Posted on: September 16, 2011 4:37 pm
Edited on: September 16, 2011 4:44 pm
By: Adam Gretz
When the Philadelphia Flyers traded Mike Richards to the Los Angeles Kings earlier this summer they not only traded their best two-way forward, they also said goodbye to the player that was their captain over the past three seasons.
That void was filled on Friday afternoon when it was announced that defenseman Chris Pronger has been named the 18th captain in franchise history, and their eighth since the 2000-01 season. Forward Danny Briere and defenseman Kimmo Timonen will serve as the alternate captains.
The Flyers acquired Pronger before the 2009-10 season from the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for Joffrey Lupul, Luca Sbisa and a first-round draft pick, and it seemed to be a perfect match from the beginning.
Shortly after the trade the Flyers signed Pronger to a massive seven-year, $34.4 million contract extension that carries a $4.9 million cap hit that will continue to count against the cap even if Pronger retires since it was signed after he turned 35. He will turn 37 in October and still has six years remaining on his current deal.
Pronger made an immediate impact for the Flyers during the '09-10 season and recorded 55 points in 82 regular season games, and was also a workhorse during the playoffs when the Flyers made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final, where they would ultimately lose to the Chicago Blackhawks in six games.
He was limited to just 50 games last season and appeared in just three of the Flyers playoff games while going through four different surgeries over the course of the season. His availability for the start of the regular season is still uncertain at this point, even though general manager Paul Holmgren recently said that he expects him to be ready when Philadelphia opens its season on Oct. 6 against the defending Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins.
After an offseason overhaul of the roster that saw the team trade Richards and Jeff Carter, while also losing players like Ville Leino in free agency, their offense has taken a hit in the short-term. That of course means the defense, led by Pronger and Timmonen, as well as newly acquired goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov will need to not only be healthy and in the lineup, but also be on top of their game if the Flyers have any hope of being a contender in the Eastern Conference.
Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: September 13, 2011 2:04 pm
Edited on: September 13, 2011 2:04 pm
Chris Pronger could be ready for the start of the season after all.
The Flyers defenseman (and favorite to be named next captain) is making strides toward being able to begin the season with the team. Recovering from back issues that caused him to seriously delay his offseason preparations to the point he couldn't even lift weights, Pronger has twice skated in full equipment recently, leading to speculation he is progressing faster than anticipated.
Here's Flyers GM Paul Holmgren, courtesy of Frank Seravalli of the Philadelphia Daily News:
Doesn't even sound like cautious optimism to me.
As much as Philly would love to have Pronger back on the ice, there is zero need to rush him. He hasn't been the sturdiest player in recent years. Obviously they would rather still have him at season's end and miss the beginning than the other way around. But then again the Flyers open with the defending champion Bruins, so perhaps Pronger is pushing a little harder to be on the ice for that game.
But the one thing we can certainly take from this is that Pronger is coming along well and shouldn't be off the ice for too long to open the year.
Photo: Getty Images
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 9, 2011 10:33 am
MOTIVATING MEMORY: You might remember the story of Mandi Schwartz, the Yale women's hockey player who became an inspiration to many in her fight against leukemia before eventually succumbing to the disease four months ago. Her brother Jaden is one of the Blues' top prospects and he is dedicating his season to his late sister, saying she is the biggest inspiration as he tries to make the Team Canada roster for the World Juniors. "From here on out, this tournament, this camp -- everything is for [my sister]," Schwartz told NHL.com following the opening day of Canada's development camp. "While I'm obviously trying to do this for me, my family and for Canada; most of all, it's for her."
STILL GROUNDED: Chris Pronger continues to move along in his rehabilitation efforts, trying to get back in playing shape to join the Flyers this season. In an interview with Chuck Gormley of the Courier-Post, Pronger talked about his continued efforts to get back on the ice, but the snag at the moment is that he hasn't lifted weights in six months and strength is sort of important for a hockey player, especially a physical presence on the blue line. Back problems usually slow that process down. Pronger also has some thoughts on the offseason overhaul for Philadelphia, liking the move to defense first.
LEBDA STILL IN NASHVILLE: When the Predators acquired Brett Lebda in a one-sided traded with the Maple Leafs that saw the Preds ship Matthew Lombardi and Cody Franson away, it seemed clear that it was a salary shedding move by Nashville and Lebda would be on his way to another team after going on waivers. Well that might not happen (via Pro Hockey Talk) as Lebda cleared waivers untouched yesterday. Now the Preds might be stuck with him and his $1.45 million salary that is on a one-way contract. It will be interesting to see if he will stay in the NHL or be stashed in the AHL.
DUCK IN A SHORT ROW: If Randy Carlyle makes it to the end of his new contract, he will have been the head coach of the Ducks for nine seasons. In today's NHL, that might as well be three decades. Eric Stephens of the O.C. Register looks at the long tenure of Carlyle in Anaheim and how rare a stay it is.
PROGRAMMING NOTE: For those that follow Eye on Hockey on Twitter, note a change in the account name. If you followed before, nothing has changed. If you weren't following, why not? Either way, for housecleaning purposes, the new address is @EyeOnHockey.
Posted on: July 15, 2011 10:50 am
Edited on: July 15, 2011 1:54 pm
By Brian Stubits
CROSBY HITS THE ICE: For the first time since April, Sidney Crosby has taken to the ice (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review) for workouts as he continues toward his return from the concussion he sustained midway through last season. In April, as the Penguins were in playoff mode, Crosby was working out with the team, leading to speculation he might come back for the playoffs. He was soon shut down because of headaches, which were blamed on a sinus infection, not concussion symptoms. It's still just another small step in his recovery and doesn't guarantee he'll be ready for camp, but at this point it can only be taken as a positive for Pittsburgh.
PRONGER PROBLEMS: Speaking of rehabbing players and camp, Chris Pronger could miss the Flyers' training camp for the second consecutive year. Recovering from the removal of a herniated disc in his back, Pronger is still not able to up his own personal training beyond treadmill walking as he was directed to give his back 12 weeks to scar up and heal. Hopefully it's not an omen for a repeat of last year, when Pronger played just 50 games, his lowest total since 2002-03.
MR. POPULAR'S PENGUINS: Pennsylvania is Steelers country, right? Well yes, it still is, but not among the youth. While the Steelers remain the state's most popular team, including the teams across the state in Philly. But the Penguins lead all teams in the coveted demographic of fans between 18 and 29 years old. Among that demographic, the Penguins received 27 percent of the vote, with the Steelers second at 22 percent. Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review points out that the Penguins were on the brain at the time of the survey as it was in the middle of Jagr Watch. No matter, it's quite a feather in the Pens' cap to beat out the Steelers, Phillies and Eagles in the young demographic.
THEY COULD BE CONTENDERS: At the Florida Panthers' developmental camp, the team received a visit and motivational speech from Micky Ward (Sun-Sentinel) or the man the movie The Fighter was based on. His story certainly stuck with some of the young Panthers prospects like 2011 draft pick Logan Shaw: "Everyone's going to have low points in their career like he did, retiring for two-and-a-half years. He did it for himself, that's why he came back. That's how we all made it here, believing in ourselves and that's going make us have a successful career."
LET YOUR WINGS FLY: Detroit Red Wings forward Justin Abdelkader is going to get a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take to the air with the famous U.S. Navy Blue Angels (Detroit Free Press). The former Mr. Hockey in Michigan will join the Blue Angels in a special showing in Ypsilanti where he will experience the tumbles, twirls, rolls and near-Mach 1 speeds of the Jets. The Blue Angels are in town for an air show next weekend.
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: June 24, 2011 10:39 am
PEGGING A NAME: True North CEO Jim Ludlow told the Winnipeg Sun that a name for the team has to be announced very soon. Then Darren Dreger of TSN tweeted early Friday that Winnipeg was expected to release the name just before making the seventh pick in tonight's NHL Draft. Now clearly the overwhelming crowd favorite has been to bring back the name and logo of the Jets. Other names that have been floated around include the Falcons, Moose, Ice Bears and my personal favorite from the Twittersphere, the Phoenix. The question is which name would be best?
TAKING OFF: Philadelphia still has a lot to come after Thursday's flurry. Frank Seravalli of the Philadelphia Daily News says the Flyers would love to move even higher in tonight's draft (they're at No. 8 after trading Jeff Carter to Columbus) as they covet Swedish winger Gabriel Landeskog. Now he figures to go No. 2 or No. 3 overall, so Philly would have to make a move to get him. One potential could be a deal with Dale Tallon and Florida at No. 3, who have been in talks about moving up as well as down. Yesterday there was a lot of smoke building about reuniting Kris Versteeg and Tallon via trade, and Seravalli says it makes a lot of sense, especially when you swap the team's first picks. If the Flyers don't go that route ... or even if they do ... they might take a serious shot at pulling Steven Stamkos from Tampa Bay if a new deal isn't signed by July 1. Far-fetched, but a possibility.
OH CAPTAIN, MY CAPTAIN: When the Flyers made their two trades yesterday, it didn't really enter GM Paul Holmgren's mind that he was shipping the team captain out of town. But one of myriad questions now for Philly is who wears the C next? CSN Philly says all signs point to Chris Pronger, who is no stranger to being captain, a position he held while playing in Anaheim and St. Louis. But Danny Briere (Buffalo) and Kimmo Timonen (Nashville) have also been captains at one point in the NHL and Timonen currently wears an A on his sweater.
SENATORIAL CAMPAIGN: For the first time in the franchise's history, the Ottawa Senators begin the process of rebuilding tonight. Since building up from an expansion franchise, the team hasn't been in a situation quite like this and the Sens have an arsenal of draft picks at their disposal, having 12 spread out over the seven rounds. That means there is little to no way the Senators don't leave the draft a) having stockpiled their organization with prospects or b) having made a tremendous impact on their roster and the draft by making some moves. Either way, silversevensens makes the argument this is the most important draft in Ottawa's history.
SOCAL HAS HART: In true Southern California style, Corey Perry took his two new trophies -- those would be the Hart and Rocket Richard -- to the Santa Monica pier for a photo op. Jeff Miller of the OC Register relayed a great story from the scenes where a little boy asked if they were celebrating a championship. When he was told no, that Perry was the MVP, the boy responded, "So he's like Kobe Bryant?" Kind of, kid, especially with that killer instinct he showed in the clutch this season.
-- Brian Stubits
Posted on: April 11, 2011 3:00 pm
Edited on: April 11, 2011 3:46 pm
Ready to show their new defensive-minded approach in the playoffs, the Capitals are closer to being full strength on the back line.
Coach Bruce Boudreau addressed injured defenseman Mike Green's status for Game 1 on Wednesday. The All-Star has been out of the lineup for Washington since suffering a concussion on Feb. 25 against the same Rangers that are up next.
"He's ready for game one."
Clearly good news. Green's numbers offensively were down this season -- as were pretty much all of the Capitals' -- but he's a key cog on the power play and has shown better play in the back.
Philadelphia is in wait-and-see mode on the status of Chris Pronger.
Despite reports of him taking part in the team's activities, coach Peter Laviolette said Pronger did not practice.
"It's hard to say that we're preparing as if Pronger were in there for Game 1, because he wasn't out there today," Laviolette said.
The word from general manager Paul Holmgren is that Pronger right now is day to day.
His return would be more than welcome. Since being sidelined with a broken hand, the Flyers have won just six of the 16 games they played.
In other playoff injury news:
• It's worth keeping an eye on Francois Beauchemin for the Ducks, who sat out Monday's workout according to Eric Stephens of the OC Register . It seems to be just precautionary and he is expected to be back on Tuesday.