Flyers

Moving Claude Giroux back to center may be Flyers' best move

Moving Claude Giroux back to center may be Flyers' best move

One ring down, one ring to go.

Claude Giroux is enjoying a summer of marital bliss after tying the knot with fiancee Ryanne Breton.

When he returns to Philadelphia later this summer, he’ll begin his quest once again to earn that much more elusive championship ring. Of course, few people believe the Flyers are close to winning a Stanley Cup, but with the addition of James van Riemsdyk, they’re closer.

Maybe one more stud defenseman, Carter Hart in his prime, and switching the captain back to center?

Is it possible that after topping the 100-point plateau for the first time in his career, Giroux’s left wing conversion was just a one-year experiment?

General manager Ron Hextall stated a desire to sign a third-line center who would help kill penalties, but only signing one on his terms. The players that seemingly fit that role — Tyler Bozak, Riley Nash and Derek Ryan — all signed three-year contracts elsewhere, and the concern within the organization is eventually blocking Morgan Frost’s path to the NHL (see story)

So Hextall was asked on July 1 how the Flyers find that center they weren’t able to sign through free agency and the first answer that almost immediately came to mind was moving Giroux back to center. 

I believe the Flyers' brass has already given the idea consideration, and if you move the pieces around on paper, the team looks considerably deeper with Giroux in the middle again. 

Several elements stand out when you compare and contrast the different combinations.

1. The Flyers are considerably more balanced with Giroux at center, with three lines that can do offensive damage and create matchup problems for the opposition, especially at home with last change.

2. Konecny could be buried with Giroux at wing. He’s almost guaranteed a spot in the top six if Giroux switches back to center. During the first half of last season, Konecny was paired with players that didn’t have a similar skill set, and consequently, the super-skilled winger struggled to find any offensive rhythm.

3. While effective at times last season, Laughton doesn’t seem ready to jump into the role of a third-line center. The 2012 first-round pick played some of his best hockey late in the season on the left wing with Jori Lehtera at center. 

If Dave Hakstol elects to make this change in the preseason, the biggest concern moving forward doesn’t necessarily involve Giroux’s move back to center, but rather can Couturier continue to excel by posting solid offensive numbers without Giroux on his wing? The two players were inseparable last season until the final two games of the Flyers' playoff series against Pittsburgh.  

And it may be the best option to start next season. 

More on the Flyers

Flyers re-sign restricted free agent Anthony Stolarz

Flyers re-sign restricted free agent Anthony Stolarz

General manager Ron Hextall is nearly finished wrapping up contracts for his restricted free agents.

And his goalie picture is now clear for 2018-19.

The Flyers on Wednesday re-signed netminder Anthony Stolarz to a one-year, two-way contract. The deal is worth $761,250, according to a report by hockey writer John Hoven.

With Stolarz back, defenseman Robert Hagg remains the Flyers' lone restricted free agent.

Stolarz, a 2012 second-round pick, underwent a nightmarish 2017-18 season just a year after he made his NHL debut and performed well in seven games with the Flyers. The 24-year-old tore the meniscus in his left knee during early September, the same injury he suffered at the end of 2016-17 with AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley.

He played in just one AHL game and three ECHL contests as a result. In 2016-17, he made his way to the big club and put up a 2.07 goals-against average and .928 save percentage in a small sample. Then the injury occurred with the Phantoms and it's been an uphill battle ever since for the 6-foot-6, 210-pounder.

Stolarz will have his work cut out for him — if he hasn't already — as playing time will be earned at Lehigh Valley with Alex Lyon back in the fold and Carter Hart joining them.

"It's just competition. No one is going to go in there and hand you a job, so you have to earn it,” Stolarz said in June after an on-ice workout at Flyers Skate Zone. "I think the thing for me is to prove I'm healthy. I don't think I've skated since the end of January. I had the one flare up before one of my games and it had nothing to do with my knee injury. It was a separate injury. I think the biggest thing is proving I'm healthy and going out there and working to prove I'm still a high-caliber goalie."

The Flyers' goaltending tandem is set with Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth, both of whom are in the final year of their contracts. Things obviously can change this offseason, as Neuvirth and Stolarz seemed like realistic trade candidates.

But as of now, it's Elliott and Neuvirth with the younger trio pushing and competing.

"I'd rather have too many goalies than too few," Hextall said earlier this month. "If something makes sense and we can make something happen, we'd at least look at it. We saw it last year. All of a sudden, a couple goalies go down and you're scrambling for goalies. If we start with five, we start with five. Not a perfect situation, but again, I'd rather start with five than with three."

More on the Flyers' goalies

• Following 'gloomy' time, what's next for Elliott?

• Why Neuvirth's NHL career hinges on this offseason

• Hart says so long to Twitter, hello to pro life

• No arbitration needed for Flyers and Lyon

• Sandstrom hungry to prove he's not the 'other' goalie

Former Flyers goalie Ray Emery dies at 35

Former Flyers goalie Ray Emery dies at 35

Former Flyers goaltender Ray Emery died Sunday morning. First responders pulled his body out of Hamilton Harbour, where he had been swimming with friends. An investigation into the cause of death is still ongoing. 

Emery was 35.

According to local authorities, Emery was checking out a friend’s boat docked at Royal Hamilton Yacht Club when the group he was with decided to jump in the water around 6:30 a.m. Emery’s body never surfaced and was eventually recovered around 2:50 p.m. Sunday afternoon. Hamilton police say Emery’s body was recovered in close proximity to where he was last seen.

Emery was last seen publicly with a handful of his former teammates Saturday night as the goaltender participated in Zac Rinaldo’s charity hockey game in Hamilton. Emery can be seen standing during the playing of “O Canada.”

"The Philadelphia Flyers are stunned and extremely saddened to hear of the tragic passing of former Flyers goaltender Ray Emery," president Paul Holmgren said in a statement from the team. "Ray was an outstanding teammate and an extremely gifted goaltender. He had exceptional athleticism, was a fierce competitor and battled in every game he played with the Flyers.

"His performances through the 2009-10 season were a very big part of the team's success in making the playoffs and reaching the Stanley Cup Final. Ray's talent, work ethic and determination helped him enjoy a successful 11-year NHL career. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends during this difficult time."

Several of Emery’s former teammates over the years offered their condolences via Twitter after learning of the tragedy.

Former Flyer Daniel Carcillo shared the he was crushed by the news (NSFW).

Jakub Voracek also shared his condolences (NSFW).

Emery joined the Flyers in June 2009 on a one-year contract, shutting out the Carolina Hurricanes 2-0 in his Flyers debut. The goaltender’s first stint in Philadelphia was cut short when he suffered a muscle tear in his abdomen in December missing the remainder of the season. Emery was later diagnosed with avascular necrosis — a degenerative condition to the bone tissue in his hip.

After undergoing successful surgery, Emery eventually joined the Ducks before winning a Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks in 2013. Impressively, Emery finished the regular season with a 17-1-0 record. He re-signed with the Flyers that summer as a backup to Steve Mason.

Emery’s most infamous moment in Philadelphia came during an ugly 7-0 loss to the Washington Capitals on November 1, 2013, as the Flyers netminder pummeled Caps goalie Braden Holtby during a line brawl in the early stages of the third period.

Emery faced criminal charges over a handful of off-the-ice incidents and altercations. Most recently, he was arrested for assault with a weapon in 2017 against former fiancé Keshia Chanté. 

Emery played a total of 287 NHL games, 88 with the Flyers.