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Games in December against NFC opponents for Eagles

Jeremy Hellickson and reliever Pat Neshek are among the veterans likely to be traded, but don’t expect the Phillies to receive very much in return. Eric Fisher also examines Odubel Herrera’s latest failure to hustle, Nick Williams’ strong start and how old trades haunted the Phillies this past week.

Tom Brady cements his legacy as the greatest quarterback in NFL history by passing for 466 yards while leading the Patriots to the greatest comeback in posteason history, a 34-28 overtime win over the Falcons in Super Bowl LI.

The 76ers have agreed to extend center Joel Embiid’s contract for five years at a total cost of $148 million, according to multiple reports. Injuries limited Embiid to 31 games last season after he sat out his first two NBA seasons with injuries.

Archive for the ‘NHL’ Category

Flyers Notebook: Time to trade major parts

Posted by Eric Fisher On February - 20 - 2019 ADD COMMENTS

Even though the Flyers have fought their way back into the playoff picture, general manager Chuck Fletcher should trade prominent players who might not be part of the Flyers’ future, including well-respected forward Wayne Simmonds (pictured).

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Let’s be realistic. As great as it would be for the Flyers to make the playoffs, it’s extremely unlikely they would make much of a postseason run.

If the Flyers were to snag the final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference, their first-round opponent would be almost certainly be the Lightning. The chances of the Flyers getting past the Lightning are slim and none.

The point is that the Flyers’ resurgence should not affect general manager Chuck Fletcher’s plans as we approach Monday’s NHL trade deadline. The only concern should be the future.

This means that Fletcher shouldn’t be reluctant to trade anyone who isn’t part of the Flyers’ future. That list includes Wayne Simmonds.

If Fletcher has determined that the Flyers aren’t going to re-sign Simmonds, who will become an unrestricted free agent after this season, he should trade the well-respected right wing. I’m not pushing for the Flyers to trade Simmonds. I’d like to see them work out a contract to keep him around. But if they’re not close on terms of a new contract, Simmonds should be traded.

The Flyers shouldn’t break the back to re-sign Simmonds. He is 30 years old and his production is declining. After peaking with 32 goals and 60 points during the 2015-16 season, Simmonds’ totals have declined each year. He has 16 goals and 27 points through 60 games this season. After reaching double digits in power play goals for five straight seasons, Simmonds has just five this season.

Simmonds’ production on the power play is important because he’s not better than mediocre at even strength. Although he can be a force along the board and around the net in the offensive zone, Simmonds’ defensive deficiencies decrease his value as a 5-on-5 player. Simmonds has been a minus-player since being acquired from the Kings in 2011. The last two seasons, he’s been minus-18 and minus-16, and this season he is minus-17, which is worst among Flyers forwards. Sometimes plus-minus rankings can be misleading, but it’s not misleading when those numbers are consistently bad for three straight seasons.

On the other hand, Simmonds brings intangibles that are difficult to measure. He stood up for Claude Giroux last Sunday, challenging Red Wings forward Anthony Mantha to a fight in the first minute of the second half of a home-and-home weekend series after Mantha pushed Giroux’s head into the boards late in the first game.

Simmonds has a lot of value to contending teams. He brings toughness and an ability to score on the power play. He also brings an attitude that is valuable during the demanding Stanley Cup playoffs. Unless they can lock Simmonds up to a contract that isn’t an increase over the $3.975 million he makes this year, they should trade him for younger players and draft picks before next Monday’s trade deadline. Who knows? Maybe they can bring him back some day at a lower salary.

Michael Raffl also will be an unrestricted free agent after this season. The versatile forward can play on one of the top lines or on the fourth line. Raffl isn’t going to pile up points – he has four goals and eight assists this season – but he’s been a “plus” player during his entire NHL career, including a plus-minus ranking of plus-5 this season, best among Flyers forwards. As is the case with Simmonds, if the Flyers aren’t going to re-sign Raffl, they should get what they can for him now.

A wild card to be traded is James van Riemsdyk. With 15 goals and 14 assists, JVR hasn’t lived up to the five-year, $35 million contract he signed last summer. Remember, former GM Ron Hextall signed JVR to that free-agent contract, so Fletcher doesn’t have any stake in having JVR succeed. If a team were willing to take on the rest of JVR’s contract while giving the Flyers younger pieces in return, the Flyers should be listening.

All of the Flyers’ goalies except Carter Hart should be available. Brian Elliott, Michal Neuvirth, Mike McKenna and newly acquired Cam Talbot all become unrestricted free agents after this season. The only one who seems to be in the Flyers’ plans for next season is Talbot, so anything the Flyers get in return for Elliott or Neuvirth is a bonus (McKenna isn’t going to bring anything in return in a trade). And if anyone wants to take defenseman Andrew MacDonald’s $5 million salary off of the Flyers’ hands for next season, make Fletcher an offer.

Thus far Fletcher has traded fringe pieces such as Dale Weise, Jordan Weal, Christian Folin and Anthony Stolarz. The feeling I have is that he will move a more prominent piece or two before next Monday’s NHL trade deadline. And the Flyers moving back into the playoff picture shouldn’t alter that outlook.

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THE GREAT OUTDOORS: Outdoor games used to be a bigger deal when there was only one of them – the Winter Classic – each season. But Saturday’s game (8 p.m.) against the Penguins at Lincoln Financial Field is still a big deal.

The game is a big deal because the Penguins are one of the teams the Flyers are chasing in the Metropolitan Division standings in a bid for a wild card playoff berth. It’s also a big deal because it’s the Flyers’ final game before the trade deadline. And, of course, it’s a big deal because the opponents are the hated Penguins.

Hockey in an outdoor stadium is a unique experience. The fans are further from the action, but it’s still pretty cool to see hockey played before such a huge crowd.

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ALUMNI ON ICE: One night before the Flyers and Penguins face off at Lincoln Financial Field, the Flyers alumni will battle alumni of the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation on Friday (7 p.m.) at the University of Pennsylvania’s Class of ’23 Arena.

The Flyers alumni team will be coached by team president Paul Holmgren, Bill Barber and Bob Kelly. Brian Boucher will be the goalie. Forwards include the recently retired Scott Hartnell, Danny Briere, Brian Propp and Dave Brown. Defensemen include Kimmo Timonen, Brad Marsh, Kjell Samuelsson and Jim and Joe Watson.

Given all of the anticipation and excitement when Fultz was drafted, it’s clear that he was a bust. In fact, he may have been the worst draft pick in Sixers history.

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INTO THE FIRE: It didn’t take long for Brian Elliott to see action upon his return. Elliott was called up for Tuesday’s game against the Lightning after a conditioning stint with the Phantoms. After going months without NHL action, Elliott was quickly thrown into the fire after rookie Carter Hart was pulled 10:23 into the first period after allowing three goals. Elliott only allowed one goal against the high-flying Lightning, which should help remove question about his health as we near the NHL trade deadline.

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NET GAIN: The Flyers traded Anthony Stolarz to the Oilers for veteran Cam Talbot in exchange of goalies. The thought process is that the Flyers want a veteran goalie to back up Carter Hart. Talbot and Hart worked together last summer.

Talbot, who spent two seasons backing up Henrik Lundqvist with the Rangers before spending three-plus seasons with the Oilers, could become an unrestricted free agent after this season. The Flyers will likely try to re-sign Talbot, assuming he works out the rest of this season. With Hart in place as the goalie of the future, Stolarz, a 25-year-old with a long injury history, didn’t have much of a future with the Flyers.

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BAD CALLS: The Flyers haven’t had a very good experience with referees during the past week-and-a-half. While trailing the Wild, 3-1, the Flyers saw Robert Hagg called for a high-sticking penalty even though the Wild player was struck by his teammates’ stick. To make matters worse, Hagg was assessed a double-minor for high-sticking.

Near the end of the third period in the Flyers’ next game, Red Wings forward Anthony Mantha wasn’t penalized for pushing the head of a prone Claude Giroux into the boards from behind. The NHL should have considered suspending Mantha for this dangerous play, but he wasn’t even assessed a minor penalty. To make matters worse, Mantha scored the tying goal to force overtime, where the Flyers were able to pull out the victory.

During Tuesday’s loss to the Lightning, the Flyers apparently pulled within one goal after Sean Couturier scored on a goal-mouth scramble with 47 seconds left in regulation. The referees ruled the goal did not count because the Flyers were guilty of goaltender interference. Replays made it fairly clear that goalie Louis Domingue’s momentum took the puck over the goal line and that Couturier’s digging for the puck did not push Domingue over the goal line, but the NHL did not overrule the call on the ice.

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DROUGHT IS OVER: Scott Laughton’s goal during Saturday’s 6-5 win over Red Wings ended a drought of 26 games without a goal.

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MYERS MAKES DEBUT: Defenseman Philippe Myers made his Flyers debut on Sunday during the Flyers’ 3-1 victory over the Red Wings. Myers was solid, although the Flyers dressed seven defensemen so he wouldn’t have to play too many minutes.

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ASSISTANCE PROVIDED: Center Sean Couturier has two assists in each of the Flyers’ last three games. He has two points in four straight games, registering a goal and assist during the Flyers’ 4-2 loss to the Penguins.

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HEATING UP: Oskar Lindblom has three goals in his last two games. Travis Konecny has three goals in his last three games. Konecny has quietly moved up to second in goals (18) on the Flyers, passing Claude Giroux (17) and trailing only Sean Couturier (24).

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BLUES MAKING RUN: The Blues, like the Flyers, struggled during the first half of their season and fired their head coach. Like the Flyers, the Blues have turned their fortunes around. The Blues have won 11 straight games, establishing a franchise record. The Blues are coached by former Flyers player and coach Craig Berube, who should shed the “interim” before his head coaching title before this season ends.

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LIGHTNING WHITE HOT: The Lightning’s 5-2 win over the Flyers on Tuesday extending their winning streak to seven games. They accomplished that win without their leading scorer (Brayden Point) and their top defenseman (Victor Hedman) while giving their top goalie (Andrei Vasilevskiy) a rest. The Lightning have 96 points this season, 17 more than any other NHL team.

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CRUCIAL STRETCH: The Flyers have an opportunity to gain or lose significant ground in the playoff race during the rest of February. The visiting Montreal on Thursday (7:30 p.m.). The Canadiens, who are eight points ahead of the Flyers in the Eastern Conference, occupy one of the wild card spots. The Flyers then play the Penguins, also eight points ahead of the Flyers, on Saturday (8 p.m.) at Lincoln Financial Field. The Flyers host the Sabres, who are tied with the Flyers with 63 points but have one game in hand, on Tuesday (7 p.m.) before visiting the Blue Jackets, who are six points ahead of the Flyers and occupy the final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference, next Thursday (7 p.m.).

Don’t expect big splash

Posted by Eric Fisher On June - 30 - 2018 ADD COMMENTS

Unlike NBA free agency, the NHL free agency period, which also begins Sunday at 12:01 a.m., doesn’t feature many elite players. It can be argued that center John Tavares, if he chooses not to re-sign with the Islander, would be the only elite player on the market.

That leaves slim pickings for the Flyers. But that doesn’t mean they can’t find a player to improve the team. Flyers general manager Ron Hextall has said the Flyers won’t sign anyone who isn’t an upgrade over what the Flyers already have, either on their roster or in young talent close to making the roster. But he has also said the Flyers would like a top-six forward, a third-line center and a top-four veteran defenseman.

The Flyers are approximately $21 million under the salary cap, which rises by $5 million for the upcoming season, but they need to leave room to re-sign young players such as Ivan Provorov, whom the Flyers would like to sign to an extension this offseason.

Forward

The top unrestricted forward is probably former Flyer James van Riemsdyk. The Flyers could certainly use the goal-scoring ability of the 29-year-old van Riemsdyk, who scored 36 goals last season. The question would be the price and length of the deal. Van Riemsdyk (6-foot-3, 217 pounds), drafted second overall by the Flyers in the 2007 NHL Draft, isn’t a particularly well-rounded player, but he can put the puck in the net.

If we stick with the ex-Flyers category, Scott Hartnell, Scottie Upshall, Joffrey Lupul, Kris Versteeg, Harry Zolnierczyk and Zac Rinaldo are all unrestricted free agents, but it’s difficult to see how any of them are upgrades over what the Flyers currently have, although Upshall could be a good bottom-six forward if available for the right price on a short-term deal.

Golden Knights forward James Neal, 30, scored 25 goals last season, but it will likely take a lot of money to sign him. The other big names available, including Rick Nash, Thomas Vanek and Chris Kunitz, are all at least 34 years old.

An interesting possibility is left wing Patrick Maroon, who was drafted by the Flyers in the sixth round in 2007, the same year they drafted van Riemsdyk in the first round. Maroon never played for the Flyers, and didn’t leave under the best of circumstances when traded to the Ducks in 2010. He found some success with the Oilers, scoring 27 goals during the 2016-17 season and then scoring 14 with the Oilers last season before being traded to the Devils, for whom he only scored two goals. Considering how Maroon left the Flyers, it’s unlikely they would sign him, but sometimes time heals old wounds.

If the Flyers would consider cheaper options on the wing, two names I like are Blake Comeau and Michael Grabner. Comeau, 32, scored 13 goals and had 21 assists last season with the Avalanche. Grabner, a player I touted when he was a free agent two years ago, scored 27 goals each of the past two seasons, although he only scored two in 21 games last season after being traded to the Devils. Grabner has speed, can kill penalties and could be obtained at a relatively low price.

Commeau and Grabner could make an impact, but they aren’t top-six forwards at this point in their career. Still, they might be upgrades over what the Flyers currently have on their roster.

Center

The Flyers would prefer a third-line center, but the cost may be prohibitive. Aside from Tavares, the best available centers under 35 are the Jets’ Paul Stastny and the Leafs’ Tyler Bozak. A younger option is Riley Nash, 29, who broke out with 15 goals and 26 assists last season with the Bruins. Although Stastny and Nash would be terrific fits, the scarcity of centers is likely to push the bidding beyond what the Flyers want to spend on a third-line center. It’s likely that Nash will be more affordable than Stastny.

Defenseman

The Flyers might be willing to spend a little more money on a veteran defenseman. The Hurricanes’ Ian Cole, 29, and the Islanders Calvin de Haan, 27, have been the names most frequently mentioned in connection with the Flyers’ free-agent plans. De Haan missed more than half of last season with a shoulder injury, which could keep his price down. The Devils’ John Moore, 27, also should be an affordable option. The Flyers could try to sign older defensemen such as Brooks Orpik, who just won a Stanley Cup with the Capitals, and Dan Hamhuis to one-year contracts.

An interesting possibility is Luca Sbisa, who, like van Riemsdyk, was a first-round draft pick of the Flyers. Sbisa, the 19th overall pick in the 2008 NHL draft, was traded to the Ducks in the deal that brought Chris Pronger to the Flyers. Sbisa is only 28 years old, and his cap hit might be relatively low after only playing 30 games with the Golden Knights due to injury. Another 28-year-old former Flyer who is available is Luke Schenn, who was acquired by the Flyers in exchange for van Riemsdyk. But it’s difficult to imagine the Flyers fielding a defense featuring Schenn and Radko Gudas.

If the Flyers are going to sign former Flyers, van Riemsdyk and Sbisa would be the best fits – assuming the money is right for the Flyers.

Harper hits 1st home run as Phillie