Grading trade deadline deals in Flyers' division

Grading trade deadline deals in Flyers' division

The Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang have concluded, but the final 19 games of the NHL’s regular season are shaping up like the final few laps of a short track speed skating race in which the competition is jockeying for positions before the final sprint to the finish.

Now that the eight teams in the Metropolitan Division have made their moves, let’s grade their deadline deals.

Added: Goalie Petr Mrazek; defenseman Johnny Oduya

Lost: Defenseman Mark Alt

Ron Hextall acted swiftly and decisively in acquiring Mrazek from the Red Wings following the injury to Michal Neuvirth. It was essential for the Flyers to upgrade the position after losing their top two goaltenders. I’m not sure the Flyers get much of an upgrade with 36-year-old Oduya over the 26-year-old Alt, but he certainly adds playoff experience with 106 postseason games played. It will be interesting to see if Oduya assumes Alt’s role or takes playing time away from Brandon Manning. Regardless, it’s a slight upgrade.

Grade: B+

Added: Forwards Derick Brassard, Josh Jooris, Tobias Lindberg, Vincent Dunn; 2018 third-round pick

Lost: Forwards Ryan Reaves, Greg McKegg; defenseman Ian Cole; 2018 first-round pick, 2019 third-round pick

Brassard slots in perfectly onto the Penguins' third line. He plays a solid two-way game and can bring some scoring punch to Pittsburgh’s bottom six. Reaves played really well in two games against the Flyers. It will be interesting to see if the Pens miss Reaves' physical presence. Eventually, giving up first-round picks has to catch up to Pittsburgh management. At 27, Jooris has been a journeyman. GM Jim Rutherford typically goes big and bold on this day, but did neither.

Grade: B 

Added: Defensemen Michal Kempny, Jakub Jerabek

Lost: 2018 third-round pick, 2019 fifth-round pick

Kempny moves into the Capitals' everyday lineup while Jerabek adds depth in the system, but is not expected to contribute right away. Washington simply didn’t have the cap space to make a major move without unloading salary at the same time.

Grade: C 

Blue Jackets
Added: Forwards Thomas Vanek, Mark Letestu; defenseman Ian Cole

Lost: Forwards Jussi Jokinen, Tyler Motte, Nick Moutrey; 2018 fourth-round pick, 2020 third-round pick

As the second wild-card team right now, the Blue Jackets are looking to make that playoff push by adding scoring winger Vanek coupled with veteran depth and leadership. Ranked 29th in goals scored, the Blue Jackets were desperate to add offense. Solid penalty killer Letestu rejoins the Jackets after leaving in 2015. Cole was a player I thought the Flyers might pursue to provide some depth in the event of injury. Columbus now has a rather solid three defensive pairs moving forward and didn’t give up a draft pick in the top two rounds.

Grade: A-

Added: Forwards Michael Grabner, Patrick Maroon

Lost: Defensemen Igor Rykov; 2018 second-round pick, 2018 third-round pick

The Devils want to play with pace and they added one of the fastest players in the league in Grabner, who scored 25 goals this season prior to the trade. Grabner can also chip in on the penalty kill. The second-round pick seems to be a steal considering what Vegas forked over for Detroit’s Tomas Tatar. New Jersey also added size with Maroon, who played sporadically with Edmonton this season. The Devils needed depth at the forward position and they got it.

Grade: A

Added: Forwards Vladimir Namestnikov, Brett Howden, Ryan Spooner, Matt Beleskey; defensemen Libor Hajek, Ryan Lindgren, Rob O’Gara; 2018 first-round pick, two 2018 second-round picks, 2018 third-round pick, 2019 seventh-round pick

Lost: Forwards J.T. Miller, Michael Grabner, Rick Nash; defensemen Ryan McDonagh, Nick Holden

A mass Manhattan exodus as the Rangers' rebuild is now in full swing. They could have as many as eight picks in the first three rounds of the 2018 draft. They traded the captain McDonagh and received the Lightning’s top two selections (Howden, Hajek) from the 2016 draft, plus a first-rounder. It’s a good return but will this put the Rangers back on track in four to five years? Difficult to say. McDonagh is the toughest loss. If you’re grading purely on the return, the Rangers did well.

Grade: A-

Added: Forward Chris Wagner; defenseman Brandon Davidson 

Lost: Foward Jason Chimera; 2019 third-round pick

The Islanders gave up a third-rounder for a defenseman who was placed on waivers earlier in the season. Wagner isn’t much of an upgrade over Chimera, if any, but he’s younger and cheaper. For a team that has surrendered more goals than any other team in the league, the Islanders did very little to improve in that area.

Grade: C- 

Added: Forward Greg McKegg

Lost: Forward Josh Jooris

A week ago, the Hurricanes were still pushing for a wild-card spot, but since then, they've faded fast, having lost five straight. Carolina GM Ron Francis had some pieces that he could have moved whether that was Justin Faulk, Justin Williams or even goaltender Cam Ward, who’s in the final year of a contract. Ward would have been a good fit with the Islanders.

Grade: D  

Eric Lindros' drastic rule change would make hockey safer, but is it too extreme?

AP Images

Eric Lindros' drastic rule change would make hockey safer, but is it too extreme?

The NFL's new helmet rule has caused confusion and frustration in the preseason.

Routine tackles in the past have been flagged, and players, media members and fans have voiced their concerns with what exactly will be a legal tackle come the regular season.

Enough with football. Could something like this come to hockey?

If Flyers legend Eric Lindros had his way, it would, and it would go a bit further too.

Lindros said last week at See The Light, a concussion conference at Western University in London, Ontario, that he would be in favor of eliminating body contact altogether.

Via the National Post:

“Let’s get right to it. You talk about me playing. I love hockey, and I continue playing hockey. But it’s funny — the hockey I was playing all those years was really physical, and I have just as much fun [these days], but we don’t run into one another. We’re still having as much fun, the same enjoyment of it. We know concussions are down in a league without contact.”

Lindros clarified his position on Twitter, saying that he believes clean body contact still has a place in professional hockey.

Let’s unpack Lindros’ suggested rule change because there is a lot there for the hockey traditionalists to chew on. I’m sure we’ll see some in the comments section below.

Removing body contact from hockey would be a fundamental adjustment to a game that has a culture of being a tough, physical sport where hockey players notoriously play through injuries.

Hockey players have a reputation of being warriors, and they get celebrated for it. Heck, Ivan Provorov played Game 6 vs. Pittsburgh with a Grade 3 AC separation that requires eight weeks to heal. Wayne Simmonds played the entire year with more injuries than he could remember.

The toughness hockey players display on a nightly basis is admirable, but it’s also sometimes stupid. When it comes to concussions and head injuries, it’s especially dumb.

But removing body contact altogether seems extreme. If contact remains in the sport at higher levels and pro leagues, then proper body contact should be stressed in youth hockey. Perhaps limitations on contact would make sense. It's not a totally crazy idea for young players.

The point, though, shouldn’t be lost. Concussions remain a serious issue and the NHL isn’t doing enough to address it. The league won’t even admit there’s a correlation. That’s a problem.

On Friday, the same day as Lindros’ suggested rule change, the NHLPA contributed a joint donation of $3.125 million toward concussion and brain injury research.

Lindros is one of several former hockey players who have been vocal about concussions and hockey, and understandably so. Concussions are very much part of Lindros’ legacy.

There are other ways to address concussions and the sport. It begins by admitting there is a link between CTE and hockey. The NHL has taken steps in protecting its players, but it can do more.

Headshots are penalized more seriously, but there remains inconsistency in the how NHL’s Department of Player Safety governs. That’s another area that should be addressed: more consistency.

The International Ice Hockey Federation, which oversees the Olympics, European leagues and international tournaments, penalize all hits to the head. That would be an enormous step.

Let’s not get sidetracked by Lindros’ idea of removing body contact from hockey. Instead, let’s stay on the NHL to continue to do better in protecting its employees from serious brain injuries.

After all, NHL players do have families to go home to after work and lives to live after their playing days are over.

More on the Flyers

Why Wayne Simmonds could come out stronger than ever for Flyers

Why Wayne Simmonds could come out stronger than ever for Flyers

Wayne Simmonds had just finished describing the season from hell.

He was the Flyers' 2017-18 version of the walking wounded, fighting so many injuries that he lost track running them off in late April.

At the time, no one would have blamed Simmonds for lacking some aplomb. Sitting at his end-of-the-season press conference, Simmonds was destined for surgery to address a tear in his pelvic area while coming off a stability-shaken year that produced his fewest goals (24) and points (46) over a full campaign since 2010-11.

Then again, it takes a lot to knock down a player like Simmonds.

This wasn't going to do it.

When asked if he believed he would be fully healthy for 2018-19, Simmonds responded with a resounding confidence.

"Oh, yeah," he said. "One hundred percent, no doubt."

Simmonds, a driven athlete, might have the most fuel he's ever had in a Flyers uniform. There are motivational factors flying at him from every angle and would you expect anything different than Simmonds embracing them all with open arms?

"When you're as dedicated as Wayne is and you put in the effort, the time, the preparation on a daily basis and get better every year, that's what we all should strive to do," Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said in March 2017. "I think Simmer is an example for everybody to get better every year."

What exactly is the motivation this year?


For starters, Simmonds is about to step foot into a contract year, unless his representation and Hextall agree on an extension beforehand. That very well could happen, but the Flyers may want to see Simmonds prove his health and production. Not only would that serve as reassurance on the soon-to-be 30-year-old, it also could help with trade value, if the Flyers decide to contemplate that route.

"If it has to go into next year, we're comfortable with that," Hextall said July 1.

Such a scenario wouldn't be a terrible idea for Simmonds. A loud and fast start to 2018-19 would provide him leverage in what he'll ultimately receive from the Flyers or elsewhere.

So, many eyes will be watching Simmonds' production. From where it comes will be one of the more intriguing storylines throughout.

With the Flyers, Simmonds has built himself into an elite power-play producer. Since the 2011-12 season, his first in orange and black, Simmonds owns 86 man-advantage goals, second in the NHL to only Alex Ovechkin with 131.

Which made it hard to believe when Simmonds lost grip of his first-unit net-front role down the stretch last season. The power forward went down from Feb. 20 to March 4 with a torn ligament in his thumb, opening the door for 19-year-old rookie Nolan Patrick, who impressed with his savvy and skill around the blue paint.

Patrick netted three power-play goals during Simmonds' seven-game absence and never lost his spot the rest of the way. He led the Flyers with five markers on the man advantage over the final 23 regular-season games and dished out this beauty of an assist.

Simmonds, a team-first guy who was never healthy, took it in stride.

"I've played in this league a long time and I think you come to realize as a player if you're not at your top, you're probably not going to be getting probably what you usually should," he said after the season. "I know that's what maybe went down at the end, there's not really much I can say about that. If I was 100 percent, then I think there might be some annoyance, but I wasn't 100 percent and I understand the situation that we're in, the position that we're in, we were fighting for the playoffs. 

"While I got hurt there, Patty got put on the first power-play unit and scored two goals the first [two games], so what am I going to argue with? The kid's a heck of a hockey player and he earned it, he definitely earned it, and there's not much I can say. Just going to go out there once I got back and do what I can to help the team."

None of this is to suggest Simmonds won't regain his post on the power play. When healthy, there aren't many better at it, but the competition is clear with the rise of Patrick and the addition of James van Riemsdyk, a net-front guy himself.

Even before JVR jumped back into the picture, Simmonds saw his ice time dip. He played 15:13 during the Flyers' last six regular-season games and just 14:36 in six postseason contests. Simmonds simply wasn't himself. As a result, he was relegated to a third-line slot and may see the same in 2018-19 now that the Flyers are deeper.

"He can play every way," Hextall said about Simmonds when the Flyers inked van Riemsdyk on Day 1 of free agency. "He's net front on the power play, he's a physical player, forechecker, straight-line, go-to-the-net-with-your-stick-on-the-ice guy. Simmer can play up top or certainly down your lineup."

No matter where he plays, Simmonds will be motivated, maybe even a little ticked off.

That's a scary thought.

More on the Flyers