Sunday, January 13, 2013

Busy Sunday 1/13

Busy day in the world of the Philadelphia Flyers today. The team opened training camp in Voorhees, N.J., and made a couple of roster moves that could impact the Adirondack Phantoms.

Let's take a look at them.

First, the Flyers signed free-agent defenseman Kurtis Foster to a one-year contract.

His arrival gives the Flyers eight healthy defensemen in training camp and probably explains why a guy like Phantoms defenseman Brandon Manning was not invited to Flyers camp. Foster is a big (6-foot-5) guy with a booming, right-handed shot that helped him post 14 points in 37 games.

You can never have enough of those players.

"I just try to play solid both ways five on five, and try to add in my shot as much as I can on the power play," Foster said. "Today they had me on the second unit, which I’m happy to start on.  My job out there is to shoot, so I’m trying to get my shots on net and be a little selfish that way."

In talking about the acquisition, Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren gave an injury update on Phantoms defensemen Marc-Andre Bourdon and Erik Guatafsson. Those two were candidates to earn invitations to Flyers camp, but Guatafsson is out with an ankle injury and Bourdon is dealing with the effects of a concussion.

"Erik’s probably two weeks from playing, and Marc-Andre we don’t know until he sees the doctor later this month," Holmgren said. "We just felt it was a gaping hole in our organizational depth, and we were able to be aggressive with Kurtis."

Most teams only carry seven defensemen once the season begins. You wonder if there's a chance one of them comes to Adirondack after camp is wrapped up. We will see, but it's really difficult to imagine 29 other teams passing on a guy like Bruno Gervais or Andreas Lilja if waivers are involved.

Secondly -- and this one is probably going to have a more direct impact on the Phantoms -- the Flyers sent center Luke Pither to Charlotte for goaltender Brian Boucher and prospect defenseman Mark Alt. He was a second-round draft pick in 2010 and is currently playing for the University of Minnesota.

It looks like the plan is to have Boucher start the season with the Phantoms, based on what Holmgren said to the media today. He had offseason shoulder surgery and didn't play during the lockout. That's on the heels of playing just 10 games for Carolina last season thanks in part to a groin injury.

"Once Brian clears his physical tomorrow I would say the idea right now is to not have him take part in camp here, we’ll probably just get him to the Phantoms," Holmgren said. "I talked with Jeff [Reese] a little bit about the direction here and I think the best thing to do is to make sure we get good work in for Ilya (Bryzgalov) and Michael (Leighton)."

Added Boucher: "I need to get back and get in the swing of things. I feel good physically. So once I get into practices and games and such I think I’ll feel good about myself. Any way I can help the organization, I want to do it. I’m sure right now it’ll be in a depth role, but I’ll take any opportunity I can.

This is where things get interesting.

Holmgren said the primary reason for making the move was to have insurance at goalie. Behind  Bryzgalov and Leighton, the Flyers have only rookies Cal Heeter and Niko Hovinen on NHL deals.

Phantoms keeper Scott Munroe is on an AHL contract, so they would have to first sign him to an NHL deal before calling him up in the event of an injury. In Boucher, they get a guy with NHL experience who is familiar with the team. This is his fourth tour of duty with the Flyers.

But where does this leave the Phantoms goaltending situation? Right now, they've got two good players in the AHL in Munroe and Heeter, the latter of whom has played very strong in recent weeks.

If Boucher winds up being sent to the Phantoms, it's possible the Phantoms go with three goalies for the time being, but I'm not sure that would be the ideal situation. You've only got two nets in practice. If you take what Holmgren says at face value, they're considering sending Boucher to Adirondack to get the two goalies they have in Philadelphia the practice work they need before the season starts.

Do you send one to Trenton? Munroe has never played an ECHL game in his life. Demoting Heeter at this point in time would also be really difficult to do, because he's put together three really strong starts in January, going 2-1 with a 1.92 goals-against average and .957 save percentage. And don't forget that Adirondack splits Trenton's affiliation with Albany. They both already have goaltenders down there, with Philadelphia prospect Niko Hovinen and New Jersey's Scott Wedgewood in goal.

I'll check at practice tomorrow and see if there's any update on what to expect in the coming weeks, but it's also important to note the Flyers get a prospect they like in the deal. Alt is said to play pretty sound defense, but the junior only has three points in 21 games for the Golden Gophers this season.

"Alt is 6-3, he can skate, he’s playing in a good program on a good team," Holmgren said. "We’ve liked him.  He’s a good young prospect."

An interesting anecdote about Alt is that his father, John, played professional football for the Kansas City Chiefs for more than a decade and earned a couple Pro Bowl selections in the process.

The Flyers passed along some quotes from some of the Phantoms call-ups and I'll include those in my next blog post. I'm including some responses from the NHLers too discussing players like Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier and how they might impact the Flyers this season. Interesting stuff.

Until next time,


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