The 2019 IIHF World Championship will begin next month, and Hockey Canada has finally announced their roster for the tournament. 22 players were named to the group (that could be increased to 25), including many that have represented the team at international events in the past. The full roster is as follows:
Team Canada got turned down by Carey Price for the upcoming IIHF World Championship, but still could have some pretty excellent goaltending for the tournament. Not only will young phenom Carter Hart be part of the team, but Craig Morgan of The Athletic has heard that Darcy Kuemper is also on the team’s radar. There could be several other candidates considered, especially since teams exiting the first round of the playoffs would make their players available.
If it is Hart and Kuemper, it would certainly not be tandem that was expected at the beginning of the season. The Philadelphia Flyers goaltender won’t turn 21 until August, but put together quite an NHL debut this season. In 31 games Hart put up a .917 save percentage and kept Philadelphia in the playoff hunt longer than many expected early in the year. The same could be said about Kuemper, who went from unheralded backup to potential Vezina candidate after posting a .925 in 55 appearances. The tournament begins on May 10th.
- Now that the draft lottery is over all eyes in Los Angeles will be waiting for the result of the Kings’ coaching search, which appears to still have some work to do. Curtis Zupke of the Los Angeles Times tweets that as of earlier today nothing was imminent for the Kings, though they are still in the “sweepstakes” for Todd McLellan. McLellan has also been meeting with the Buffalo Sabres this week as he also takes in the NCAA Frozen Four, and reports have seemingly come from both sides that they were close to signing the coach. Wherever McLellan does end up, it seems as though the other team will quickly have to move on to their next candidate—unless another team moves on him first.
- Speaking of the Frozen Four, Minnesota-Duluth won their semi-final game earlier today and eliminated the Providence Friars. That marks the end of several NCAA careers for Providence including goaltender Hayden Hawkey, who will now have to make a decision on whether to sign right away or wait for unrestricted free agency this summer. The Montreal Canadiens traded Hawkey’s rights last summer in exchange for a fifth-round pick, likely to avoid this situation since they already have a full depth chart of goaltenders. The 24-year old posted a .920 save percentage for Providence this season, his third as the team’s starter. He’ll become a free agent in August if the Oilers don’t get him under contract.
After re-signing forward Michael Raffl to a two-year extension today, the Philadelphia Flyers are in an enviable position heading into the off-season. New GM Chuck Fletcher has his team in position to enter the summer free agent market without any risk of losing any valuable unrestricted free agents. Add that to ample cap space and a deep pipeline of talent at all positions and the Flyers are in position to only get better this summer and the Eastern Conference should be on alert.
Of course, there are still areas of need in Philadelphia. The one gaping hole is in net, where the team needs a long-term option to pair with young phenom Carter Hart. Of their small list of UFA’s, four are goaltenders: Brian Elliott, recent trade acquisition Cam Talbot, injured Michal Neuvirth, and buried Mike McKenna. However, the price of acquiring Talbot earlier this year – young keeper Anthony Stolarz – has led many to believe that the Flyers see Talbot as that long-term fit. An extension has yet to be signed, but the Flyers very well may have the answer to their question in goal already on the roster.
Elsewhere, forward Phil Varone is perhaps the closest thing to a difficult free agent loss that Philly could suffer this off-season. Varone, 28, had 50 NHL games to his credit over five years prior to this season but has ended up skating in 43 more so far with the Flyers while on a minimum two-way contract. It’s possible that Varone could bolt this summer, but a one-way contract would likely be enough to keep him around and, if he does leave, his seven points would not be hard to make up for. Jori Lehtera has the most name recognition among impending free agent forwards, but the 31-year-old has not been the same players since the move to Philadelphia two years ago and was buried in the minors after recording just three points through his first 27 games of the season. Lehtera won’t be back with the Flyers and is likely on his way out of the NHL altogether. Other UFA forwards include Corban Knight, Tyrell Goulbourne, Michael Vecchione, Byron Froese, Greg Carey, and Cole Bardreau, a group of 25-and-over players who have combined for one point in 19 NHL games this season. Carey, the leading scorer of the AHL’s Lehigh Valley Phantoms, is perhaps the only one of group that the Flyers could see as a loss if not retained.
What the Flyers really need, even with many promising forward prospects, is to add another proven top-six forward to the roster and should be able to do so with significant salary cap flexibility. Even after negotiating new contracts with their restricted free agents, the Flyers should have enough cap room to bid for one of the top forwards on the market if they so choose. Even if they lose out on a top name, their offense cannot be any worse than it was this year and it was still good enough to give the Flyers a shot at the postseason.
On the blue line, the Flyers are deep and versatile with a mix of talented young players and established veterans. Not one defenseman in the entire organization is an unrestricted free agent, so that group will be back in full force next season, possibly with some additions.
Simply put, there is no way that Philadelphia can get any worse going into next season barring a bad trade, an RFA holdout, or some other unexpected calamity. They do not have one unrestricted free agent whose loss could really hurt them (unless a Talbot deal falls through). On the other hand, their cap space and depth of prospects give them a great chance to improve next season one way or another. Right now, the Flyers are a fringe playoff team, which is not any team’s goal. However, Philly should enter 2019-20 with that as their floor and, depending on what they do over the summer, could have a much higher ceiling. And that is a good place to be.
The Philadelphia Flyers got some good news as it looks like rookie goaltender Carter Hart is healthy once again and could find himself in net as early as Monday against the Ottawa Senators, according to Philly.com’s Sam Carchidi.
Hart has been out since Feb. 21 with an ankle injury, but he was also coming off two of his worst performances, having been pulled in back-to-back games in which he allowed three goals on just six shots in both appearances. If the team opts to start him against Ottawa, it would be an opportunity to ease him back into the lineup as the Senators are 1-8-1 in their last 10 games.
The 20-year-old Hart is having a impressive season considering he was not meant to spend it in the NHL. Originally slated to spend his first professional season in the AHL, he appeared in just 18 games before being promoted alongside interim head coach Scott Gordon when he was hired. Since then, Hart was helped the Flyers rebound from a tough start with a 13-8-1 record with a 2.79 GAA. While that number doesn’t stand out, his .917 save percentage does.
- Paul Skrbina of The Tennessean writes that Nashville Predators forward Filip Forsberg missed Saturday’s game and remains day-to-day with an upper-body injury, according to the team. Forsberg missed practice Thursday and Friday, but was believed to be available for Saturday’s game, but didn’t play in the end. Forsberg missed 19 games with an upper-body injury earlier this season, although there is no word on whether this injury is related to that one. The 24-year-old has 22 goals and 41 points in 52 games this season.
- Michael Smith of NHL.com reports that Carolina Hurricanes forward Micheal Ferland remains day-to-day with an upper-body injury and did not travel with the team on their three-game roadtrip that started in Nashville today, according to head coach Rod Brind’Amour. Ferland has been having a solid season, putting up 17 goals and 35 points in 52 games. The 26-year-old has played under 14 minutes combined over the last two games.
- The Boston Bruins’ Jake Debrusk is expected to miss a few more games as the forward is still in a walking boot, according to The Athletic’s Fluto Shinzawa. While he’s expected to miss this weekend’s games, he could be back not long after that as head coach Bruce Cassidy said that Debrusk was the closest, of all their injured players, to return.
- Fox Sports’ Jon Rosen reports that the Los Angeles Kings are interested in undrafted Michigan State forward Taro Hirose, currently the NCAA leading scorer. According to Rosen, Hirose is friends with Kings’ prospect James Anderson-Dolan and could be convinced to sign with L.A. although there is no word on whether the junior forward is ready to leave college. He has 16 goals and 37 points this season for Michigan State.
Some bad news on one player could turn out to be a blessing in disguise in regards to another. The Philadelphia Flyers have announced that rookie sensation Carter Hart will be out at least ten days with a lower-body injury. Hart has been playing phenomenally this season and his absence could end what little hope the Flyers had of reaching the postseason this year. However, it will force the team to start Brian Elliott tonight in their Stadium Series game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Philly’s final game before the deadline. Recent acquisition Cam Talbot is still new to the team and unable to jump in net just yet. However, Talbot’s presence makes Elliott expendable and the Flyers are known to be shopping him. The team tried to move Elliott to the Edmonton Oilers as part of the Talbot return, but ended up trading away the younger Anthony Stolarz. However, with playoff-bound teams like the San Jose Sharks and Vegas Golden Knights in need of reinforcements in net, Elliott is very much still in play. A strong performance on a grand stage tonight could be enough to convince those kicking the tires to take a shot on Elliott. Moreso, the injury news on Hart could be the final straw for new GM Chuck Fletcher, as he is still allegedly unsure of whether to sell or not at the deadline. With Elliott, Wayne Simmonds, Michael Raffl, and several others drawing interest, Fletcher should be more encouraged to part with those pieces now that his stud goaltender is out for what could be weeks.
- The New York Rangers are one of the most talked-about teams as the deadline approaches, as rentals Kevin Hayes, Mats Zuccarello, and Adam McQuaid and even term players like Chris Kreider and Vladislav Namestnikov are drawing considerable interest. The New York Post’s Larry Brooks writes that the Nashville Predators are one of the teams in talks with the Rangers, but it appears that one of their best assets may be off the table. Brooks reports that the Predators will not trade 2017 first-round pick Eeli Tolvanen for a rental this season. Nashville does not have interest in Hayes, but has looked into Zuccarello, however they won’t offer up Tolvanen to land him. Brooks believes Tolvanen would only be available to the Rangers in a deal for Kreider. The talented Finnish forward has only seen limited NHL action thus far, but is still coveted by sellers – not only the Rangers – for his potential. In this scenario, it’s the sellers who may have to ante up with a signed player to get the prized prospect. As for the Rangers, they may have better luck getting a top return for Zuccarello elsewhere. Brooks states that the Calgary Flames and Pittsburgh Penguins are among the teams pursuing the veteran winger, while a report yesterday stated some contenders are willing to pay the price to package Zucarello and Hayes together.
- Meanwhile, the price for McQuaid has gone up significantly today following the trade of Ben Lovejoy to the Dallas Stars. McQuaid is arguably the top rental defenseman left on the market, currently ranked No. 21 overall on TSN’s Trade Bait List. With the trade statuses of Alex Edler, Niklas Kronwall, Cody Ceci, and others still unclear, McQuaid looks like the top target for defense-needy teams versus the likes of Michael Del Zotto and Bogdan Kiselevich. McQuaid is by no means a star or season-changing acquisition, but he is likely the best available defenseman even as just a physical, stay-at-home defender. If the New Jersey Devils can draw a third-round pick and young roster player for Lovejoy, the Rangers are suddenly looking at second-round territory with McQuaid. To protect their top trade assets, New York will not play McQuaid, Zuccarello, or Hayes today, reports Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.
- Many have felt that the allure of the free agent market for Matt Duchene and Mark Stone and the caliber of return the Ottawa Senators could get for trading them left Ryan Dzingel as the most likely of the trio to re-sign with the team. That certainly isn’t going to be the case. The Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch reports that Dzingel recently turned down a five-year extension offer worth more than $20MM, a significant pay raise over his current $1.8MM cap hit. After that, the team made the definitive decision to trade him before the deadline. Garrioch adds that Stone also rejected the Senators’ last offer, and eight-year pact of unknown value, but the team has not yet completely closed the door on a new deal. They continue to take offers on the star winger though, as Garrioch writes that the Winnipeg Jets, Calgary Flames, Boston Bruins, and Tampa Bay Lightning are the team’s most involved in Stone talks. He believes the Bruins are also interested in Dzingel. It remains to be seen who ends up with Stone or Dzingel and how the returns compare to that of Duchene, but one way or another the Senators are walking away from the deadline with a complete lack of star power on the roster, but a massive influx of picks and prospects to show for it.
With the trade deadline now just over a week away, activity has started to pick up around the NHL. Rumors of major trades continue, but so far just a few deals have been completed.
Lafreniere To Stay In CHL: Potential 2020 first-overall pick Alexis Lafreniere set the record straight after rumors were circulating that the 17-year-old may opt to sign a contract overseas and follow the footsteps of Auston Matthews who played his draft year in the Swiss NLA. Lafreniere’s agent, Momentum Hockey Agency, released a statement making it clear that while the young talent did look into playing overseas, he and his family decided to stay in the CHL with Rimouski Oceanic of the QMJHL where he’s played the last two years, having totaled 74 goals and 172 points in 110 games. At 6-foot-1, he already has the size and proven ability to play in a professional league, but he will stay put for one more year.
Pastrnak, Maatta Injured: The Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins each took a hit to their team when each team lost a significant player to injury. The Boston Bruins lost David Pastrnak for a minimum of two weeks after he underwent thumb surgery on Feb. 12 after he fell at a team function. The Bruins, who are fighting with the Toronto Maple Leafs for the second spot in the Atlantic Division won’t be helped even if its for a few weeks without Pastrnak, who is the team’s leading scorer with 31 goals as well as 66 points, second on the team. The Penguins also took a hit on their blueline when they placed Olli Maatta on injured reserve with an upper-body injury that would sideline him indefinitely. The team was getting back Justin Schultz from injury at the time, but the team was looking forward to getting back a fully healthy defense, which now they won’t have for some time. To make matters worse, the team had recently dealt away Jamie Oleksiak to make room for Schultz, leaving the team with a lack of depth all of the sudden.
Wild Owner Approves Selling: Just hours after Minnesota Wild head coach Bruce Boudreau guaranteed that the Wild would make the playoffs, Wild owner Craig Leipold announced that he has given general manager Paul Fenton the green light to sell off some of the team’s players in advance of the upcoming trade deadline. With the team dropping four straight and having a 2-5-3 record in their last 10 games, it might be time for Fenton to make his mark on this team after being hired this summer to fix the team’s inability to advance deep into the playoffs. Among the numerous players who could be shipped off include pending unrestricted free agent Eric Staal as well as Charlie Coyle, who still has one more year on his deal. There are also a number of bottom six players who could be moved as well, including Eric Fehr, Matt Hendricks, Brad Hunt, Matt Bartkowski and Anthony Bitetto.
Philadelphia’s Hart Gets A Mentor: The Philadelphia Flyers finally consummated a rumored trade in which it acquired Edmonton Oilers goaltender Cam Talbot for Anthony Stolarz. While Edmonton freed themselves some much needed cap room as Talbot was making $4.17MM, the Flyers got themselves what they hope will be a long-term veteran who can mentor their prized rookie Carter Hart for the next few years. Talbot, who was already familiar with Hart before, waived his no-movement clause to come to Philadelphia and made it clear that he was open to signing a new contract before July 1 to remain with the team.
Ottawa Intends To Trade Duchene: The Ottawa Senators have stopped in their attempts to sign Matt Duchene to an extension and have indicated to all teams that they intend to trade the 26-year-old center. According to reports, the Senators have shifted their focus of signing Duchene to making a full effort to locking up Mark Stone to an extension. Stone may have a day or two to make up his mind on whether he is willing to sign an extension or he too, will be made available to the league with the intention of selling them off at the trade deadline. Already there has been rumors that the Nashville Predators, the Columbus Blue Jackets and the New York Islanders have expressed serious interest in acquiring the center with more suitors likely to join in before the upcoming trade deadline on Feb. 25.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The Philadelphia Flyers made a big trade late Friday when they sent current backup Anthony Stolarz to Edmonton in exchange for veteran goaltender Cam Talbot. The team hopes that Talbot can provide rookie Carter Hart with some guidance and help Hart’s transition to the NHL. The only problem is that Talbot will be an unrestricted free agent this summer and the team has to decide make sure they can lock up Talbot for the future.
Sam Carchidi of Philly.com writes that he spoke to Talbot who said that he choose to come to Philadelphia for a chance of a long-term stay and is open to signing an extension with the Flyers before July 1. Carchidi adds that Talbot said it was a “tough season” in Edmonton and is looking for a fresh start with the Flyers and wants to take on the mentor role for Hart, who he is already familiar with.
- Mike Harrington of the Buffalo News cautions fans to be patient when it comes to the Buffalo Sabres re-signing winger Jeff Skinner. The 26-year-old is one goal shy of his career-high of 37 goals and looks to have taken his game to another level. Unfortunately for Buffalo, Skinner has yet to sign an extension, which worries fans, especially now that the team is struggling. However, Harrington writes that the fact that Buffalo is falling out of the playoff picture will have no impact on Skinner’s decision. He wants to be in Buffalo and has told his agent that as well. He’s two hours from his home in Toronto and loves it in Buffalo next to Jack Eichel.
- Sticking with Buffalo, Lance Lysowski of the Buffalo News reports that rookie center Casey Mittelstadt is expected to return to the lineup Sunday after missing the last two games with a lower-body injury. The 20-year-old Mittelstadt has eight goals and 19 points so far this season, but has been holding down the second-line center position for much of the season. although a pending return of Kyle Okposo could bump him to the third line.
- One loser of the Ryan Spooner for Sam Gagner trade earlier today between the Vancouver Canucks and the Edmonton Oilers are the Toronto Marlies, according to the Toronto Star’s Kevin McGran. The AHL franchise, who is coming off a Calder Cup Championship last year, is trying hard to repeat and had the good fortune that Vancouver was willing to accommodate Gagner, who wanted to stay close to home in Toronto if he wasn’t going to play in the NHL. Vancouver opted to loan Gagner to the Marlies where he was the team’s second-line center. The trade takes a way a key veteran player for their run, who had posted 12 goals and 37 points in 43 games.
Friday: Dreger reiterated today that the Flyers and Oilers continue to talk of a Talbot trade. He claims the two sides are in a “holding pattern” and are trying to work out the kinks. The biggest new piece of news is that Stolarz, Philly’s impending RFA goaltender, is expected to be a piece of the return for Edmonton. Stolarz would presumably take over the backup job behind Koskinen this season, fitting under the salary cap without issue, and then challenge for the job again next year.
Thursday: The Philadelphia Flyers have already used seven goalies this season, so why not make it eight? According to TSN’s Darren Dreger, the Flyers and Edmonton Oilers are “definitely talking” about a Cam Talbot trade. The 31-year-old keeper is an impending free agent and known to be at the top of the Oilers’ deadline sale list, while the Flyers are not exactly looking for short-term help, but a long-term tandem option.
Were these talks purely for the purpose of Philadelphia using Talbot as a rental, they wouldn’t make much sense. The Flyers are eight points back of the rival Pittsburgh Penguins for the final wild card slot in the Eastern Conference and would have to leapfrog the Carolina Hurricanes and Buffalo Sabres to get there. The team is also already carrying three goaltenders – Carter Hart, Anthony Stolarz, and Mike McKenna – and has season-opening starter Brian Elliott on a conditioning stint. As it is, the team is probably going to have to place McKenna on waivers when Elliott is ready to return. They also have Alex Lyon in the minors and could get Michal Neuvirth back from injury by the end of the year.
The Flyers don’t need a goalie right now; what they do need is a goalie for the future. The rookie Hart has been phenomenal at just 20 years old and is a core piece in Philly moving forward, but he needs a reliable veteran presence for the next few years as well. Elliott and Neuvirth (and McKenna) are all unrestricted free agents and Stolarz is an RFA with an injury history. The Flyers were destined to bring in a new goalie for next season and beyond and have apparently tabbed Talbot as a top option. Dreger notes that Talbot and Hart already share a good relationship, making it an ideal pairing of a promising young goalie in need of a mentor and a capable veteran who can no longer support a full work load. Talbot initially arrived in Edmonton after a breakout year as the backup for the New York Rangers, but truly broke out as a Vezina candidate in 2016-17 with a .919 save percentage and 2.37 GAA in 73 games. It would be the first of back-to-back seasons in which Talbot would lead the NHL in games played and this season he has felt the effects of being overworked. Talbot has an .893 save percentage and 3.36 GAA on the year, much of the reason why he lost out on an extension to backup Mikko Koskinen. Talbot needs a new home moving forward, and preferably one with a share in net, but there are questions about how much interest he will garner on the free agent market. Philadelphia appears to be the ideal landing spot, especially if he gets to play there before the end of the season. The Flyers would also benefit from an early opportunity to sign Talbot, rather than just waiting for free agency.
As for the Oilers, there is no hiding the fact that Edmonton is struggling to manage the cap and their roster right now. The team needs to make room for defenseman Andrej Sekera, but need to clear cap space and a roster spot to do so and have only through this weekend to figure it out. Trading Talbot, who the team has already determined is not a long-term fit, would be the easiest way to accommodate Sekera, which explains why trade talks are heating up. What the return will be for the veteran netminder remains to be seen. Since the Flyers could just wait until the off-season to sign Talbot, it likely won’t be impressive. However, with the Oilers maintaining that they are a buyer at the deadline, it will be interesting to see if Elliot or another Flyers goalie ends up as part of a hypothetical package. Edmonton’s odds at the postseason are slim, but asking Koskinen to start nearly every game down the stretch backed up by Al Montoya or unproven Shane Starrett certainly won’t help.
With the impending return of goaltender Brian Elliott as well as the potential return of Michal Neuvirth and the presence of Anthony Stolarz, there are some who are worried that the Philadelphia Flyers might consider sending 20-year-old Carter Hart back to the AHL to make room for some of their veterans. Of course, Hart’s numbers would suggest that might be a mistake as he has won eight-straight games, which ties him for the NHL record for the most consecutive games won by a goalie under 21 years old (Jocelyn Thibault also had eight straight wins in 1995).
However, Sportsnet’s John Shannon reports that Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher confirmed reports today that Hart has been told that he’s staying in Philadelphia for the rest of the season.
“Yes most likely,” Fletcher said. “But he will be eligible for AHL playoffs if we don’t make it in Philly.”
Heralded as the CHL Goaltender of the Year two straight years, the belief was that Hart would need to play one full season with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms of the AHL. However, with numerous injuries in net in Philadelphia and a change in leadership both in the front office and eventually behind the bench, Hart was recalled on Dec. 18 and has put up impressive numbers, including an 11-5-1 record, a 2.45 GAA and a .926 save percentage in 17 games. His current eight-game winning streak has vaulted the Flyers, long thought out of a playoff spot, back into the race as they are just six points out of a wildcard spot, although there are a number of teams in between them.
The team has already indicated they will consider keeping three goaltenders on the roster as Elliott is expected to return to game action next week. Regardless, the team has gotten solid play from both Hart and Stolarz recently and Philadelphia has made it clear, they don’t want to overwhelm the youngster by playing him too much, so adding a third goaltender shouldn’t have detrimental effects.
This weekend Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet made headlines with a report that stated the Chicago Blackhawks had asked Brent Seabrook to waive his no-movement clause, fueling plenty of questions for the veteran defenseman today. In response to the story, Seabrook clearly denied that he had been asked and told reporters including John Dietz of the Daily Herald that he doesn’t know where the report came from.
Seabrook, 33, has five years remaining on his contract after 2018-19 and carries a $6.875MM cap hit. Largely considered one of the toughest contracts in the entire league to trade, the Blackhawks legend also has a full no-movement clause until 2022-23, at which point he will still have a partial no-trade clause.
- The NHL has released their three stars of the week, and a pair of youngsters lead the way. 22-year old Jack Roslovic has earned the top spot after a promotion to Winnipeg’s top-six resulted in him recording five goals and six points in four games. Carter Hart meanwhile has taken the second star after going 3-0 with a .931 save percentage while helping the Philadelphia Flyers continue their winning ways. Mika Zibanejad, the elder statesman among the group at 25, comes in as the third star after a six-point week.
- Washington Capitals GM Brian MacLellan told reporters including Chris Kuc of The Athletic that the team is “active” in trade discussions at the moment, believing that there are “hockey trades” to be made. The Capitals are struggling to hold onto a playoff spot in the Metropolitan Division and may need a shake up to get them back to their championship level. Washington already signed Pheonix Copley to a three-year extension earlier today, and could be involved in several moves over the next few weeks.