Did Claude Giroux make a case for inclusion on Canada’s Olympic team on Thursday night?
Team Canada general manager Doug Armstrong stopped by Wells Fargo Center as Giroux tallied two goals in the Flyers’ 4-3 shootout loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning. That opponent, of course, just happens to be coached by Canada’s 2022 Olympic bench boss, Jon Cooper.
Giroux opened the scoring at the 1:34 mark of the first period, breaking in alone and deking Andrei Vasilevskiy.
— Philadelphia Flyers (@NHLFlyers) November 19, 2021
Late in the third, with his club trailing by a goal and Carter Hart on the bench for the extra attacker, Giroux forced overtime by threading a shot through traffic with 8.1 seconds remaining in regulation.
— Philadelphia Flyers (@NHLFlyers) November 19, 2021
“I knew there was about 10 seconds left,” Giroux said after the game. “(Derick Brassard) won it clean and I saw there was a lot of bodies. So I just tried to sneak it to the net.
“I wasn’t really trying to score. Just trying to get it on net so we can get a rebound and get a mosh pit in front of the net and somebody put it in. But it had eyes and went in.”
The late rally earned the Flyers one point, improving their record to 8-4-3 on the season. They’re in the playoff mix in the tight Eastern Conference, where surprise teams like the New York Rangers, Columbus Blue Jackets and New Jersey Devils are making things interesting.
Stepping Up In a Contract Year
With 14 points in 15 games, Giroux has taken over as the Flyers’ scoring leader. Averaging 0.93 points per game, that’s his best offensive production in three seasons.
If he can sustain his current scoring pace, Giroux will be on track for 38 goals. That would be a career high, eclipsing his 34-goal campaign in 2017-18, when he finished fourth in Hart Trophy voting.
Giroux also remains a beast in the face-off circle. His winning percentage of 62.9% is tops in the league among players who have taken at least 100 draws.
The Flyers’ captain is in the last season of an eight-year contract that carries a cap hit of $8.275 million. Giroux has opted to play out this season before making any decisions about his future. With the Flyers looking like a playoff team, at this point there’s no reason to think that he might be asked to waive his no-movement clause before the March trade deadline. But these things can change if a season goes sideways.
With contract extensions set to kick in next season for both Sean Couturier ($7.75 million cap hit) and Joel Farabee ($5 million cap hit), CapFriendly is showing that the Flyers have more than $68 million committed to just 13 players. That leaves roughly $15 in total available cap space to fill out nearly half the club’s roster — and Rasmus Ristolainen is also a pending unrestricted free agent, currently carrying a cap hit of $5.4 million.
Giroux is showing that he still has plenty to give. But he may have to take a major hometown discount if he wants to stay with the team that drafted him beyond this season.
When it comes to Olympic speculation with Team Canada, the Flyers players whose names come up most often are Carter Hart and Sean Couturier.
With his strong start to the season — and with Carey Price‘s playing status still uncertain — Hart’s in the mix in a goaltending group that could also include Jordan Binnington of the St. Louis Blues and possibly Darcy Kuemper of the Colorado Avalanche or Marc-Andre Fleury of the Chicago Blackhawks.
Couturier’s status as a recent Selke Trophy winner also makes him an attractive candidate to wear the maple leaf for the first time on the Olympic stage.
As a 26-year-old, Giroux did not make the cut for Canada’s gold medal-winning 2014 Olympic team, where the top-producing forwards were Jeff Carter, Patrick Marleau, Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews and Ryan Getzlaf. But he has suited up for Canada three times at the IIHF World Championship — and served as captain in 2017, winning silver under coach Jon Cooper.
“It really comes down to sitting with the coaches and finding out how they construct their lines, what kind of players they want,” Armstrong told Adam Kimelman of NHL.com about how the roster will ultimately be decided. “It’s not just the top point getters. You have to make a team. So you really want to work with the coaches and how they want to make a team and then synergy between players.”
Next week, the Flyers will make a quick road trip to Florida to take on the Lightning and the Panthers. That will put Giroux and his teammates in front of Cooper again, as well as Canadian assistant GM Roberto Luongo in Florida.
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