Quick Hits: July 28, 2021
1) In the last 90 minutes or so leading up to the start of the NHL Entry Draft last Friday, Brian Smith, Jason Myrtetus and I finished our preparations for the live Draft show we did on the Flyers Radio 24/7 channel that is powered by the Flyers Broadcast Network
. Before we went live, we had a chance to chat with several Flyers hockey operations staff members. Naturally, much of the discussion centered around the revamped blueline following the trades for Ryan Ellis and Rasmus Ristolainen.
In talking to the Flyers people about the defense as a whole, I got the impression -- and commented about it off the air to Jason as well as on the air during a podcast -- that the organization was not entirely comfortable with the idea of immediately penciling in Cam York for the NHL top six. Nobody said that directly but you could read between the lines that they wouldn't mind adding a battle-tested veteran for the short-term until the 20-year-old York (who has all of 11 pro games of experience, including three NHL games) demonstrates that he is truly NHL-ready; whether that happens in camp, mid-season, or a year from now.
Truth be told, while Keith Yandle seemed to fit the bill for a veteran third-pair left defenseman who can still be productive on the power play, I thought he could pull down something in the $1.75 million range (supplemented by his buyout installments from the Florida Panthers) as an unrestricted free agent signed for one year or two at maximum.
Thus, I was surprised when the news broke yesterday that Yandle had agreed to a one-year contract with the Flyers for $900,000. Can't quibble with that price tag.
The veteran, who played for Alain Vigneault before and has several close friends on the Flyers including fellow Bostonian Kevin Hayes, handpicked the Flyers as his destination although he had higher offers elsewhere.
A three-time NHL All-Star Game participant, Yandle is the fourth offseason addition (along with Ellis, Ristolainen and right winger Cam Atkinson) who has been an alternate captain in the NHL. He has never been a stellar defender but has been one of the upper-echelon point-producing defensemen in the NHL over the course of his career. Even if he plays a lesser role than he did in the prime of his career, Yandle can still ably handle power play ice time.
Currently, Yandle has an active 922-game iron man streak of consecutive games. He is 42 short of tying Doug Jarvis's all-time NHL record. However, Vigneault and the Flyers cannot allow the sentiment of Yandle's pursuit of history cloud their judgment. If York absolutely crushes it in training camp and/or excels for the Phantoms in big minutes during the first half of the season, the Flyers can't stop the hands of time. That's especially true if Yandle is not as effective as hoped in the LD3/PP role.
For now, though, it's prudent not to rush York. You can't tell much off a three-game NHL sample late in a non-playoff season. But while York showed the expected poise, quick stick and passing ability that are vital aspects of his game, he had some shifts where he struggled along with the others on the ice. Most of his shot attempts came on the power play but he had trouble -- which has not been an issue at the lower levels -- in getting pucks on his net. Of his six total shot attempts, only one got on net (three were blocked, two missed the net). He also had a 40.7 percent individual Corsi share at 5-on-5. On the flip side, he had a nifty takeaway along the way and competed.
The numbers really mean nothing, especially in such a short sample size. The eye-test was actually just fine on many of his shifts. He seems close to NHL-ready. Is he all the way there? That was uncertain. Perhaps most importantly, it wouldn't do any harm to such a young player for him to play in the AHL in a bigger role than he'd play for the Flyers. There's no such thing as being "too ready" for the world's toughest league. Yandle, at least on paper, is still a good stopgap option.
2) Today is the opening day of free agency across the NHL. Apart from the Flyers announcing the Yandle signing, it is likely that the team will close a deal with a backup goaltender.
Pierre LeBrun has already tweeted than Jonathan Bernier (who'd been rumored but not confirmed to be high on the Flyers' list of viable options) is going to sign with the New Jersey Devils. We'll see what unfolds as the day progresses. There are many options out there with varying degrees of on-paper fit and salary cap considerations to sort through. Best just to let it play out and comment once it's done.
3) Inside AHL Hockey's Tony Androckitis tweeted yesterday that he's heard Dallas Stars unrestricted free agent defenseman Taylor Fedun's name tied to the Flyers (for the second time in recent offseasons) as a potential right defense depth option. If signed, the 33-year-old would step into the role vacated by the depature of Nate Prosser: Lehigh Valley Phantoms veteran "glue guy" on the back end and a depth callup option to fill-in at the NHL level. This past season, Fedun primarily was with the Dallas taxi squad. He appeared in two AHL games for the Texas Stars for game-readiness purposes.
4) Yesterday, Flyers Alumni Association members including president Brad Marsh, Bernie Parent, Joe Watson, Danny Briere and Terry Carkner presented a $100,000 check to the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation. On hand to receive the donation were Snider Hockey's Bill Whitmore, Chairman of the Board, and Scott Tharp, President. The donation is in an installment in the Flyers Alumni continuing to make good on a $2-million pledge to help Snider Hockey develop new rinks and opportunities for underserved youth across the Philadelphia region.
The check presentation date was timed to overlap with the third leg of the Snider Cup Golf Open, a series of team competitions comprised of four individual one-day golf outings occurring this summer at four of the Philadelphia Region’s premier courses. Per Ike Richman, the Snider Cup is expected to raise more than $1.3 million to support programming and educational opportunities for the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation.
4) From 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. EDT tonight, the Flyers Warriors will hold an open house event at the
Skate Zone in Voorhees. Events will include an open skate and raffle prizes. Brad Marsh, who serves as Flyers Warriors head coach and the Philadephia Flyers' director of community development along with Flyers Alumni Association president will be on hand, along with several Flyers Warriors players.