesota NBCSN 8 p.m.
Mon., Jan. 14 Montreal Boston NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Tues., Jan. 15 Los Angeles Minnesota NBCSN 8 p.m.
Wed., Jan. 16 Boston Philadelphia NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
San Jose Arizona NBCSN 10 p.m.
Thur., Jan. 17 Chicago N.Y. Rangers NBCSN 7 p.m.
Sun., Jan. 20 Washington Chicago NBC 12:30 p.m.
Mon., Jan. 21 St. Louis Los Angeles NBCSN 4 p.m.
Tues., Jan. 22 Detroit Edmonton NBCSN 9 p.m.
Wed., Jan. 23 Washington Toronto NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Nashville Vegas NBCSN 10 p.m.
Mon., Jan. 28 Winnipeg Philadelphia NBCSN 7 p.m.
Tues., Jan. 29 Philadelphia N.Y. Rangers NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Wed., Jan. 30 Tampa Bay Pittsburgh NBCSN 8 p.m.
Sat., Feb. 2 Tampa Bay N.Y. Rangers NBC 8 p.m.
Minnesota Chicago NBC 8 p.m.
Sun., Feb. 3 Boston Washington NBC 12:30 p.m.
Wed., Feb. 6 Boston N.Y. Rangers NBCSN 8 p.m.
Sun., Feb. 10 St. Louis Nashville NBC 12:30 p.m.
Toronto N.Y. Rangers NBCSN 7 p.m.
Mon., Feb. 11 Pittsburgh Philadelphia NBCSN 7 p.m.
Tues., Feb. 12 Chicago Boston NBCSN 7 p.m.
Wed., Feb. 13 Edmonton Pittsburgh NBCSN 8 p.m.
Sun., Feb. 17 N.Y. Rangers Pittsburgh NBC 12:30 p.m.
St. Louis Minnesota NBC 3 p.m.
Philadelphia Detroit NBCSN 6 p.m.
Mon., Feb. 18 Tampa Bay Columbus NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Boston San Jose NBCSN 10 p.m.
Tues., Feb. 19 Toronto St. Louis NBCSN 8 p.m.
Wed., Feb. 20 Chicago Detroit NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Boston Vegas NBCSN 10 p.m.
Thur., Feb. 21 Los Angeles Nashville NBCSN 8 p.m.
Sat., Feb. 23 Pittsburgh Philadelphia NBC 8 p.m.
Sun., Feb. 24 St. Louis Minnesota NBCSN 7 p.m.
Mon., Feb. 25 Los Angeles Tampa Bay NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Tues., Feb. 26 Buffalo Philadelphia NBCSN 7 p.m.
Wed., Feb. 27 Tampa Bay N.Y. Rangers NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Chicago Anaheim NBCSN 10 p.m.
Thur., Feb. 28 Tampa Bay Boston NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Sun., March 3 Washington N.Y. Rangers NBC 12:30 p.m.
Nashville Minnesota NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Tues., March 5 Minnesota Nashville NBCSN 8 p.m.
Wed., March 6 Washington Philadelphia NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
St. Louis Anaheim NBCSN 10 p.m.
Thur., March 7 Columbus Pittsburgh NBCSN 7 p.m.
Sun., March 10 Boston Pittsburgh NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Los Angeles Anaheim NBCSN 10 p.m.
Mon., March 11 San Jose Minnesota NBCSN 8 p.m.
Tues., March 12 Washington Pittsburgh NBCSN 7 p.m.
Wed., March 13 Chicago Toronto NBCSN 7 p.m.
New Jersey Edmonton NBCSN 9:30 p.m.
Sun., March 17 Philadelphia Pittsburgh NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Edmonton Vegas NBCSN 10 p.m.
Tues., March 19 Washington New Jersey NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Wed., March 20 Tampa Bay Washington NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Winnipeg Anaheim NBCSN 10 p.m.
Sun., March 24 Philadelphia Washington NBC 12:30 p.m.
Colorado Chicago NBCSN 8 p.m.
Mon., March 25 Nashville Minnesota NBCSN 8 p.m.
Tues., March 26 Carolina Washington NBCSN 7 p.m.
Wed., March 27 N.Y. Rangers Boston NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Vegas Colorado NBCSN 10 p.m.
Sun., March 31 N.Y. Rangers Philadelphia NBC 12:30 p.m.
Boston Detroit NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Wed., April 3 St. Louis Chicago NBCSN 8 p.m.
Calgary Anaheim NBCSN 10:30 p.m.

*Some games will be blacked out in local markets and televised in those markets by a regional carrier.

————

Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Golden Knights make dream come true for young fan battling cancer

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He may not be on the payroll, but 13-year-old Doron Coldwell is a Vegas Golden Knight through and through.

But his story begins long before the Golden Knights stepped onto the ice for their inaugural season in 2017-18. As documented during a “My Wish” segment this summer on ESPN, Coldwell’s connection with the Golden Knights began with some heart-breaking news.

At first, the tests were inconclusive.

In June 2013, Coldwell’s mother Liat, a nurse, had noticed that his glands were swollen but a series of tests didn’t result in any concrete diagnosis of a problem.

“That started the rollercoaster ride for the next two years of he doesn’t have this, he doesn’t have this, he doesn’t have this,” said Brett Coldwell, Doron’s father. “But he wasn’t getting any better.”

Liat feared the worst.

“I had a very bad feeling that we were dealing with cancer,” she said.

Those fears would become reality. The diagnosis would finally come: Hodgkin’s lymphoma. His chemotherapy began in 2017.

Weakened by his treatments, Brett said that at one point Doron told him that “worst-case scenario, I guess I get to go be with Jesus.”

Instead, Doron, with a little help from the Golden Knights, began to heal.

“The chemo was working,” Doron said.

Gold being the color of pediatric cancer, Liat refers to her son as her ‘Golden Knight’.

And through the Make-A-Wish Foundation and with the help of the team that helped him heal — his cancer in remission — Doron recently became an official Golden Knight for a day.

Doron got a chance to meet the team. A locker bearing his name was in the team’s dressing room and for the first time, he got outfitted in goalie gear and received the full pre-game experience, including being introduced to an assembled crowd at City National Arena, the team’s practice facility.

With a little instruction of Marc-Andre Fleury, Doron was stopping Vegas’ top goalscorers with ease on an unforgettable day.

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

PHT Morning Skate: Stamkos best of an era; Russian Rangers revival

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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.

Steven Stamkos is the best shooter of the salary cap era. (Raw Charge)

• What active NHLers are Hall of Fame worthy? Here they are, ranked. (Yardbarker)

• Pittsburgh has players who rank among the best, worst at converting shots into goals. Who are they? (Pensburgh)

• Russian invasion fueling Rangers revival. (Featurd)

• Why the folding of the National Women’s Hockey League could be best thing for the sport. (AZ Central)

• Panthers view Bobrovsky signing as needed element for return to playoffs. (NHL.com)

• It’s time to move on from Jon Gillies. (Matchsticks & Gasoline)

• Competition aplenty as under-the-radar depth piece Nicolas Aube-Kubel re-signs with Flyers. (NBC Sports Philadelphia)

• NHL stands out when strengths of major pro leagues are pondered. (StarTribune)

• The latest on the changes and improvements coming to NHL 20. (Operation Sports)


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

Seattle close to naming Ron Francis as GM

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SEATTLE (AP) — Seattle’s NHL expansion team is close to an agreement with Hockey Hall of Famer Ron Francis to become its first general manager, a person with direct knowledge tells The Associated Press.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity Tuesday because the team had not made an announcement.

The expansion Seattle franchise is set to begin play in the 2021-22 season as the NHL’s 32nd team.

After longtime Detroit GM Ken Holland went to Edmonton, adviser Dave Tippett left Seattle Hockey Partners LLC to become Oilers coach and Vegas’ Kelly McCrimmon and Columbus’ Bill Zito got promotions, there was a limited pool of experienced NHL executives to choose from for this job. Francis fits that bill.

The 56-year-old has been in hockey operations since shortly after the end of his Hall of Fame playing career. All of that time has come with the Carolina Hurricanes, including four seasons as their GM.

Carolina didn’t make the playoffs with Francis in charge of decision-making, though his moves put the foundation in place for the team that reached the Eastern Conference final this past season.

AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno contributed.

More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Provorov’s next contract presents big challenge for Flyers

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Philadelphia Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher has been busy overhauling his roster this summer and still has two big jobs ahead of him when it comes to re-signing restricted free agents Travis Konecny and Ivan Provorov.

With close to $14 million in salary cap space remaining, he should have no problem in getting them signed and keeping the team under the salary cap.

Konecny’s situation seems like it should be pretty simple: He is a top-six forward that has been incredibly consistent throughout the first three years of his career. The Flyers know what they have right now, and they should have a pretty good idea as to what he is going to be in the future. There is not much risk in projecting what he should be able to do for them.

[ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker]

Provorov, on the other hand, presents a far more interesting challenge because he is still somewhat of a mystery whose career seems like it can go in either direction.

Along with Shayne Gostisbehere, Provorov is supposed to be the foundation of the Flyers’ defense for the next decade and entered the league with much fanfare at the start of the 2016-17 season. From the moment he arrived the Flyers have treated him like a top-pairing defender and pretty much thrown him in the deep end of the pool.

At times, he has flashed the potential that made him a top-10 pick in the draft and such a prized piece in the Flyers’ organization.

During his first three years in the league he has not missed a single game, has played more than 20 minutes per game every year, and over the past two seasons has played the fourth most total minutes in the NHL and the third most even-strength minutes. The Flyers have also not gone out of their way to shelter him in terms of where he starts his shifts and who he plays against, regularly sending him over the boards for defensive zone faceoffs and playing against other team’s top players.

In their view, based on his usage, he is their top defender.

Or at least was their top defender over the past two seasons.

Given the performance of the Flyers defensively during those seasons, that may not be much of a statement.

The concern that has to be addressed is that so far in his career Provorov has not always performed like a top-pairing defender in those top-pairing minutes that he has been given.

Just because a player gets a lot of playing time and the toughest assignments does not necessarily mean they are going to handle those minutes or succeed within them. That has been the case at times with Provorov in Philadelphia. This is not like the situation Columbus and Boston are facing with Zach Werenski and Charlie McAvoy this summer where both young players have already demonstrated an ability to play like top-pairing defenders and have already earned what should be significant, long-term commitments from their respective teams.

This is a situation where a young, talented, and still very promising player has been given a huge role, but has not always performed enough to justify that much trust.

He is also coming off of what can probably be described as a down season where his performance regressed from what it was in 2017-18. He not only saw a steep drop in his production offensively, but the Flyers were outshot, outchanced, and outscored by a pretty significant margin when Provorov was on the ice no matter who his partner was.

He struggled alongside Shayne Gostisbehere. He also struggled alongside Travis Sanheim, while Sanheim saw his performance increase dramatically when he was away from Provorov.

The dilemma the Flyers have to face here is how they handle a new contract for him this summer.

On one hand, he does not turn 23 until January and clearly has the talent to be an impact defender. But he has also played three full seasons in the NHL, and even when looked at within the context of his own team, has not yet shown a consistent ability to be that player. Every player develops at a different pace, and just because McAvoy and Werenski have already emerged as stars doesn’t mean every player at the same age has to follow the same rapid path. Because they most certainly will not.

It just makes it difficult for teams like the Flyers when they have to juggle a new contract.

They were in a similar position with Gostisbehere a couple of years ago when they signed him to a six-year, $27 million contract when he came off of his entry-level deal. But while Gostisbehere had regressed offensively, he still posted strong underlying numbers and at least showed the ability to be more of a possession-driving player. His goal-scoring and point production dropped, but there were at least positive signs it might bounce back. That is not necessarily the case with Provorov.

Even though Provorov has played a ton of minutes, put up some decent goal numbers at times, and been one of the biggest minute-eating defenders in the league, this just seems like a situation that screams for a bridge contract to allow the player to continue to develop, while also giving the team an opportunity to figure out what they have.

Provorov still has the potential to be a star and a bonafide top-pairing defender.

He just has not played like one yet or consistently shown any sign that he definitely will be one, despite being given the role.

Related: Werenski, McAvoy should be in line for huge contracts

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.