Kevin Hayes

PHT Morning Skate: Fearing Carey Price; Aliu on hockey culture

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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.

• “For it is largely due to the remarkable reputation of the Montreal goaltender among his peers that much talk about the format of what appears to be a summer 24-team tournament has fixated on how unfair it would be to face Price in a best-of-three, multiple sources report.” [NY Post]

• “NHL players in shields from forehead to chin? The death of autographs, selfies and handshakes?” How sports will never be the same. [NBC Sports]

• Akim Aliu on why hockey is not for everyone: “The purpose of this story is not to drag everyone in hockey, or the sport itself, into the mud. This is about the biggest problems facing the game I love — and how we can fix them. ” [The Players’ Tribune]

• Could a 24-team playoff be more than just a one time solution for the NHL? [Toronto Sun]

• An interesting look at how defensemen on the power play have evolved. [TSN]

• How Kevin Hayes became the missing piece for the Flyers this season. [NBC Sports Philadelphia]

• Reviewing Tyler Myers‘ first year with the Canucks. [Canucks Army]

• Where will AHL scoring leader and soon-to-be UFA Sam Anas sign? [The Hockey News]

• The next challenge for Digit Murphy? Get an NWHL expansion team up and running during a pandemic. [The Score]

Mikkel Boedker has agreed to sign a two-year year deal with HC Lugano of Switzerland. [Swiss Hockey News]

• Could the Oilers make a Jesse Puljujarvi for Henrik Borgstrom or Lias Andersson deal happen? [Oilers Nation]

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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.

Long-term outlook for the Winnipeg Jets

Long-term outlook Winnipeg Jets Laine Connor Hellebuyck
Getty Images

With the 2019-20 NHL season on hold we are going to review where each NHL team stands at this moment until the season resumes. Here we take a look at the long-term outlook for the Winnipeg Jets.

Pending Free Agents

The Core

With the exception of Patrik Laine — who they could theoretically extend during the offseason – the Jets locked down most of their core over the years.

Mark Scheifele and Connor Hellebuyck possess two of the “shorter” long-term contracts among that core group, and their affordable contracts run through 2023-24. (Blake Wheeler‘s does, as well, but that’s a little more troubling being that the often-underrated winger is now 33.)

Beyond that Wheeler worry, there’s a lot to like, especially since Wheeler is comfortably the highest paid at $8.25M AAV.

(Actually, Bryan Little‘s contract was troubling from day one, but sadly, he might go on LTIR quite credibly.)

If Kevin Cheveldayoff can extend Laine at a reasonable price, this group could be cost-conscious enough for Winnipeg to even take advantage of other teams possibly facing cap squeezes. It makes me wonder: could the Jets go after another core piece in free agency? Signing, say, Alex Pietrangelo would make them stronger and weaken Central Division rival St. Louis.

Even as a “budget” team, the possibilities are intriguing for the Jets to improve upon their long-term core. That said, improvements might be needed for the Jets to truly soar.

Long-term needs for Jets

It’s remarkable that Hellebuyck (and some star scorers) dragged Winnipeg to playoff contention, because that group was rough this season.

Neal Pionk turned out to be an extremely pleasant surprise, to the point that he might be able to join the core to an extent. And, for sure, Josh Morrissey is a steady presence. But things dry up quite a bit beyond that, and an ideal contender probably would ask less of both of them, particularly Morrissey.

So, can Ville Heinola eventually be a key defender? How will Sami Niku’s development go?

Getting steps in development, overall, is a long-term key for the Jets. Jack Roslovic strikes me as someone who can do more, but he needs opportunities. What, exactly, is Laine’s ceiling? Will the Jets actually boost him up to reach it?

The Jets have to hope that they can mitigate the eventual drop-off for Wheeler, who’s already sinking a bit at 33. (By his standards.)

They could also use some more depth. It’s probably not a coincidence that, year after year (Paul Stastny to Kevin Hayes to even Cody Eakin), they seem to need to burn assets to add 2C and/or 3C help. Laurent Brossoit had a tough season, casting some doubt on the backup position.

I’ll also endlessly wonder if Paul Maurice is all that far above your average coach. But, hey, give the dude credit for being a long-term bench presence even with … meh results more often than not.

Long-term strengths for Jets

The sheer youth of this team is something to get excited about. Laine just turned 22. Kyle Connor seems to be jumping another level at 23, while Nikolaj Ehlers is a transition menace at 24. Hellebuyck is 26, Mark Scheifele is only 27, and Morrissey is 25.

I mentioned possibly pitching a deal at Pietrangelo because the Jets see a lot of space opening up.

Losing Dustin Byfuglien hurts, but his age was making his contract risky anyway. The Jets signing Kulikov furrowed my brow, yet now they can use that money toward … uh, someone good? (Sorry, Kulikov.)

It’s not always easy to lure free agents to Winnipeg, but a) they’ve become a consistent winner and b) might be one of the only winners with cash to burn during the uncertain, upcoming offseason.

That mixture of prime-age talent, solid maneuverability, and a steady-and-solid front office should put the Jets in a solid position to compete for some time. They do need Cheveldayoff to make the right moves to get back at a high level again, as Hellebuyck camouflaged a steep decline — one that quietly brewed even toward the end of 2018-19.

MORE ON THE JETS:

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.

Long-term outlook for Philadelphia Flyers

Long-term outlook for Flyers Provorov Couturier Konecny
Getty Images

With the 2019-20 NHL season on hold we are going to review where each NHL team stands at this moment until the season resumes. Here we take a look at the long-term outlook for the Philadelphia Flyers.

Pending Free Agents

The Core

When you look at the Flyers’ core, you should take a moment to appreciate the cleanup job Ron Hextall accomplished. The current regime took the baton and got off to a good run post-Ron, but give credit where it’s due. Hextall inherited a mess.

Now, sure, there are some risks.

One could see how the combination of Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, Kevin Hayes, and James van Riemsdyk could age poorly, and quickly. Concerns about the Flyers becoming the “next Kings/Sharks” are somewhat justified.

Yet … a lot of those risks are mitigated. Giroux’s contract ends after 2021-22, and there’s a strong chance he’ll still be worth the near-$8.3M. JVR and Voracek are both 30, but the terms could be worse. Same goes for Hayes; yes, it’s risky, but he won’t turn 28 until May 8. Chuck Fletcher (and Hextall) is guilty of some gambles, but not at the “slap the deed of your house on the poker stack” level.

Most importantly, nice to outright fantastic bargains give the Flyers leeway to roll the dice. After last season’s hiccup, Ivan Provorov looks like a gem, and a steal at $6.75M. Travis Konecny isn’t far behind at $5M, and both contracts run through 2024-25.

The Flyers really feasted on a deal with Sean Couturier, and the only bummer (for them, not Couturier’s accountant) is that a raise is coming from that $4.33M after 2021-22.

There’s a lot to like about the Flyers’ core, especially if the aging elements don’t rapidly go rotten.

Long-term needs for Flyers

Pondering the long-term needs of the Flyers, it’s clear the team needs some answers.

To start: how much is it going to cost to truly add Carter Hart to the core? The 21-year-old’s entry-level contract expires after 2020-21. Would it be better to lock him down as soon as possible, or see how he performs during a contract year? What kind of money and term would make sense for an extension?

While much of the Hart conundrums boil down to “good problems to have,” the Flyers need to find out about the future for players dealing with health issues. Beyond a frightening situation for Oskar Lindblom, Philly could use some insight on Nolan Patrick and Shayne Gostisbehere.

The latter found himself in trade rumors, yet “Ghost Bear” wasn’t exactly healthy. You don’t necessarily want to sell low on a player who can at least generate offense, and is still reasonably young (26) and generally cheap ($4.5M AAV through 2022-23).

Depth resonates as a need for the Flyers, at least if some of the above situations don’t work out.

Beyond depth, I also wonder: while the Flyers boast a strong core, can they really hang among the best of the best?

Long-term strengths for Flyers

Even as players graduate to regular or semi-regular NHL duty, the Flyers continue to hunt down strong draft prospects. Cam York, Morgan Frost, and Bobby Brink help the Flyers place eighth in Scott Wheeler’s prospect rankings (sub required), for example.

Could those players provide that extra “oomph” for this franchise?

It’s an enticing thought, especially as Travis Sanheim bolsters the bigger names, while Frost, Joel Farabee, and others attempt to make impressions.

The Flyers have a nice mix of veteran stars, budding younger stars like Provorov and Konecny, and those aforementioned intriguing prospects. Hart also made encouraging steps toward being that long lost goalie.

There are reasons to be optimistic about this team’s chances of being competitive for some time. What a difference a year makes, eh?

MORE ON THE FLYERS:
Breaking down their 2019-20 season
Biggest surprises and disappointments

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.

Players, fans get creative to raise funds in hockey minors

More than a month after the ECHL canceled the rest of its season, minor league hockey players are still hoping to get some financial help.

A relief fund set up by the league and Professional Hockey Players Association has $270,000 so far, about a third of the total goal. PHPA executive director Larry Landon estimates $850,000 is needed to cover paychecks from three lost weeks of the season. He hopes money can be sent to players beginning next week.

”We’ve got to get it out to the players that truly do need it as fast as we can,” Landon said. ”It’ll be a huge undertaking to get there, but if we can get them what they lost in the regular season, at least it helps them.”

With something of a shortfall and concerns growing about starting next season, players, fans and teams are starting to get creative. One fan has raised $7,000 by auctioning off memorabilia, and South Carolina goaltender Parker Milner hopes a quarantine concert brings awareness to the situation as well as some extra funds.

Longtime Toledo Walleye fan Dennis Seymour hopes to raise a total of $10,000 for the ECHL-PHPA COVID-19 Relief Fund and already bought a couple of $5 tickets for the Pregame Skate Quarantine Concert that will be live-streamed Saturday night. The effort is being spearheaded by Milner and Boston College teammate Brian Dumoulin of the Pittsburgh Penguins, with possible appearances from retired goaltender Mike McKenna, Kyle Palmieri of the New Jersey Devils and Kevin Hayes of the Philadelphia Flyers.

While the NHL and other pro sports leagues are considering returning without fans, that kind of business model doesn’t work for minor league hockey. Landon said he’s lost sleep worrying about the future.

”If there’s no group gatherings, how are we playing?” Landon said. ”Your sponsors aren’t going to be sponsors if there’s no people in the stands. You need people in the stands.”

The immediate concern is trying to pay players for lost wages, but the uncertainty is unsettling among those who make an average of $700-$725 a week. Milner hoped Saturday’s concert is just the start of publicizing what players are up against.

”Hopefully other guys will keep coming up with some stuff, but just finding cool ways to continue to talk about it,” Milner said. ”Smaller little events like this or somebody just throwing in $10. I think down the line a lot of those smaller investments, especially as the summer progresses, will be the thing that really fuels this thing.”

Looking at the 2019-20 Philadelphia Flyers

With the 2019-20 NHL season on hold we are going to take a look at where each NHL team stands at this moment with a series of posts examining their season. Have they met expectations? Exceeded expectations? Who has been the surprise? All of that and more. Today we look at the Philadelphia Flyers.

Philadelphia Flyers

Record: 41-21-7 (69 games), second in the Metropolitan Division, fourth in the Eastern Conference
Leading Scorer: Travis Konecny – 61 points (24 goals and 37 assists)

In-Season Roster Moves: 

• Traded Jean-Francois Berube to the New York Rangers for future considerations
• Acquired Nathan Noel from the Chicago Blackhawks for T.J. Brennan
• Traded a 2020 fourth-round pick and Kyle Criscuolo to the Anaheim Ducks for Derek Grant
• Acquired Nate Thompson from the Montreal Canadiens for a 2021 fifth-round pick

Season Overview: 

The Flyers made some significant changes coming into the 2019-20 season. They brought in a new coaching staff with plenty of experience. Alain Vigneault, Michel Therrien and Mike Yeo have found a way to get the most out of the team in the first season. They may have peaked a little early, but we don’t know for sure because the season was paused in mid-March.

They also added a key free agent in Kevin Hayes. The opinions on the signing varied at the time, but he’s worked out relatively well in his first year in Philadelphia.

The first month of the Flyers’ season was a rollercoaster. They opened the campaign with a win over the Chicago Blackhawks in Prague and followed that up with another victory over the New Jersey Devils. Then, they dropped their next four games before winning three in a row. They closed out October with back-to-back losses.

That feels like a lifetime ago though.

In the weeks leading up to the pause, they turned into one of the dominant teams in the league. In February, the Flyers started making up ground on the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins, who were sitting in first and second place in the Metro.

Just how good were they in Feb? Well, they rattled off 10 wins in 13 games. They also won nine games in a row between Feb. 18 and Mar. 7. They dropped their final game before the pause (a 2-0 loss to Boston), but they managed to jump three points ahead of the Pens and one point behind the Caps.

The usual suspects played a key roll in that turnaround. Claude Giroux had 18 points in the final 15 games. Jakub Voracek accumulated 10 points in the last six games, while Sean Couturier had 16 points in 18 contests. After failing to pick up a point in his last three games, Konecny had 17 points in 12 games. As you can see, the contributions were coming from all over the roster.

Let’s not forget about Carter Hart, who won seven of his last eight games. He allowed two goals or fewer in seven of those games. How would he have looked in the playoffs? We won’t know for sure until they happen, but he was well on his way to finishing the season in dominant fashion.

It seems plainly obvious that the Flyers are on the verge of becoming one of the dominant teams in the conference for years to come.

Highlight of the Season:

The top moment of the Flyers’ season happened in January, when they played the Boston Bruins. Philadelphia was down 5-2 in the second period, but they battled back to force overtime/a shootout.

Do you remember what happened in the shootout?

Konecny scored the go-ahead goal and Brad Marchand totally whiffed on his shootout attempt.

A classic.

MORE FLYERS:
Biggest surprises, disappointments

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.