Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Flyers re-sign Leighton; will he be starter or backup?

The Flyers have finally signed a goalie! While it may disappoint many Flyers fans, the team has signed goaltender Michael Leighton to a 2 year, 3.1 million dollar contract. This contract is a nice raise for Leighton, who made only 600,000 last year, after his solid play in the playoffs. The question that immediately comes to mind, though, is whether the Flyers believe they now have their starting goaltender or if Leighton was simply brought back to be the back-up.

With the Flyers recent pursuits of Evgeni Nabokov and Marty Turco, many thought it was a sign that the team wanted to get an established number one in net. With the signing of Leighton, does that mark a change in their strategy? Early indications from the Flyers are that they will still pursue another goaltender this offseason but it won't be for an outrageous price. In fact, TSN's Bob McKenzie believes that the Flyers won't spend more than 2 million on another goalie. That price range would put them out of the Nabokov/Turco territory and more in the Marty Biron territory.

If the Flyers do in fact sign another goaltender, it will mean that Brian Boucher, despite being under contract next season, will either be traded or sent to the minors. With Boosh set to make 925,000 next season, the Flyers will jettison him and use that money elsewhere.

If the Flyers do choose to go the cheap route on goaltending, look for them to really beef up their defense through free agency. Their thinking must be that if they can't bring in a top goalie, they might as well have a lock-down defense. While the Dan Hamhuis situation didn't quite work the first time around, I definitely expect them to re-visit talks with him and several of the other top defenseman that hit the open market.

Michael Leighton certainly deserves the raise he just got but let's hope he was re-signed to be the back-up. While he played great at times, the Flyers need to upgrade in net to a proven, more reliable starting goaltender. The Flyers do know this so expect them to be very busy once free agency kicks off tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Phillies put Utley, Polanco on the DL

This injury stuff is really getting ridiculous. Just when it looked like they might be getting close to having a healthy lineup again, the Phillies today announced that both Chase Utley and Placido Polanco have been placed on the 15 day disabled list. Talk about a double dose of bad news.

Utley's injury is a sprained thumb that occurred last night when he slid into second base attempting to stretch a single into a double. While the Phillies still haven't revealed the actual extent of the injury, they will definitely be without their star second baseman for the next few weeks.

As for Polanco, he's been dealing with an elbow injury all season long and needs the time off to allow it to heal. Polanco hasn't played since the first game of the Blue Jays series so he was likely retroactively placed on the 15 day DL.

With two roster spots now opened up, the Phillies have called up Greg Dobbs and Brian Bocock from Lehigh. Neither player deserves to be on the major league roster but the Phillies infield is spread incredibly thin at this time. As it is, if the Phillies don't make a trade over the next two weeks, you are going to see Wilson Valdez and Juan Castro starting on a daily basis. For a team that already struggles to score, having those two toiling at the bottom of the order is going to make things even uglier.

No, it's not quite time to panic just yet, Phillies fans. Losing Utley and Polanco are tough blows but neither has an injury that sounds too serious. Now, if Jimmy Rollins suffers a setback and the team is forced to go with Dobbs or Bocock on a daily basis....

Monday, June 28, 2010

Turco latest free agent to turn down Flyers

Another day, another soon-to-be free agent goaltender has declined to sign with the Flyers. This time, according to E.J. Hradek of ESPN, the Flyers got permission to talk to Dallas netminder Marty Turco, who will be an unrestricted free agent on July 1st, only to once again be turned away. Apparently the Flyers offered Turco a 3 year deal worth around 6 million dollars but Turco declined, instead choosing to see what the market is like for him on July 1st.

Once again, no harm, no foul for the Flyers as they continue to look for a goaltender willing to take a little less than market value to play for the defending Eastern Conference Champs. That players continue to refuse to sign with the Flyers is not a reflection on the team but a reflection on what these players think they might be worth in the open market. Many of these players aren't going to get the huge contracts they are looking for, though, so I would expect some of them to crawl back towards the Flyers price range.

Paul Holmgren continues to kick the tires on nearly every available proven starting goaltender. He's certainly doing his due diligence as he seeks a player who is willing to sign a reasonable contract to play for a contending team. Clearly, he isn't satisfied with Michael Leighton and/or Brian Boucher in goal, and he shouldn't be. Look for the Flyers to continue to be brought up in pursuit of every available goaltender.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Flyers not likely to sign Nabokov before July 1st

Well, that sure didn't last long. Just hours after completing an agreement where the Flyers got exclusive negotiating rights to Evgeni Nabokov, word has come out from a number of sources, including TSN's Bob McKenzie, that the free agent goalie plans to test the market and become an unrestricted free agent on July 1st. Apparently, Nabokov feels that he will have plenty of interest from teams around the NHL as well as from the KHL back in his home country of Russia.

With the Flyers also reportedly backing off after hearing how much money Nabokov wanted, this whole situation appears to be dead. Luckily, the Flyers didn't have to give up anything to negotiate with Nabokov, so really, no harm, no foul. Looks like the Flyers will have to go another route in their search for a new starting goaltender.

In a bit of good news, Bob McKenzie also reported on Twitter that Dan Hamhuis isn't likely to sign with the Penguins and will instead become an unrestricted free agent on July 1st. While I'm still disappointed the Flyers couldn't sign him, if the Penguins can't get a deal with him either, Paul Holmgren deserves major credit for snagging a 3rd round pick from a division rival.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Flyers reportedly nab rights to Nabokov

The Flyers might have just acquired their new starting goaltender. According to Tim Panaccio of CSNPhilly, the Flyers have a verbal agreement in place to give the Sharks a 7th round pick in exchange for exclusive negotiating rights with free agent Evgeni Nabokov. If the Flyers can't sign Nabokov by July 1st, no draft pick is exchanged and he becomes an unrestricted free agent.

Depending on how much Nabokov signs for, this could turn out to be quite a deal for the Flyers. As I said yesterday, Nabokov is 35 and hasn't won any big games in his career, but he's still an upgrade for the Flyers in net. If they can sign him to a reasonable contract that doesn't hinder the Flyers from getting a few other pieces this offseason, it's hard to complain too much about having a reliable, legitimate number one goaltender playing behind a solid Flyers defense.

Whether Nabokov actually wants to sign with the Flyers is another story. Having played his entire career on the West Coast and with no ties to the Flyers, why would a veteran goaltender like Nabokov not want to become a unrestricted free agent and listen to offers from every interested team? Fortunately for the Flyers, this is a no-risk move; should Nabokov not sign with the team they will lose nothing.

More judgement to come if/when Nabokov signs a contract.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Flyers pursuing goaltender Evgeni Nabokov

With Dan Hamhuis now out of the picture, it appears the Flyers are setting their sights on getting a new starting goaltender. According to Tim Panaccio of CSNPhilly, the Flyers are one of two teams that are going after former Sharks goaltender Evgeni Nabokov. Just like Hamhuis, Nabokov is set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1st, so the Flyers are once again looking to acquire the rights to negotiate a player before he is made available to every team.

While I will hold off on passing any judgment on this situation until the Flyers actually make a move, Nabokov wouldn't be one of my preferred choices at starting goaltender. Sure, Nabby is a good regular season goaltender, posting a 2.39 GAA and .912 save percentage in 10 years with the Sharks, but what big games has he won in his career? Also, Nabokov is almost 35 years old and made 6 million dollars last season; how much money and how many years will he demand? Plus, what exactly will the Flyers be giving up to get these negotiating rights? After the Hamhuis situation fell through, hopefully the Flyers are smart enough to not give up any major assets.

For the right price, Evgeni Nabokov could be a good Flyers goaltender. Even if this deal doesn't get done, it's nice to see the Flyers are aggressively trying to get better in net.

Flyers deal rights to Hamhuis to the Penguins

Well, that didn't last long. Less than a week after acquiring the rights to soon-to-be free agent defenseman Dan Hamhuis from the Predators, the Flyers have shipped Hamhuis to the Penguins in exchange for a 3rd rounder in the 2011 draft. The Penguins will now have exclusive negotiating rights with Hamhuis until July 1st, after which he will become an unrestricted free agent. Yep, in a span of a week, Hamhuis has gone from a potential beloved Flyer to a hated Penguin. Ah, sports.

Apparently, the Flyers didn't want to sign Hamhuis for the amount of money he wanted. While my initial reaction to this deal was utter shock that the Flyers would make a trade with a division rival, when you take a look at the bigger picture you realize that the Flyers basically traded Ryan Parent for a 3rd round draft pick. While it is painful that the Flyers just made the Penguins a better team, the Flyers did get great value for a defenseman who was pretty awful in the playoffs.

So much for all of that "best Top 5 defensemen in the league" talk. Perhaps now the Flyers will turn their attention to their biggest need, getting a starting goaltender? More on that coming soon.

The experts grade Evan Turner

The Sixers did exactly what everyone said they should do when they drafted Evan Turner at the 2010 NBA Draft. Naturally, since the Sixers got the second best player in the draft with the second overall pick, the general consensus has been that the Sixers had a good draft overall. Here is just a sampling of what some experts are saying about the Sixers draft:

Chad Ford, ESPN: A-
The 76ers snagged the best player in college basketball and have to be thrilled. Turner's versatility and ability to lead in big moments are the stuff that makes players great. His lack of elite athleticism and his high turnover rate are some cause for concern, but most see him with similar upside to Brandon Roy.

More problematic is Turner's fit in Philly. He and Andre Iguodala are similar players and both are at their best with the ball in their hands. I think it's likely that the Sixers will try to find a trade for Iguodala this summer. If they can replace him with a shooter, Turner could be the guy who turns the Sixers back into a contender.

Chris Mannix, B+
Is Evan Turner going to be a good player? No question. Was he the consensus No. 2 pick? Absolutely. Is he going to be better than Wesley Johnson in three years? Ehhhhh. Turner was a no-brainer: He's polished, mature and a natural two-guard who, along with Jrue Holiday, gives Philly a dynamic backcourt that will be entrenched on Broad St. for the next decade. But Johnson was the high-riser in the 2010 draft, with every team -- including the Sixers -- gushing over his workouts. Philadelphia was after another late first-, early second-round pick most of the night but struck out, a result it may regret if Daniel Orton or Hassan Whiteside turn out to be players.

Tom Ziller, NBA Fanhouse: A
The Sixers added Evan Turner of Ohio State with the No. 2 pick. He should help them immediately, but you wonder if the Sixers will some day regret passing up on Derrick Favors and DeMarcus Cousins.

Adi Joseph, A-
There's not much to say here. The Sixers took the man they wanted, the man their fans wanted and the man many felt was the best player available second overall. With John Wall being such an obvious first pick, they had plenty of time to sort through their possibilities. An argument for Derrick Favors is certainly valid, but there's a lot to like with Turner. His fit in Philadelphia depends largely on Andre Iguodala's future with the team.

Christopher Reina, B+
Evan Turner is a pick you can't really quarrel with because the team needed a pure basketball player and someone that would be ready to contribute immediately. I have Turner ranked behind Cousins and Favors in terms of NBA potential, but I'd put him ahead of both on level of confidence. Even though Turner doesn't have the athleticism commonly seen from lead scoring guards, his versatility to play multiple positions and fill a box score will make him incredibly productive regardless.

For my thoughts on Turner, see my piece from yesterday.

(AP Photo)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Evan Turner is officially a Sixer

Ever since the Sixers won the rights to draft second in the 2010 NBA Draft, the general consensus has been that they would draft Ohio State guard Evan Turner. Despite some initial wavering and some speculation that they might be after a big man, the Sixers got the best player available and took Turner in Thursday's NBA Draft.

In Turner, the Sixers get a player who has an NBA-ready game and will be able to contribute right away. The shooting guard has no glaring weaknesses as he can handle the ball, create his own shot and play a little defense. About the only thing Turner doesn't have is range from the outside but you can live with that when he does everything else so well.

Coupled with point guard Jrue Holiday, the Sixers now are set in the backcourt for at least the next decade. Sure, picking Turner to go along with Andre Iguodala and Thaddeus Young makes the Sixers a little wing heavy, but they were smart to not pass up someone who arguably could be the best player in the 2010 draft.

Here is Turner's profile from and his profile from

With no more picks in the draft, here is a breakdown of how the Sixers roster looks right now:

Jrue Holiday
Evan Turner
Lou Williams
Willie Green
Jodie Meeks

Andre Iguodala
Thaddeus Young
Elton Brand
Andres Nocioni
Marreese Speights
Jason Kapono
Jason Smith

Spencer Hawes

With 13 players under contract for next season, it looks like Ed Stefanski won't be very active in the free agent market. If he wants to add any more pieces, he will have to make some deals. Personally, I would love to see the Sixers unload Willie Green and Jason Kapono.

Welcome back, J-Roll!

Now that's how you make an impact in your second game back. Way to go hitting your first career walk-off home run, Jimmy Rollins!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Turner it is: 2010 NBA Mock Draft Round-up

With the NBA Draft coming up on Thursday, I figured it was time for me to do my annual mock draft round-up where I collect the opinions of who all of the various experts think the Sixers will pick. Usually, the experts have a variety of opinions about what the Sixers will do but things are a little different this year: every expert thinks the Sixers will draft Evan Turner. What that basically means is, despite those early grumblings that the Sixers were going to draft Derrick Favors, there won't be much drama this year as Turner is basically a lock to be coming to Philly.

Here is a round-up of what the experts are saying about Turner:

Ian Thomsen,
New coach Doug Collins will hope Turner -- the most mature player at the top of this draft -- becomes the Eastern version of Brandon Roy, settling down the Sixers and providing the leadership and playmaking that were lacking last season. The 76ers may also consider a trade to move back in the draft while picking up a veteran in the package.
Smooth, versatile wing prospect who can play any of the backcourt positions. Tremendous shot-creator with an especially impressive mid-range game. Gets to the free throw line with ease and fills up the stat-sheet with rebounds, assists, blocks and steals. Needs to improve perimeter shooting range and become less turnover prone. NCAA player of the year.
Even without the accidental preview on their web page, all indications are strong that Turner will be Philadelphia's pick. His skill and feel for the game is excellent, but his ability to work on his body to get as athletic and strong as All-Stars will be what potentially separates him because he doesn't have the physical gifts to get anywhere he wants on the floor right now.

Steve Alexander,
Perhaps no player is as NBA-ready as the Ohio State product, who should be a lock to the Sixers at No. 2. He should vie for Rookie of the Year in Philly, who was the other big winner on lottery night. Rumors are still swirling that the Sixers might take Derrick Favors with this pick, but I get the sense Doug Collins wants to use Elton Brand at center and Thaddeus Young at power forward. Their biggest hole is at shooting guard, and Turner will step right in and likely start for the Sixers next season – as long as they follow the script and pass on Favors.

Jeff Goodman,
New coach Doug Collins and the Sixers brass could use a perimeter shooter, but they’ll go with Turner -- the safe pick. Turner is versatile and can play multiple positions.,,
All project the Sixers will take Evan Turner

My take: I've said it all along: the Sixers aren't good enough to pass on the best available player with the second overall pick. A guy like Turner, who some think could be better than John Wall, has to be drafted even if the Sixers already have a glut of swingmen. Sure, the Sixers could use a big man after they traded Sam Dalembert, but in Elton Brand, Spencer Hawes, Marreese Speights and Andres Nocioni they have plenty of bodies to hold down two positions. Do the right thing, Sixers, and draft Evan Turner to be the starting shooting guard for the next decade.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Phillies moves: Rollins is back, Ruiz to the DL, Dobbs a goner

The Phillies made a series of moves in preparation for their series against the Indians:

*Jimmy Rollins was activated from the disabled list
*Greg Dobbs was designated for assignment
*Carlos Ruiz was put on the disabled list
*Mike Zagurski was called up from the minors
*Scott Mathieson has cleared and was optioned to the minors

The biggest move out of all of these is the return of Jimmy Rollins to the lineup. Rollins, who has played a grand total of 14 games this season, should immediately help a struggling offense. While Wilson Valdez and Juan Castro have played well at times, adding J-Roll adds another dangerous bat to the mix. Hopefully he stays healthy this time.

On the other hand, losing Carlos Ruiz, who was put on the DL retroactive to June 19th due to concussion issues, will hurt the offense as the Phillies are forced to turn to Brian Schneider and Dan Sardinha at catcher. Hopefully the concussion symptoms go away quickly for Ruiz and he can be back sometime before the All-Star break.

As for the loss of Greg Dobbs, I join with many Phillies fans in saying good riddance. While Dobbs was once a reliable pinch hitter, his .152 average and meager power this season have turned him into a useless bench player. With no glove to go with no bat, the Phillies made the right call in keeping Valdez and dropping Dobbs.

Finally, Mike Zagurski's return to the Phillies is a nice story because he hasn't pitched in the majors since 2007. Much like Scott Mathieson, Zagurski has made the long recovery from Tommy John surgery and earned another shot in the Phillies pen. The big lefty doesn't have great career numbers (5.91 ERA) but it's always nice to have a second left handed option to call upon.

As the dust settles from this flurry of moves, the Phillies come out with a slightly better lineup and bench. Yes, Carlos Ruiz being out will make the bottom of the order a pair of automatic outs in a row but having Rollins back at the top keeps things from being a complete black hole at 7-8-9. With Rollins back, I'm interested to see what Charlie Manuel does with the order. It's probably safe to assume that Jimmy Rollins will slot back in the leadoff spot but will Shane Victorino bat 2nd or 7th? If everyone starts hitting like they can (a big if, I know), the Phillies lineup should be back to being the best in the NL in the 1-7 spots.

Flyers 2010/11 schedule released

The quest for the Cup resumes in the fall for the Flyers, who have announced the release of their schedule for next season. With no Winter Classic and no Olympic break this season, there aren't any real surprises, but here are some of the key dates:

Season Opener: October 7th, at Pittsburgh
Home Opener: October 11th, vs. Colorado
Stanley Cup rematch: January 23rd, at Chicago
All-Star break: January 25th through February 1st
Last Game: April 9th, vs. Islanders
Stanley Cup Playoffs begin: April 13th

Click here for the complete schedule.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Flyers acquire rights to defenseman Hamhuis

The season is barely over and the Flyers are already looking to upgrade their defense, acquiring the rights to free agent defenseman Dan Hamhuis and a conditional 2011 draft pick from the Predators in exchange for defenseman Ryan Parent. The Flyers will now have exclusive rights to sign Hamhuis until July 1st when he becomes an unrestricted free agent that any team can sign.

If the Flyers can sign Hamhuis, it could give them the best Top 5 defensemen in the league. Hamhuis, who was widely regarded as the best all-around defenseman on the free agent market, has played 6 years for the Predators and averaged about 27 points a season while having a plus/minus of +3. His addition would mean that the Flyers have someone they can actually trust in their third defense pairing.

Of course, signing Hamhuis and keeping everyone else in the fold could be tricky. With the Flyers already looking at a tight cap situation and Hamhuis wanting a raise on the 2 million dollars he made last season, someone will have to go from the current Flyer roster. Unfortunately, that someone could be fellow defenseman Braydon Coburn, who is a restricted free agent and looking for a big raise from the 1.3 million he made last year. If that's the case, the Hamhuis acquisition could be a sign that the Flyers don't think they can afford to keep Coburn.

The big picture on this deal is that for the small price of Ryan Parent, a defenseman who didn't figure in the Flyers plans, the Flyers have possibly added a Top 4 defenseman who will stretch the Flyers blue liners into one of the best in the league. Should the Flyers fail to sign Hamhuis, a scenario I would say is unlikely, they still get a draft pick out of the deal from Nashville.

What the Flyers do next to make room for Hamhuis will be very interesting. Do they try to trade one of the forwards, like a Jeff Carter, to make cap room or will they simply let Coburn walk? With the Flyers loaded at center and Carter lacking a no-trade clause, is it finally time for his 5 million dollar salary to be shipped out of town? If they don't shed some major salary from the current roster, bringing in another player that commands a multi-million dollar contract doesn't bode well for the Flyers getting a top goalie in this offseason. Who needs a top goalie, anyway, when you've got the best Top 5 defensemen in the league?

Friday, June 18, 2010

Sixers to draft Evan Turner. Or Derrick Favors. Or DeMarcus Cousins. Or John Wall?!?

The above image was grabbed by Tom Ziller of Fanhouse off the Sixers website on Friday and led many to think the Sixers were tipping their hand about doing the smart thing and drafting Evan Turner. The image wasn't up for long, and about an hour later, the Sixers added more placeholder pages for a few of the other possible top draft picks, including:

Derrick Favors:
DeMarcus Cousins:
John Wall:

One of two things happened here. The most likely thing is that the Sixers were making pages for all of the top players and started with the most likely pick, Evan Turner. Of course, it's also possible that the Sixers all know they are going to take Turner so they made the page for him, accidentally posted it and didn't take it down in time, forcing them to cover their bases and add in pages for all the possible players.

Whatever the case, let's hope the Sixers do the obvious and draft Evan Turner. A starting five of Jrue Holiday, Turner, Andre Iguodala, Thad Young and Elton Brand isn't championship worthy but it's still pretty darn good. As the poll to the left is showing, Sixers fans know Turner is the guy; let's hope the front office feels the same way.

Chase Utley dealing with injured knee?

We might finally have an explanation for Chase Utley's .257 batting average, .451 slugging percentage and mere 10 homers: he might have a knee injury. According to Phillies first base coach Davy Lopes, "Chase has had some problems with his knee" and that's why he isn't hitting like his usual self.

Of course, the Phillies have been denying for weeks that Utley has any type of injury. Given his weak numbers at the plate, finding out he has an injury should actually comfort Phillies fans as they finally have an explanation for why the 4-time All Star hasn't looked like himself this year. It is interesting to note, though, that Utley's defense has not suffered at all this season.

Hopefully, if Utley does have a knee injury, he and the Phillies wise up an give him some time off. The last thing this team needs is for Utley to miss significant time down the stretch. There is no shame in admitting an injury an taking a week or two off, Chase.

Moyer, Kendrick help Phillies exact some World Series revenge

With the way their road trip started, I'm sure everyone is happy that the Phillies somehow earned a 3-3 split in Boston and New York.

After getting crushed by the Red Sox 12-2 and 10-2 last weekend, the Phillies looked like a team on the brink of a complete collapse. Thanks to Cole Hamels, the Phillies at least managed to salvage at least one win in Boston but things weren't going to get any easier for the Phillies as they had to travel to Yankee Stadium, the scene of their 2009 World Series failure.

After supposed Yankee killer Roy Halladay got roughed up in the first game, all seemed glum for the Phillies as they turned to soft tossers Jamie Moyer and Kyle Kendrick, who figured to get eaten alive by the patient Yankee hitters. No one, not even the most optimistic Phillies fan, could have predicted what would happen next.

First, Jamie Moyer became the oldest pitcher ever to beat the Yankees after he pitched 8 innings of 3 hit ball. Coupled with a Shane Victorino 3-run triple and back to back homers by Ryan Howard and Jayson Werth and we started seeing a glimpse of the old Phillies.

Of course, if Wednesday night was just a glimpse at the old Phillies, Thursday night was their triumphant return. Backed by Kyle Kendrick's best performance of the season and some amazing defense, the Phillies routed the Yankees, 7-1. It was easily the most well-rounded game the Phillies have played in a long while, from stellar glove work by Placido Polanco and Jose Contreras to some masterful situational hitting in the 9th inning that allowed the Phils to tack on 4 insurance runs and seal the deal.

So, as unlikely as it sounds, behind the pitching performances of Jamie Moyer and Kyle Kendrick the Phillies took 2 out of 3 against the Yankees and won their first series since taking 2 out of 3 against the Marlins back in late May. While they still have some work to do to get themselves atop the NL East where they belong, this series against the Yankees just might just end up being the turning point that gets the Phillies pointed back in the right direction.
(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Finally, Scott Mathieson returns to the Phillies

Scott Mathieson made his major league debut for the Phillies back in June of 2006, starting a handful of games for the team and posting some terrible numbers (1-4, 7.47 ERA). Nearly four years and two Tommy John surgeries later, Mathieson is finally back with the big club, this time as a flame-throwing reliever. With Lehigh this season, the righty has put up some great numbers, posting a 2.43 ERA and 1.08 WHIP while saving 12 games. Hopefully he can act as a nice midseason acquisition for a Phillies pen that lacks trustworthy arms.

Mathieson was called up to replace Antonio Bastardo, who was placed on the 15 day disabled list with left elbow ulnar neuritis. Seems like every time Bastardo flashes some of his potential as a quality lefty out of the pen he goes and gets injured.

Sixers ship Dalembert to Kings

The Sixers have finally gotten one of the worst contracts in the NBA off the books. Samuel Dalembert, who was set to make 12.9 million dollars in the last year of his deal in this coming season, was shipped to the Kings for forward Andres Nocioni and center Spencer Hawes.

To get rid of a bad contract like Dalembert, the Sixers had to take on some hefty salary in return, especially Nocioni's 13.5 million over the next two years. Nocioni, a 6 year veteran, has put up some decent numbers in his career, including averaging 11.3 points per game, but he isn't worth that big money. Expect Nocioni to be a nice contributing member off the bench for the Sixers, playing his physical style at both forward positions.

As for Spencer Hawes, the Sixers are getting a young player that has a bit of upside. Hawes has played three years for the Kings and averaged 8.8 points and 5.5 rebounds per game and has gotten better with increasing playing time. He was a former 10th overall pick in the 2007 draft, so the kid has some talent but he likely doesn't project to be a starting center on a good NBA team. As for his contract, Hawes is set to make nearly 3 million next season and has a 4 million dollar qualifying offer for 2011.

This trade could have major ramifications on who the Sixers are looking to draft with the second pick next week. Basically, you can look at it one of two ways: either the Sixers now feel like they have solidified their frontcourt with Elton Brand, Marreese Speights, Nocioni and Hawes and they will take guard Evan Turner or the Sixers now feel they have a hole down low that they will plug with Derrick Favors. Even with the trade, I'm still firmly in the Turner camp. When you aren't a very good team, you have to take the second best player in the draft with the second overall pick.

My opinion of this trade has swung wildly from being initially very happy to be rid of Dalembert to now wondering why the Sixers couldn't get something better with his expiring contract. A 12.9 million dollar expiring contract can be gold in the NBA, something that can be used to bring in draft picks or a quality young player. While they do get a little more cap space in this coming season, the Sixers must think more of Spencer Hawes than I do, because I don't think they got enough value in return.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Phillies talking with Pedro about comeback?

Not that it has been a big secret, but Enrique Rojas of ESPN is reporting that the Phillies are talking with Pedro Martinez about a midseason return to the team. Ruben Amaro has said publicly for months now that the Phils would be interested in bringing back Pedro if he wanted to continue his career. Given how he pitched down the stretch for the Phillies last season, slotting Pedro back in the rotation would give a boost to the Phillies and not force them to rely on Jamie Moyer or Kyle Kendrick.

I'm not sure why ESPN is just now picking up on a story that has been ongoing for months; perhaps it means the Phillies are closing in on a deal with Pedro. While pitching hasn't been the big issue with the Phillies in their recent slide, bringing back Pedro would once again provide the Phillies with strong pitching depth. Hopefully the Phils are looking at all options, though, and not assuming that a 38 year old pitcher can once again go 5-1 with a 3.63 ERA.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Eagles sign 2 more draft picks; 4 to go

The Eagles continue to be busy signing their horde of draft picks, today announcing that they have signed 4th round picks Mike Kafka and Clay Harbor to 4 year deals. Both rookies have excellent shots to make the team with Kafka expected to be the 3rd string QB and Harbor likely slotting in somewhere behind Brent Celek at tight end.

The Eagles have now signed 9 of their 13 draft picks. Expect Riley Cooper to be signed shortly and the remaining three to be taken care of once more players around them get their contracts.

Here is a complete list of Eagles draft picks and their contract status:

Brandon Graham, DE: No contract yet
Nate Allen, S: No contract yet
Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, DE: No contract yet
Trevard Lindley, CB: 4 years, 2.31 million, $525,000 signing bonus
Keenan Clayton, LB: 4 years, 2.25 million, $466,790 signing bonus
Mike Kafka, QB: 4 years, unknown salary, unknown signing bonus
Clay Harbor, TE: 4 years, unknown salary, unknown signing bonus
Ricky Sapp, DE: 4 years, unknown salary, $212,000 signing bonus
Riley Cooper, WR: No contract yet
Charles Scott, RB: 4 years, 1.88 million, $90,000 signing bonus
Jamar Chaney, LB: 4 years, 1.85 million, $60,000 signing bonus
Jeff Owens, DT: 4 years, 1.83 million, $44,000 signing bonus
Kurt Coleman, S: 4 years, 1.883 million, $43,400 signing bonus

All salary information comes from the National Football Post. I will continue to update this list as more players are signed and as more salaries are announced.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Flyers 2010 offseason primer

The Flyers season may have just ended but the next season is just around the corner and the team has some work to do if they want to get back to the Stanley Cup Finals. While the Flyers have nearly every significant player under contract for next season, they still face a few important decisions this summer. Here's a quick look at who will be back, who might not be back and what needs the Flyers will have to address this summer.

Under contract for next season:
Forwards: Danny Briere, Mike Richards, Simon Gagne, Jeff Carter, Scott Hartnell, James van Riemsdyk, Ian Laperriere, Claude Giroux, Ville Leino, Riley Cote, Blair Betts, Andreas Nodl

Defensemen: Kimmo Timonen, Chris Pronger, Matt Carle, Oskars Bartulis

Goalies: Brian Boucher, Johan Backlund

-The Flyers look pretty set at forward with 10 returning players and two depth wings in Cote and Nodl. Clearly, they have holes on defense and in net.

Restricted Free Agents:
Dan Carcillo, Braydon Coburn, Ryan Parent, Darroll Powe, Danny Syvret

-Of this group, Coburn is the top priority if the Flyers can afford him. I would also expect Carcillo and Powe to be brought back and Parent and Syvret could be traded or re-signed depending on what other options are out there.

Unrestricted Free Agents:
Arron Asham, Ray Emery, Lukas Krajicek, Michael Leighton, Mika Pyorala, Jared Ross

-No one is a must-sign in this group though I'm sure the Flyers will be in discussions with Leighton. Asham could also be brought back.

The Flyers three biggest offseason questions:

1. Who's the goalie?
With Brian Boucher under contract and Johan Backlund re-signed, the Flyers appear to have their backup goalie spot taken care of. Of course, there is still that little matter of finding a starting goaltender. Michael Leighton did a great job in the playoffs and you can bet there will be teams offering him some good money to be their starter; will the Flyers be one of them? There were rumors in the second half of the season about the Flyers wanting to pursue a young goaltender to backstop this team for the next handful of years and Leighton certainly doesn't fit the bill there. Of course, getting a good young goalie is going to take either significant money or a significant player off the roster.

2. Can they create cap space?
While it's great that the Flyers have all of their top players locked up with nice contracts, they have been struggling with the salary cap for the last few years. With the team needing to sign Braydon Coburn to a multi-million dollar deal as well as find money for Carcillo, Powe and a few more depth forwards, there won't be much money left over for an upgrade in net or to get better depth defensemen. Perhaps this is the summer the Flyers finally trade a Jeff Carter or a James van Riemsdyk for a big return to help clear up cap room? The NHL is also rumored to be upping the salary cap by a few million and the Flyers would really benefit from that move.

3. Who are the 5th and 6th defensemen?
In case you hadn't noticed in the playoffs, Lukas Krajicek, Oskars Bartulis and Ryan Parent weren't cutting it for the Flyers third defensive pairing. With Bartulis the only one of the three certain to be back next season, the Flyers will be in the market for a few d-men. If they had the cap space, the Flyers would try to get someone who could play significant minutes and give the Big Four a little more rest. The only way that happens is if they move some salary off the roster.

Keep coming back to ATPS for all the latest offseason Flyers news and rumors. As always, check out the How they were built: Flyers page for the latest salary and acquisition information about every Flyer.

Friday, June 11, 2010

7 draft picks signed, 6 more to go for the Eagles

Even though were are still months away from any meaningful football that doesn't mean the Eagles aren't hard at work getting their team together. As expected when you draft 13 players, the Eagles have been hard at work signing all of their rookie players. So far, the Birds have managed to reach agreements with 7 of their picks, most of whom were picked in the later rounds. The early round picks, like Brandon Graham and Nate Allen, will take longer to sign as the agents and teams wait to see what kind of money early round picks get.

Here is a complete list of Eagles draft picks and their contract status:

Brandon Graham, DE: No contract yet
Nate Allen, S: No contract yet
Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, DE: No contract yet
Trevard Lindley, CB: 4 years, 2.31 million, $525,000 signing bonus
Keenan Clayton, LB: 4 years, unknown salary, unknown signing bonus
Mike Kafka, QB: No contract yet
Clay Harbor, TE/FB: No contract yet
Ricky Sapp, DE: 4 years, unknown salary, $212,000 signing bonus
Riley Cooper, WR: No contract yet
Charles Scott, RB: 4 years, 1.88 million, $90,000 signing bonus
Jamar Chaney, LB: 4 years, 1.85 million, $60,000 signing bonus
Jeff Owens, DT: 4 years, 1.83 million, $44,000 signing bonus
Kurt Coleman, S: 4 years, 1.883 million, $43,400 signing bonus

All salary information comes from the National Football Post. I will update this list as more players are signed and as more salaries are announced.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Dream denied: Flyers fall short

(Photo by Andre Ringuette/Getty Images)
The Flyers played every game in the 2010 Playoffs with all of their heart but unfortunately it just wasn't quite enough to win it all. After scoring a late goal in Game 6 to push the game into overtime, the Flyers lost 4-3 on a bad angle goal by Patrick Kane and were eliminated by Chicago, who won their first Stanley Cup in 49 years.

It was a hell of a run for the Flyers and it is one I will never forget. From the shootout goal that got them into the playoffs to the incredible comeback against the Bruins to their never say die attitude, the Flyers gave us a ton to cheer about in their improbable playoff run. In the end, the Blackhawks proved to be the better team but it's good to know that our team never gave up and fought until the bitter end. As fans, that's about all we can ask from our teams.

I will get to much more on the Flyers and what the offseason holds for them in the coming weeks. For now, I think we're all going to need some decompression time to really grasp all that we have experienced with this team. Thank you, Flyers, for a tremendous season. I can't wait for the quest for the 2011 Stanley Cup to begin.

That's more like it: Phillies offense awakens

Watch out, National League, the sleeping giant appears to have awoken. For the first time since May 17th, the Phillies scored double-digit runs in a 10-8 win over the Marlins on Tuesday night. Sure, the defense (2 errors) and the pitching weren't exactly on point, but it sure was nice to see the Phillies swing the bats like we know they can.

With the struggling Jayson Werth taking the day off, the Phillies got offense from all over the lineup as everyone but Carlos Ruiz managed at least a hit and either a run or an RBI. Ryan Howard and Shane Victorino were the big boppers as each hit a home run and Raul Ibanez, who some believe the Phillies should show the door, added 4 hits.

The Phillies needed all the offense they could get as Kyle Kendrick had a pretty terrible start, giving up 6 runs in 5 innings. While the defense didn't do him any favors, Kendrick took a definite step back after two fine performances in his last two starts.

Don't get too comfortable in first place, Atlanta. Despite how miserable the last few weeks have been, the Phillies are still just 2 games out of first place in a weak NL East. If the Phils can get the hitting going and continue to have solid pitching performances on most nights I would expect them to be back atop the division within a few short weeks.

It's funny how quickly your confidence in the Phillies can come back, huh?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Pathetic Phillies offense isn't funny anymore

This just in: something is seriously wrong with the Phillies offense. After yet another pathetic offensive effort in a 3-1 loss to the Padres on Monday, it's time to start looking at the Phillies as a team with a broken offense rather than a team that is simply in a slump. Just have a look at these stats:

*The last time the Phillies scored double digit runs was on May 17th against the Pirates when the won 12-2. Since that game, the Phillies have scored 40 runs in 19 games, an average of 2.1 runs per game, and have a record of 6-13.

*In that stretch of 19 games, the Phillies were shut out 5 times and scored 1 run 4 times.

*While they have given up an average of 3.9 runs per game, Phillies pitching has been good at times over the stretch, including the Roy Halladay perfect game as well as a couple of strong outings by Kyle Kendrick, a complete game win by Jamie Moyer and Monday's no-hit bid by Cole Hamels.

*Over their last 12 games, the Phillies as a team have hit .222, have an OBP of .300 and have hit 3 home runs and drove in 24 runs. That's right, 3 homers in 12 games for a team that has Ryan Howard, Jayson Werth and Chase Utley.

Okay, so if you've been watching the Phillies at all over the past few weeks, you know what these stats are telling you: the offense has been brutal. As for reasons why, I'm at a total loss. The only everyday player missing right now is Jimmy Rollins but you can't tell me his absence has that great of an effect. There are some theories out there about Chase Utley being injured but that only explains why Utley isn't hitting. How do you explain the huge funk Jayson Werth is in? How do you explain why Ryan Howard has hit only one home run in his last 14 games?

Clearly, something is wrong with this team; unfortunately, I don't know of a quick fix that will right the ship. This team is too good to hit like this for long stretches so the team could just sit back and wait for the guys to start heating up again. If things go much longer, though, expect the Phillies to start taking extreme measures and cut guys like Raul Ibanez and Greg Dobbs and rush someone like Domonic Brown up to the majors.

Whatever needs to be done, whatever needs to be figured out, it needs to happen soon. Phillies fans are getting really tired of watching a supposed offensive juggernaut hit like a bunch of Wilson Valdez's. Sure, you can call us greedy because the Phillies have been to two straight World Series, but that's what makes this whole situation worse. The Phillies are a team capable of greatness and we are all growing increasingly frustrated watching them not bother to show up at the plate. Luckily for the Phillies, there is a lot of season left and no one is going to run away with the NL East. Let's hope for a quick turnaround so we can all look back and laugh about this late May/early June swoon.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Flyers fall in Chicago again, face elimination

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
The 2010 Stanley Cup Finals have been all about the home team as the Flyers and Blackhawks have each been perfect on their home ice. Game 5 proved to be no exception as the Blackhawks jumped all over the Flyers to earn a 7-4 win and give them a 3-2 series lead.

The Flyers picked the worst possible time to be off their game when they came out completely flat in a first period that looked like a 20 minute Chicago power play. For a while, the Flyers actually looked like they might weather the Blackhawk storm and get out of the first unscathed but Chicago eventually found their scoring touch and built a 3-0 lead. The Flyers did finally wake up in the second and attempt to make a game out of it but didn't play solid enough in their own end to make another memorable playoff comeback.

Defense, or lack thereof, was the story of the night for the Flyers. While Michael Leighton was run from the game yet again, he really only let in one truly bad goal; the rest of the damage was done due to a number of breakdowns in their own zone. From Braydon Coburn making egregious turnovers to Chris Pronger (-5) playing a truly terrible game, the Flyers defense was exposed early and often in this one. To make things worse for Pronger, his nemesis Dustin Byfuglien finally got going, picking up 2 goals and 2 assists after being basically shut down in the previous 4 games. The one silver lining about Pronger's poor game is that he laid an egg in the Montreal series, putting up a -3 in Game 3, and bounced back to help the Flyers eliminate the Canadiens in quick order. Hopefully he can be the leader in turning the Flyers defense back around.

The goal remains the same for the Flyers after Game 5: they still must knock off the Blackhawks in Chicago. Of course, they also still have to protect their home ice in Game 6 to earn a return trip to Chicago but they have been a solid 9-1 at home so far in the playoffs. As we have learned all playoffs long, the Flyers do well with their backs against the wall, compiling a 4-0 record in games where they have faced elimination. You can bet that Peter Laviolette will make the proper defensive adjustments and that the Flyers will not go out without a fight. This team really seems to thrive when their season is on the line so I'm expecting them to come out with a ton of energy in Game 6; hopefully that energy carries them into a Game 7 and they get another crack at knocking off the Blackhawks in Chicago.

They're down but not out, Flyers fans. If you think they aren't going to fight until the final horn blows and 4 losses are on the board, you haven't been paying attention.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

2 wins away: Flyers even up Finals

(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Once again, the Flyers have proven no deficit is too great. After the Blackhawks won the first two games of the Stanley Cup Finals, several national media members were ready to hand the Cup over to Chicago. The Flyers and their fans knew better, of course; they knew that Team Resilient was going to make some noise before all was said and done.

And make noise they certainly did in a crucial Game 4, knocking off the Blackhawks 5-3 to erase their two game deficit and make it a 3 game series for the Cup. While a late charge from Chicago made for some nervous moments in the final minutes of the game, the Flyers controlled play for most of the night, carrying two and three goal cushions from late in the first all the way until midway through the third. Heroes for the Flyers abounded, from the Captain Mike Richards leading off the scoring to the unsung Ville Leino netting the game winner in the third. Oh, and don't forget about Chris Pronger; he was all over Chicago in this one and earned a +4 in nearly 28 minutes of ice time.

Two interesting stats jumped out to me after the game. First, the Flyers have yet to lose a game in the playoffs after their series reached a Game 4. That's right, the Flyers are now 9-0 in Games 4, 5, 6 and 7 in all of the 2010 playoff series' combined. I'd say that's a team that gets better the later a series gets. The other interesting stat is the Blackhawks have now lost two straight games for the first time this postseason. The Flyers seem to be getting into Chicago's heads as their remarkable 7 game winning streak is now a distant memory.

While the Blackhawks are now the team that is facing some adversity, they still have home ice advantage with 2 of the last 3 being played in Chicago. All the Flyers have done to this point is protect their home ice; they will need to steal one in Chicago if they want to bring home the Cup. With all of the momentum in the Flyers favor right now, Game 5 might be their best chance to get that elusive road win.

Just 2 more wins separate the Flyers from the Stanley Cup. How surreal is that?

Friday, June 4, 2010

History will be made: Claude Giroux

First, it was Mike Richards who was immortalized in a commercial for the NHL Playoffs. Now, it's Claude Giroux's turn in a spot that features his OT winner from Game 3:

If you don't get goosebumps from these commercials there is something wrong with you.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Giroux's OT winner gets Flyers back in series

(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
They're not dead yet! In yet another game decided by just one goal, the Flyers won Game 3 against the Blackhawks after Claude Giroux tipped a goal past Antii Niemi in overtime. The 4-3 win cut the Blackhawks lead in the series down to 2 games to 1 and got the Flyers right back in the series with their first win in the Stanley Cup Finals in 23 years.

Game 3 was just more proof that the Flyers play their best with their backs against the wall. Facing what was essentially a must-win game, the Flyers showed poise throughout the game and even managed to score twice in overtime if it wasn't for a quick whistle. They key word with this team in resiliency; they aren't going to give up the Cup without a fight.

This series is clearly between two very evenly matched teams that are fighting tooth and nail to win each and every game. With each game in the series being decided by one goal so far, it's a pretty safe bet we've got a few more exciting games ahead.

Here's video of the OT winner so you can re-watch it in all its glory:

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Eagles (already?) lose Marlin Jackson for the year

So much for Marlin Jackson being the new starting free safety for the Eagles. While participating in the Eagles offseason camp, Jackson, a free agent signed by the Eagles back in March, suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon in his right leg. It was an unfortunate injury for Jackson, who has dealt with bad knees throughout his career, and one that will likely shelve him for the entire season.

When Jackson was signed by the Eagles, he was thought of to be a risk/reward signing; someone that didn't cost the Eagles much and could have had a big impact on the team. At only 1.5 million dollars per year over the next two years, the Eagles won't take a big hit if they are forced to eat his contract.

With Jackson out of the picture, the early word from the Eagles beat writers was that Macho Harris, who was going to try to play cornerback, would move back to free safety this year. Expect rookie Nate Allen to also be given a shot to earn the starting role.

Let's hope this early injury isn't a bad omen for the 2010 Eagles season.