By MICHAEL CIGNOLI
GLENS FALLS -- Adirondack Phantoms defenseman Danny Syvret wasn’t too surprised to hear the news that he’d been traded to the New York Rangers, but he did think that his destination was somewhat ironic.
Not because the two Atlantic Division rivals had not been trading partners since March 2004, when the then-moribund Rangers had a fire sale, but for something that happened later that summer.
Syvret, then 19, had just gone unselected in his second National Hockey League entry draft when the Rangers extended him an invitation to their prospect evaluation camp in western Canada.
That wound up being a pretty good move for Syvret’s professional hockey career. The veteran blueliner said that experience prepared him for Team Canada’s World Junior camp, held days later.
“It was a month-long thing in Calgary,” Syvret said in a telephone interview Tuesday. “From there, I literally just walked next door to the summer camp for the World Junior team for Team Canada.”
Syvret made that team and went on to have a career season, winning Ontario Hockey League and Canadian Hockey League Defenseman of the Year honors as his London Knights captured the Memorial Cup. The Edmonton Oilers drafted him as a 20-year-old in the third round of the 2005 draft, and he began an eight-year professional career that’s taken him on a tour of North America.
His latest stop? Hopefully Broadway.
The Philadelphia Flyers traded the 28-year-old Syvret to the Rangers Monday for veteran forward Kris Newbury
, an elite AHL scorer and a viable option as a bottom-six NHL call-up.
Syvret, one of the premier puck-moving defenseman in the AHL, is poised to either spend the upcoming season with the Rangers or their AHL affiliate, the Hartford (Conn.) Wolf Pack.
“It wasn’t a huge surprise,” Syvret said of the trade in the telephone interview. “I wasn’t really expecting a trade, but I obviously know near the draft that anything can really happen. Seeing how things ended with the Flyers and bringing up a lot of prospects, I think, for me, it’s sort of a good move.
“At the end of the day, your goal is to play at the highest level you can possibly play. Obviously, everybody dreams of playing in the NHL and I still obviously want to play in the NHL.”
It became increasingly clear that that’s something that wasn’t in the cards with the Flyers.
Syvret signed a two-year, two-way contract with Philadelphia before the start of last season. The contract paid him $275,000 in the AHL, according to CapGeek.com. That made him eligible for re-entry waivers under the terms of the old collective bargaining agreement, so the Flyers risked losing him and having 50 percent of his deal count against their salary cap if they called him up.
Once the NHL lockout was settled, however, re-entry waivers were eliminated. There was nothing preventing the Flyers from calling him up. But even as their blue line was decimated by injuries later in the season, the Flyers kept him in Glens Falls. The coveted NHL call-ups went to younger prospects like Erik Gustafsson, Oliver Lauridsen, Brandon Manning and rookie Matt Konan.
“They wanted their younger guys to be playing, which is the right thing to do,” Syvret said. “Obviously, me moving to a different team is hopefully better for me, for my personal status.”
The Rangers, who fired coach John Tortorella and replaced him with former Canucks boss Alain Vigneault, are in the midst of retooling their defensive corps. At Sunday’s draft, they dealt Benn Ferriero and a draft pick to the Minnesota Wild for Justin Falk. They now have Syvret, who is the lone defenseman to record 40 or more points in each of the past three AHL seasons, in the fold.
He became the first Flyers player traded to the Rangers since Philadelphia dealt Rick Kozak and a draft pick to the Rangers for Russian blueliner Vladimir Malakhov at the 2004 trade deadline.
“I know a bunch of guys on the Rangers that I have either played with or played against growing up,” Syvret said in the phone interview. “It was ironic. A bunch of them actually texted me, which was a pretty nice feeling. I’m not sure what to expect. … Maybe it’s good for me to have a fresh start with a new coach that’s coming in. I just have to give myself the best chance possible to make the team out of training camp, and if not just keep playing hard and hopefully my time will come.”
Syvret was junior hockey teammates with Dan Girardi and played against Rangers captain Ryan Callahan. He played with winger Darroll Powe in the Flyers organization. He said he did not know too many players on the Wolf Pack roster, joking that he’s a little older than them, but welcomed the chance to be a veteran mentor to the younger defensive prospects if he is assigned to the AHL.
“I like having that role on a team,” Syvret said. “If guys look up to you, I try to carry myself pretty professionally and hopefully that sheds off onto other players. If they gain any sort of experience, skills or knowledge from me, I’m grateful. I enjoy watching young guys succeed, that’s for sure.”
He said Newbury, who he has played against in both the OHL and AHL, would be a good fit for the Phantoms. The center is one of just two players to record 60 or more points in each of the past three AHL seasons, but he’s also a 31-year-old veteran who can show younger players the ropes.
Newbury still has to clear waivers before he can be assigned to the Phantoms, however.
“He’s a gritty player, but in the AHL he utilizes his skills a lot more on puck possession than he does in the NHL,” Syvret said in the telephone interview. “He plays more of a third-line or fourth-line role (in the NHL). Obviously, he has the skill to produce at the AHL level. Playing against him, he’s a hard player to play against because he’s pretty poised with the puck and has good vision. I think he’s going to work very well with a bunch of young players coming in there.”
Though he’s leaving the Flyers organization, Syvret wished the Phantoms nothing but the best.
“I had a lot of fun there, met a lot of good people,” Syvret said. “It was sort of disappointing that when we were with the Phantoms in Adirondack, we never really made the playoffs. Hopefully this year for them and for the fans, because they’re pretty supportive despite the type of teams we’ve had.
“They’re deserving of a pretty good team. Hopefully the young kids play well next year and make the playoffs and give the fans something to be excited about.”