Mailbag: Flyers' chances for Gaudreau, Canadiens' options with No. 1 pick

Mailbag: Flyers’ chances for Gaudreau, Canadiens’ options with No. 1 pick

What are the chances Johnny Gaudreau signs in Philly this off-season? — @iwilldanceyou

The links between Gaudreau and the Philadelphia Flyers are obvious. He was born in Salem, New Jersey, about 40 miles south of Philadelphia, and grew up a Flyers fan, and general manager Chuck Fletcher has said adding high-end offensive skill this offseason is a must. Gaudreau, a pending unrestricted free agent forward who tied for second in the NHL with 115 points (40 goals, 75 assists) this season, certainly checks that box.

The reality for the Flyers, however, is they have a lack of NHL salary cap flexibility and other areas they need to improve, which makes signing the unrestricted free agent a difficult task.

It also doesn’t help that Gaudreau said over the weekend he is hoping to re-sign with the Calgary Flames, with whom he has played his entire NHL career.

Philadelphia was 31st in the NHL in goals per game (2.56) and 32nd on the power play (12.6 percent). Having centers Sean Couturier and Kevin Hayes healthy for a full season will help, but the Flyers need more than one player to fix those issues.

They also need to improve defensively after allowing 3.59 goals per game (27th). Adding a top-four defenseman could be a priority, as could a backup goalie if they elect not to re-sign Martin Jones.

I’m sure Fletcher and the front office will try to be creative with how they attempt to get the Flyers back into playoff contention, but I’m not sure Gaudreau will be part of the equation.

Who do you consider the European prospect with the most potential? And which of the players looks like the hockey player who will need the least amount of time to move to the NHL level — @tristan_ak

Juraj Slafkovsky, the left wing for TPS in Liiga, the top league in Finland, looks like he’s got the right blend of size (6-foot-3, 218 pounds) and skill to jump right into the NHL next season.

We had Goran Stubb, director of NHL European Scouting, on a recent episode of the “NHL Draft Class” podcast and he called Slafkovsky, “a junior player in a senior body.”

“He’s an exceptional player,” Stubb said. “Size, speed, balance, attitude. He’s a fantastic forechecker. His checking in the defensive end is unbelievable. … He’s a dominant player.”

Slafkovsky, who is No. 1 on NHL Central Scouting’s final ranking of International skaters for the 2022 Upper Deck NHL Draft, had a breakout performance at the 2022 Beijing Olympics, leading the tournament with seven goals and was named most valuable player, and he led Slovakia at the 2022 IIHF World Championship with nine points (three goals, six assists) in eight games.

If any International player is going to make the immediate jump from the draft to the NHL, it’s Slafkovsky.

What would Slafkovsky have to say to Kent Hughes and Jeff Gorton to convince the Habs to pick him ahead of Shane Wright? — @bshah79

It’s going to be a very interesting decision for the Montreal Canadiens GM (Hughes) and president (Gorton) when it comes to the No. 1 pick of the draft. And it could come down to position.

Finding elite-level centers is harder than finding elite-level wings, and Wright (6-foot, 191) is an NHL-ready prospect who projects to be a No. 1 center a team can build around. He was eighth in the Ontario Hockey League with 94 points (32 goals, 62 assists) in 63 regular-season games for Kingston, and had 14 points (three goals, 11 assists), including two game-winning goals, in 11 OHL playoff games. Central Scouting has Wright No. 1 in its final ranking of North American skaters.

In our first 2022 mock draft for, me and colleague Mike G. Morreale each had the Canadiens taking Wright with the No. 1 pick. Could Montreal feel different? We’ll find out when it steps to the podium at Bell Center on July 7.

Who is the best comparable for Logan Cooley? — @MykeRogers4

The scouts at NHL Central Scouting were asked that exact question about the forward who is ranked No. 2 among North American skaters in Central Scouting’s Final Rankings and the response we got was Mitchell Marner of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Cooley, from the USA Hockey National Team Development Program Under-18 Team, is a dynamic scorer who had 75 points (27 goals, 48 ​​assists) in 51 games, including 10 points (three goals, seven assists) for the United States at the 2021 IIHF World Under-18 Championship. But his coach, Adam Nightingale, said Cooley’s competitiveness stood out as much as his offensive skill.

“His play away from the puck, his willingness to defend,” Nightingale said. “At the end of the day when these teams are drafting players … how do these guys help us win hockey games, and I believe Logan does that by playing a 200-foot game.”

With the way the Sabers ended their season and the family atmosphere, do you think they will be able to spend some of that $40 million cap on quality players like City Husso, Nazem Kadri, Filip Forsberg or Johnny Gaudreau? — @saracino_e

I think the Sabers certainly set a foundation for future success with the way they played, especially at the end of the season, when they went 14-7-3 from March 10 and won their final six games. There is now a different feel to how the team is perceived from the outside.

However the Sabers, like the Flyers, are more than one player away from being a playoff contender, and this offseason might not be the right time to spend all their cap savings.

The Sabers have a solid group of top-six forwards in Jeff Skinner, Tagus Thompson, Victor OlofssonPeyton Krebs, Dylan Cozens and Alex Tuch, and they also need to leave room for top prospects Jack Quinn and JJ Peterka, plus the chance to add three first-round picks to their group of prospects. So I think it’s unlikely the Sabers spend the kind of money on a long-term contract for one of the top free-agent forwards.

Husso could be the most likely free agent for the Sabers to pursue. The 27-year-old goalie was 27-7-6 with a 2.56 goals-against average, .919 save percentage and two shutouts in 40 games for the St. Louis Blues and stole the starting job from Jordan Binnington. He struggled during the Stanley Cup Playoffs (3.67 GAA, .890 save percentage in seven games), but it also was his first NHL postseason experience.

Craig Anderson had a solid season for the Sabers but is 41 and his return is uncertain. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen is Buffalo’s top goalie prospect but he’s 23 and has played 13 NHL games. Having an experienced goalie like Husso to pair with Luukkonen could be a path they pursue.


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