Andrew MacDonald clears waivers, sent to Phantoms


Andrew MacDonald clears waivers, sent to Phantoms

As expected, Flyers defenseman Andrew MacDonald went unclaimed on the waiver wire and was officially loaned to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms on Tuesday.

MacDonald represents the Flyers' final cut and the team's roster is now set for Thursday's season opener against the Tampa Bay Lightning. All NHL clubs are required to have a 23-man roster filed to the league offices by 5 p.m. Tuesday.

General manager Ron Hextall on Monday said placing MacDonald on waivers was a difficult decision but that he is convinced he'll be back in the NHL at some point in the future.

“It’s disappointing I guess, but we’re caught in a tough place here and had to make a tough decision,” Hextall told reporters (see story).

“Obviously, we know Mac is a good NHL player. Is it what we wanted to do? No. If we could have avoided it, we would have.”

MacDonald has five years and $25 million remaining on his six-year, $30 million contract. By sending the veteran to the minors, the Flyers receive $950,000 in cap relief.

The 29-year-old was acquired by the Flyers from the New York Islanders prior to the trade deadline on March 4, 2014, and was later signed — by then-GM Paul Holmgren — to a long-term extension in mid-April. He was plagued by injuries and inconsistent play during his first full season with the Flyers last year, finishing with just two goals and 10 assists in 58 appearances. 

In 372 career NHL games between the Flyers and Islanders, MacDonald, a sixth-round pick in 2006, has recorded 19 goals and 86 assists. 

MacDonald will join a slew of promising young defensemen on the Phantoms' back end. Shayne Gostisbehere and Robert Hagg are expected to play vital roles on the blue line. It will also be interesting to watch the development of first-year pro Sam Morin, who was selected by the Flyers in the first round of the 2013 NHL draft. 

The NHL salary cap is $71.4 million for the 2015-16 season. The Flyers currently have $670,000 in cap space. Their opening-night roster includes 14 forwards, seven defensemen and two goalies.

2020 NHL playoffs: Standings in round robin, series updates as Flyers, Lightning eye No. 1 seed

2020 NHL playoffs: Standings in round robin, series updates as Flyers, Lightning eye No. 1 seed

The Flyers have earned at least a point against every Eastern Conference team this season except one:

The Lightning.

On Saturday at Scotiabank Arena, the Flyers will meet Tampa Bay in what has become the East's round-robin championship of the NHL's return-to-play 24-team tournament.

In the round-robin fight for top seeding, the Flyers have set themselves up well with a 4-1 victory over the Bruins and a 3-1 decision over the Capitals.

"I think it’s just important to play the right way and keep building on this momentum we’re gaining right now," Sean Couturier said in a video interview Thursday night after the Flyers' win over Washington. "We want to win, we want to finish the highest possible seed, but I think as long as we’re at our best once the real playoffs start, that’s the biggest thing."

Let's answer four questions heading into Saturday's showdown against the Lightning:

What's on the line?

The winner of the game will earn the Eastern Conference's No. 1 seed in the first round of the playoffs, while the loser will settle for the No. 2 seed.

Both seeds are obviously advantageous, but there's certainly a difference between them. The No. 1 seed will hold home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs. With no fans, that distinction still holds importance because home teams are awarded the last line change in games, which can be critical to matchups when outcomes are in the balance.

Below are the current round-robin standings:

1. Lightning — 2-0-0, four points
1. Flyers — 2-0-0, four points
3. Capitals — 0-1-1, one point
4. Bruins — 0-2-0, zero points

Who could Flyers play in 1st round?

Given they will finish with either one of the East's top two seeds, the Flyers cannot face the fifth-seeded Penguins or sixth-seeded Hurricanes in the first round.

It's still possible the Flyers can face the No. 7 Islanders, No. 8 Maple Leafs, No. 9 Blue Jackets, No. 10 Panthers or No. 12 Canadiens in the first round.

If the Flyers earn the No. 1 seed, they'll meet the lowest seed to advance past the qualifying round. If they're the No. 2 seed, they'll get the second-lowest seed to advance past the qualifying round.

Here's the latest on the best-of-five qualifying series:

No. 8 Maple Leafs vs. No. 9 Blue Jackets (CBJ leads 2-1; Game 4 — Friday, 8 p.m. ET)

No. 7 Islanders vs. No. 10 Panthers (NYI leads 2-1; Game 4 — Friday, noon ET)

No. 6 Hurricanes vs. No. 11 Rangers (CAR wins 3-0)

No. 5 Penguins vs. No. 12 Canadiens (MTL leads 2-1; Game 4 — Friday, 4 p.m. ET)

When are final round-robin games?

The Flyers-Lightning round-robin game is Saturday but the start time is TBD. We'll know the time of puck drop at some point Friday.

The Capitals and Bruins finish the round robin Sunday (start time TBD).

The first round of the playoffs is scheduled to begin next Tuesday.

How do Flyers fare vs. Lightning?

Among the round-robin teams, the second-seeded Lightning were the club that gave the Flyers the most trouble in the regular season. The Flyers dropped two games in regulation to Tampa Bay — albeit one was a 1-0 defeat and the other was a chippy 5-3 loss with an empty-netter during the final 22 seconds.

The Lightning can flat-out score, putting up a league-best 3.47 goals per game during the regular season.

However, the Flyers hung with Tampa Bay in other statistical categories and didn't have trade deadline acquisitions Derek Grant or Nate Thompson during the two regular-season matchups.

Sports Uncovered is on all podcast platforms: click here to subscribe now!

Subscribe and rate Flyers Talk: Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Spotify | Stitcher | Art19 | YouTube

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More Flyers analysis for 24-team tournament

• Flyers are making believers in round robin, pick up huge win for East seeding

Don't expect the Flyers to be mingling with their rivals at Hotel X Toronto

Costly injury comes at interesting time, creates more decisions for Flyers

The Flyers were never on a hot streak — they're just that good

• Feel good to be back? Despite possible injury, Flyers open tourney with a bang

From lineups to big picture, everything Flyers fans need to know for round robin

• Can the Flyers go all the way? Our Stanley Cup predictions are here

• Potential heavyweight coaching matchup for Flyers in 1st round

• Flyers celebrate return of hockey with OT drama and positives in exhibition

• So, about those Penguins ... 1st-round matchup for Flyers?

• Picture collage and signs show love for Flyers as they eye Cup run in Toronto

Couturier's goals in NHL bubble: Stanley Cup and an important baby book item

• Could Flyers still share the wealth against Blue Jackets in 1st round?

Would Islanders be Flyers' kryptonite if they meet in 1st round?

Flyers announce playoff roster, have fans going crazy over shirts

• All types of Flyers odds (including the Cup) as NHL's 24-team tourney begins

• Scott 'couldn't be happier' with Flyers, but there's more action to be done

• Trust the captain, he'll know what to do if the Flyers face the Hurricanes

• Analyzing Hart's situation, another Flyer becomes a dad, more

Lindblom has new contract, his comeback is on with Flyers

• Flyers-Canadiens is perfect on paper, but would it be a trap?

• What round-robin schedule change could mean for Flyers' strategy

• What happened? Voracek says calm down, he's fine ... now you know

Key Flyer missing, buzzing rookie, don't forget Ghost and more

• The Flyers' lineup, practicing celebrations, no hiding these two and more

• A 'dangerous card' in the Flyers' hand, Giroux still wows and more

• Fans can purchase Flyers playoff shirts with new slogan

• What it was like to go back to work at Flyers practice in different times

Analyzing the Flyers' schedule to open 24-team tournament

5 questions on Flyers' chances in 24-team tournament

Predictions for Flyers' best Game 1 lineup to start 24-team playoff

Who are the Flyers' top 5 reinforcements for 24-team tournament?

• Elliott has sweet new mask for Flyers' playoff run

• Flyers sign a player to extension at position of strength

What to know as NHL, NHLPA finish big step, announce schedule

Things get even better for Flyers in NHL's 24-team tournament

Flyers have two top 50 pending UFAs; will they re-sign them?

• Everything Flyers fans need to know for NHL's 24-team tournament

• Bettman gives Gritty the hard truth for why he can't be in Toronto bubble

Key dates, protocols announced as Flyers set to return

NHL playoffs: Flyers fans are losing their minds after win against Capitals

NHL playoffs: Flyers fans are losing their minds after win against Capitals

Yo, the Flyers. 

We can’t get enough of this team right now — but can you blame us? After entering the round robin as the fourth seed, its 3-1 win against the Capitals on Thursday now guarantees at least the second seed moving forward. Top of the East will be on the line Saturday when the Flyers face the Lightning. 

If you haven’t already, it’s time to start acknowledging Alain Vigneault’s team for all that it is this season — but if you’re a Flyers fan, being the underdog is nothing new.

This team does more than simply go through the motions. Its chemistry is off the charts and makes for an entertaining game from start to finish. 

Now, having a 2-0-0 record in the round robin so far, reality is setting in across the league about just how talented this team is. Even if you’ve been keeping an eye on the Flyers, it’s been a long time since the franchise has seen a roster with this much talent — so, it’s OK if you’re still in shock. 

Running over the Capitals though certainly started to put things into perspective for Flyers fans. 

Who knows what this game would have looked like without the line of Scott Laughton, Kevin Hayes and Travis Konecny? 

Well, we’ll never know … and that’s a wonderful thing. The Flyers’ second line dominated play and combined for eight points on the day. Since they seem like an inseparable line, is it time to start thinking about nicknames for it? 

It has to have something to do with chirping, don’t you think?

The Capitals also had a lot riding on this game. After an overtime loss to the Lightning earlier in the week, this was essentially a must-win. 

And if the players didn’t realize that during the game (their six minor penalties sure made it seem like that) — fans certainly made enough noise following the loss. 

Oh, did I mention Alex Ovechkin didn’t tally a single point against the Flyers in five games this season? Just something to think about. 

Buckle up Flyers fans, this is only the beginning. 

Sports Uncovered is on all podcast platforms: click here to subscribe now!

Subscribe and rate Flyers Talk: Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Spotify | Stitcher | Art19 | YouTube

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Flyers