Flyers

Best of NHL: Ovechkin ties Richard on goal list in Capitals' win

Best of NHL: Ovechkin ties Richard on goal list in Capitals' win

MONTREAL -- Alex Ovechkin tied Canadiens great Maurice "Rocket" Richard with his 544th career goal and had two assists, leading the Washington Capitals to a 4-1 victory over Montreal on Monday night for their sixth straight win.

Ovechkin, who has won the Maurice Richard Trophy as the league's goal-scoring leader six times, tied Richard for 29th place on the NHL's all-time scoring list. His three points moved him with one of 1,000.

Evgeny Kuznetsov, Brett Connolly and Nicklas Backstrom also scored for Washington, and Braden Holtby finished with 22 saves. Holtby's career-best shutout streak ended at 169 minutes 12 seconds when Tomas Plekanec scored at 7:18 of the third period.

Capitals coach Barry Trotz worked his 1,400th regular season game, tying Pat Quinn for eighth place all time and picked up his 684th win, tying Quinn for sixth. Trotz is now one behind Ron Wilson for seventh place with 1,401 games coached (see full recap).

Luongo records 73rd shutout in Panthers' win
NEWARK, N.J. -- Roberto Luongo made 28 saves for his 73rd career shutout, leading the Florida Panthers to a 3-0 win over the New Jersey Devils on Monday night.

Luongo, tops among active goalies in shutouts, got his first of the season to move three behind Ed Belfour and Tony Esposito for ninth all-time. Retired Devils great Martin Brodeur holds the NHL record with 125.

Reilly Smith, Jussi Jokinen and Vincent Trocheck scored for Florida, which won for the third time in five games.

New Jersey was shut out for the third time this season, and for the first time at home since a 1-0 loss to Washington last March 25th. Cory Schneider finished with 26 saves for the Devils, who lost their third straight (see full recap).

Hellebuyck, Jets blank Flames
WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- Connor Hellebuyck made 28 saves for his third shutout of the season as the Winnipeg Jets beat the Calgary Flames 2-0 on Monday night.

Dustin Byfuglien and Blake Wheeler scored for the Jets, winners of three of their last four games. Hellebuyck now has five shutouts in his two-year NHL career.

Chad Johnson stopped aside 25 shots for the Flames, who had won five of their previous seven.

The Jets were playing for the first game since rookie star Patrik Laine was lost indefinitely due to a concussion suffered in Saturday's 4-3 loss to Buffalo.

Drew Stafford took Laine's spot on the top line with center Mark Scheifele and right wing Nikolaj Ehlers, a trio that spent some time together last season (see full recap).

2018 NHL mock draft roundup: Flyers going forward-heavy in 1st round

2018 NHL mock draft roundup: Flyers going forward-heavy in 1st round

For the third time in the past five years, the Flyers will have two first-round draft picks thanks to Ron Hextall’s commitment to drafting and developing being implemented when he took over in 2014.

Hextall has spent the past five offseasons largely acquiring assets as he builds. As part of the Brayden Schenn trade last June, the Flyers received the St. Louis Blues’ first-round pick (14th overall) in addition to their own (19th). The 2018 NHL draft begins tonight at American Airlines Center in Dallas and concludes Saturday afternoon with Rounds 2-7.

With the buildup to one of the most important dates of the NHL calendar year for Flyers fans over, we’ll soon find out what the Hextall will do. As we’re hours away from the finish line, let’s round up the mock drafts to see what people believe the Flyers might do at Nos. 14 and 19.

14th overall

Corey Pronman, The Athletic: Vitali Kravtsov, RW, Chelyabinsk

Pronman’s take: “The Ron Hextall regime showed it’s willing to invest this high in Russians playing in Russia when they picked German Rubtsov. Kravtsov will play in the KHL next season and then likely come over. He had one of the best endings to a season I’ve ever seen from a prospect, and I’ve heard from several teams that consider him a top 10 talent.”

Dave Isaac, Courier-Post: Joel Farabee, LW, USNTDP

Isaac’s take: “The Flyers need a sniper and while Farabee won’t jump to the NHL right away, he’s got a knack for the net. Considering he’s 6-feet tall he needs to put more muscle on, currently listed at 163 pounds, but otherwise he has excellent tools. His hockey IQ is something that the Flyers will find attractive and he competes at both ends of the ice.”

Charlie O’Connor, The Athletic: Vitali Kravtsov, RW, Chelyabinsk

O’Connor’s take: “Joel Farabee would be tempting at this spot, but Hextall’s tendency is to gravitate towards prospects who came on strong at the end of their draft years (Sanheim, Allison). Kravtsov exploded for 11 points in 16 games during the KHL playoffs, and the Flyers showed with their selection of German Rubtsov in 2016 that they’re willing to do their homework on high-end Russian prospects and invest high picks in them if they like the skill set.”

Adam Kimelman, NHL.com: Joel Farabee, LW, USNTDP

Kimelman’s take: “The Flyers have drafted a number of talented forwards the past two years, including five in the first four rounds in 2017. But what separates Farabee (5-11, 164) is his speed, combined with a high hockey IQ and a quick-release shot that produced 33 goals in 62 games this season.”

Jeff Marek, Sportsnet: Rasmus Kupari, C, Kärpät

Marek’s take: “High-end skating and a dangerous shot. His offensive game is on point, but it’s the other side of the puck that he needs to work on.”

Craig Button, TSN: Serron Noel, RW, Oshawa

Button’s take: “Big, strong, smart, and can play the game with skill, smarts and power. Just keeps getting better.”

Mike G. Morreale, NHL.com: Joel Farabee, LW, USNTDP

Morreale’s take: “He's a two-way puck mover with outstanding vision who plays a hard game in all areas of the rink. Committed to Boston University in 2018-19, Farabee was second in scoring with the NTDP U-18 team with 76 points and had eight power-play goals and four game-winning goals.”

19th overall

Corey Pronman, The Athletic: Martin Kaut, RW, HC Dynamo

Pronman’s take: “After the combine, I heard some teams were scared off from drafting Kaut in the first round due to a heart condition, but TSN’s Bob McKenzie reported those issues have subsided following his procedure. I have no idea whether the Flyers are scared off or not, but he checks a lot of the hockey sense, two-way play and strong finish boxes they’ve valued in recent years.”

Dave Isaac, Courier-Post: Martin Kaut, RW, HC Dynamo

Isaac’s take: “The Czech winger couldn’t take part in the physical aspects of the combine because the medical test revealed a heart condition that required surgery, but it isn’t expected to affect his hockey career. He has good hands in tight, plays along the boards rather well and takes the puck to the net. He’s already been tied to the Flyers. Of his 14 interviews at the combine, he told one Czech news organization, he had the best feelings from the Flyers and New York Rangers. ”

Charlie O’Connor, The Athletic: Isac Lundestrom, C, Luleå HF

O’Connor’s take: “The Flyers have always loved versatile, well-rounded forwards with high-end hockey IQ, and that’s Lundestrom in a nutshell. There are questions about his ultimate offensive upside, but it’s not easy to score 15 points in 42 games as a teenager in a league against men, especially when it’s the SHL, one of the best leagues in the world. I could see Lundestrom’s combination of a high floor and top-sixer ceiling being very attractive to Hextall.”

Adam Kimelman, NHL.com: Rasmus Sandin, D, Sault Ste. Marie

Kimelman’s take: “The Flyers' crop of defensemen has graduated to the NHL (Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim, Robert Hagg) or is close to NHL-ready (Samuel Morin, Philippe Myers), so now would be a good time to start restocking. The Sweden-born Sandin had an easy transition to North America this season, and the Flyers saw a lot of him playing with top forward prospect Morgan Frost, the No. 27 pick of the 2017 draft.”

Jeff Marek, Sportsnet: Dominik Bokk, RW, Växjö

Marek’s take: “Germany continues to send high-end players to the NHL. Bokk plays a strong offensive game. Silky mitts, as the kids say.”

Craig Button, TSN: Bode Wilde, D, USNTDP

Button’s take: “All the elements to be a very good defenceman. Skates, handles puck, good shot and can be a physical force.”

Mike G. Morreale, NHL.com: Mattias Samuelsson, D, USNTDP

Morreale’s take: “Samuelsson (6-3, 217) plays a steady, physical game, reminiscent of his father, Kjell Samuelsson, who played 813 NHL games and works in player development for the Flyers. Mattias had 31 points (11 goals, 20 assists), 113 penalty minutes and 93 shots on goal in 58 games this season.”

More on the 2018 NHL draft

• Prospects the Flyers could select with the 14th overall pick

• Smith, with little bit of Gostisbehere and Provorov, should attract Flyers

• Flyers anticipate making both first-round draft picks

• Flyers need to find needle in haystack on Day 2 of NHL draft

What the 2018-19 NHL salary cap increasing means for the Flyers

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Zack Hill/Philadelphia Flyers

What the 2018-19 NHL salary cap increasing means for the Flyers

After another year of financial growth, NHL teams will have more spending money this summer.

The NHL on Thursday said that the 2018-19 salary cap will increase to $79.5 million. It's the seventh straight season the cap has grown since the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season.

With the $4.5 million jump, it’s the largest climb since 2013-14 to 2014-15, when it rose $4.7 million from $64.3 million to $69 million. Last season, the cap was $75 million.

So what does the cap increase mean for the Flyers and where do they stand now?

Projected cap space

Before the increase, the Flyers had about $17.2 million in cap space, according to CapFriendly.com. With the boost, that figure jumps up to $21.7 million.

The Flyers currently have roughly $57.8 million in projected cap hits, which includes 17 players.

Heading into the summer, the Flyers have 16 free agents — nine restricted — after re-signing Colin McDonald to an AHL contract. Their RFAs are Robert Hagg, Samuel Morin, Taylor Leier, Alex Lyon, Anthony Stolarz, Reece Willcox, Danick Martel and Petr Mrazek.

The UFAs are Matt Read, Brandon Manning, Valtteri Filppula, Johnny Oduya, Dustin Tokarski, John Muse and Will O’Neill. The Flyers haven’t shut the door on Filppula returning but it would come at a significant pay decrease. The rest likely aren’t returning.

Ilya Bryzgalov’s compliance buyout remains on the books through 2026-27 but doesn’t count toward the cap. R.J. Umberger’s buyout finally comes off the books this summer.

Since taking over as general manager in 2014-15, Ron Hextall has prioritized operating responsibility. It was a complete shift in philosophy from the previous front office.

The Flyers began the 2017-18 season with $2.4 million in cap space and finished with $1.3 million. They didn’t use long-term injured reserve, meaning they had no LTIR relief.

Hextall has dug the Flyers out of salary cap purgatory and 2017-18 was the first in a while the team did not have to worry about being cap compliant at any point of the season.

It’s safe to say that whatever unfolds over the next few months, Hextall will want to carry at least a $2 million cushion into the Flyers’ opener vs. the Golden Knights in Vegas on Oct. 4.

How it affects free agency

This is an important note to remember as we progress through the offseason: just because the salary cap officially increased, it doesn’t mean it’s going to change Hextall’s philosophy.

It’s an odd time for the Flyers as they look to take the next step without abandoning the plan Hextall laid out five summers ago. They are going to change, but just how much?

After his pre-draft news conference last week, Hextall said that he’s had no conversation with Ilya Kovalchuk, who’s returning to the NHL after five seasons in the KHL. Not a shocker.

What did give us insight into Hextall’s plan approaching free agency was him closing the door on the Flyers making long-term commitments. He left the door open for the Flyers to dip into the market but ultimately shut down the possibility of them chasing a John Tavares type.

“We’d like to get better,” Hextall told reporters, “but we’re not going to do something stupid long term to try to get better [for] one or two years. We have money to spend short term. We can do something short term in the sense that it doesn’t bottle us up in three or four years.”

Reading between the lines, Hextall knows what’s coming down the road. Entry-level contracts expiring and kids coming up through the ranks. That means contract extensions and raises.

It’s not just a salary cap problem anymore; it’s more about roster spots. Hextall doesn’t want to block prospects by bringing in Band-Aids that will only create issues down the line.

The cap does come into play, of course. But it’s not the only factor. At least not anymore.

How they could spend

Hextall said last week he desires righty defensemen and would like to add another veteran. With Filppula’s contract expiring, the Flyers have a hole to fill on the third line. Some may argue, with valid evidence, the Flyers could benefit from bringing in another top-sixer.

The problem is, this summer’s free-agent market doesn’t have many big fish. Outside of Tavares, the forwards don’t scream “come to get me.” There are a few veteran options that could make sense — Paul Stastny or Riley Nash, for example. If we look at right-handed D-men, John Carlson and Mike Green head the list of UFAs but cross Carlson off the wish list.

With $21.7 million in cap space, the Flyers have enough wiggle room to check off their internal checklist and bring in one or two pieces via free agency.

But don’t let the cap increase fool you, it won’t change how Hextall attacks this summer.

More on the Flyers