Posted on: August 25, 2011 10:28 pm
Edited on: August 25, 2011 11:19 pm
By: Adam Gretz
After a series of trades and some re-tooling of the roster earlier this summer, goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov has pretty much become the face of the Philadelphia Flyers. He's the highest paid player on the team and the third highest-paid player in the NHL this season, a contract he signed shortly after forwards Mike Richards and Jeff Carter were sent packing to Los Angeles and Columbus.
With that comes plenty of expectation, especially at a position that has been viewed as the only weak link for a perennial Stanley Cup contender. It's a bold shift in organizational structure for the Flyers, a team that over the past several years went through each season and playoff run with a revolving door of goaltenders with relatively small salary cap commitments.
Over the past three seasons alone the Flyers used eight different goaltenders for at least one game. Those days appear to be over, as Bryzgalov will obviously be counted on to solidify the position for the next several years. Whether he will be enough to overcome the loss of offensive players like Richards, Carter and Ville Leino remains to be seen, but the 31-year-old has become one of the most important players -- if not the most important player -- in the organization for the foreseeable future.
The Flyers introduced Bryzgalov to the Philadelphia media on Thursday, and he's not only ready to play as many games as the Flyers need him to play, he's expecting to win a lot of them, too (then again, what else is he going to say?).
Said Bryzgalov, "When you play a lot, you feel confident about your game. If they need me to play 70 games, I'll play 70. If they need me to play 50, I'll play 50. So it all depends on the coach and management, whatever they need."
He's also looking to win at least 40 games this season, something he did two years ago as a member of the Phoenix Coyotes. Playing 50 games, or even 60 games, hasn't been an issue in recent years as he was a workhorse for the Coyotes, appearing in at least 64 games in each of the past four seasons.
The 40 wins, however, could be tougher goal to reach.
Of course, regular seasons wins aren't going to be what the majority of Flyers fans care about. It's all going to come down to what happens in the playoffs, an area that remains somewhat of a question for Bryzgalov after some struggles the past two seasons with the Coyotes, a team that simply wasn't as talented from top-to-bottom as the Detroit Red Wings teams that eliminated them (he had more postseason success with Anaheim back in 2005 and 2006).
The Flyers lost a lot of offense this summer and are replacing it with some unproven -- though talented -- youngsters up front, while their top two defenseman (Chris Pronger and Kimmo Timonen) are both a year older, which means more responsibility for the man in goal. He's an improvement over what they've been running out there in past years for sure, but it's not out of the question for the Flyers to take a bit of a step back this year as a team, even with the upgrade Bryzgalov will bring.
You can see Bryzgalov's introductory press conference in its entirety at the Flyers website.
Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: August 19, 2011 10:03 am
FADE TO BLACK: After an offseason that netted them Christian Ehrhoff and Ville Leino among others, Sabres fans can't wait for the season to start. But before that can happen, Buffalo still has to take care of its little salary cap problem. It's a bit hard to believe but the Sabres now have the league's highest payroll, thanks in large part to the man in charge, Terry Pegula. As a result, the Sabres are too high and have to find a way to cut $3.6 million from the NHL roster. Mike Harrington at the Buffalo News suggests the most likely way would be to stash Ales Kotalik and Shaone Morrisonn in the AHL. They still have some time, though, not needing to get below the cap until opening night.
SHARK BITE: Silicon Valley Sports & Entertainment reduced its workforce by 19 members yesterday (via Mercury News). That would be the Sharks' corporate parent. But of those 19 positions, none came from the hockey division of the company. One of the unfortunate 19, however, was Ken Arnold, senior director of communications. Mike Lee over at letsgosharks.com is sad to see Arnold depart as he says Arnold was instrumental in not only the Sharks' communication outreach, but the NHL's embrace of the Internet.
ROCK ON: In the depths of the offseason abyss, hockey fans must find a way to entertain themselves some way. So yesterday in the Twitterverse a bit of a contest took off under the #nhlbands hashtag where people were challenged with taking hockey names and morphing them into band names. The Toronto Sun put together a list of the best names. No. 1? Halak Sabbath. A close second goes to Crosby, Staals & Nash. I threw out a late submission of Ehrhoff Supply. Didn't make it.
TOO LATE IN THE GAME: Fellow Eye on Hockey blogger Adam Gretz has been doing a great job of keeping you up to date on the features in the next edition of EA Sports' NHL series, including all the legends in the game. One other feature -- or lack of -- worth mentioning is it looks the game will be shipped before we ever see a jersey for the Winnipeg Jets, so it will be available as an online update to the game. In the meantime, I would assume they just use the retro look at the default?
Posted on: August 13, 2011 9:17 am
Edited on: August 13, 2011 12:56 pm
By: Adam Gretz
KHABIBULIN TO START HOUSE ARREST Edmonton Oilers goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin, who has been serviving a jail sentence from last February's DUI arrest in Arizona, is scheduled to start serving the house arrest portion of his sentence on Sunday according to Dan Tencer of CHED 630 AM on Twitter. Khabibulin's agent says he's handled the situation "fine" and is looking forward to camp.
HARTNELL LOOKING TO BE MORE OF A LEADER The Philadelphia Flyers re-tooled their lineup this summer, and with absence of veterans and top-scorers Mike Richards, Jeff Carter and Ville Leino, veteran forward Scott Hartnell is looking to be more of a leader for the young roster and all of its new players.
SWEATT RETIRES FROM HOCKEY Free agent defenseman Lee Sweat signed a two-way contract with the Ottawa Senators this offseason, and on Friday surprisingly announced his retirement from hockey before the start of training camp. According to his agent he's looking to pursue outside business interests. The 25-year-old defenseman appeared in three games with the Vancouver Canucks last season and scored one goal to go with one assist, and scored five goals in 41 games with the Manitoba Moose at the AHL level.
GRETZKY SERVES AS AGENT The Chicago Cubs finalized a contract with Trevor Gretzky on Friday, their seventh round draft pick from this year and the son of NHL legend Wayne Gretzy. The interesting part of the story here, because the signing had been reported as likely to happen several weeks ago, is that Gretzky (Wayne) served as the agent for his son and negotiated the contract that will pay a signing bonus of $375,000.
For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: July 20, 2011 5:07 pm
Edited on: July 20, 2011 5:45 pm
By: Adam Gretz
Buffalo Sabres fans are more than a little pumped up about their team's new owner, Terry Pegula, and it's already showing at the box office. Even more than usual.
The Sabres announced on Wednesday that the team reached a franchise record renewal rate of 99 percent for 2011-12 season tickets, and because of that, capped season ticket sales at 15,200. HSBC Arena, the home of the Sabres, has a capacity of 18,690 for hockey.
Pegula, a billionaire businessman and long-time Sabres fan, purchased the team back in February, almost immediately sending a burst of excitement through the entire fan base. That excitement has carried over to the offseason where Buffalo has been one of the most active teams this summer, spending millions on players.
Prior to the start of free agency the team acquired defenseman Robyn Regeher from the Calgary Flames, and then followed that up by signing Christian Ehrhoff and Ville Leino. Ehrhoff's deal is structured in a way that makes him one of the highest paid players in the NHL this upcoming season.
The Sabres have always been a hot ticket in Buffalo, routinely playing to near capacity crowds. But a 99 percent renewal rate? That's mighty impressive, and it's not hard to understand. They have a new owner that's one of them (Pegula was reportedly a season ticket holder for the Sabres prior to purchasing the team) and is spending big money in an effort to put the best possible team on the ice, even if some of the signings -- like the ones to Leino and Ehrhoff -- carry a bit of a risk.
Posted on: July 12, 2011 11:28 pm
Edited on: July 13, 2011 12:10 am
By: Adam Gretz
On Monday we looked at the seven NHL teams that are still sitting below the NHL's salary floor and the work they need to do to reach it. But what about the teams that are closing in on the $64.3 million cap? Here's a quick look at the five teams that are closest to it, the amount of cap space they have remaining, the number of players they currently have under contract and the number of restricted free agents they have unsigned.
All salary figures come via CapGeek.
After picking up Regehr in a trade with the Calgary Flames, Ehrhoff's negotiating rights were acquired just before the start of the free agent signing period and he was quickly locked up with a 10-year, $40 million deal. On July 1, Leino signed a six-year, $27 million deal. Teams are allowed to exceed the cap during the summer, so the Sabres still have plenty of time to jettison some salary to fill out the remainder of the roster. But who do you sacrifice if you're the Sabres? Perhaps a player like Shaone Morrisonn? Ales Kotalik? Jochen Hecht? If the Sabres want to carry a 23-man roster this season, somebody is going to have to go.
The Washington Capitals have made a series of moves themselves, bringing in Joel Ward, Troy Brouwer, Roman Hamrlik and Tomas Vokoun, as well as re-signing Brooks Laich. Last week, the club shipped Eric Fehr and his $2.2 million cap hit to the Winnipeg Jets to clear some much-needed cap space as the club still needs to sign its remaining restricted free agent, defenseman Karl Alzner.
No team has had a bigger change to the makeup of its roster this summer than the Philadelphia Flyers, and while they traded two lengthy contracts (Jeff Carter and Mike Richards ... arguably their best players) they still have some potential long-term problems, none of which could be bigger in the future than the one belonging to defenseman Chris Pronger. He is still signed for another six years, and at the age of 36, isn't getting any younger on the blue line.
After they traded Carter and Richards and allowed Leino to hit the free agent market, the Flyers replaced them with Ilya Bryzgalov, Jaromir Jagr, Max Talbot and the players acquired in the two trades (Wayne Simmonds, Jakub Voracek and Brayden Schenn). They have no remaining restricted free agents.
The Penguins, it seems, have become the greatest example for teams with salary cap constraints due to the amount of money they have invested in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. (Both players have average annual salaries of $8.7 million.) As I've written in the past, this isn't quite as big a concern as it's often made out to be because their money is invested in elite, All-Star level players. Many of the top teams (Detroit, Vancouver, Chicago, Washington, San Jose ... pretty much any of the Stanley Cup contenders) that are pressed against the cap every year have close to (or more than) 50 percent of their cap space tied up in just five players. The Penguins are no different.
On Tuesday the team signed Dustin Jeffrey, their only remaining restricted free agent, to a two-year contract.
Finaly, we have the Flames. In late June they completed the previously mentioned trade with Buffalo involving Regehr to shed some salary. They followed that up by bringing back veteran forward Alex Tanguay, signing him to a five-year contract. Their remaining restricted free agent is defenseman Brendan Mikkelson. With 22 players under contract and still over $3 million in cap space, they should be in solid shape regarding the cap.
Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: July 1, 2011 4:28 pm
Edited on: July 1, 2011 4:53 pm
The contract calls for Leino to receive $27 million over six seasons, an average of $4.5 million per season.
The Flyers wanted to keep the 27-year-old Leino but couldn't reach a deal before Friday. He scored 19 goals last season with 34 assists in Philadelphia.
The Sabres are clearly showing they are going to be a team that spends under new owner Terry Pegula, a Sabres fan who also happens to be a billionaire. On Thursday they signed defenseman Christian Ehrhoff to a 10-year, $40 million contract. By adding Leino they get a versatile forward who can help them add some scoring on the outside.
By Brian Stubits
Photo: Getty Images
Click here for more free-agency updates.
Posted on: June 30, 2011 2:25 pm
Edited on: June 30, 2011 5:57 pm
We are now in the window of time teams can send offer sheets to restricted free agents. Thus far, no such offers have been sent to the biggest RFA out there, Steven Stamkos, and the Flyers won't be the first.
Frank Seravalli of the Philadelphia Daily News confirmed the Flyers have declined to extend a sheet to the young superstar in Tampa Bay.
According to Seravalli the Flyers had been seriously contemplating sending an offer to Stamkos. He reported the deal would have been a 12-year, $115 million contract, which would have carried a $9.58 annual cap hit. The most any team could offer is $12.86 million annually, or 20 percent of the salary cap. Tampa Bay would have seven days to match the offer.
At debate for the Flyers wasn't whether they could afford Stamkos. They wouldn't be able to re-sign players like Ville Leino if they had, but that's a tradeoff they would've taken. Other residual moves, such as possibly sending Scot Hartnell and his $4.2 million contract to the AHL where it doesn't hurt the cap, would have had to be made to make everything fit.
Part of the concern was knowing whether or not Lightning GM Steve Yzerman is bluffing when he says no matter the offer, the Lightning will match it. Maybe he's telling the truth, maybe he's not. But if he is, he could -- and likely would -- take seven days to give a response to any offer a team might send. In that time Philadelphia could have seen all of its potential targets -- Leino, Michael Ryder, Erik Cole, John Madden among others -- sign elsewhere and be left hanging out to dry a bit.
The Flyers have already given the organization a very different look in the past few weeks, but adding Stamkos would be getting a nose job, tummy tuck and facelift all in one stop. Perhaps it was all just a bit too costly for Philly's britches (we didn't even mention that if they somehow did take Stamkos away, they would owe Tampa Bay four first-round draft picks).
It probably would have been all for naught as I am of the mind that Yzerman isn't bluffing when he says Tampa Bay will do whatever it takes to keep Stamkos around. You just don't let franchise players like him go that easily.
By Brian Stubits
Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: June 29, 2011 6:23 pm
Edited on: June 30, 2011 2:36 pm
You ever see a fish feeding frenzy? When the fish basically jump on top of each other to get the food first? That's what free agency will look like because of the dearth of big fish to be found, to mix our metaphors.
There is no doubt who the most coveted free agent is this season. Brad Richards tops all names up for grabs and pretty much every team is likely to show some interest in signing the former Stars center.
Richard expects to be a busy man come Friday, according to his agent, Pat Morris, who spoke to Buffalo radio station WGR 550 on Wednesday.
"If five teams call, I'd be shocked by the limited number. If 25 teams called, I wouldn't be shocked," Morris said.
Perhaps the first ring will come from the Rangers, who seem to be the team most coveting Richards. They would love to find a center who can score to anchor the first line with Marian Gaborik. Just a reminder, though: veteran newcomers don't always work out so well for the Blueshirts, just think of Scott Gomez and Chris Drury.
If Rangers GM Glen Sather isn't first to get in touch with Richards, then it could very well be Brian Burke and Toronto. The Leafs are hungry to get back to the playoffs after a lengthy drought by the organization's standards (six seasons). Richards grew up a Leafs fan, so that has helped drive speculation in Ontario. But honestly a massive chunk of the NHL players grew up Maple Leafs fans, so that means next to nothing.
Frankly, any team that has enough room to sign Richards will probably be standing with food in hand, hoping to get the hook, line and sinker on the best player to be had.
Here are this year's best forward options (in alphabetical order).
Sean Bergenheim -- Lightning: Before the postseason, Bergenheim would have likely re-signed quietly with the Lightning after a modest 14-goal, 15-assist season. But he busted out in a big way during the playoffs, scoring nine goals in 16 games. Since then he has turned down an offer from Tampa Bay with GM Steve Yzerman commenting that the two sides obviously see Bergenheim's value a little differently. At this point it looks like he'll be playing elsewhere.
Erik Cole -- Hurricanes: Cole has been a near lifer in Carolina, spending all but a part of his nine seasons in the red of the 'Canes (he was sent to Edmonton and then promptly reacquired by Carolina). He enters free agency coming off a 26-goal, 26-assist campaign, more than attractive numbers. Carolina GM Jim Rutherford would still like to re-sign Cole and keep him around longer, but at this point they haven't been able to find common ground. Carolina is still the odds-on favorite, though.
Simon Gagne -- Lightning: Gagne is coming off a 17-goal, 23-assist season in Tampa Bay, his first with the Lightning. It wasn't long ago that Gagne was a 40-goal scorer for the Flyers, last hitting that mark in 2006-07. It isn't as if he's too old to still flash that form at 31, but the concern might be in the injury department, specifically concussion concerns. Could be worth a shot from a team looking for scoring on the wings.
Jussi Jokinen -- Hurricanes: Another player Rutherford has said he's not sure if he'll be able to re-sign but wants to, Jokinen should draw a good amount of interest if Carolina can't lock him up. The last two seasons for the 'Canes he has surpassed 50 points, highlighted by a 30-goal, 35-assist campaign in 2009-10. (June 30: Re-signed with Hurricanes for three years, $9 million)
Ville Leino -- Flyers: The 27-year-old Fin is coming off his best season in the NHL, scoring 19 goals with 34 assists on the heels of his 21-point postseason when the Flyers went to the Cup Finals. There is no question the Flyers would like to have him back, but it's a matter of if they can have him back. The Flyers are still reportedly eyeing RFA Steven Stamkos, so Leino could be left in the lurch and snagged by another team while Philly chases that option.
Richards -- Stars: Richards is a true No. 1 center. Last season in 72 games for the Stars he tallied 77 points on 28 goals and 49 assists. The mystery isn't who will be interested in Richards, it's who will Richards be interested in? He will likely have his pick of the litter, from his old stomping grounds in Tampa to New York or Chicago.
Michael Ryder -- Bruins: The 31-year-old Ryder hasn't made the best impression in the world in either Montreal or Boston, the two stomping grounds in his career. However, the guy has scoring ability, hitting the 25-goal plateau in four of his seven NHL seasons, including 38 as a rookie.
Maxime Talbot -- Penguins: Talbot isn't the highest-scoring center you'll find (just eight goals and 13 assists last season) but he has earned a reputation as a postseason performer, which never hurts. The Maple Leafs have shown interest in Talbot since it became clear he wouldn't be returning to Pittsburgh and seem the most likely destination at this point.
Scottie Upshall -- Blue Jackets: Smack dab in the middle of his prime at 27, Upshall has plenty of talent to draw interest. He hasn't found the perfect spot for himself in either Columbus or any of the spots before. But each of the past four seasons has seen his goal total rise, hitting 22 last season for the Jackets. Once concern is that last season was the first time he played 75 games (he played all 82).
Others of interest: Jason Arnott (WAS), Tomas Fleischmann (COL), Radim Vrbata (PHO), Joel Ward (NSH), Marcel Goc (NSH), Raffi Torres (VAN), John Madden (MIN), Andrew Brunette (MIN), Tim Connolly (BUF)
By Brian Stubits
Photo: Getty Images
Tags: 2011 Free Agency, Andrew Brunette, Boston Bruins, Brad Richards, Buffalo Sabres, Carolina Hurricanes, Chicago Blackhawks, Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars, Erik Cole, Jason Arnott, Joel Ward, John Madden, Jussi Jokinen, Marcel Goc, Maxime Talbot, Michael Ryder, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, Radim Vrbata, Raffi Torres, Scottie Upshall, Sean Bergehneim, Simon Gagne, Tampa Bay Lightning, Tampa Bay Lightning, Tim Connolly, Tomas Fleischmann, Toronto Maple Leafs, Ville Leino