Why Chuck Fletcher, Flyers should get into the Artemi Panarin discussion

Why Chuck Fletcher, Flyers should get into the Artemi Panarin discussion

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Flyers don’t need Bob. 

They need Bread.

Of the potential unrestricted free agents who could hit the market July 1, Artemi Panarin (nicknamed "Bread Man" for Panera) may have shot up to the top of general manager Chuck Fletcher’s wish list.

Then again, Panarin is probably tops on a handful of general managers' list of priorities.

Impressively, the 27-year-old Russian became just the third undrafted player in NHL history to begin his career with four consecutive 70-point seasons, joining a guy named Wayne Gretzky and Peter Stastny.

The Blue Jackets' left winger put on another puck-handling, playmaking clinic against the Flyers in Columbus' 4-3 overtime win Thursday at Nationwide Arena, amplified by the slick pass to defenseman Seth Jones for the game-winner at the end of a 1:24 shift (see observations).

"He's the best player I've seen when he's tired,“ head coach John Tortorella said, “Maybe not defensively, but offensively he is.”

If you’re looking for proof, then watch the move Panarin put on Claude Giroux in the neutral zone to create the easy two-on-one scoring chance.

https://www.nhl.com/video/jones-wins-it-in-ot/t-300065352/c-66420603

“He’s one of the best talents in the league, that’s for sure,” Jakub Voracek said. “You never know where he’s going to go with that puck. He’s really good on his edges and he sells every option that you think he’s going to do.”

Undoubtedly, it was more Panarin than Sergei Bobrovsky behind the Blue Jackets' regular-season sweep of the Flyers, as he totaled nine points in the four games. Bobrovsky did just enough to earn the wins, but Panarin was the catalyst behind those victories.

The Jackets are putting all their chips in for this season and they won’t be able to cash out next season.

Panarin, Bobrovsky, Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel, along with defensemen Ryan Murray and Zach Werenski, all need new contracts, and you can be sure Fletcher will be monitoring the negotiations closely.

“Going into the summer, we have an awful lot of cap space. We have a few young players we have to sign, but we have a lot of cap space,” Fletcher said this week. “I think we’ll be able to fill the needs that we feel we need to address.”

Adding a sniper and sharpshooter from the outside is a player the Flyers haven’t had since the days of Simon Gagne, and those types of players rarely find their way to free agency, especially during the prime years of their careers.

With Panarin’s agent Dan Milstein informing the Blue Jackets they won’t discuss a new deal until after the season is over, it may be to Fletcher’s benefit to see where it goes and perhaps offer up a second-or-third-round draft pick for exclusive negotiating rights to Panarin, in much the same way Paul Holmgren did with Scott Hartnell and Kimmo Timonen in the summer of 2007.

When the Flyers made the change from Ron Hextall to Fletcher, the decision was to win now, and one of the quickest ways to get there is to sign a player of Panarin’s caliber, which could be somewhere in the $10 million range.

Bread would be nice, but you need plenty of dough to get it done.

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Blue Jackets 4, Flyers 3: OT loss completes futility against Columbus

Blue Jackets 4, Flyers 3: OT loss completes futility against Columbus

BOX SCORE

COLUMBUS, Ohio — It didn't matter which goalie the Flyers had in net against the Blue Jackets, all that mattered was who was in net for Columbus.

Sergei Bobrovsky beat the Flyers for the fourth time this season with a 4-3 overtime decision Thursday night, as the Blue Jackets completed a season sweep of the orange and black.

Brian Elliott was the fourth different goaltender Columbus faced after previously facing Calvin Pickard, Anthony Stolarz and Carter Hart.

Here are my observations from Nationwide Arena:

• The Blue Jackets' penalty kill, ranked third in the NHL, has been so steady this season that it killed off 25 consecutive power-play opportunities over a one-month period. Columbus' forwards get out aggressively and make smart decisions when to pressure.

However, the Flyers scored just 10 seconds into their first power play as they had the Blue Jackets chasing with quick puck movement, something we haven’t seen enough from the Flyers' man advantage this season.

• The problem with the goaltender interference in the NHL is about the context of the rule itself, which has created an enormous grey area to which there is no clear definition.

Rule 69.1 (1) states: “An attacking player, either by his positioning or by contact, impairs the goalkeeper's ability to move freely within his crease or defend his goal.”

That clearly appeared to be the case, but the NHL situation room decided that Radko Gudas pushed Boone Jenner into Elliott, creating the contact.

You be the judge:

• I thought Elliott was very fortunate to get out of the first period with a 2-1 lead. He was fighting the puck and had trouble closing it with his glove.

On the play in which he knocked the net off its moorings, which led to a delay of game penalty, I felt that was Elliott’s recognition of the Evgeni Malkin goal in the Stadium Series win in which the puck got behind him for a fluky marker. He was also a little leaky, evidenced by the Artemi Panarin goal.

• Not only did he score for the second straight game and score twice, but you have to admire some of the defensive positioning and stick work from Travis Sanheim in the second period to break up a pair of odd-man rushes that could have led to go-ahead goals for the Blue Jackets. Sanheim had a beautiful backdoor play to tie the game late in the third period.

• We can’t expect Philippe Myers to continue his upward trajectory with every game he plays. The second period was perhaps his shakiest in the five games he’s played so far. Twice Myers was caught pinching, which led to a Blue Jackets breakout the other way. Thankfully for Myers and the Flyers, Columbus wasn’t able to convert on either occasion. It was important for him to bounce back with a strong third period.

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Flyers at Blue Jackets: Live stream, storylines, game time and more

Flyers at Blue Jackets: Live stream, storylines, game time and more

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Flyers (30-26-7, 67 points) will go bobbing for a victory Thursday against the Columbus Blue Jackets (35-24-3, 73 points) when they square off against Sergei Bobrovsky, who's looking to beat his old team for the fourth time this season.

Bobrovsky has 202 career wins since joining the Blue Jackets in the summer of 2012 — the same total of the top four Flyers goalies during that time. Steve Mason leads the way with 104, followed by Michal Neuvirth with 39 and Brian Elliott with 31.

Let's take a look at tonight's essentials:

• When: 7 p.m. ET with Flyers Pregame Live at 6:30 p.m. 
• Where: Nationwide Arena
• Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia
• Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports MyTeams app

• The Blue Jackets have been a stinger in the Flyers' side since the two teams became Metropolitan Division foes. Columbus holds an 18-5-1 record against the Flyers dating back to 2013-14.

Columbus is going for a four-game regular-season sweep against the Flyers. It would be its first-ever sweep of the Flyers in a series of two or more games. 

• Goaltender Brian Elliott has been very solid in four appearances since returning from a core muscle injury. Elliott is 2-0-0 with a 2.21 goals-against average and .940 save percentage (see story). He will start his third straight game Thursday.

• Defenseman Samuel Morin has been activated and is currently on the Flyers' roster, although there’s no timetable for when the 2013 first-round pick will see his first action of the season.

• The Blue Jackets made the biggest splash ahead of the trade deadline, going all-in by acquiring center Matt Duchene, forward Ryan Dzingel, defenseman Adam McQuaid and goaltender Keith Kinkaid.

With the additions of Duchene and Dzingel, Columbus is the only NHL team with six 20-goal scorers (Cam Atkinson, Artemi Panarin, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Josh Anderson).

They were already a good team and now they’ve added three or four players. Sometimes when you play a couple days after the deadline, I don’t know if it’s the right word ... ‘screw' up the chemistry the first few games, so maybe we can take advantage of that. Pittsburgh with all their injuries found a way to win it in Columbus, which I think was huge for them as well, so that means we’ve got to have the same approach.

- Jakub Voracek

• Bellmawr, New Jersey's Eric Robinson has been a mainstay in the Blue Jackets' lineup recently. Robinson played youth hockey at Hollydell Ice Arena, where his mother worked with Guy Gaudreau, the father of Johnny Gaudreau. Robinson went undrafted before playing four years at Princeton.

Atkinson, the Blue Jackets' leading scorer with 35 goals, has a special teams goal in each of his past three games (two power play, one shorthanded).

 The Blue Jackets' penalty kill has been outstanding recently. Since Dec. 31, the Jackets have allowed a power-play goal in just three of their last 24 games, a success rate of 93 percent.

Projected lineup

Forwards
Claude Giroux-Nolan Patrick-Travis Konecny
Oskar Lindblom-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
James van Riemsdyk-Scott Laughton-Ryan Hartman
Michael Raffl-Corban Knight-Phil Varone

Defensemen
Ivan Provorov-Travis Sanheim
Robert Hagg-Radko Gudas
Shayne Gostisbehere-Philippe Myers

Goalies
Brian Elliott
Cam Talbot

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