Flyers

Flyers Weekly Observations: No need to read between the lines

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Flyers Weekly Observations: No need to read between the lines

That week for the Flyers?

To poach a line from a Charlie Brown movie you may have watched over the last few days … “Good grief.”

This past week saw the Flyers hit the ice three times and fall three times in disheartening fashion, pushing their losing streak to seven games, the longest for the club since it lost 10 straight in 2008.

On Tuesday, they sleepwalked to a bowling-shoe ugly 5-2 loss to the visiting Vancouver Canucks. On Wednesday, they suffered 4-3 OT loss to the New York Islanders in Brooklyn. And in the annual Black Friday matinee, they blew a two-goal lead to the Islanders in the third period and fell yet again in OT, 5-4.

There is plenty to get to as the natives get more and more restless, so let’s hop right into this week’s observations.

• Moments after the Flyers sewed up their longest losing streak in nearly a decade Friday, head coach Dave Hakstol stood in front of the media and made some interesting comments regarding his team’s recent play.

“You’ve got to evaluate it for what it is,” he said. “I think in seven of our last ten we’ve gotten a point. Five of those are shootout or overtime losses.”

Hmmmm.

A point is a point, sure, but a loss is also a loss. The Flyers, before Sunday’s games around the league, have 22 points and are last in the Metropolitan Division. They also still have seven straight losses and the season could be on the verge of unraveling before we even hit December. 

Hakstol also hinted at veteran merit as a reason for throwing a Claude Giroux-Valterri Filppula-Brandon Manning three-man unit out against the Isles in OT rather than playing a younger, more offensively gifted defenseman such as Shayne Gostisbehere or Travis Sanheim, or even Robert Hagg or Samuel Morin in OT.

Again … hmmmm.

Merit is one thing, the best chance to win the game and end a long losing streak is another. Odds are the younger players give the Flyers a better chance to win there with their offensive gifts.

Look, many coaches aren’t going to be negative to the media, especially after a hard loss. And Hakstol is “coach-speak” royalty. Very rarely are you going to get something out of him in a press conference — and that’s fine, that’s just who he is.

But who are the Flyers right now? No need to read between any lines, the Flyers just aren’t a very good team right now, in all phases.

• While he didn’t find the scoresheet in the two games against the Isles this week, Danick Martel left a nice impression after his call-up from the Phantoms.

Martel, who earned his promotion to the big club by scoring 14 goals in the Phantoms’ first 17 games of the season to lead the entire AHL, fired four shots on goal and made himself noticeable on the ice. You have to like the scrappiness he displayed as he played an integral role in any scrums when he was on the ice and wasn’t afraid to get his nose dirty.

Those are the types of things that can provide energy and that’s a player himself who can provide energy. And if there’s something the Flyers need a desperate injection of right now, it’s energy.

• Remember the shootout narrative that has forever plagued the Flyers? That was a rhetorical question, of course, you do. Well, there’s a new narrative forming to bog the Flyers down because they can barely get to the shootout without falling flat.

The Flyers are now 2-10 in one-goal contests through 23 games played this season. They are 1-4 in overtime games and 0-2 in shootouts this year, as well. 

So let’s do everyone’s favorite activity, math, and add up the numbers here. That’s six extra points left on the table in the OT and shootout losses and another helping of six more points left on the table in the remaining three one-goal losses. That adds up to 12 potential points the Flyers have left hanging there.

Even worse, the Flyers have held leads at some point of each of the last five games of this miserable losing streak.

• The effort Tuesday against the Canucks may have been the most futile of the still-young season for the Flyers. After Ivan Provorov’s first-period tally that opened the scoring, the Flyers were just lifeless as Brock Boeser and the Canucks dominated from there on out. The boos that played the night’s soundtrack at the Wells Fargo Center that night were well-earned.

That black eye Tuesday ended a stretch that saw the Flyers play 10 straight games against Western Conference foes. They went 2-4-4 in that span and were shut out four times.

• Observation (kinda) from the future: The Flyers will face the blood-rival Penguins for the first time this season Monday evening. And while the many of the main characters who made the Battle of Pennsylvania must-see television in recent years remain in their respective sweaters, some of the luster has been wiped away, as the Flyers have been so inconsistent and the Pens have dominated all comers. 

Here’s hoping the rivalry can soon find that same disdain and boiling blood that we all know and are gluttons for.

Coming up this week: Monday at Pittsburgh (7 p .m. on NBCSP), Tuesday vs. San Jose (7 p.m. on NBCSP), Saturday vs. Boston (1 p.m. on NBCSP).

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