Flyers

Flyers sign James van Riemsdyk

Flyers sign James van Riemsdyk

James van Riemsdyk is coming back to Philadelphia.

The Flyers on Sunday signed van Riemsdyk to a five-year contract.

TSN's Frank Seravalli first reported that van Riemsdyk was returning to Philadelphia on Saturday night.

Per ESPN's John Buccigross, van Riemsdyk's contract will be a five-year, $35 million deal with a $7 million annual average value.

While most of Philadelphia awaits what the Sixers will do in free agency, the Flyers surprisingly stole the early spotlight Saturday night.

van Riemsdyk, 29, was originally drafted by the Flyers with the No. 2 overall pick in 2007 and spent his first three NHL seasons in Philly. The Middletown, New Jersey, native scored 47 goals and 99 points in 196 games with the orange and black from 2009-10 to 2011-12.

The Flyers traded JVR to the Toronto Maple Leafs on June 23, 2012, for defenseman Luke Schenn. In his six seasons with the Leafs, van Riemsdyk blossomed into a 30-goal scorer and 60-point man. Last season, he registered 36 goals and 54 points.

The 6-foot-3, 217-pound left winger averaged 25 goals and 49 points in his six seasons in Toronto. He twice hit the 30-goal mark — the 2013-14 season (30) and 2017-18.

JVR is a volume shooter too, which the Flyers desperately need. Last season, he finished the campaign with 248 shots, which ranked 23rd in the NHL.

Cap space isn't the issue with the Flyers, at least not in the short term. According to CapFriendly, the Flyers have $14.7 million in cap space.

Even with the $7 million AAV, they still have money to spend.

By bringing van Riemsdyk back to Philly, Ron Hextall pulled off his first major player transaction as Flyers general manager. Hextall's previous "big" free-agent splurge was Dale Weise for four years, $9.4 million. Most of his UFA signings have been two-year deals.

Before the NHL draft, he said the Flyers wouldn't "reach out on a seven-year deal on a good player." On Friday, Hextall cleared the air about his strategy this summer. 

"I misspoke that day or you guys misunderstood me," Hextall said with a smile. "I said we weren't going to go long term with a good player. Maybe a great player, we'd look at."

Now does van Riemsdyk qualify as a "great player?" That's up for debate.

But van Riemsdyk does significantly upgrade the Flyers' forward group. He's a power-power play threat — scored 11 PP goals last season — though he played a similar role in Toronto as Wayne Simmonds does with the Flyers. That's an interesting piece to watch unfold.

On paper, van Riemsdyk adds a proven scorer in the Flyers' top six and solidifies the forwards. With JVR in the mix, the Flyers finally have legitimate NHL forward depth.

van Riemsdyk joins a group of Sean Couturier, Claude Giroux, Nolan Patrick, Travis Konecny, Jakub Voracek and Simmonds. The Flyers can now use Oskar Lindblom in a third-line role and the numbers game says the team's third line should feature two scoring wingers.

One of van Riemsdyk, Voracek, Simmonds or Konecny figure to be on the third line if all return to the club next season. If Hextall can upgrade their third-line center, it has all the makings of being a dangerous unit in 2018-19.

For now, though, Hextall silenced his critics by reeling in a relatively big fish.

More on the Flyers

• 5 observations from Flyers development camp

Emotional Hextall, Flyers blown away by Humboldt survivor Straschnitzki

Ron Hextall: Flyers wanted in on John Tavares

• How should the Flyers approach free agency?

• Flyers want to upgrade top 4 — de Haan the guy?

Ice cream and a memory vs. Carey Price remind us Carter Hart is just a kid ... but ready for the moment

Ice cream and a memory vs. Carey Price remind us Carter Hart is just a kid ... but ready for the moment

When Carey Price was at his most dominant, winning the Vezina Trophy (top goalie) and Hart Memorial Trophy (MVP) in 2014-15, Carter Hart was just 16 years old. 

The precocious but innocent kid had just begun molding his game at the junior hockey level with the WHL's Silvertips in Everett, Washington.

Price was at the sport's pinnacle.

"He was my favorite goalie growing up," Hart said.

On Wednesday, the night before his 22nd birthday, Hart found himself stretching next to Price at the center-ice line in front of the scorekeepers' bench.

There was Hart, on the same NHL stage as his idol, facing him in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The NHL postseason is serious business, requiring the utmost competitiveness and focus. Hart, whose youthfulness often belies his maturity, fully understands the beast that is the Stanley Cup Playoffs. But the postseason makes for special moments and memories. NHL players all looked up to someone at some point. For Hart, he allowed himself to appreciate the storyline ahead.

"Definitely really cool," Hart said last Sunday about the upcoming best-of-seven first-round matchup with Price's Canadiens. "Just had the chance to actually meet him the other week and talk with him for the first time, so that was something pretty cool. For your first playoff series, playing against Carey Price will definitely be a lot of fun; I look forward to it."

Price, who turns 33 years old on Sunday, was unable to spoil the youngster's birthday. By midnight, Hart and the top-seeded Flyers had a 1-0 series lead after earning a hard-fought 2-1 victory over eighth-seeded Montreal. Hart is 3-0-0 with a 1.00 goals-against average and .966 save percentage through three games in the NHL's return-to-play 24-team tournament.

On the ice, the Flyers were able to celebrate around Hart after he turned away 27 of 28 shots, with 16 of those saves coming in the second period when the Flyers really needed him.

Off the ice, they made sure to celebrate Hart's birthday a little early, making the best of the circumstances in the Eastern Conference's Toronto bubble.

“I think some guys got him some ice cream yesterday after the game and just sang him happy birthday," Shayne Gostisbehere said Thursday with a smile. "He’s been pretty good.”

“Let him do his thing,” Scott Laughton chimed in about Hart.

“Yeah, let him do his thing," Gostisbehere echoed.

After a short and sweet exchange with Price, Hart did his thing in Game 1.

“Just said hello quickly in warmups, good luck and it was just time to go play," Hart said.

If Hart continues to play the way he has this season and to start the tournament, he could remember the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs for much more than a memorable matchup with Price.

But there's a kid in everyone. Then again, Hart is only 22 years old.

"He’s a special kid," Derek Grant said last week. "He’s so calm. He puts his mask on, you don’t know how old he is."

With his mask off, Hart hopefully enjoyed a little ice cream and soaked in the moment.

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Canadiens head coach Claude Julien hospitalized with chest pain

Canadiens head coach Claude Julien hospitalized with chest pain

Canadiens head coach Claude Julien has been hospitalized because of chest pain, the team announced Thursday.

Julien is not expected to return to the bench for the Canadiens' best-of-seven first-round playoff series against the Flyers. Assistant coach Kirk Muller will take over head coaching duties in the interim.

Julien was behind the bench leading Montreal in Game 1 Wednesday night at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto. The Flyers beat the Canadiens, 2-1, while the series continues Friday with Game 2 at 3 p.m. ET.

Here is a statement from Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin, via the team's official website:

Good afternoon. I'm here to inform you of the reason Claude Julien was not here this morning at practice. Claude experienced chest pain during the night. We immediately consulted our doctors and it was agreed to transfer him to the hospital by ambulance. He's presently there and he's undergoing tests to determine the exact nature of his condition. This has nothing to do with COVID.

We don't expect him to be back during this series against the Flyers. Kirk, Dominique [Ducharme] and Luke [Richardson] will share the responsibility, however, Kirk is the associate head coach and he will assume the responsibility of head coach until Claude's return.  

We understand that Kirk does not speak French, but these are exceptional circumstances and we're asking you for your understanding. Out of respect for Claude and his family, I will not answer any further questions about his medical condition.

The veteran coach led the Bruins to a Stanley Cup championship in 2011. The 60-year-old began his NHL head coaching career in Montreal and has been with the club for parts of seven seasons.

"There’s no doubt that there’s a deep bond and a deep respect because we know the jobs that we’re doing," Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault said about Julien before the series.

Vigneault, 59, also began his NHL head coaching career in Montreal. From 1981-83, Vigneault and Julien were teammates on the Central Hockey League's Salt Lake Golden Eagles.

"I didn't see him after the game," Vigneault said Thursday afternoon in a video interview following practice. "I've known Claude since I was 20, so we go way back, good friends. I'm going to reach out with him; I just found out the news, I want to say 20 minutes ago, just before jumping on the bus. I'm not aware of exactly what happened."

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