The IIHF World Championship gets underway in just a few weeks and USA Hockey has announced the first group of players that will be suiting up for them. GM Chris Drury released 17 names that will be taking part, including captain Patrick Kane. The group is an impressive list of NHL stars that could very well bring home the country’s first gold medal at the tournament in nearly 60 years. The roster so far is as follows:
James van Riemsdyk
While the Sabres have discussed a potential contract extension for winger Jeff Skinner throughout the season, a deal has yet to be reached. Speaking to reporters, including WKBW’s Matt Bove, GM Jason Botterill indicated that both sides are still focusing on getting a deal done, suggesting that Skinner hasn’t shifted his focus to free agency just yet. The 26-year-old got off to a strong start with 30 goals over his first 44 games before cooling off considerably, scoring just 10 over the last 38 contests. John Vogl of The Athletic examined (subscription required) some possible comparables for Skinner, noting that the new deal that Mark Stone signed upon his trade to Vegas (eight years, $76MM) is one that his representatives will likely want to use in discussions.
Elsewhere in the East:
- Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall and Thomas Vanek are unsure as to whether or not they want to play next season, notes Ted Kulfan of The Detroit News. It was believed that Kronwall was likely to retire after 2018-19 but he wound up logging nearly 20 minutes a night over 79 games, suggesting that he’s still capable of being an important piece for Detroit. Meanwhile, Vanek finished with a respectable 36 points in 64 games but indicated that his family will play a large role in determining whether or not he wants to play a 15th NHL season. Both players are set to be unrestricted free agents in July.
- The Flyers announced (Twitter link) that winger James van Riemsdyk will suit up for Team USA at the upcoming World Championships. It will be his first time suiting up in the tournament since he played a pair of games back in 2011. His return to Philadelphia was a reasonable success as he finished fifth in team scoring despite missing 16 games due to injuries while his goal per game rate was only slightly below 2017-18 when he scored a career-best 36 goals.
James van Riemsdyk has been fined $5,000 for his high-stick on Los Angeles Kings defenseman Alec Martinez last night. That is the maximum allowable fine for the incident, which did not draw a penalty in the game. While van Riemsdyk will not face a suspension, fines like these are taken into account for any future discipline handed down from the Department of Player Safety.
- The Colorado Avalanche are about to have a wealth of right-handed defensemen available to them, and Mike Chambers of the Denver Post believes it might mean they end up trading Tyson Barrie. In fact, Chambers went so far as calling a Barrie trade “inevitable” in his latest mailbag, noting that Conor Timmins is close to a return from injury and Cale Makar is expected to sign after the NCAA season is completed. Barrie is having another outstanding offensive season with 40 points in 49 games and could likely bring back a substantial trade package for the Avalanche if they make him available. With another year on his current contract, a trade doesn’t necessarily need to be before this month’s deadline.
- Elliotte Friedman was on Sportsnet radio today to talk about the trade market, and he explained that “in the next three to five days” there should be a resolution one way or another with Mark Stone and Matt Duchene in Ottawa. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the Senators will have signed or traded their two star free agents, but likely that their camps will have indicated to GM Pierre Dorion where negotiations are headed and whether he needs to move them. Friedman notes that those players are still holding up the market at large.
The Washington Capitals look like they can breathe a sigh of relief as goaltender Braden Holtby was at practice Sunday after Columbus’ Cam Atkinson accidentally put his stick through a hole in Holtby’s mask into his left eye, forcing him to leave the game. It’s still unclear if the goaltender would start against St. Louis on Monday, the first of a back-to-back set, according to Isabelle Khurshudyan of the Washington Post.
“Obviously anything with your eyes is a little scary,” Holtby said. “It’s fortunate that it wasn’t anything too serious. You just move on. … I didn’t have the sight to keep going. I just wouldn’t have been a benefit to the team. it was one of those things. Eyes heal quickly, so just 24 hours and I’ll be back to normal.”
The incident on the ice Saturday in the second period and the immediate thought looked scary with many worrying that the team’s star goaltender could miss a significant amount of time. However, it looks like the injury isn’t as serious as originally thought. Head coach Todd Rierden said that the team doesn’t intend to recall a goaltender from the AHL at this moment with the general belief that the team could start Pheonix Copley Monday and start Holtby on Tuesday against Nashville on Tuesday.
- While there have been reports out of Pittsburgh that the team may be ready to move a defenseman, Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes that general manager Jim Rutherford may also be ready to move third-string goaltender Tristan Jarry as well. The 23-year-old and second-round pick in 2013 is a solid prospect, but with 24-year-old Matt Murray locked in as the starter and the fact that backup Casey DeSmith was recently extended for another three years, Jarry could be a nice trade chip. He has one more year at $675K before he hits restricted free agency, although his two-way deal will turn into a one-way deal next season. NBC Sports’ Adam Gretz adds, however, that goaltenders don’t often bring a lot back in trades, pointing out that Filip Gustavsson was a better prospect and he was just one part of a package to get Derick Brassard last season.
- Sam Carchidi of Philly.com writes that Philadelphia Flyers forward James van Riemsdyk has a 50-50 chance of playing Monday after being banged up Saturday against New Jersey. Van Riemsdyk, who has struggled with injuries as well as production, had one of his better games of the season, playing 17:01 and scoring a goal and adding an assist, despite the loss. The 29-year-old has two goals and two assists in the last two games.
- Newsday’s Andrew Gross reports that New York Islanders defenseman Thomas Hickey, who has missed 11 straight games with an upper-body injury, has had a slowdown in his recovery, according to head coach Barry Trotz. Hickey has been skating on his own, but was held out of the team’s last full practice on Wednesday. “We want to do what’s best for the player,” Trotz said. “I don’t know if it’s a setback. We just want to be cautious with it. He’s real important for us and we’re not trying to rush him at all. We back him off a little bit and that’s on trainers’ orders.”
As the holiday season quickly approaches, PHR will take a look at what teams are thankful for as the season heads past the one-quarter mark. There also might be a few things your team would like down the road. Let’s take a look at what’s gone well in the early going and what could improve as the season rolls on for the Philadelphia Flyers. Click here for the other articles in this series.
What are the Flyers most thankful for?
The Flyers should be thankful that the team has made the necessary front-office and coaching changes and can now move forward for the rest of the year. While the firing of general manager Ron Hextall came as a shock to many, the team has since hired GM Chuck Fletcher who has replaced Dave Hakstol and seems poised to stick with current coach Scott Gordon for the remainder of the season at the very least, which gives the team some current stability. The hope is that between Fletcher and Gordon, the team can attempt to refocus their energy on the ice and try to fix some of the issues that have plagued the team.
Fletcher is likely going to make several moves, whatever those are going to be. There are questions whether Fletcher will attempt to trade for a goaltender now that Carter Hart has debuted in Philadelphia, but the team may also be more inclined to focus more on their defensive struggles as the team just isn’t getting it done on the blueline. Regardless, change is coming and should be here within two months.
Who are the Flyers most thankful for?
While the Flyers had one of the best first lines in hockey a season ago with Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek and Sean Couturier, only Giroux seems to be keeping with an impressive pace this year. Giroux is the only player who averaging more than a point per game as he has 12 goals and 42 points, which is good for 16th in the NHL. While his goal totals aren’t as high as last season when he tallied 34 goals for the season, Giroux continues to work his magic and set up as many of his teammates as possible.
While he hasn’t seen as much time with both Voracek and Couturier, the team has opted to move Giroux back to the center position to focus on getting some of their wingers moving. The most recent attempts is pairing him up with Travis Konecny and James van Riemsdyk, but he has seen time with a number of players to get more involved in the team’s 18th-ranked offense.
What would the Flyers be even more thankful for?
An improved blueline. The team had high expectations with their defense, especially from their top two as Shayne Gostisbehere and Ivan Provorov were expected to continue their ascent to develop among the top NHL D-men. Instead, both have struggled a bit, especially on offense. Gostisbehere has a team-low minus-15 rating and just 15 points on offense so far this season, quite down from his 65-point season. Provorov hasn’t performed much better with a minus-8 rating and has just 11 points after a 41-point campaign. Few others on the blueline have stepped up either. The team ranks third in the league in goals against as they have allowed an average of 3.62 goals per game.
What should be on the Flyers’ Holiday Wish List?
The team must figure out its goaltending situation as soon as possible. Hextall spent most of his time waiting for his multitude of goalies to return from injury, but neither the original intended starters, Brian Elliott or Michal Neuvirth, have been able to stay healthy for any significant amount of time. Elliott has fared adequately in 14 appearances this year as he boasts a 2.59 GAA and a .911 save percentage. Neuvirth has been a disaster. Anthony Stolarz showed some success recently, but when he went down, the Flyers had no choice but to bring up Hart, who has fared well in his first three starts. However, at 20 years old, few believe that he can keep up the pace at the NHL level. The team must decide whether to use some of their assets to acquire an interim goaltender.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Sunday: Despite the Flyers falling 5-1 to Vancouver Saturday and the road trip being completed, there has been no coaching changes made of yet, according to Philly.com’s Sam Carchidi. The scribe writes that while a coaching change MAY happen at some point, rumors that the team has hired Joel Quenneville are not accurate. Hakstol remains the coach in Philadelphia.
Saturday: While it likely wouldn’t come as any surprise, they Philadelphia Flyers may be ready to make a coaching change. The Athletic’s Charlie O’Connor tweeted that he’s heard rumblings from key people that the Flyers may be ready to fire head coach Dave Hakstol after their road trip ends, which will be tonight after their game against Vancouver.
While Hakstol had an impressive coaching resume when he was hired back in 2015, that success hasn’t necessarily translated to the NHL. While he’s reached the playoffs twice on a rebuilding roster, the team has failed to get past the first round of the playoffs and the team has been abysmal in a season where many people felt the team was ready to compete for the top of their division. Instead, the Flyers have struggled this season, currently holding a record of 12-14-4, tied for last place in the Metropolitan Division.
The team’s struggles already cost the job of general manager Ron Hextall back on Nov. 26 and replaced soon after with new GM Chuck Fletcher, whose intention was to sit back and observe the team before making any changes. Hakstol’s chances are likely near an end, however, after the team’s recent losing streak as they have gone 3-7-3 in the last 13 games. That has included a recent string of tough losses, which started with a 7-1 loss to Winnipeg last Sunday, followed by a 6-5 overtime loss to Calgary in which the Flyers held a two-goal lead with 68 seconds left in the game and still lost. The team followed that up with a 4-1 loss Friday to Edmonton.
While the team seems to be waiting until after the road trip, that’s not too unusual. The Los Angeles Kings fired head coach John Stevens on Nov. 4 after the team pulled off a 4-1 victory over Columbus the day before, suggesting the team had already made up their mind about firing Stevens. The same could happen here. The Flyers are a team loaded with a core of top forwards, including Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, Sean Couturier, Travis Konecny, Nolan Patrick, James van Riemsdyk, Wayne Simmonds as well as top defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere and Ivan Provorov, but haven’t been able to put anything together. The team’s goaltending situation is a mess and likely to be one of Fletcher’s first acts as GM, to find a reliable netminder. Regardless, the team doesn’t seem to be responding to Hakstol at the moment.
Penguins GM Jim Rutherford has made it clear that he’s not happy with how his team has performed this season. He indicated earlier in the week that he will be actively pursuing trades if Pittsburgh doesn’t turn it around and noted to Josh Yohe of The Athletic (subscription required) that had they not fared well on their Western road trip earlier in the season, a move likely would have been made already.
Unfortunately for the Penguins, they haven’t won since that trip, losing five straight games heading into play on Saturday. They also have very limited cap room to work with; while defenseman Justin Schultz is on LTIR, he’ll be back before the end of the season so they can’t really add a significant contract at the moment. If they did, they’d have to make another move to get back into cap compliance before they could activate Schultz when he’s expected to return sometime in February. As a result, if Rutherford wants to shake things up beyond a move involving Daniel Sprong, they will likely have to come close to matching contracts in whatever they decide to do.
More from the Metropolitan Division:
- Still with the Penguins, center Derick Brassard has resumed skating as he works his way back from a lower-body injury, notes Chris Adamski of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He has been out of the lineup since sustaining a lower-body injury back on October 25th. He’s still likely a week or so away from being cleared to return though as he’ll have to get the green light for contact first and get in some practices with the team. The 31-year-old has a goal and four assists in eight games so far this season.
- While Flyers winger James van Riemsdyk has resumed skating, he indicated to Dave Isaac of the Cherry Hill Courier-Post that his return is still likely another week away. The 29-year-old was brought in to bring Philadelphia another notable scoring threat up from but he was injured in the second game of the season and has been out since then.
James van Riemsdyk’s latest tenure with the Philadelphia Flyers isn’t off to a good start, as the team announced today that the forward will miss the next five to six weeks with a lower-body injury. The injury was sustained in the Flyers’ recent game against the Colorado Avalanche.
The return of van Riemsdyk to Philadelphia, where he was drafted 11 years ago was supposed to be a triumphant one after six excellent seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs. The 29-year old winger registered 154 goals during his time in Toronto, including 36 last season. A dominant presence within five feet of the net, van Riemsdyk can provide the Flyers with a different offensive weapon to support the other superstars up front. Unfortunately the team will now have to wait quite a while to see his first goal back in a Philadelphia uniform, as five weeks takes them into the middle of November.
Philadelphia is off to a 1-1 start this season after a pair of 5-2 games and will welcome the San Jose Sharks in on Tuesday to continue their season. After an impressive year in 2017-18, Claude Giroux will be looking to lead them back to the playoffs and perhaps a Metropolitan Division crown. Their big offseason addition won’t be able to help for now, but hopefully van Riemsdyk can return to full health this season and contribute towards those goals.
While there are a few free agents still out on the market, one may not be coming back. Free agent goaltender Steve Mason may be ready to hang up his skates despite having received an offer from an NHL team looking for a backup, according to Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston on Saturday Headlines.
“He had a ton of injuries last season, he had concussion and knee issues, he’s been through a lot in his career, and the sense is he may actually be done in the NHL,” Johnston said.
Mason signed a two-year, $8.2MM deal last offseason with the Winnipeg Jets, but was limited to just 13 games due to multiple concussions and a knee injury. He finished the season with a 3.24 GAA and a .906 save percentage. The Jets, looking to free up some cap space, sent Mason, Joel Armia and two draft picks to Montreal for prospect Simon Bourque (who has since been released) to unload him. Montreal bought Mason out not long thereafter, making him a free agent.
- The Philadelphia Flyers will have to wait until Monday to find out the injury status of marquee free agent James van Riemsdyk, who was hit in his right knee during the first period of Saturday’s game against Colorado and was forced to leave the game, according to Philly.com’s Sam Carchidi. The 29-year-old posted 36 goals last season for Toronto and would be a big loss if he had to miss any stretch of time. “I’m concerned he wasn’t able to come back,” coach Dave Hakstol said. “I don’t know the extent of it.”
- The Athletic’s George Richards reports that the Florida Panthers intend to recall Michael Hutchinson from Springfield of the AHL at some point in the next few days, but with the team not playing again until Thursday, the team doesn’t have to make an immediate move. The Panthers signed Hutchinson this offseason, who has more than 100 games of NHL experience, as the team’s third-string goalie for this reason as Luongo has a long injury history. Hutchinson played 26 games for the Manitoba Moose of the AHL last season and boasted a .936 save percentage. Due to injuries, however, he only made three appearances with the Jets last year.
- St. Louis Blues’ Pat Maroon could be playing himself into a long-term extension with his play Saturday night, according to The Athletic’s Jeremy Rutherford (subscription required). The 6-foot-3, 225-pound power forward dominated the game for the St. Louis Blues, despite eventually falling in overtime to Chicago. Maroon, who signed a one-year, $1.75MM contract to return to him hometown, could walk away with a more lucrative deal after the season is over if he continues to play the way he did Saturday.
The New York Rangers and new head coach David Quinn sent an early message to forward Vladislav Namestnikov Saturday when the team benched him in favor of veteran Cody McLeod for today’s game against Buffalo. While Quinn said the move was meant more to reward the play of McLeod, it’s obvious the team’s new coach is sending a message to Namestnikov, according to New York Post’s Larry Brooks.
The scribe believes this is Quinn’s message to the team to play physical “in your face” hockey and not doing that, is unacceptable. Namestnikov didn’t make that adjustment in his game against Nashville on Thursday and hasn’t played physically all preseason. Enter McLeod, the 34-year-old veteran.
“Cody had a good camp, he played well, and I think he will bring a little more pace and energy to the group,” Quinn said before the optional morning skate. “This will give him a chance to continue to build off his camp. Vladdy and I had a good conversation. He’s still fighting his way through it.”
- The Athletic’s Chris Kuk, in a mailbag piece (subscription required) writes that while the Washington Capitals could have considered going after a backup goaltender in the waiver wire last week, the team’s No. 1 priority was going after a forward to replace the loss of Tom Wilson, who was suspended for 20 games. They did that when they claimed Dmitrij Jaskins. However, Kuk doesn’t believe the team would have gone after a goaltender anyway as they feel that starter Braden Holtby can take a bigger load early in the season as the team monitors the play of Pheonix Copley. If they feel at the trade deadline that Copley isn’t the answer, they can trade for one then.
- While the Philadelphia Flyers have little to worry about when it comes to offense when it has two players capable of putting up 30 goals in James van Riemsdyk and Wayne Simmonds, the team does have to worry about its defense. Even with two of the top young defenders on their roster in Shayne Gostisbehere and Ivan Provorov, the team really needs to develop second year players Robert Hagg and Travis Sanheim, according to Philly.com’s Sam Carchidi. Both players had their ups and downs last year. The physical Hagg started the season strong, but struggled as the season wore on, while Sanheim was sent to the AHL early on in the season last year and came back much improved. If the two can show some consistency this year, the Flyers chances of a playoff run could be much improved.