Jason Zucker

Jason Zucker trade, Seth Jones injury have impact on Flyers' chances in NHL playoff race

Jason Zucker trade, Seth Jones injury have impact on Flyers' chances in NHL playoff race

The crazy Metropolitan Division became even crazier in a span of 24 hours.

As the Flyers took care of business Monday night and prepared for another big game Tuesday night, they saw two notable headlines that could impact their playoff push.

On Monday night, the Penguins made a splash by acquiring winger Jason Zucker in a trade with the Wild. On Tuesday afternoon, the Blue Jackets announced defenseman Seth Jones underwent surgery for a fractured ankle and is expected to miss eight to 10 weeks.

Both news items apply to the Flyers, who entered Tuesday holding the Eastern Conference's second wild-card spot and a 65.2 percent chance to make the playoffs, according to Hockey-Reference.com. The Flyers came into their road game against the Islanders only one point behind the Blue Jackets in the divisional race and four points back of the second-place Penguins.

Zucker is a quality addition for experienced Pittsburgh, which plays the Flyers once more on March 29 at the Wells Fargo Center. The 28-year-old scored 33 goals in 2017-18 and will complement Sidney Crosby on the Penguins' top line. Zucker is projected to finish with 20-plus goals for the fifth time in his career and has the chance to boost Pittsburgh's middle-of-the-pack power play.

The Blue Jackets, who have been a surprise postseason contender, suffered a blow with Jones' injury. The three-time All-Star has 30 points (six goals, 24 assists) and leads Columbus in ice time per game (25:17). No Blue Jacket has played more shorthanded minutes than Jones and only Zach Werenski has more power play points on the team.

The Flyers, who are already 2-0-0 against Columbus after losing all four meetings last season (0-2-2), play a home-and-home set with the Blue Jackets next week. They won't see Jones, who has six career goals vs. the Flyers, his most against any NHL team.

Will Columbus be able to weather the loss of Jones and stay in the playoff hunt? That's a valid question. Coming into Tuesday, six of the NHL's top 10 teams were from the Metropolitan Division.

Some traffic could clear for the Flyers because of Jones' absence. Never count out John Tortorella's team, though.

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Flyers trade options: Would Jason Zucker or Nazem Kadri make sense?

Flyers trade options: Would Jason Zucker or Nazem Kadri make sense?

Chuck Fletcher won't close any doors in his first offseason as Flyers general manager.

"We're going to be active in trying to improve our team," the GM said two days after the Flyers' season ended in April. "How that translates this summer, we'll find out.

"I think we need to add a couple more proven players — I think we could add in any area. Clearly we need to find a goaltender to play with Carter [Hart]. Certainly a veteran defenseman could help. I think some help up front, as well. I think we score, but maybe finding another experienced guy that can help with that mindset — playing the right way, that could contribute both ways."

It's no secret the Flyers will look to utilize free agency in gearing up for a bounce-back year in 2019-20. It's also no secret the trade route will be an avenue for Fletcher, especially with the June 21-22 NHL draft ahead. The Flyers enter this summer with a strong prospect pool, greater cap space and 10 selections in the draft, so the ability to explore trades is evident.

The Flyers hold the 11th overall pick in the draft (see five targets). According to a report by Sam Carchidi of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Fletcher has listened to trade offers for the pick.

Over the next few days, let's look at possible targets for the Flyers, with some help from TSN's trade bait board by Frank Seravalli. To be clear, the Flyers have not been linked to these players; we're simply looking at potential fits.

Jason Zucker, LW, Wild

Fletcher and assistant general manager Brent Flahr know Zucker well, having drafted him in 2010 when both were with the Wild.

The 27-year-old is coming off a down season in which he recorded 21 goals and 21 assists. However, just a year before, Zucker put up career highs in goals (33), assists (31) and points (64), and was a plus-34 the season prior.

Zucker has reportedly been in trade talks. He has a modified no-trade clause and is under contract through the 2022-23 season with an annual cap hit of $5.5 million.

The winger could be attractive to the Flyers because of his age, the contractual control and strengths that play up and down the lineup.

Nazem Kadri, C, Maple Leafs

Once again, the Flyers need more depth at center. It's uncertain if 20-year-old Nolan Patrick is ready to be the Flyers' No. 2 center behind Sean Couturier.

"I would suggest there are 27, 28 teams that would probably like to find a No. 1 or No. 2 centerman. It's a hard thing to find," Fletcher said in April. "Certainly if you can find a top centerman, I think any team should jump on it. We'll certainly look, but Nolan has the capability of being a No. 2 centerman."

Kadri, 28, had back-to-back 32-goal seasons from 2016-18. The 2009 seventh overall pick had 44 points (16 goals, 28 assists) in 73 games this season but was suspended during the playoffs for a second straight year and owns five career suspensions.

Kadri has a modified no-trade clause and is signed through the 2021-22 season with an annual cap hit of $4.5 million. Maybe Toronto grows impatient with Kadri at this point and the Flyers capitalize. While his ability down the middle is intriguing, there could be other concerns.

Contract information courtesy of CapFriendly.com.

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Flyers-Wild observations: On the wrong end of another shutout

Flyers-Wild observations: On the wrong end of another shutout

BOX SCORE

ST. PAUL, Minn. — The Devan made me do it.

That could serve as the Flyers’ excuse for being swept in their home-and-home series with the Minnesota Wild. The Flyers were shut out once again, this time with a 3-0 final at the Xcel Energy Center Tuesday night.

Devan Dubnyk stopped all 30 shots for his third straight shutout to extend his scoreless streak to 195:05. He blanked the Flyers in both games.

For the first time in franchise history, the Flyers have been shut out in five of their first 18 games.

Nino Niederreiter scored Minnesota’s first goal just 12 seconds into the game. It was the first goal in four games scored by a Wild player other than Jason Zucker, who had the team’s previous six goals over that span. Eric Staal and Zucker added empty-netters over the final 1:09.

Brian Elliott was solid once again in a losing effort as he turned aside 17 of 18 shots. 

• Minnesota should have had a 2-0 lead with 6:30 remaining when Marcus Foligno got in behind the Flyers’ defense. His backhand attempt was stopped by Elliott and it appeared Chris Stewart missed a wide-open net.

• The short and speedy Tyler Ennis had a clear breakaway on Elliott, who didn’t give up his ground and stoned Ennis blocker side. 

• Minnesota is like a vacuum in the defensive zone. Robert Hagg appeared to have some open ice on a Flyers’ breakout, but he was snuffed out by four players by the time he got to the top of the circles. Then Dale Weise got behind the defense but couldn’t put any sort of move on Dubnyk as he elected to test the five-hole. However, Dubnyk had it closed off.

• Once again, Minnesota’s top line of Staal, Niederreiter and Zucker was buzzing on its first shift of the second period. There were a couple of good chances down low from Zucker and Niederreiter. Ivan Provorov and Hagg have had their hands full containing that trio down in the trenches.

• Minnesota had a solid 30- to 40-second shift when Travis Konecny broke his stick, which left Jordan Weal and Weise working even harder to clear the zone. The Flyers were also left with Travis Sanheim and Radko Gudas defending and neither player could corral the puck and work it to a Flyers forward.  

• Scott Laughton provided the Flyers with their best opportunity of the game with a pair of shots from close range that Dubnyk was able to deny with his left pad. It’s about as close as the Flyers have been able to penetrating Minnesota’s defense.

• The Flyers started to regain the possession edge over the final 10 minutes of the second period. Claude Giroux had a tip-in attempt that Dubnyk was able to glove, but for the most part, the Flyers haven’t been able to clog the area in front of the crease and make life miserable for the goalie.

• Did you catch Matt Dumba’s move from behind his own net? He banked a pass off the net and spun around Jori Lehtera to get out of danger. Dumba has a huge slap shot and big offensive upside. However, in these two games he’s played very sound defensively. 

• Taylor Leier gave the Flyers two good looks in the final 90 seconds of the second period, including one that rang off the post. Dubnyk saved the other, and through six periods, he stopped all 62 shots he faced from the Flyers.

• Just an ugly start for the Flyers. Twelve seconds into the game, Staal stripped Provorov along the boards and fed Niederreiter for the one-timer goal over the shoulder of Elliott. It tied the record for the fastest goal on home ice in franchise history. 

• After they started the game on the ice for that unforgettable first goal, the new-look second line of Weise, Weal and Wayne Simmonds had a strong shift. That stretch included Weal’s high-percentage scoring chance in the slot on the feed from Simmonds. Their puck possession also included drawing a penalty that led to the Flyers’ first power play. 

• Elliott kept the deficit to 1-0 with a big pad save on Mikko Koivu from the left circle during the first. In consecutive shifts, Minnesota’s top three lines had good pressure in the Flyers’ zone. That included a clear path for Luke Kunin, who reversed his way from beyond the goal line to get a clear look but the puck was poked away. 

• Later, Brandon Manning committed a turnover as he skated deep into his own end that saw Joel Ericsson have a free look at Elliott, who came up with a glove save.

• The Wild’s Ryan Suter may be one of the best rebound-clearing defenseman in the NHL. Suter seems to always know where the low-traffic area is on the ice. He was outstanding in the game at the Wells Fargo Center and he has such quick wrists that he’s capable of knocking the puck away before a Flyers’ stick can get to it.

• Ticky-tack holding call on Simmonds as he grabbed Ennis’ jersey for a brief moment when the puck was on the other side of the ice. The Wild got a couple of early shots, but credit the forwards who did a solid job of keeping Minnesota’s PP on the perimeter.

Lines, pairings and scratches

Forwards
Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Dale Weise-Jordan Weal-Wayne Simmonds
Jori Lehtera-Valtteri Filppula-Travis Konecny
Taylor Leier-Scott Laughton-Michael Raffl

Defensemen
Ivan Provorov-Robert Hagg
Brandon Manning-Shayne Gostisbehere
Travis Sanheim-Radko Gudas

Goalies
Brian Elliott
Michal Neuvirth

Scratches: Defenseman Mark Alt (healthy) and forward Matt Read (healthy).