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Update on Flyers Off-Season Moves Thus Far

PHILADELPHIA, PA: The Philadelphia Flyers are about to begin a very exciting chapter in franchise history. The 2016-17 season marks the 50th anniversary of the organizations inception in the NHL, as part of the original 6 expansion era (other teams in that expansion include the St. Louis Blues, LA Kings, Pittsburgh Penguins, and the now defunct California Seals, and Minnesota North Stars). The team has been involved in a minor retooling process ever since Ron Hextall was named general manager back in May of 2014. Hextall and the rest of the Flyers front office has done a fantastic job of unshackling the team from multiple disastrous and unfortunate long-term contracts that really held the team back financially in recent years. Two of the biggest names are Ilya Brygalov and Chris Pronger. The Flyers thought they found their next long-term starting goaltender in “Bryz” when they signed him to an eye-popping 9-year, $51 million contract prior to the 2011-12 season. Unfortunately Flyers fans remember all to well how Ilya’s time ended in Philadelphia, disastrous, as he did not live up to his full potential and it seemed quite clear that it was not easy for him to shake off his struggles along with the negative attention from the media and fans. In April of 2013, The Flyers would buy-out the remainder of Ilya’s painful contract that had a remaining balance of $23 million. Following negotiations, both sides agreed that the Flyers would have until 2027 to pay all that remained owed to Ilya, which would turn out to be  a total of $1.643 million per year. Bryz could sit on his couch for the next eleven years and still be a millionaire. Mind boggling how things like this can happen, however that’s life and the Flyers have certainly learned from the situation and have done an excellent job moving forward.

Chris Pronger on the other hand, played a crucial role in the Flyers 2010 Stanley Cup run. The mammoth defenseman  added size, strength, skill, and much needed veteran presence to the teams then, weakening blue line. The Flyers acquired him and forward Ryan Dingle on day 1 of the 2009 NHL entry draft in exchange for forward Joffrey Lupul, defenseman Luca Sbisa, the Ducks’ first round picks in 2009 and 2010, and a conditional third round pick. Pronger would later sign a 7-year $34.9 million contract extension as the organization knew they had acquired one of the best defenseman in recent memory. Sadly after his thrilling 2009-10 season, Pronger’s career would catastrophically come to an end after multiple hits that led to post-concussion syndrome and a scary incident that occurred on October 24th, 2011 vs. Toronto. Maple Leaf forward Mikhail Graboviski and Chris Pronger were battling for the puck in the corner boards and as Mikhail spun around, trying to allude Pronger, he went for the shot and accidentally whacked Pronger flush in the face sending him immediately to the dressing room, which turned out to be a pretty serious eye injury. After multiple reports of blurred vision along with other symptoms, Pronger’s last game would be played on November 19th of that 2011 season. He did not officially call it a quits until 2013 and the Flyers would later send his remaining $4.9 million contract and defensman Nicklas Grossmann to the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for forward Sam Gagner. This was an excellent move by Ron Hextall as it cleared significant cap space.

Fast Forward to the present day, the Flyers are continuing to re-tool their blue-line one with multiple defensive prospects. They signed defenseman Michael Del Zotto back in 2014, and despite an injury to his wrist that ended his season early last year, he has exceeded expectations and was a breath of fresh air as a productive two-way d-man the Flyers have not seen in some time. The team would later draft former Union Dutchman defensive stud, Shayne Gostisbehere, 78th overall in the 2011 NHL Draft. His incredible play throughout his junior season, in 2012-13, including his leadership during the Dutchmen’s 2014 NCAA Championship, which was ironically hosted at the Wells Fargo Center, in front of the Flyers front office, landed him an entry-level contract with the Flyers on April 15th, 2014. Let’s just say he completely exceeded his already high expectations in a historical rookie campaign, that saw him set a new NHL record, scoring in 15 straight games. A feat that has not been accomplished since Chris Chelios last did it in 1995. “Ghost’s” streak was two games shy of tying Teemu Selanne’s rookie season 17 game streak (1987-88), and three of the rookie record, recorded by Paul Stastny in 2007.

The Flyers have a slew of upcoming prospect talent to accompany Ghostisbehere and Del Zotto in the coming season and beyond. Some of those key names are: Sam Morin, Travis Sanheim, Robert Haag, and Ivan Provorov, to name a few. The organization is now looking to bolster it’s mediocre offense in tonight’s draft, as GM Ron Hextall mentioned they are looking to acquire players with a mix of top line speed and skill to get on board with the “new” speed-based NHL. There are multiple names in the mix of players the Flyers may choose at 18th during tonight’s draft, however the one that has gotten the most attention is Julien Gauthier, right winger for the Val-d’Or Foreurs of the QMJHL (Quebec Major Junior Hockey League). At 18 years of age Juilen is NHL ready, physically speaking, as he is 6’4″, 212 lbs. He is able to get to the dirty areas due to his speed and strength, but can also light the lamp in close, a pair of skill-sets that may be inciting to the Flyers. Like every athlete, Julien comes with some downsides, reports state that he could appear passive at times on the ice and lacked some point production due to his low secondary assists total. These cons are quite minor in the grand scheme of things and will most likely be touched up by Julien and his coaches as he prepares for his transition in the NHL. If Julien lives up to his full potential, he just may find his way on the Flyers 1st or 2nd line down the road.

Be sure to catch the 1st round of the NHL draft which airs tonight on NBCSN at 6pm ET. If you are not able to watch it, follow me on Twitter @JoeybCPC_DoubG as I will live tweet who the Flyers draft.


Quick Facts: 

The Flyers freed up more cap space as they bought out RJ Umburger’s $4mil contract last week. They paid a cap-hit worth $1.6mill but were freed $3mill in cap space.

Vinny Lecavalier announced his retirement from the NHL the other day freeing the Flyers of $2.25mill in cap space. When he was traded to LA last season, both sides agreed to split his remaining $4.5mill contract and if he were to retire prior to the upcoming season, as he did, each side would be freed of that balance.

The future is looking bright for the Flyers, as the organization begins a special season in which they celebrate 50 years in the league, they can also be proud knowing that they have restored their minor league system on all sides of the puck, which will have nothing but positive ramifications in the upcoming seasons.

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For up to the minute Flyers news follow us on Twitter: @DoubleGSports  &  @JoeybCPC_DoubG

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