Flyers

If not Sergei Bobrovsky, which free agents should Flyers target?

If not Sergei Bobrovsky, which free agents should Flyers target?

Sunday’s report from SportsNet Canada’s Chris Johnson that the Flyers will take a run at Sergei Bobrovsky on July 1 (barring he’s still unsigned) certainly raised a few eyebrows around the hockey community in Philadelphia (see story).

Bobrovsky would command the largest contract ever for a Flyers goaltender and it could hamper the team from addressing other areas.

If you’re not too keen on the idea of the Flyers making a long-term commitment to Bobrovsky at $10-11 million per season, which could inevitably serve as a blockade to Carter Hart’s path to the NHL (much like the signing of Ilya Bryzgalov), then the Flyers could spend their free agent dollars elsewhere with other holes to fill.

Here’s a look at some potential options:

Mark Stone, RW (Ottawa Senators)

Even if defenseman Erik Karlsson hits the market on July 1, I wouldn’t be surprised in the least bit if Stone drew more interest from across the league. For one, the 26-year-old right wing is entering the prime years of his career having already produced four 20-goal seasons with the Senators. He’s smart, instinctive, quick, is rarely out of place on the ice and is versatile enough to play in every situation — including on the much-needed penalty kill.

Stone was in his final year of arbitration before ultimately agreeing to a one-year, $7.35-million contract with the Sens, who are clearly in a rebuild mode. Don’t be surprised if Stone is moved before the trade deadline as he will command quite a bit for any contending team. However, if the Flyers elect to move on from Wayne Simmonds, then there will be an opportunity to fill a void at right wing, where Stone would be a great fit.


Matt Duchene, C (Ottawa Senators)

I’m not convinced Nolan Patrick is ready to step up and be the No. 2 center the Flyers need — a player that can score 55-60 points a season. Senators top center Matt Duchene would be that guy. My guess is that the Senators retain either Duchene or Stone, but I certainly can’t envision a situation where they lock up both players. Duchene has produced six 20-goal seasons but struggled much like Nathan McKinnon when they were teammates in Colorado, and he’s not the most defensive-minded center with a plus/minus numbers that is reflective of that.  

Still, the 28-year-old Duchene is immensely talented as the Flyers found out when he scored a game-winner, batting a rebounded shot out of the air on the backhand side.


Semyon Varlamov, G (Colorado Avalanche)

I fully anticipate Sergei Bobrovsky to get six years and at least $60 million wherever he signs, and whether or not the Flyers feel Hart is ready next season or not, the team could still benefit from having an established veteran. There are very, very few solid goaltending options heading into next summer, but Varlamov is in the final season of a five-year, $29-million contract he inked in 2014. 

He bounced back from a disappointing 2016-17 season with a .920 save percentage is helping lead the Avs back to playoff contention. If you can get Varlamov on a two-to-three year deal, and you may have to overpay a little, then he could help stabilize the position until Hart is deemed ready.

https://twitter.com/PuckDontLie/status/1048771923230916610

Anton Stralman, D (Tampa Bay Lightning)

Karlsson will be the big ticket free agent defenseman, but you're paying a high premium for a marquee name while risking that Karlsson’s best years are already behind him. I thought Steve Yzerman’s signing of Stralman in the summer of 2014 was one of the more underrated moves by the Lightning GM in propelling the organization into one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference.

A much-coveted right-handed defenseman Stralman just goes out there and does his job and rarely puts his team in a position of weakness. He’s smart with his stick and uses it to his advantage, rarely commits penalties, and would be a perfect compliment to Ivan Provorov on the penalty kill. Stralman will be 33 next season, so teams will have to be cautious regarding the terms of his deal. Tampa would love to retain Stralman, but they have other commitments which will force them to make some tough decisions.

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Future Flyers Report: Wisconsin's Wyatt Kalynuk one of four prospects to watch in Big Ten

Future Flyers Report: Wisconsin's Wyatt Kalynuk one of four prospects to watch in Big Ten

It’s time for our weekly check-in on the Flyers’ prospects playing in the AHL, overseas and at the junior and college levels.

• The Flyers have some exciting young defensemen at the pro level. They also have some at the college and junior ranks.

Two that have received a lot of attention are Cam York and Egor Zamula. York was the Flyers' first-round pick this summer and is in his freshman year at Michigan, while Zamula is a near-point-per-game 19-year-old playing for the WHL's Calgary Hitmen.

Another defenseman to keep tabs on his Wyatt Kalynuk, who the Flyers selected in the seventh round of the 2017 draft. The junior at Wisconsin had a goal, eight shots and seven blocked shots over two games against Notre Dame last weekend.

The 16th-ranked Badgers sport exciting underclassmen with Cole Caufield (2019 top-15 pick), Alex Turcotte (2019 top-five pick) and K'Andre Miller (2018 top-25 pick).

“The goal is to win a national championship," Kalynuk said this summer at Flyers development camp.

Kalynuk is a huge piece for Wisconsin. The 22-year-old has 10 points (two goals, eight assists) through 12 games.

"Probably my biggest strength is skating," Kalynuk said. "At Wisconsin, getting bigger, stronger and faster just improves it even more.

“I would consider myself a late bloomer, but it’s not a knock on me or anybody."

Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher checked out the Badgers last season in February. Wisconsin was playing Flyers prospect Tanner Laczynski and Ohio State. With Kalynuk, Laczynski, York and Bryce Brodzinski (2019 seventh-round pick at Minnesota), the Flyers will be watching plenty of Big Ten hockey this season.

Quick hits

• Goalie Kirill Ustimenko, a 2017 third-round pick, had a 32-save shutout for the ECHL's Reading Royals in a 1-0 win last Saturday over the Wheeling Nailers. The 20-year-old has a 2.57 goals-against average in 10 games (six wins).

• Isaac Ratcliffe has missed the Phantoms' last three games with an injury. The 2017 second-round pick is transitioning to the pro level with three points (one goal, two assists) in 12 games.

• Noah Cates scored his team-leading fifth goal in Minnesota Duluth's 3-2 win Saturday over Miami (Ohio). The 2017 fifth-round pick is a sophomore on the country's ninth-ranked team.

"We talk about him every day and we can't stop bragging about him," Flyers player development coach Kjell Samuelsson said this summer.

• Jay O'Brien, a 2018 first-round pick, is second in the BCHL with 40 points (15 goals, 25 assists) through 26 games for the Penticton Vees.

• Wyatte Wylie, another defenseman to watch, is a point-per-game player right now with five goals and 14 assists in 19 contests for the WHL's Everett Silvertips.

 

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Morgan Frost call-up has to do with everyone (especially James van Riemsdyk, Kevin Hayes, Jakub Voracek)

Morgan Frost call-up has to do with everyone (especially James van Riemsdyk, Kevin Hayes, Jakub Voracek)

VOORHEES, N.J. — Could Morgan Frost have used more time in the AHL?

Possibly.

But 20 games into the 2019-20 season, the Flyers were in a spot where they needed the 20-year-old’s ability. Uniquely, Frost impacts all four of the Flyers’ lines.

The Flyers are searching for greater balance and consistency within their forwards. They haven’t had it through 20 games and it’s a reason why they’ve been up and down during a 10-6-4 start.

Frost’s advertised prowess for playmaking permeates the big club’s makeup. Monday’s arrival of the 2017 first-round pick allows head coach Alain Vigneault to do many desired things with the Flyers’ lineup.

It moves Claude Giroux from the middle back to left winger, where he’s had his career-best success, without seriously hampering the Flyers at center. Frost will play between Giroux and Travis Konecny, a spot that accentuates the prospect’s strengths.

“T.K. is not a 10-year veteran, but he’s one of our young players that is definitely on the uprise and playing real well,” Vigneault said. “We’re playing Morgan with our captain. The captain will lead the way and help the young man out.”

It pieces back together the Flyers’ fourth line of Andy Andreoff, Michael Raffl and Tyler Pitlick, which was strong and gives the Flyers the necessary depth to augment Vigneault’s system.

“We felt that by bringing Morgan in and being able to go back to Raffy’s line, which had success with Andy on the left side and Tyler on the right side, it gave us better balance,” Vigneault said.

It keeps Sean Couturier with Oskar Lindblom, a duo that has highly performed, while adding Joel Farabee to the group. The trio showed promise in the 4-3 shootout loss Saturday night and it’s important the 19-year-old Farabee is around talent.

“Whoever we’ve played with Coots has played well,” Vigneault said.

And, most notably, it creates a line of James van Riemsdyk, Kevin Hayes and Jakub Voracek, three players that haven’t produced the way everyone expects them to produce. JVR, Hayes and Voracek have combined for 29 points in 20 games. They are three of the Flyers’ four highest-paid players, all with an average annual value of $7 million or above. 

Vigneault knows those players must perform overall and especially at 5-on-5 for his team to take a legitimate step forward.

The Hayesy line, Jake and James, that should be a big, good NHL line, they should be able to contribute 5-on-5 and play well both offensively and defensively.

All those guys, I love the person. I love Kevin Hayes as a person, James and Jake I’m starting to know, they’re great people. I need more from the hockey player. Two different distinctions, right? The person and the hockey player. Those three guys, I need more from the hockey player. I know that they want to do well. We’re 20 games in. It’s time. I’m not telling you anything that I haven’t told them. Obviously they feel pressure, but that’s why they’re paid the big bucks. You’ve got to deliver, you’ve got to produce, and we expect those guys to produce.

Older guys, because of their reputation, because of what they’ve done in the league, they have more leash, they have more money in the bank. Some of our guys, they’ve used a few withdrawals. I’m not stating anything that [anybody doesn’t know], but I expect more from James, I expect more from Kevin, I expect more from Jake as far as 5-on-5 play. You’d ask those guys, they’d tell you the same thing. They need to be better for our team to get into the playoffs and we’re aware of that.

Vigneault and general manager Chuck Fletcher speak daily with AHL affiliate head coach Scott Gordon. On Sunday, Vigneault spoke with Fletcher for an hour in the morning and an hour in the afternoon. After hearing from Gordon, they felt the time was right for Frost.

“Putting our two minds together, we came up with this,” Vigneault said. “It wasn’t about coming up with a plan, it was just looking at our overall team — our four lines, our defense.”

As much as it was about Frost and the Flyers, it had a ton to do with van Riemsdyk, Hayes and Voracek. Frost is here and will make his NHL debut Tuesday night against the Panthers in Florida. While many eyes will be on Frost, Vigneault will continue to look for more from van Riemsdyk, Hayes and Voracek.

He’s a head coach with a track record of making the playoffs — and he sure doesn’t want to miss them in Year 1 with the Flyers.

 

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