Flyers

Popular former Flyer Ilkka Sinisalo dies at 58

Popular former Flyer Ilkka Sinisalo dies at 58

Ilkka Sinisalo, a somewhat underrated member of one of the most prolific scoring clubs in Flyers history, died Wednesday in Finland at age 58.
 
He had battled prostate cancer for more than three years.
 
Sinisalo had been a European scout with the Flyers since 2004. Sinisalo, who once served as Flyers defenseman Janne Niinimaa's landlord in Finland, was well-respected within the scouting ranks and was also asked to voice opinions on North American prospects. He even gave his advice on European pros who were hoping to play in the NHL. 

He was the first Finnish player in Flyers history and was immortalized by Sign Man's "Ilkka Score-a-goal-a."
 
"Ilkka was a true friend and loyal member of the Flyers," Flyers president Paul Holmgren said. "He gave a great deal of his time, effort and talents to the organization in several capacities as a player and longtime scout to bring this franchise success on and off the ice.
 
"Most important to all that knew him, he was a great person, a loving husband, father and grandfather. His presence and friendship will be deeply missed by all that knew him. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife of over 35 years, Carina, his sons Niklas and Tomas, as well as Tomas' wife, Maija and their children Peter and Matilda."
 
Sinisalo was one of the quickest, smoothest skaters in the entire NHL during that era when goals were scored by the bushel. He played up and down the lineup on Mike Keenan's teams.
 
"Ilkka was awesome to play with," recalled teammate Brian Propp. "He always knew how to score. He picked the corners, he never missed the net and he was a two-way player. He made a difference for us on the second and third line because we needed scoring and he filled that role."
 
Sinisalo's best season was 1985-86 when he had career-highs in goals (39) and points (76). That particular team, led by Propp's 97 points, had four players with 76 or more points and five players with 27 or more goals, led by Tim Kerr's 58.
 
Pelle Eklund's 51 assists that year remains a Flyers rookie record. Just an amazing offensive team.
 
"He played with [Peter] Zezel and [Rick] Tocchet a little bit [on the off-wing]," Propp said. "And with Derek Smith and Lindsay Carson. He was pretty good at hanging in there with guys.
 
"He was one of the best guys around. We had a balanced scoring team and with Mark Howe and Brad McCrimmon at the point, we had chances to score."
 
Sinisalo was here parts of nine seasons from 1981-82 to 1989-90. His 199 goals as a Flyer are fourth-best in franchise history among right wings while his 408 points are sixth-best in the same category.
 
"Just a terrific guy," teammate Rick Tocchet said. "A skilled player. I am shocked right now."
 
Sinisalo made two appearances in the Stanley Cup Final with the Flyers -- 1985 and 1987 against Edmonton.
 
"Ilkka was a very good player, a great teammate, but most importantly an outstanding person and a terrific friend to us all," Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said. "We've all had the pleasure to work with him for many years and he will be missed." 
 
He joined the Flyers as a 23-year-old rookie in 1981, signing as a free agent after playing four seasons for HIFK Helsinki in Finland.
 
"His first goal was a penalty shot, I remember that," Propp said.
 
Indeed, that came during an 8-2 rout over Pittsburgh at the Spectrum. Sinisalo had 15 goals and 37 points during his rookie year.
 
A defensively-responsible player, he was a plus player his entire career as a Flyer and retired plus-135.
 
His 11 shorthanded goals as a Flyer remains tied for 10th-most with Simon Gagne and Don Saleski.
 
Tocchet said he was one of the most versatile players he'd ever seen.
 
"Honestly, he played with everyone," Tocchet said. "Could play left or right wing."

Will Flyers re-sign Justin Braun, Derek Grant when NHL free agency rolls around?

Will Flyers re-sign Justin Braun, Derek Grant when NHL free agency rolls around?

July 1 came and went rather quietly in the hockey world. Annually, the day is filled with players signing new contracts and joining new teams as the free agency period officially opens.

This year, that was obviously not the case. As the NHL and NHLPA continue to work toward a resumption and eventual conclusion of the 2019-20 season, the entry draft and free agency must wait.

According to a report by TSN's Bob McKenzie, both sides are looking at Nov. 1 being the new July 1.

The offseason will be different and challenging considering the times. The salary cap floor, which typically climbs each year, is expected to remain flat at $81.5 million. In an excellent article published Wednesday, TSN's Frank Seravalli highlighted the key questions and challenges facing free agency, while outlining his top 50 pending unrestricted free agents.

On Seravalli's list were two current Flyers: Justin Braun at No. 19 and Derek Grant at No. 41. Will the Flyers re-sign them? With the league's return-to-play 24-team tournament still to be held, a lot can change from now until Nov. 1, but let's break down the Flyers' outlook for both of these players.

Braun

The case for Braun is interesting and the chances of the Flyers re-signing the experienced defenseman feel like 50-50. Braun, a stay-at-home blueliner who specializes in killing plays, helped stabilize the Flyers on the back end and improved their goal-prevention efforts (which were a major problem last season).

However, the Flyers will be cognizant of his age. Braun is 33 years old and made $3.8 million this season. At the current stage of his career, what will Braun be eyeing for his next deal? One would think he'd have to look for a cheaper price if he wants more years on his new contract, something that can be attractive to a veteran player eyeing job security.

The Flyers, though, have solid youth and depth at his position, along with a nice stable of blue-line prospects in the system. Understandably, for those reasons the Flyers might be wary of dedicating years to an older defenseman.

If Braun is willing to be pretty flexible in his terms, the Flyers shouldn't be opposed to bringing him back. He has made them better in 2019-20. But if push comes to shove a bit, especially in a tighter offseason, the Flyers may have to say thank you and move forward with their youngsters or another option.

Grant

The initial impression of the Grant trade deadline acquisition was good rental for cheap.

What made Grant such a cost-effective move by general manager Chuck Fletcher? Grant, 29 years old at the time, could help the playoff-hungry Flyers down the stretch with only a $700,000 cap hit and no years left on his contract.

Grant made such a positive impact in his seven-game regular-season audition with the Flyers that they'll absolutely consider re-signing him. The 6-foot-3, 206-pound center also delivered a timely career year of 15 goals and 25 points between his time with the Ducks and Flyers, setting himself up for a nice pay increase.

Grant should be appealing to bring back for the Flyers because he can play down the middle and on the wing; his ability to move around makes him less likely to block a Flyers prospect at a specific position. If Nolan Patrick (migraine disorder) is healthy in 2020-21 and the Flyers are deeper at center, Grant can help on the wing. If Patrick's situation remains uncertain and the Flyers lack depth, Grant can bolster things by playing his natural position.

The 24-team tournament could really factor into the Grant equation. If the 30-year-old has an influential tourney and the Flyers go on a run, he could win over the club. He's a quality bottom-six guy who won't require a hefty contract that severely handcuffs the Flyers next season or down the line.

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

Flyers Talk podcast: NHL hub cities, free agency, more

Flyers Talk podcast: NHL hub cities, free agency, more

On the latest Flyers Talk podcast, NBC Sports Philadelphia's Katie Emmer and Jordan Hall analyze the team's decisions for free agency and the playoffs.

From roster talk to the latest on the 24-team tournament, let's dive in:

0:45 — The latest on where the Flyers might play

4:15 — July is much different this time around

7:00 — Will the Flyers re-sign Derek Grant and Justin Braun?

21:20 — Keep an eye on Morgan Frost

26:00 — What to expect from Nate Thompson

30:15 — Appreciating Sean Couturier's faceoff excellence

36:35 — Katie's birthday is Monday, July 6!

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