Flyers

Flyers 2018 free-agent target: D Calvin de Haan

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Flyers 2018 free-agent target: D Calvin de Haan

Each day until July 1, the day NHL free agency begins, NBC Sports Philadelphia's John Boruk, Tom Dougherty and Jordan Hall will analyze some of the league's impending free agents and project their likelihood of signing with the Flyers.

Over time, general manager Ron Hextall has freed his club from its salary cap dungeon, setting the Flyers up with greater financial flexibility this offseason. The team has $21.7 million in cap space, according to CapFriendly.com.

As the Flyers look to take a step forward in 2018-19, free agency will provide Hextall an avenue to fill specific holes and supplement his mix of veterans and youth. While the team hasn't been major players on the market under Hextall in the past, the GM indicated earlier this month the Flyers could be active this summer.

Hextall said the Flyers wouldn't entertain a seven-year contract on a free agent, but he expressed a desire to add a veteran or two depending on the term.

With that said, let's look at some possible fits and how/if they make sense for the Flyers.

Calvin de Haan

Age: 27
Position: D
Height: 6-1
Weight: 197
Last team: Islanders
2017-18 cap hit: $1.9 million
 
Boruk
de Haan is that other unrestricted free agent on the island. Like John Tavares, de Haan is 27 years old as he enters unrestricted free agency. Who is de Haan and what would he bring to the Flyers? 

First, he’s a positionally sound left-handed defenseman and reliable in his own end. He's only been a minus player once in his career and even more impressively, he’s an aggregate plus-26 over the past two seasons. 

What immediately comes to mind is how he sacrifices his body to block just about any shot that comes his way. In that aspect, he’s one of the most fearless players in the NHL and he’ll even throw his body around to deliver the occasional bone-numbing hit.

But there’s a red flag as it pertains to his injury history. de Haan has played the full 82-game slate only once over the past five seasons, and in those other four injury-plagued seasons, he’s averaged just 55 games. He enters the 2018-19 season coming off shoulder surgery so how much commitment do you make to an injury-prone defenseman who lays his body on the line on a nightly basis?

I like de Haan, but he’s not that much-needed right-handed defenseman the Flyers covet. The position here is a contract no longer than four years and not exceeding $5 million annually, which is what the Flyers are currently paying former Islander Andrew MacDonald, who will be entering Year 5 of a six-year pact.

Dougherty
We keep seeing de Haan’s named attached to the Flyers loosely in reports so if there’s smoke, there has to be a little bit of fire. Hextall would like to add a second-pair defenseman and de Haan fits that profile. The dream would be a right-handed D-man and de Haan is not that.

But de Haan is a solid puck-moving blueliner who was limited to just 33 games last season because of a shoulder injury. There doesn’t appear to be a shortage of suitors for the Islanders defenseman, who reportedly has about 10 teams interested in him. de Haan doesn’t compile a ton of points but is considered to be a smooth-skater with a good first pass.

The Flyers currently have six defensemen on their roster for next season and an argument could be made that bringing in another defenseman either A) takes a lineup spot away from a kid or B) pushes Andrew MacDonald or Radko Gudas into a potential seventh-defenseman role. The preferred scenario there is B. The Flyers will likely bring in another defender, though, and if it’s de Haan, they could do a lot worse.

Hall
de Haan went from his best NHL season to his most difficult.

After playing all 82 regular-season games for the first time in his career during 2017-18 and setting personal bests in goals (five), assists (20), points (25) and plus/minus (plus-15), the 2009 first-round pick was limited to just 33 contests in 2017-18.

Still, there's a lot to like if you're the Flyers.

The lefty shot clearly doesn't light up the scoreboard, but that's not what the Flyers need. They need a reliable source on the back end and de Haan fits that bill. He's known for his smooth skating ability and first pass, which will only help the Flyers in their coverage and zone exits — it's all about being steady.

Even better, de Haan will come at a reasonable price and he's only 27 years old. The reward here far outweighs the risk and I'd like to see the Flyers consider it.

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2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule, live stream: Blues can advance to Cup Final with Game 6 win over Sharks

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2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule, live stream: Blues can advance to Cup Final with Game 6 win over Sharks

Craig Berube and the Blues are one win away from advancing to the Stanley Cup Final.

They can earn that victory Tuesday night when they host the Sharks in Game 6 of the Western Conference Final.

Including the playoffs, the Blues are 49-24-8 under Berube, who took over Nov. 19 as interim head coach.

For some context on the Blues' run, St. Louis visited the Wells Fargo Center Jan. 7 with the same number of points as the Flyers. The Blues were 29th in the NHL at 16-19-4 and 36 points, while the Flyers were 30th at 15-20-6 and 36 points.

St. Louis has never won a Cup, but it's on the verge of being one step closer to a title.

Below is the schedule for Day 39 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. You can watch the entire playoffs on the networks of NBC. 

San Jose Sharks at St. Louis Blues (STL 3-2)
Game 6, Western Conference Final
8 p.m. ET | TV: NBCSN | Live stream here

If Alain Vigneault can't work his magic with Flyers' roster, pressure mounts for Chuck Fletcher

If Alain Vigneault can't work his magic with Flyers' roster, pressure mounts for Chuck Fletcher

Chuck Fletcher was brought in because things weren't going well enough and quickly enough for the Flyers.

The predicament he inherited required eventual change.

After all, sitting alongside team president Paul Holmgren back in November, Comcast Spectacor chairman and CEO Dave Scott said the Flyers were eyeing a general manager with a "bias for action," among other qualities.

With time and evaluation, Fletcher has begun providing the desired action.

A new head coach is on board, bringing extensive experience and outside perspective, while two new assistants with strong pedigrees have been hired.

But perhaps the most influential part in shifting the Flyers' course has remained mostly intact: the roster. That could drastically change this upcoming offseason with free agency and potential trades. However, Fletcher, facing his first offseason as the Flyers' GM, doesn't see an exodus needed with the current roster — or at least not yet.

"The Flyers are a great opportunity. You guys are in this market, for me coming in from the outside, I know when Paul Holmgren approached me about being the general manager of the Flyers, I'm like, 'Wow.' This is a premium job in the National Hockey League and we're set up where we should have an opportunity to get better quickly," Fletcher said April 18. "I know we need more good players, but we have a lot of good players. It's not like you have to gut this thing — we have cap space, we have picks. We have really good staff, really good staff. On the scouting and management side, I've added one person, I haven't subtracted anything. There's a good group here and we have the ability to get better quickly if we all do our job."

Therein lies a poignant and undeniable pressure on Fletcher in Year 1 with the Flyers under Alain Vigneault's watch.

Aside from Wayne Simmonds, who became an inevitable piece to move given the circumstances, the Flyers' core has survived. So, too, has the overall makeup of the roster.

Fletcher, Vigneault and the Flyers believe this team can win with a refined system and different guidance. They don't exactly see a team that has missed the playoffs every other season since 2012-13, a stretch consisting of three first-round exits.

Will Fletcher add this summer? Of course — the ability to do so is one of the reasons why Vigneault found the Flyers as an attractive destination. When Fletcher was hiring Vigneault, the two established a list of areas in which the Flyers can improve.

"We're looking at some options and if we can put the right things in place," Vigneault said at his introduction, "it's going to be a lot of fun."

Significant subtraction was not featured on the list.

"There's some solid youth with a lot of upside here that is coming into its own," Vigneault said. "There's great goaltending, being one of those youth pieces. There's a solid core group that, in my mind, needs the right direction. And you've got the combination, also, of some solid veteran players that have been in the league a few years, that can still contribute at a high level in this league. … After discussing it with a lot of people that I respect their opinion in the NHL, I feel that the Flyers are a very good team that with the proper direction, proper mindset, proper culture and people working together, will be a very good team in the near future."

That's why Year 1 will be so telling.

Vigneault is a coach with a tremendous track record of winning during his first season on the job. He did so at three separate stops (see story). Michel Therrien has 38 postseason victories under his belt as a head coach and took a team to the Stanley Cup Final. Mike Yeo owns three playoff series victories as a head coach and has a ring as an assistant.

If this group can't produce the results with the Flyers' roster, Fletcher will have to take a longer, much more serious look at the players in place and make his hardest decisions yet.

At that point, it may be the only action left.

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