Jordan Weal's emergence makes Vinny Lecavalier trade look that much sweeter

Jordan Weal's emergence makes Vinny Lecavalier trade look that much sweeter

When Flyers general manager Ron Hextall traded Vinny Lecavalier and Luke Schenn to the Kings on Jan. 6, 2016, many applauded Hextall for somehow ridding himself of Lecavalier’s contract.
Little was it known then that Hextall acquired a piece from Los Angeles that now has a potential to hit big. No one thought Jordan Weal was anything more than a throw-in.
Weal was a player in the Kings’ organization that never found success at the NHL level despite churning out husky numbers in the AHL — 70 points in 2013-14, 69 in 2014-15.
“Jordan is at a point where he has been a top American League player and he’s trying to prove himself as an NHL player,” Hextall said after the trade. “He’s gonna have to answer that question. He’s a very dedicated player. He’s got a high skill level.”
The Flyers got out from Lecavalier’s crippling contract, L.A. got two veterans for a playoff push while moving on from a 2010 third-round pick, and giving up a 2016 third-rounder.
Win-win for both sides. Right? Except now, it appears to be a major coup for the Flyers.
On Thursday night, Weal signed a two-year, $3.5 million contract extension with the Flyers after he went on an NHL tour gauging his interest. He reportedly visited the Maple Leafs, Canadiens and Canucks this week but chose to stay in Philadelphia.
Weal is expected to have a top-six role with the Flyers in 2017-18. His AHL success finally translated last season when he got the call-up from Lehigh Valley on Feb. 10.
The 25-year-old finished the season registering eight goals and 12 points in 23 games. He ended the campaign with eight points in his final 10 games and injected life into the Flyers.
The Jordan Weal we saw from Feb. 11 on was a completely different player from the one we saw last training camp and preseason, and in the four games he played here in 2015-16.

Weal was hungrier than we saw in camp and stronger in puck battles. A natural center, where he played with the Phantoms, he found a spot on the wing with the Flyers.
“They gave me a great chance last year to play with some great players, and I think this is a group that’s heading in the right direction,” Weal said Thursday. “The way we were playing hockey, it was a good brand, a good style.”
Weal spent most of the time last season playing left wing on a line with Wayne Simmonds (207:31) at right wing and either Claude Giroux (119:33) or Valtteri Filppula (107:02) in the middle.
He especially clicked with Simmonds. Flyers coach Dave Hakstol kept the pair together even when mixing up his lines to spread the wealth. It’s a good guess Weal and Simmonds will be together next season, but the center of the line is where it gets interesting.
Ten of his 11 even-strength points last season came while playing with Simmonds. Three came with Giroux in the middle, three with Filppula and one with Sean Couturier.
It sounds like Hakstol expects a much larger role for Travis Konecny in his second season, and it’s fair to speculate that means a top-six role for Konecny too. We know Giroux will be the top-line center, but no one expects Filppula to stay on the second line anymore.
With Nolan Patrick in the mix — and yes, all signs point to him being a Flyer next season — and Couturier, Filppula’s best bet is to shift to third-line wing or fourth-line center.
Lines will come together in camp, but a line of Weal, Couturier and Simmonds has the potential to be a productive trio. It would certainly satisfy the Corsi community. Weal (55.9) and Couturier (54.5) led all Flyers who played significantly last season.
“I think [Weal] can be a big part of where we go in the near future and the long future here,” Hakstol told The Zach Gelb Show on Wednesday. “Most importantly on game nights, he’s a guy who goes out and gets the job done. He finds a way to impact and affect the game.”
There was some concern over the money. The term wasn’t the issue. The concern was how much would Weal catch on the open market? Could he be another Jonathan Marchessault?
But at $1.75 million per over two years, it’s an extremely reasonable contract. If Weal continues to produce like he did last season, it’s a major hit. Weal turns into a 40-plus point player at a reasonable price. The next contract is where he’ll hit paydirt.
If Weal doesn’t produce at the same rate, then his $1.75 million cap hit isn’t debilitating, and the Flyers avoid a Ville Leino situation. (Sorry, Buffalo.)
As for the Kings? They were bounced in the first round of the 2016 playoffs.
The Lecavalier trade was already a win for the Flyers.
Now with Weal’s emergence, it's lining up to be a major steal for Hextall.

Flyers stunned by their effort in bad loss at bad time

Flyers stunned by their effort in bad loss at bad time


DETROIT — The Flyers brought a cold engine to the Motor City and it took a good 40 minutes to finally get it started.

Sure, Dave Hakstol’s team rallied back from a two-goal deficit Tuesday to earn a point at a time when every point is critical, but losing a 5-4 shootout to a fragile Detroit team is unacceptable and unexplainable (see observations).

“Maybe we thought it was going to be an easy game,” Sean Couturier said. “We didn’t play the right way. We didn’t play hard. We wasted 40 minutes. We came back and got a big point, but we can’t be wasting time at this time of the year.”

On a night when the Flyers could have officially eliminated the Red Wings from postseason contention, they turned back the clock and made this Detroit team look more like the juggernaut that won back-to-back Stanley Cup championships 20 years ago. 

At least through the first two periods.

“The second period was god-awful,” defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere said. “We really didn’t help our cause out. We weren’t pushing plays and we just weren’t battling out there. You saw in the third what we could do when we light a fire under our ass. It’s tough like that when you dig yourself a hole and you come back, you expend a lot of energy. The positive we can take is that we got a point out of it.”

You may have never known this was the same Red Wings team that, like the Flyers in the first half of the season, had dropped 10 straight with an 0-9-1 record. Detroit had been outscored a whopping 41-19 from Feb. 28-March 18.

The Red Wings had also returned from a four-game Western Conference road trip less than 48 hours prior to the opening faceoff.

With eight games remaining on the Flyers' schedule, Hakstol is also mired in a goaltending dilemma. Petr Mrazek was rescued from Detroit to be the savior in Philadelphia following injuries to Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth. 

After winning his first three starts, Mrazek’s numbers reek of mediocrity: a 2-5-1 record, 3.72 GAA and an .860 save percentage. Most recently, he’s been pulled in favor of Alex Lyon in two of his last three games.

“The second one is a bad-angle goal,” Hakstol said. “Obviously, he wants that one back, but we gave up a number of opportunities that he was very strong on.”

Mrazek was pulled from the game at 3-1, and before heading to the locker room, he expressed his disappointment with the coaching staff over a non-goaltender interference call during the Red Wings' third goal.

“I talked to Coach and I was just wondering about the goalie interference because someone had bumped in there during the shot,” Mrazek said. “It wasn’t anything like I was mad or something that I got pulled. I was just asking him if there was a goalie interference or not.”

The Flyers' shootout loss coupled with the Blue Jackets' ninth straight victory now drops the orange and black into wild-card territory (see standings).

If this is indeed a playoff team, it needs to repair what’s under the hood and fix it fast.

Panthers rout Senators after death of Karlsson's son

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Panthers rout Senators after death of Karlsson's son

OTTAWA, Ontario -- Jared McCann had a goal and two assists to lead the Florida Panthers over the Senators 7-2 on Tuesday night as Ottawa captain Erik Karlsson sat out following the death of his son.

The team announced the death of Karlsson's son before the game. Erik and Melinda Karlsson were married last year and announced in November they were expecting their first child in the spring. The team released a statement offering its "collective thoughts and prayers" and requested privacy for the family.

Keith Yandle, Nick Bjugstad, Evgeni Dadonov, Jamie McGinn and Frank Vatrano each had a goal and an assist for Florida. Colton Sceviour had the other goal while James Reimer made 33 saves.

Patrick Sieloff and Marian Gaborik scored for the Senators, who lost their second straight. Craig Anderson started in goal but was replaced by Mike Condon after allowing four goals on 17 shots. Condon made 19 saves (see full recap).

Blue Jackets extend win streak to 9
NEW YORK -- Artemi Panarin had three goals and an assist, Sergei Bobrovsky made 29 saves and the Columbus Blue Jackets extended their winning streak to nine games with a 5-3 victory over the New York Rangers on Tuesday night.

Markus Nutivaara and Alexander Wennberg also scored for the Blue Jackets, who have surged into a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. It is Columbus' longest winning streak since its 16-game run last season from Nov. 29, 2016, to Jan. 3, 2017.

Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad scored power-play goals and Kevin Hayes had a short-handed goal for the Rangers.

Henrik Lundqvist made 26 saves in his first start since March 10 against Florida. Lundqvist was briefly shaken up when Matt Calvert upended him and knocked his helmet off with five minutes remaining.

With Columbus leading 3-2 in the third period, Lundqvist made a nice save as Cam Atkinson drove toward the net, but Panarin poked the puck free and in for his 24th goal at 11:19.

Kreider scored his 14th with 1:52 remaining to get the Rangers to 4-3.

Panarin added an empty-netter for the hat trick and his 25th of the season (see full recap).

Islanders jump all over Pens to snap skid
NEW YORK -- Mathew Barzal and Adam Pelech scored in the first period and the New York Islanders went on to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-1 on Tuesday night.

Anders Lee had a goal in the third period and Jordan Eberle added an empty-netter to help the Islanders snap a three-game skid with just their second win in 13 games (2-7-4).

Christopher Gibson, pulled in his last start after giving up five goals on 12 shots against Washington last Thursday, stopped 36 shots and has both wins for New York in its recent stretch.

Conor Sheary scored for Pittsburgh, which was 5-1-1 in its previous seven but fell four points behind first-place Washington in the tight Metropolitan Division. Columbus pulled into a tie with the Penguins for second at 87 points -- Pittsburgh holds the tiebreaker over the Blue Jackets.

Matt Murray, returning after missing nine games due to a concussion, finished with 36 saves for the Penguins (see full recap).