Flyers sign Shayne Gostisbehere to 6-year deal

Flyers sign Shayne Gostisbehere to 6-year deal

The Flyers avoided a potentially messy situation with defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere by re-signing him Friday to a multi-year contract.

It's a six-year, $27 million deal for an AAV of $4.5 million a season, according to a source.

"It's a dream come true to be part of one of the best organizations in hockey," Gostisbehere said of his new contract.

"With everything that's going on here — we've got some young guys coming up and we've already got some key pieces — it's nice to know you're part of the future and part of the plans.

"There are many more steps to come and hopefully it leads to some great things. It's a tremendous honor to realize you're part of the future."

His $4.5 million cap hit is second only to Andrew MacDonald ($5 million) on the Flyers' blue line.

Although Gostisbehere would have been on the Flyers' protected list, because he was a restricted free agent, he could have been signed to the Vegas Golden Knights 48 hours prior to the expansion draft, but the Flyers would have had a chance to match.

"It's important to us to get some cost certainty," general manager Ron Hextall said. "Shayne has a very bright future and certainly fits in with our vision moving forward and we're real excited to have him under contract long term here."

The 24-year-old defenseman was a Calder Trophy finalist two years ago with 17 goals and 46 points.

He had a very disappointing season last year — seven goals, 39 points and minus-21 — but in his defense, just like Claude Giroux, he did not recover quickly enough from offseason hip and abdominal surgery. He lacked speed and recovery ability right into the second half of the 2016-17 season before he started to resemble his former self on the ice.

Coach Dave Hakstol benched him five games. Hextall said he did not feel this had a negative impact on Gostisbehere mentally or caused a lack of confidence in his play.

"Shayne and I'll throw Travis (Konecny) in there as well, there are lessons to be learned when you are a young player," Hextall said. "Sometimes, at the time, you don't understand them.

"But I assure you this year, next year, the year after, Shayne will look back on those experiences and [say], 'I learned a lot from that.'

"That whole nurturing and this and that, sometimes there is a little tough love and Shayne got a little tough love last year and I'm sure if you asked him, it's not necessarily a bad thing.

"Every player gets disappointed at some point in their career. You need to learn to deal with it. He'll be a better player and person as a result."

Expectations soared last season after the Union College grad won the Barry Ashbee Trophy as the Flyers' top defenseman in 2015-16. Gostisbehere set a Flyers and NHL record for rookie defensemen with a 15-game scoring streak and made the league's all-rookie team. His point total led all rookie blueliners while his 17 goals established a new Flyers benchmark for rookie defensemen.

Despite this past season's poor showing, Gostisbehere refused to use his injuries as an excuse and vowed he would come back as a better player this fall.

He said he accepted his benchings and had moved on. Hextall said Friday he was not concerned with how Hakstol handled the delicate situation.

"He does have a good rapport with young players," Hextall said of Hakstol. "The most important thing here is to have the respect from your players.

"Sometimes you're doing things that you think are best for the team short term and long term. And what's best for the team is making every individual player better.

"We're not going to nurture young players here. Our young players have to earn it. Players who deserve to be in the lineup 82 games, are going to be in the lineup."

The Flyers expect two roster openings on defense this fall with the departures of Michael Del Zotto and Nick Schultz, both of whom won't be re-signed.

Sam Morin and Robert Hagg could grab those spots. Gostisbehere has played with Morin, a stay-at-home defenseman, in previous training camps. Morin's NHL debut last April in New Jersey saw him paired with Gostisbehere.

"I have no idea," Hextall said of a possible permanent pairing. "Those are things you have to see. Ghost is one of those players that can play with different guys. We've got a few guys in the organization that you view.

"You want a stay-at-home defenseman with Ghost because he's going to be up ice. We've got three or four of those guys, as well as the young kids coming. There's a multitude of players that Ghost could play with."

As for timing of the contract, Hextall said he only would have gotten concerned had negotiations dragged deep into the summer.

Weal update
Hextall did not sound optimistic about progress in re-signing winger Jordan Weal, who is unrestricted.

"I have no idea," he said of negotiations, adding there has not been any talks with Weal's camp since last week's NHL Scouting Combine. "I don't have a prediction or anything else."

Changes may be in store for struggling Flyers

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Changes may be in store for struggling Flyers

Flyers coach Dake Hakstol acknowledged a shakeup in the lineup might be on the way after his squad lost for the seventh time in eight games.

“We haven’t done much of that so far, but there’s a chance that we’ll make a change or two in terms of combinations, maybe even in terms of who’s in and who’s out of the lineup,” Hakstol said after Friday’s practice. “It’s too early to say that for sure right now, but we’re looking at a couple different things just to try to change a little bit of the rhythm, change a little bit of the chemistry.”

With only 10 games remaining and the Flyers’ once tight grip on a playoff spot suddenly in jeopardy, Hakstol may not want to wait too long to act.

The Flyers enter a pivotal weekend in third place in the Metropolitan Division, but several teams are nipping at their heels. Their 81 points are tied with the Blue Jackets, who are behind in the standings based on a tiebreaker, followed by the Devils with 80 and the Panthers’ 77.

Not only that, but the Blue Jackets and Panthers are hot, both winning eight of their last 10 contests. The Devils and Panthers also have one and three more games remaining, respectively.

Time is not on the Flyers’ side.

“We’re going to address some things individually as well as team-wise and get pushing in the right direction,” Hakstol said.

Despite their recent tumble in the standings, the Flyers aren’t panicking. Hakstol noted several of the losses have been close, though that’s largely only true of their last three defeats. They’ve played a tough schedule during the ongoing slump, a slate that included the Lightning, Penguins, Bruins, Jets and Golden Knights – all teams with better records.

Plus, the Flyers have been incredibly streaky all season long, a fact not lost on the team captain.

“We’ve been in this position before,” said Claude Giroux. “We got out of it pretty well. We just need to find a way to get out of it and stay on the winning track.”

Prior to their skid, the Flyers had a four-game losing streak sandwiched between a run where they won eight of nine and another where they won 10 of 11. There was also a 10-game winless stretch that spanned from mid-November into the first week of December.

Giroux thinks the Flyers will be fine as long as they continue doing the things that brought them to this point.

“Obviously, we have to be a little bit better in what we’re doing,” Giroux said. “But in talking about our system, I think we just keep doing what we’re doing and just work a little harder and we’ll be more successful.

Having been through cold spells before, it’s safe to say the Flyers won’t be thinking about it once the puck drops.

“Right now it’s about our guys making sure mentally the deck is clear from anything from last night or from the past week and just a real clear mindset on what our next opportunity is here,” Hakstol said.

The Flyers’ next opportunity to snap out of their funk is at the Hurricanes on Saturday.

Capitals reclaim sole possession of Metro lead

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Capitals reclaim sole possession of Metro lead

WASHINGTON — T.J. Oshie, Nicklas Backstrom and Matt Niskanen scored as the Washington Capitals swept a home-and-home set against the skidding New York Islanders with a 6-3 win on Friday night.

Alex Chiasson had a goal and two assists for the Capitals, who hammered the Islanders 7-3 in New York on Thursday. Jakub Vrana's goal gave Washington a 5-1 lead with 9:04 remaining. Lars Eller added an empty-netter, and Braden Holtby made 22 saves.

Washington broke a tie with the idle Pittsburgh Penguins for sole possession of first place in the Metropolitan Division. The Capitals' four-game winning streak is their longest since taking five in a row from Dec. 28 to Jan. 9.

Evgeny Kuznetsov, Washington's second-leading scorer, left in the second period and did not return after sustaining an upper-body injury, according to the team.

Mathew Barzal, Brock Nelson and John Tavares scored for the Islanders, who have lost 10 of 11 (see full recap).

Hoffman lifts Senators over Stars in OT
OTTAWA, Ontario — Mike Hoffman scored at 3:26 of overtime and the Ottawa Senators beat the Dallas Stars 3-2 on Friday night to win their third game in a row for just the second time this season.

Ottawa won on home ice for the first time since Feb. 17.

Marian Gaborik and Matt Duchene also scored for the Senators (26-33-11), and Craig Anderson made 23 saves.

Tyler Seguin and Tyler Pitlick had the goals for the Stars (38-26-8). Ben Bishop, who stopped 22 shots, made his first start since missing five games with a knee injury sustained March 5 against the Senators. Bishop has a 9-0-4 career record against Ottawa.

Dallas has lost four straight, its longest skid of the season (see full recap).

Predators rally past Coyotes
GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Nashville Predators keep rolling toward the best regular season in franchise history.

Kevin Fiala and Kyle Turris each had a goal and assist in the third period, leading Nashville to a 3-2 win over the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday night. Ryan Ellis also scored to help the Western Conference-leading Predators get their 21st road win of the season and improve to 12-0-1 in their last 13 games overall. Pekka Rinne finished with 32 saves.

Nashville, which reached the Stanley Cup Final a year ago after earning the second wild card in the West, has 102 points through 70 games, and needs nine more in its final 12 games to set a new franchise record (see full recap).