The Flyers are a mess with no direction

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There are teams in the NHL that know they are Stanley Cup contenders and know exactly what to do to make themselves better.

There are also teams in the NHL that know they are not very good, need to tear things down to the foundation and aggressively rip things apart for future assets.

And then there are teams like the Philadelphia Flyers — a team that seems to have no idea what they are and what direction they need to go in.

The first two groups of teams are pretty easy to accept as a fan. You know what to expect in the short-term and can adjust your expectations accordingly. But when you are in that latter group of teams, the fun simply gets sucked out of sports. And how else is there to explain the Flyers’ current situation? They have spent the past 10 years tumbling through perpetual mediocrity, missing the playoffs six times, finishing higher than third place in the division just once, and winning only a single playoff round (against a 24th ranked team in the league in the expanded playoff bubble). They are coming off of a 2021-22 season where they were not only one of the worst teams in the league, but also finished with the second-worst points percentage (.372) in franchise history.

It was, by every objective measure, an awful team with holes and question marks all over the roster.

[Related: 2022 NHL Free Agency Tracker]

As that mess of a season was unfolding, management talked a big game about how they were going to fix this.

The words “aggressive retool” and “blank check” were thrown around. That set pretty high expectations, and made the Flyers a potential landing spot for unrestricted free agent Johnny Gaudreau, or some other major addition.

But as we learned over the past couple of days the Flyers never actually made a push for Gaudreau. We know this, because they told us this. General manager Chuck Fletcher basically came out and said they did not pursuit Gaudreau because their salary cap situation did not allow it, and that it would have been difficult to move out the necessary contracts to create salary cap space for him.

In other words, they could not (or did not want) to do the “aggressive” part of the “aggressive retool.”

What has to make it even more frustrating for Flyers fans is that they could not make an effort to go for a difference-maker and bonafide superstar because they are paying players like Rasmus Ristolainen and Tony DeAngelo a combined $10 million in salary cap space.

That is where things truly become baffling with this team. The asset management here just does not make any sense. Let’s look at some of the most prominent roster moves over the past year.

• Last summer they traded a second-round pick (which turned out to be No. 36 overall) and a seventh-round pick simply to get rid of Shayne Gostisbehere‘s contract.

• Then they traded their 2021 first-round pick (No. 14 overall), a 2023 second-round pick (which will probably be very high), and Robert Hagg to the Buffalo Sabres for Ristolainen.

[Related: Blue Jackets sign Gaudreau in free agency stunner]

• They also traded Nolan Patrick and Philippe Myers to Nashville for defenseman Ryan Ellis. This could have been a good trade, but Ellis played just four games due to injury and nobody knows when he will return. This is bad luck. No major criticism here.

• Along with with that, they also traded Jakub Voracek for Cam Atkinson. It reduced the team’s salary cap number in the short-term, but Atkinson’s contract goes an extra year. It is pretty much a wash. Once the season became a dumpster fire, another core player, Claude Giroux, went out the door for Owen Tippett, a 2024 first-round pick, and a 2023 third-round pick.

• But then this offseason, they traded three more draft picks (second in 2024, third in 2023, and fourth in 2024) for DeAngelo and paid him $5 million per year over the next two years.

If you want to try, you might be able to justify each move individually. But as a collective it is all nonsensical. Look at the totality of those moves.

Flyers give up: No. 14 overall (2021), No. 36 overall (2022), No. 101 overall (2022), 2023 second-round pick, 2023 third-round pick, 2024 second-round pick, Gostisbehere, Voracek, Giroux, Hagg, Patrick, Myers.

Flyers receive: Atkinson, Ristolainen, Ellis, DeAngelo, Tippett, 2024 first-round pick, 2023 third-round pick.

They were willing to use draft picks to dump Gostisbehere’s contract, but then replaced him with a worse contract (Ristolainen, which required more assets to be given up).

But they were not willing to give up assets to move somebody like a James van Riemsdyk to clear space for Johnny Gaudreau.

They talked a big game about doing whatever it took to turn this around as quickly as possible, and the offseason so far has been signing Nicolas Deslauriers for four years and acquiring DeAngelo for three draft picks, who is the exact same player as Gostisbehere that they paid two draft picks to get rid of.

None of this even gets into the question marks that are already on the team. Will Travis Konecny rediscover his goal scoring touch? Will Joel Farabee eventually breakout? And what about the biggest wild card of then all, starting goalie Carter Hart?

The Flyers are clearly stuck somewhere between rebuilding, thinking they can compete, but not willing to make any of the moves in either direction.  At some point you have to pick a direction and follow it. That makes for a bleak situation and what could be a very long, frustrating season.

Probably multiple seasons.

Stars sign 41-goal scorer Jason Robertson to 4-year, $31M deal

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FRISCO, Texas — Jason Robertson signed a four-year, $31 million contract with the Dallas Stars after the young 40-goal scorer missed the first two weeks of training camp.

The Stars announced the deal after their exhibition game in Denver, only a week before the regular season opener Oct. 13 at Nashville.

Robertson turned 23 soon after the end of last season, when the left wing had 41 goals and 38 assists for 79 points in his 74 games. His 13 power-play goals led the team. Robertson joined Hockey Hall of Famer Mike Modano, Jamie Benn, and Tyler Seguin as the only 40-goal scorers since the franchise moved to Dallas in 1993.

“Jason is an integral part of the present and future of our team and we’re thrilled to have him for the next four years,” general manager Jim Nill said.

A second-round draft pick (39th overall) by the Stars in 2017, Robertson has 125 points (58 goals, 67 assists) in his 128 NHL games. The 6-foot-3 California native had one goal and three assists in his first postseason action last season, when Dallas lost its first-round playoff series in seven games against Calgary.

“Since he was drafted by our organization, he has worked tirelessly to become a better player every day. His knack for scoring goals and seeing plays develop on the ice are just some of the tremendous assets that he brings to our team,” Nill said. “He is one of the best young players in the NHL, and we look forward to seeing him continue to progress.”

Robertson had the second-highest point total for a Stars rookie in 2020-21, when he had 45 points (17 goals, 28 assists) in his 51 games.

Before the start of this season’s camp, new coach Pete DeBoer said he looked forward to coaching Robertson.

“Listen, I laid awake at night with the excitement of coaching Jason Robertson, 40-plus goals, but he’s not here,” DeBoer said then. “So, you know, until he gets here, I can’t spend any energy on that.”

Robertson will finally be there now.

Coaching carousel leaves 10 NHL teams with new face on bench

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The coaching carousel spun a little faster than usual across the NHL, meaning nearly a third of the league will have someone new behind the bench this season. And not just bottom-feeders making changes.

Ten teams go into the season next month with a new coach, from Presidents’ Trophy-winning Florida and perennial playoff-contending Boston to rebuilding Chicago and San Jose.

John Tortorella will try to whip Philadelphia into shape, Bruce Cassidy is tasked with getting Vegas back to the playoffs and Derek Lalonde takes his two Stanley Cup rings as a Tampa Bay assistant to his new challenge with the Detroit Red Wings.


Philadelphia players knew they were in for some changes when Tortorella was hired, so they asked Cam Atkinson, who spent six years playing for the no-nonsense coach in Columbus.

“I keep telling them like he’s a guy that’s going to change the whole dynamic of this organization,” Atkinson said.

Tortorella has not shied away from saying a culture change is needed after a last-place finish and a decade with one playoff series win. There is likely not much he and players can do this year about a Cup drought that dates to 1975, but they can start with maddeningly inconsistent stretches of games that have plagued the Flyers for years, no matter the roster.


The Panthers were the league’s best team in the regular season last year but struggled in the playoffs before losing in the second round to cross-state rival Tampa Bay in five games. That was enough for general manager Bill Zito to decide to move on from interim coach Andrew Brunette and hired seasoned veteran Paul Maurice.

The expectation is to get back to the playoffs and compete for the Cup, and having Maurice at the helm was one of the factors that made power forward Matthew Tkachuk pick Florida as his trade-and-sign destination.

“He’s got high hopes for our team,” Tkachuk said. “He sees us playing in a certain way that’s going to make us successful. And he’s done it. He’s been around the NHL a long time, been a very successful head coach and somebody that I’m really looking forward to working with.”


Bruins GM Don Sweeney fired Cassidy after a seven-game loss to Carolina in the first round despite Boston’s sixth consecutive playoff appearance.

Vegas had already fired Peter DeBoer, making him the scapegoat for an injury-riddled fall from the top of the Western Conference that ended with the team’s first playoff miss in five years of existence. The Golden Knights quickly turned to Cassidy, who like Maurice brings experience and gravitas to a franchise with championship aspirations.

“I think we’re very fortunate as an organization to have him as our coach,” center Jack Eichel said. “Every single person I’ve spoke to about them, they said the same thing: that he’s got a really, really great knack for the game and to able to make adjustments and he understands things. Very, very competitive — wants to win, has won a lot of hockey games over the last few years.”

The Bruins replaced Cassidy with Jim Montgomery, a hockey lifer getting a second chance after being fired by Dallas in December 2019 for inappropriate conduct. Montgomery sought and received help at a rehab facility and got a big endorsement from the staff with St. Louis, the team he was working for as an assistant.

“He’s a winner,” Bruins goalie Jeremy Swayman said. “I think guys are going to thrive on that energy.”

The Stars completed the circle by hiring DeBoer, who has coached two teams (New Jersey in 2012 and San Jose in 2016) to the final and is on his fifth stop around the league.

“This is a tough league and it’s a tough one to coach in and you have to be able to handle situations,” GM Jim Nill said. “I know Pete can do it.”


Lane Lambert served as an assistant under Barry Trotz with Nashville, Washington – where they won the Cup together – and the Islanders. When Trotz was abruptly fired after New York missed the playoffs for the first time in his four seasons on the job, his right-hand man got the gig with his endorsement.

Longtime executive Lou Lamoriello thought his team needed a new voice. But Lambert isn’t that new, and his familiarity with the Islanders keeps some continuity.

“Barry was great for our team, and having Lane as an assistant, he had lots of say, as well,” forward Mathew Barzal said. “As a group, we all have a good relationship with him, so I think it’ll be an easy transition for our team.”


The final coaching change of the offseason came in San Jose, with ownership and interim management firing Bob Boughner and his assistants before Mike Grier took over as GM. Grier hired David Quinn, who most recently coached the U.S. at the Beijing Olympics after spending three years with the Rangers.

Rick Bowness, the Stars’ interim coach when Montgomery was fired who helped them reach the final in 2020 and was not brought back, joined Winnipeg. He immediately made an impact by stripping Blake Wheeler of the Jets captaincy.

The other new coaches – Lalonde in Detroit and Luke Richardson in Chicago – are not expected to make such big waves.

Richardson, who briefly was acting coach for Montreal during the 2021 final when Dominique Ducharme tested positive for the coronavirus, is overseeing the start of a long-term rebuild by the Blackhawks. Lalonde was Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman’s pick to help end the storied franchise’s playoff drought.

“He believes in what he’s preaching, which I think is great walking into a new locker room,” captain Dylan Larkin said. “He’s made a great impression on the guys.”

Islanders agree to terms with Mathew Barzal on 8-year extension

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Mathew Barzal has agreed to terms with the New York Islanders on an eight-year extension, a move that keeps the franchise’s top forward under contract for the balance of his prime.

The deal is worth $73.2 million with an annual salary cap hit of $9.15 million, according to a person with knowledge of the contract. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team did not announce terms.

Barzal has led the team in scoring, or been tied for the lead, every season since he became a full-time NHL player in 2017-18. He has 349 points in 411 regular-season and playoff games for the defensively stingy Islanders, who qualified for the postseason three consecutive times before an injury- and virus-altered last year.

“We feel recharged,” Barzal said recently. “We feel like everybody had good summers and worked hard, and we got that excitement back.”

Barzal, now 25, is coming off putting up 59 points in 75 games. The offensive star will now be asked to round out his game.

“I’m a fan because Mat has the ability to raise his game and to be a special player,” general manager Lou Lamoriello told reporters at the team’s practice facility on Long Island. “And now, with this contract and our faith in him, (it) puts that responsibility on him. We’re trusting that. It’s up to him to respond to that.”

Senators goaltender Cam Talbot out 5-7 weeks with injury

Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

OTTAWA, Ontario — Ottawa Senators goaltender Cam Talbot is expected to be out five to seven weeks with what the team called an upper-body injury.

The Senators initially called Talbot day to day with what they hoped was a minor injury. Instead he’s now expected to miss at least the first month of the NHL season.

Ottawa claimed goalie Magnus Hellberg off waivers from the Seattle Kraken upon announcing Talbot’s expected absence. Hellberg, who played for Sweden at the Beijing Olympics could split time with countryman Anton Forsberg while Talbot is out.

The Senators acquired Talbot from Minnesota during the offseason to make him their starter after the Wild opted against bringing him back along with Marc-Andre Fleury. Talbot, 35, had a 2.76 goals-against average and .911 save percentage this season.

Losing Talbot is a blow to the Senators, who also acquired winger Alex DeBrincat from Chicago and signed longtime Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux as part of a move toward contending and ending their playoff drought.