Flyers

Ron Hextall just fine with uneventful free agency for Flyers

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Ron Hextall just fine with uneventful free agency for Flyers

Sometimes, not having a lot of salary cap money to spend can be a blessing.

It makes you less likely to do something extravagant or emotional, which the Flyers have been prone to doing every July when free agency arrives.

Flyers general manager Ron Hextall had about $4.1 million in spare change after signing goalie Michal Neuvirth on the first day of free agency (see story).

It wasn’t enough to make them major players in the pursuit of such names as Michael Frolik, Phil Kessel or Matt Beleskey.

And that’s just fine with Hextall.

“We didn’t have the flexibility to go after a big guy,” Hextall said. “Quite frankly, I hope most years are like this year when you’re looking for one piece or two pieces.

“I don’t like going into free agency needing three or four bodies and you kind of end up blowing your brains out there. We feel like we got a real good fit for our team and we like our team here.”

Hextall needed a backup goalie to replace Ray Emery. He found one in Neuvirth. The mid-level winger he spoke about at the NHL draft has now become Sam Gagner (see story).

Because he was unable to again rid himself of Vinny Lecavalier’s $4.5 million cap hit or lose salary with either Luke Schenn ($3.6 million) or Andrew MacDonald ($5 million) on his overcrowded blue line, Hextall tried to join a poker game without the entry fee.

Are the Flyers done in free agency?

Well, barring something involving Lecavalier or his defense, yes. Nothing really significant can happen the remainder of the summer without losing millions off the cap.

“We can’t go out and spend a whole bunch of money or we’re back in the situation we’re in now,” Hextall said. “We don’t want to be over the cap. We’re not gonna sign someone to put us over. We’re going to be patient here.”

He admits he would like to trim his budget on defense.

“Ideally, we’d like to clear a little bit of space there, but we’ll see,” he said. “We’re under the cap, albeit slightly, when we plug [Michael] Del Zotto in, you want some space to call players up, too.

“We’re close, we’d like to clear a little bit more, but you’ve got to have a partner there. We’ll see as we move along here.”

They need to re-sign Rob Zepp or some other depth goalie for the Phantoms. That should happen by the weekend.

Other than depth moves with the Phantoms, they appear done.

“We’ll listen to see what is out there and see if it makes sense,” Hextall said. “I am not gonna hold my breath because I’m not sure anything is going to make sense given where we’re at [on cap]. If you do the numbers, we don’t have a lot of space here.”

The $4.1 million cap money left doesn’t include the $1.3 million qualifying offer to Del Zotto. His final salary will more than double that if they agree on a multi-year contract, further lessening his cap dollars.

Hextall said it would “be crazy” to add an expensive player right now. He intends to be more fiscally conservative than his predecessor, Paul Holmgren.

Truth is, the Flyers won’t be able to solve all their issues in one offseason. This is going to take a few years.

It’s a process.

“I’m comfortable where we are as a team,” Hextall said. “Comfortable with the additions and Vandy (Chris VandeVelde) coming back and [Ryan] White coming back and upgrading our skill with Gagner and defense with [Evgeni] Medvedev and now upgrading goaltending with Neuvirth.

“For us to sign someone to a big contract this year would be crazy, but next summer might even be more crazy because we might have to move one of our good young players just to get under. So I’m not sure that something’s going to work out.”

Fiscal sanity. On the Flyers.

Whodathunk?

Best of NHL: Anthony Duclair scores hat trick, Coyotes beat Senators in OT

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Best of NHL: Anthony Duclair scores hat trick, Coyotes beat Senators in OT

OTTAWA, Ontario — Anthony Duclair gave the lowly Arizona Coyotes another two points.

Duclair scored in overtime to complete a hat trick and the Coyotes beat the Ottawa Senators 3-2 on Saturday for their second straight victory.

Antti Raanta made 30 saves to help the Coyotes improve to 4-15-3. On Thursday night in Montreal, they rallied to beat the Canadiens 5-4 for their first regulation victory of the season.

"I think it was a well-earned win to be honest," Duclair said. "We carried that momentum from the Montreal game and all four lines were rolling and we just played a solid 60 minutes."

Duclair scored at 1:23 of overtime, his shot trickling through Condon's pads and over the goal line (see full recap). 

Anisimov's third-period goal leads Blackhawks past Pens
PITTSBURGH — Artem Anisimov scored a power-play goal in the third period, and the Chicago Blackhawks continued their winning streak against the Pittsburgh Penguins with a 2-1 victory on Saturday night.

Anisimov scored his 10th goal of the season just 21 seconds after Pittsburgh tied the game. Gustav Forsling scored his second for the Blackhawks, who won their eighth straight against the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins.

The Blackhawks have won three of their last four games after taking two of their previous seven.

Corey Crawford made 35 saves for Chicago, including a right-pad stop on Phil Kessel in the final 20 seconds (see full recap). 

Lee scores 2 goals, Islanders beat Lightning
TAMPA, Fla. — New York Islanders coach Doug Weight had a simple message after a big lead was slipping away: Stay calm.

Anders Lee scored twice and the Islanders held on after nearly blowing a four-goal lead, beating the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-3 Saturday night.

"He was just telling us what we needed to hear," New York right wing Josh Bailey said of Weight's message on the bench midway through the third. "He was just getting his point across. We just needed to calm down a little bit, realize we're in a good position. We've still got the lead in the third period on the road against the top team in the league." (see full recap). 

Ovechkin returns after puck to face, Caps snap Wild's streak
WASHINGTON — Alex Ovechkin returned from taking a puck to the face, T.J. Oshie had a goal and an assist and the Washington Capitals snapped the Minnesota Wild's winning streak at four with a 3-1 victory Saturday night.

Behind goals from Oshie, Dmitry Orlov and Evgeny Kuznetsov and 30 saves by goaltender Braden Holtby, the Capitals stopped their skid at two and won their fifth consecutive game at home.

Ovechkin was bloodied in the second period when a puck ramped off his stick and into his face, but Washington's captain got some repairs and was back on the ice for the start of the third. He set up Kuznetsov's goal late in the period.

Nino Niederreiter scored for Minnesota, which lost for the first time since Nov. 8. Backup Alex Stalock stopped 40 of 43 shots in his first career start against the Capitals (see full recap.) 

Selfish, undisciplined play dooms Flyers in OT loss to Flames

Selfish, undisciplined play dooms Flyers in OT loss to Flames

BOX SCORE

The Flyers' emotions got the best of them Saturday afternoon, and in turn, they got the best from Sean Monahan.

Monahan's second-period power-play hat trick was the result of the Flyers' selfish, undisciplined penalties, which allowed the Calgary Flames to erase a two-goal deficit and take down the Flyers, 5-4, at the Wells Fargo Center (see observations).

Michael Frolik capped the Flames' comeback, converting on a 2-on-1 chance just 1:18 into overtime.

"It's not deflating — it pisses you off," Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said, "when things are a little bit within our control at that point in time. They're penalties that could have been within our control. That obviously turned and changed the hockey game drastically."

Defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere was the primary culprit behind the Flyers' lack of discipline.

After a fracas in front of the Flyers' bench that saw Michael Raffl take a stick up high, Gostisbehere was the recipient of an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for yelling at referee Tim Peel. The Flyers successfully killed that two-minute minor and then Gostisbehere was sent back to the box 65 seconds later for elbowing Flames forward Micheal Ferland against the boards.

"I think I was upset overall," Gostisbehere said. "I took it out on the wrong guy. Just wasn't a good team player in that sense on that play — heat of the moment. Obviously, there are no excuses for something like that to happen. I wasn't thinking about my team there. I really let my team down."

"It varies from ref to ref," Brandon Manning said. "In Ghost's case, it was a point to where he was fed up. It wasn't what Ghost said directly. I think it was just a matter of things building up and the time and situation of it."

Monahan didn't score on Gostisbehere's unsportsmanlike penalty, but he did convert on the elbowing call, which completed his first career hat trick. He scored his first goal with Dale Weise in the box for high-sticking and then scored his second goal just three minutes and 44 seconds later, with Manning in the box for slashing and snapping Matt Stajan's stick.

"It's something I've been bad for lately and (what) I've tried to work on is keeping my stick down instead of going after the stick," Manning said. "I was a little surprised he pulled up and kind of backed off and I was just trying to get around him. That's the way it is. They're calling that a penalty now."

While the Flyers' top line has been a three-man show recently, it was the Flyers' No. 1 line that took center stage, as Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau and Ferland combined for four goals on 22 attempted shots, many of which were high-quality scoring chances.

The Flyers, now 8-8-4 and losers of four straight, jumped all over the Flyers with three first-period goals and taking a 3-1 lead after the opening 20 minutes. It also marked the second straight game the Flyers wasted a two-goal lead. Thursday, the Flyers scored two early goals, led for nearly 57 minutes and then watched it vanish in the final minute of regulation in Winnipeg.

"We were outshooting them pretty badly at one point and then the penalties gave them a chance to get back in the game," Sean Couturier said. "We got to be better on the PK, but at the same time, we've got to be more disciplined."

"We kind of just lost our heads there," Wayne Simmonds said. "I think groaning and moaning at the refs, but some of those penalties are penalties. We got to get better. We got to keep our heads and we just got to focus on the play because we had the game and then we let it go."

Radko a no-go
Radko Gudas was unavailable for Saturday's game against Calgary after he elected to have a phone hearing with the NHL's Department of Player Safety following his slashing penalty to the back of Mathieu Perreault's head Thursday in Winnipeg.

Gudas was ruled ineligible and sitting out Saturday's game will be applied to his suspension. According to the league’s collective bargaining agreement, “no decision to issue supplemental discipline is made before the player has the opportunity to explain his actions.”

With Andrew MacDonald still not ready for game action, Mark Alt replaced Gudas in the lineup and played 13 minutes and five seconds.

Another Johnny Hockey homecoming
South Jersey's Gaudreau had a successful trip back home establishing a new career-high nine-game point streak. Gaudreau scored Calgary's first goal on a breakaway, which was his fourth straight game with a goal.

Gaudreau also assisted on a pair of Monahan's power-play goals, giving him a three-point night.

"Yeah, this is a big win for us," Gaudreau said, "especially after the last game we had (an 8-2 loss to Detroit last Wednesday). Some big performers tonight, power play looked good, had a huge kill at the end there in the third and a big goal Frolik, so it was a good team win there."