Kurtis Gabriel

2019 NHL free agency: Flyers sign 8 depth players

2019 NHL free agency: Flyers sign 8 depth players

Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher made his depth moves on Day 1 of NHL free agency Monday by signing Andy Andreoff, Andy Welinski, Kurtis Gabriel, Nate Prosser, Tyler Wotherspoon, Jean-Francois Berube, Chris Bigras and Kyle Criscuolo.

Andreoff's contract is a two-year, one-way deal with an average annual value of $750,000. Welinski's is also a one-way deal for just one year, $750,000. For Gabriel (one-year, $700,000 AAV), Prosser (two years, $700,000 AAV), Wotherspoon (two years, $700,000 AAV), Berube (one year, $700,000 AAV), Bigras (two years, $700,000 AAV) and Criscuolo (one year, $700,000 AAV), the deals are two-way contracts.

The Flyers were not expected to do much Monday given Fletcher's work ahead of free agency, acquring Kevin Hayes, Matt Niskanen, Justin Braun and Tyler Pitlick, while parting ways with Radko Gudas, Andrew MacDonald, Ryan Hartman and David Schlemko (see story).

Travis Konecny, Ivan Provorov, Scott Laughton and Nicolas Aube-Kubel are the Flyers' remaining restricted free agents.

Let's look at each player they acquired Monday:

Andreoff

The 28-year-old forward has played 232 career AHL games and 159 in the NHL. With the AHL's Syracuse Crunch last season, Andreoff scored 55 points (26 goals, 29 assists) and totaled 150 penalty minutes.

His best NHL season came in 2015-16, when he played 60 games for the Kings and scored 10 points.

Welinski

The 26-year-old defenseman has played 146 career AHL games and will help a young Phantoms team that needed blueliners. Last season, the righty shot played a career-high 26 games for the Ducks.

He was a third-round draft pick by Anaheim in 2011.

Gabriel

Flyers fans probably remember Gabriel — and not too fondly.

While with the Devils last season, the right winger boarded Nolan Patrick and received a one-game suspension. He made for plenty of theatrics against the Flyers.

He was drafted by Fletcher and assistant general manager Brent Flahr back in 2013 while the two were with the Wild. The 26-year-old played a career-high 22 games last season for the Devils and totaled 59 penalty minutes.

Prosser

The 33-year-old defenseman played under Fletcher from 2009 to 2018. He has appeared in 354 career NHL games, 353 of which have come with the Wild.

Over his 10-year career, Prosser has 47 points (10 goals, 37 assists).

Wotherspoon

The 26-year-old defenseman owns a career plus-58 in 355 AHL games. The lefty shot was a second-round draft pick of the Flames in 2011.

He hasn't played in the NHL since 2016-17. In 2013-14, he played a career-high 14 games with the Flames.

Berube

With Berube, the Flyers added some goaltending depth. The 27-year-old is 9-10-4 with a 3.39 goals-against average and an .898 save percentage in 34 career NHL games.

In 2014-15, he won the Calder Cup with the Manchester Monarchs. During the regular season that year, he won 37 games and put up a 2.18 goals-against average.

Bigras

The 24-year-old defenseman was a second-round draft pick of the Avalanche in 2012. He had a career year in the AHL last season, scoring 22 points in 52 games with the Hartford Wolf Pack.

The lefty shot has played 46 career NHL games, all with the Avalanche.

Criscuolo

The 27-year-old forward is from South Jersey and played at Saint Joseph's Prep in Philadelphia. He had a great college career at Harvard. He also won the 2017 Calder Cup with the Grand Rapids Griffins.

There's a connection to Fletcher, who is a Harvard guy himself.

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Devils' Kurtis Gabriel receives 1-game suspension from NHL for boarding Nolan Patrick

Devils' Kurtis Gabriel receives 1-game suspension from NHL for boarding Nolan Patrick

Kurtis Gabriel's reckless hit on Nolan Patrick didn't fly with the Flyers.

And it didn't fly with the NHL, either.

The NHL's Department of Player Safety handed the Devils' forward a one-game suspension on Saturday for boarding Patrick during the first period of the Flyers' 6-3 win Friday at the Prudential Center.

Frankly, the play was dirty and dangerous.

NBC Sports Philadelphia Flyers analyst Chris Therien called it the "dumbest hit" he's seen all year.

On the broadcast, color analyst Bill Clement let out a "what is that?"

Since the 25-year-old Gabriel has played only 30 games in his NHL career and has no history of fines or suspensions, he was given just one game. If not for that, the punishment could have been much worse.

Here was the review from the NHL's Department of Player Safety:

It is important to note that while Patrick does turn to face the boards to compete for the puck, this is not a case of a player turning immediately prior to contact in a way that turns a legal hit into an illegal one. 

Although Patrick does shift slightly as Gabriel approaches, he is in a defenseless position before Gabriel initiates the check and was not in a position to recognize that Gabriel was approaching for contact and brace himself appropriately.

Having entered the zone from across the ice, Gabriel has plenty of time and space to make a better decision. The onus is on Gabriel to deliver this hit in a legal fashion, minimize the force of the contact or avoid this hit entirely, which he fails to do.

Tension only boiled from there as Travis Konecny came to Patrick's defense throughout the game and was seen shouting at Damon Severson and Sami Vatanen in the penalty box during the third period after the Devils' two defensemen tried scuffling with the Flyers' forwards.

"It was just a matter of trying to protect ourselves," Konecny said after the game (see story). "Patty is one of my good buddies and I'm going to stick up for him any time someone is messing with him. That's what it is. Everyone's just sticking together and we're a close team. It's not going to fly with us."

It's probably good that the Flyers and Devils don't meet again this season.

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Travis Konecny defends Nolan Patrick, shows Flyers won't be picked on without Wayne Simmonds

Travis Konecny defends Nolan Patrick, shows Flyers won't be picked on without Wayne Simmonds

NEWARK, N.J. — It was just a matter of time before this new-look Flyers team was forced to take matters into the hands of someone else not named Wayne Simmonds.

To have the fortitude to serve and protect in a way Simmonds was called upon to do so many times before.

Friday night's 6-3 win over the Devils proved to be that first game in which the team’s mettle would be tested (see observations)

“Simmer is one of those guys you don’t want to mess with,” Travis Konecny said. “Teams probably look at us differently. We’re still the same team in that we stick together. I think Simmer left a lot of that with us and taught us young guys to stick up for your teammates.”

You’ll have to forgive the Devils, more notably fourth-line winger Kurtis Gabriel, if he somehow mistook the Prudential Center for one of Newark’s poorly lit alleyways. 

Five minutes into the game, Gabriel unloaded an all-out assault into Nolan Patrick, checking from behind and launching him face-first into the glass. NBC Sports Philadelphia Flyers analyst Chris Therien called it "the dumbest hit I’ve seen all year."

It was certainly one of the most irresponsible ones.

A hit so flagrant that it resulted in a five-minute major, forcing Patrick to leave the game and head into the dressing room as part of the NHL’s concussion protocol.  

“That’s obviously the way that guy plays," Patrick said. "He’s in the lineup for that reason, to do that I guess. The best way to respond is to beat them, which we did."

One could make the convincing argument that Gabriel should have received a match penalty and been immediately ejected from the game, but he was allowed to return after serving the five minutes.

Once the Flyers scored two quick goals in the third period, it was time to settle another score, and that’s when Patrick went into retaliation mode and delivered an open-ice shoulder-to-chest hit that leveled Gabriel, but didn’t appear to be contact directed at the head.

Of course, as you might expect, Devils coach John Hynes saw Patrick’s retaliatory hit differently than the guys on the other bench. 

“I’m sure it’s going to get reviewed," Hynes said. "Blindside hit to the head."

Not long after Patrick’s third-period hit, the tension grew and erupted in Patrick, Gabriel, Sami Vatanen and Damon Severson getting hauled off for roughing penalties, the fallout of a Konecny crosscheck.

“If you look at tonight, there were a few scrums. Guys stuck up for one another,” Sean Couturier said. “There were five-man units in there as battles. It’s good to see and it’s what good teams do. We've got to keep doing that.”

From a crosscheck to a gut-check moment for the Flyers, who were tested for the first time since trading their emotional and spirited leader Simmonds, who would have cleaned up the mess by dropping the gloves or doing what he needed to do to ensure order was restored.

Teams may look at the Flyers differently, but Friday night, they showed there's still a price to be paid (see highlights).

“It was just a matter of trying to protect ourselves,” Konecny said. “Patty is one of my good buddies and I’m going to stick up for him any time someone is messing with him. That’s what it is. Everyone’s just sticking together and we’re a close team. It’s not going to fly with us.”

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