Flyers

Flyers-Sharks observations: The suffering continues

Flyers-Sharks observations: The suffering continues

BOX SCORE

With boos and “Fire Hakstol” chants filling the Wells Fargo Center (see story), the Flyers turned in a lifeless effort in a 3-1 loss to the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday night.

The defeat extended their skid to nine straight games. The Flyers are 0-4-5 in their current winless streak, their longest since 2008 (see story)

The Sharks scored three unanswered goals, including Joe Thornton’s 5-on-3 power-play goal near the end of the opening period that proved to be the game-winner.

Coming off a disastrous ending in Pittsburgh that saw the Flyers blow a two-goal, third-period lead and another lead late in the game (see story), Dave Hakstol’s team turned in a sloppy, turnover-filled effort. The Flyers went more than 23 minutes during one stretch from the second period to the third with just one shot on net. 

• The Flyers couldn’t have asked for a better start as Claude Giroux fired a one-timer off a feed from Jakub Voracek for his 11th goal of the season just 48 seconds into the game. That is ironically also how the season started for the Flyers in San Jose. The play was made possible when defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic blocked Andrew MacDonald’s shot. Vlasic stayed down in obvious pain, which allowed the open lane for Voracek’s pass. 

• Travis Konecny continues to play well and create offense in the offensive zone but also struggle with his coverages in the defensive zone. The Sharks had a couple of open looks at Michal Neuvirth during an early 4-on-4. On the other end, Konecny almost gave the Flyers a 2-0 lead with a feed to Ivan Provorov, who has been jumping into play more frequently. Provorov was very active in the offensive zone in Pittsburgh.

• Konecny led a 2-on-1 with about eight minutes remaining in the first period. The pass was taken away and Konecny’s shot was gloved by Aaron Dell. I almost prefer to see Konecny shoot as his shot has been all over the place recently. He needs to snipe one to help regain his confidence. 

• It’s easy to get enamored with Voracek’s offensive numbers, but the bad turnovers and decision-making are starting to add up. Voracek turned the puck over in his end to Joonas Donskoi. Voracek is thankful Travis Sanheim was back to block Donskoi’s shot. Offensively, Voracek still attempts to do too much with the puck, skating into traffic and trying to create something where there’s nothing.

• Chris Tierney scored the Sharks’ first goal when he took a pass from Brent Burns and fired it past Neuvirth. San Jose added a second goal when Thornton fired a sharp-angle shot during a 5-on-3 power play. In both instances, Neuvirth was slow to react. On Thornton’s goal, he wristed a shot five-hole that Neuvirth left exposed and he didn’t even have the paddle in position.

• Talk about a snakebitten team. The Flyers are several inches from scoring about a half-dozen goals between this game and the one in Pittsburgh. Valtteri Filppula and Shayne Gostisbehere both hit the posts in the span of 45 seconds.

• Sloppy play and bad turnovers in the opening period led to good scoring chances for the Sharks. Timo Meier got in behind the Flyers’ defense, which led to a Wayne Simmonds slashing call. The Flyers committed three minors in the final three minutes of the first period. Overall, the Sharks had 11 first-period scoring chances, five of those in the high-danger areas. 

• Discipline is becoming an issue for Hakstol’s club as the Flyers have been whistled for nine minors over their last four periods of play dating back to the third period of Monday’s game in Pittsburgh.

• Voracek picked up where he left off with a senseless tripping penalty nine seconds into the Flyers’ power play. Just a bad, mindless penalty.

• Gostisbehere continues to be plagued with little mishaps in his own end. With Donskoi bearing down on him, “Ghost” simply lost control of the puck without absorbing much of a hit. It’s as if he’s reacting to the anticipation of the pressuring attacker.

• Once again, the Flyers gave back power-play time. This time, Simmonds was called for tripping to negate the final 21 seconds.

• The Flyers got outworked on the Sharks’ 3-1 goal as Vlasic redirected Logan Couture’s shot. Defensively, the Flyers were flat-footed and their gap play was way off.

• There was another neutral-zone turnover as Scott Laughton lazily attempted a cross-ice pass that was intercepted. The puck was passed quickly up ice to Thornton, who got behind the defense for a breakaway scoring opportunity. Neuvirth came away with his best save of the night. The Flyers had an abundance of turnovers in this game and were absolutely brutal in the neutral zone.

Lines, pairings and scratches

Forwards
Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Danick Martel-Nolan Patrick-Wayne Simmonds
Michael Raffl-Valtteri Filppula-Travis Konecny
Jori Lehtera-Scott Laughton-Dale Weise

Defensemen
Ivan Provorov-Andrew MacDonald
Shayne Gostisbehere-Robert Hagg
Travis Sanheim-Brandon Manning

Goalies
Michal Neuvirth
Brian Elliott

Scratches: Forwards Jordan Weal (healthy) and Taylor Leier (healthy), and defenseman Radko Gudas (suspended).

2018 NHL mock draft roundup: Flyers going forward-heavy in 1st round

2018 NHL mock draft roundup: Flyers going forward-heavy in 1st round

For the third time in the past five years, the Flyers will have two first-round draft picks thanks to Ron Hextall’s commitment to drafting and developing being implemented when he took over in 2014.

Hextall has spent the past five offseasons largely acquiring assets as he builds. As part of the Brayden Schenn trade last June, the Flyers received the St. Louis Blues’ first-round pick (14th overall) in addition to their own (19th). The 2018 NHL draft begins tonight at American Airlines Center in Dallas and concludes Saturday afternoon with Rounds 2-7.

With the buildup to one of the most important dates of the NHL calendar year for Flyers fans over, we’ll soon find out what the Hextall will do. As we’re hours away from the finish line, let’s round up the mock drafts to see what people believe the Flyers might do at Nos. 14 and 19.

14th overall

Corey Pronman, The Athletic: Vitali Kravtsov, RW, Chelyabinsk

Pronman’s take: “The Ron Hextall regime showed it’s willing to invest this high in Russians playing in Russia when they picked German Rubtsov. Kravtsov will play in the KHL next season and then likely come over. He had one of the best endings to a season I’ve ever seen from a prospect, and I’ve heard from several teams that consider him a top 10 talent.”

Dave Isaac, Courier-Post: Joel Farabee, LW, USNTDP

Isaac’s take: “The Flyers need a sniper and while Farabee won’t jump to the NHL right away, he’s got a knack for the net. Considering he’s 6-feet tall he needs to put more muscle on, currently listed at 163 pounds, but otherwise he has excellent tools. His hockey IQ is something that the Flyers will find attractive and he competes at both ends of the ice.”

Charlie O’Connor, The Athletic: Vitali Kravtsov, RW, Chelyabinsk

O’Connor’s take: “Joel Farabee would be tempting at this spot, but Hextall’s tendency is to gravitate towards prospects who came on strong at the end of their draft years (Sanheim, Allison). Kravtsov exploded for 11 points in 16 games during the KHL playoffs, and the Flyers showed with their selection of German Rubtsov in 2016 that they’re willing to do their homework on high-end Russian prospects and invest high picks in them if they like the skill set.”

Adam Kimelman, NHL.com: Joel Farabee, LW, USNTDP

Kimelman’s take: “The Flyers have drafted a number of talented forwards the past two years, including five in the first four rounds in 2017. But what separates Farabee (5-11, 164) is his speed, combined with a high hockey IQ and a quick-release shot that produced 33 goals in 62 games this season.”

Jeff Marek, Sportsnet: Rasmus Kupari, C, Kärpät

Marek’s take: “High-end skating and a dangerous shot. His offensive game is on point, but it’s the other side of the puck that he needs to work on.”

Craig Button, TSN: Serron Noel, RW, Oshawa

Button’s take: “Big, strong, smart, and can play the game with skill, smarts and power. Just keeps getting better.”

Mike G. Morreale, NHL.com: Joel Farabee, LW, USNTDP

Morreale’s take: “He's a two-way puck mover with outstanding vision who plays a hard game in all areas of the rink. Committed to Boston University in 2018-19, Farabee was second in scoring with the NTDP U-18 team with 76 points and had eight power-play goals and four game-winning goals.”

19th overall

Corey Pronman, The Athletic: Martin Kaut, RW, HC Dynamo

Pronman’s take: “After the combine, I heard some teams were scared off from drafting Kaut in the first round due to a heart condition, but TSN’s Bob McKenzie reported those issues have subsided following his procedure. I have no idea whether the Flyers are scared off or not, but he checks a lot of the hockey sense, two-way play and strong finish boxes they’ve valued in recent years.”

Dave Isaac, Courier-Post: Martin Kaut, RW, HC Dynamo

Isaac’s take: “The Czech winger couldn’t take part in the physical aspects of the combine because the medical test revealed a heart condition that required surgery, but it isn’t expected to affect his hockey career. He has good hands in tight, plays along the boards rather well and takes the puck to the net. He’s already been tied to the Flyers. Of his 14 interviews at the combine, he told one Czech news organization, he had the best feelings from the Flyers and New York Rangers. ”

Charlie O’Connor, The Athletic: Isac Lundestrom, C, Luleå HF

O’Connor’s take: “The Flyers have always loved versatile, well-rounded forwards with high-end hockey IQ, and that’s Lundestrom in a nutshell. There are questions about his ultimate offensive upside, but it’s not easy to score 15 points in 42 games as a teenager in a league against men, especially when it’s the SHL, one of the best leagues in the world. I could see Lundestrom’s combination of a high floor and top-sixer ceiling being very attractive to Hextall.”

Adam Kimelman, NHL.com: Rasmus Sandin, D, Sault Ste. Marie

Kimelman’s take: “The Flyers' crop of defensemen has graduated to the NHL (Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim, Robert Hagg) or is close to NHL-ready (Samuel Morin, Philippe Myers), so now would be a good time to start restocking. The Sweden-born Sandin had an easy transition to North America this season, and the Flyers saw a lot of him playing with top forward prospect Morgan Frost, the No. 27 pick of the 2017 draft.”

Jeff Marek, Sportsnet: Dominik Bokk, RW, Växjö

Marek’s take: “Germany continues to send high-end players to the NHL. Bokk plays a strong offensive game. Silky mitts, as the kids say.”

Craig Button, TSN: Bode Wilde, D, USNTDP

Button’s take: “All the elements to be a very good defenceman. Skates, handles puck, good shot and can be a physical force.”

Mike G. Morreale, NHL.com: Mattias Samuelsson, D, USNTDP

Morreale’s take: “Samuelsson (6-3, 217) plays a steady, physical game, reminiscent of his father, Kjell Samuelsson, who played 813 NHL games and works in player development for the Flyers. Mattias had 31 points (11 goals, 20 assists), 113 penalty minutes and 93 shots on goal in 58 games this season.”

More on the 2018 NHL draft

• Prospects the Flyers could select with the 14th overall pick

• Smith, with little bit of Gostisbehere and Provorov, should attract Flyers

• Flyers anticipate making both first-round draft picks

• Flyers need to find needle in haystack on Day 2 of NHL draft

What the 2018-19 NHL salary cap increasing means for the Flyers

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Zack Hill/Philadelphia Flyers

What the 2018-19 NHL salary cap increasing means for the Flyers

After another year of financial growth, NHL teams will have more spending money this summer.

The NHL on Thursday said that the 2018-19 salary cap will increase to $79.5 million. It's the seventh straight season the cap has grown since the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season.

With the $4.5 million jump, it’s the largest climb since 2013-14 to 2014-15, when it rose $4.7 million from $64.3 million to $69 million. Last season, the cap was $75 million.

So what does the cap increase mean for the Flyers and where do they stand now?

Projected cap space

Before the increase, the Flyers had about $17.2 million in cap space, according to CapFriendly.com. With the boost, that figure jumps up to $21.7 million.

The Flyers currently have roughly $57.8 million in projected cap hits, which includes 17 players.

Heading into the summer, the Flyers have 16 free agents — nine restricted — after re-signing Colin McDonald to an AHL contract. Their RFAs are Robert Hagg, Samuel Morin, Taylor Leier, Alex Lyon, Anthony Stolarz, Reece Willcox, Danick Martel and Petr Mrazek.

The UFAs are Matt Read, Brandon Manning, Valtteri Filppula, Johnny Oduya, Dustin Tokarski, John Muse and Will O’Neill. The Flyers haven’t shut the door on Filppula returning but it would come at a significant pay decrease. The rest likely aren’t returning.

Ilya Bryzgalov’s compliance buyout remains on the books through 2026-27 but doesn’t count toward the cap. R.J. Umberger’s buyout finally comes off the books this summer.

Since taking over as general manager in 2014-15, Ron Hextall has prioritized operating responsibility. It was a complete shift in philosophy from the previous front office.

The Flyers began the 2017-18 season with $2.4 million in cap space and finished with $1.3 million. They didn’t use long-term injured reserve, meaning they had no LTIR relief.

Hextall has dug the Flyers out of salary cap purgatory and 2017-18 was the first in a while the team did not have to worry about being cap compliant at any point of the season.

It’s safe to say that whatever unfolds over the next few months, Hextall will want to carry at least a $2 million cushion into the Flyers’ opener vs. the Golden Knights in Vegas on Oct. 4.

How it affects free agency

This is an important note to remember as we progress through the offseason: just because the salary cap officially increased, it doesn’t mean it’s going to change Hextall’s philosophy.

It’s an odd time for the Flyers as they look to take the next step without abandoning the plan Hextall laid out five summers ago. They are going to change, but just how much?

After his pre-draft news conference last week, Hextall said that he’s had no conversation with Ilya Kovalchuk, who’s returning to the NHL after five seasons in the KHL. Not a shocker.

What did give us insight into Hextall’s plan approaching free agency was him closing the door on the Flyers making long-term commitments. He left the door open for the Flyers to dip into the market but ultimately shut down the possibility of them chasing a John Tavares type.

“We’d like to get better,” Hextall told reporters, “but we’re not going to do something stupid long term to try to get better [for] one or two years. We have money to spend short term. We can do something short term in the sense that it doesn’t bottle us up in three or four years.”

Reading between the lines, Hextall knows what’s coming down the road. Entry-level contracts expiring and kids coming up through the ranks. That means contract extensions and raises.

It’s not just a salary cap problem anymore; it’s more about roster spots. Hextall doesn’t want to block prospects by bringing in Band-Aids that will only create issues down the line.

The cap does come into play, of course. But it’s not the only factor. At least not anymore.

How they could spend

Hextall said last week he desires righty defensemen and would like to add another veteran. With Filppula’s contract expiring, the Flyers have a hole to fill on the third line. Some may argue, with valid evidence, the Flyers could benefit from bringing in another top-sixer.

The problem is, this summer’s free-agent market doesn’t have many big fish. Outside of Tavares, the forwards don’t scream “come to get me.” There are a few veteran options that could make sense — Paul Stastny or Riley Nash, for example. If we look at right-handed D-men, John Carlson and Mike Green head the list of UFAs but cross Carlson off the wish list.

With $21.7 million in cap space, the Flyers have enough wiggle room to check off their internal checklist and bring in one or two pieces via free agency.

But don’t let the cap increase fool you, it won’t change how Hextall attacks this summer.

More on the Flyers