Now that a crisis has been averted and Ivan Provorov is under contract for six more years, the Flyers can now focus on the real problem on the blueline, who makes the team? The Flyers roster currently has eight defenseman on the main roster- Ivan Provorov, Shayne Gostisbehere, Matt Niskanen, Justin Braun, Robert Hagg, Phil Myers, Samuel Morin, and Travis Sanheim.
Chances are, the Flyers don’t carry eight defenseman heading into the season, so who survives?
Right now it is pretty safe to assume the starting six will be a mixture of Provorov, Gostisbehere, Niskanen, Myers, Sanheim, and Braun.
That leaves Sam Morin and Robert Hagg as the odd men out. Neither are waiver eligible, meaning they can’t be sent to the minors without going through waivers and every team will have a chance to claim them.
Samuel Morin is an interesting option simply because we still don’t know what he brings to the table at the NHL level. After Ron Hextall delayed his original callup, and a string of injuries has kept him out for the better part of the last two seasons, he finally got his taste of NHL ice time late last season. For more on that click here.
Morin, a 6’7 230lb former first round pick will definitely draw attention from some teams around the NHL, and it would be just the Flyers luck to lose someone like Morin to waivers only for him to become the next great big man in the NHL.
Robert Hagg is a veteran of 153 NHL games, and despite not being the best guy on the ice every night, he comes with a cap hit of $1.1 million this season, an ideal third pair plug for a cap strapped team if he hits waivers.
There’s a good chance we’ve seen all Hagg has to offer, which isn’t a whole lot. His main asset is his physicality, but when you compare that to Morin, he pales in comparison. The big question is, what does the team value more, “veteran presence” or banking on the potential of a player with a relatively unknown ceiling? The last regime would favor Hagg, but so far we don’t know which way the new regime will lean.
As for the six players who are guaranteed roster spots, where do they land?
This is a bit of a difficult question right now. Outside of Provorov, who will be on the top pair no matter what, the other five can really slot in anywhere depending on need and chemistry amongst the players.
It seems like Matt Niskanen will be given the first chance to play with Ivan Provorov to start the season, which would be the whole reason he was brought in in the first place. Questions have arisen about how much he has left in the tank after he had a down season last year, but he will probably get every opportunity to show last season was a fluke.
The remaining four, Myers, Sanheim, Braun, Gostisbehere, will make up the second and third pair. Myers and Sanheim have the bigger upside of the four, while Gostisbehere will be on the hunt for redemption after a disappointing, career low season.
Braun is a different case from the other three. He won’t impress with his offense, and he won’t dominate defensively, but he will eat minutes and play a perfectly fine game of hockey. He’s one of those players that if you don’t hear his name he is probably having a good game.
It will be interesting to see how the defense pairs work themselves out over the next couple weeks of the preseason. An abundance of NHL caliber defensemen is a good problem to have, and it is the first time the Flyers will have this issue in as long as I can remember. For the first time since 2014 there is no Andrew MacDonald to cloud the water on the back end, and no Dave Hakstol to ruin everything.
All signs point to an improved blueline, and if Sanheim and Myers take steps forward, and Gostisbehere and Provorov find their game from seasons past, this could be a dangerous defense that could propel the rest of the team to success, something we’ve all been dreaming of for years.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
Photo credit: fastphillysports.com