The Philadelphia Flyers have cooled off from their hot start and with the losses starting to pile up, it could soon be time to change out some of the pieces on the main roster that aren’t working with some players who are showing signs of potential in the AHL. Even though Tortorella promised an open road between the Phantoms and Flyers, we really haven’t seen it yet. The injuries have, so far, stayed to a minimum at the NHL level and the healthy players on the roster are mainly still trying to find their place under the new head coach. It’s stranded the AHL level players in Lehigh Valley, and that includes 21-year-old top defense prospect Cam York.
Even though he had a full-time NHL spot late last season, York underperformed during training camp and butted heads with Torts, who made sure to dig into him a couple times before sending him down.
The message upon his demotion was simple- go down there and earn your way back up. And after a slow start, York is starting to turn some heads with his play. He leads the Phantoms on scoring with three goals and nine points in 11 games. He’s registered two powerplay goals and two of his three goals are game winners.
Now that he’s living up to the image the franchise demanded of him, one has to wonder if that legendary Tortorella accountability factor is going to work both ways for York? To be fair to Torts, he has done a good job of working players in and out on the main roster, clearly believing in second chances rather than just burying players if they’re not up to snuff. But for York and the rest of the players in Lehigh, things are a bit different.
The Flyers have an abundance of bodies on the blueline where there haven’t been any injuries as of yet. With seven defensemen on the main roster, where does Cam York even fit in if they were to recall him? Provorov isn’t going anywhere, Sanheim just re-sign for eight years, so he clearly isn’t going anywhere either, and Egor Zamula is having a difficult enough time overthrowing Nick Seeler for ice time and he’s already apart of the roster.
It seems like York’s best bet is the trade deadline, which isn’t until early March, where they could ditch Justin Braun and potentially Nick Seeler, and those roster spots would be taken by Zamula and York full-time.
But that’s giving the front office the benefit of the doubt that they’d do the right thing and they certainly haven’t earned that.
Braun more than likely gets dealt at the trade deadline as a veteran righty that most teams will have interest in, but Seeler’s trade value is close to nonexistent and he’s signed for an additional season as well. The coaching staff has seemed hellbent of moving Zamula to the right side, so that means they would willingly have to scratch and/or demote Seeler to make room for York.
Not only is it a sticky situation in the short term, the extension of Travis Sanheim takes away the roster spot that was seemingly being kept warm for York. Now one has to wonder if York’s got any future with the big club at all? Chuck Fletcher’s strategy of re-signing every last player to long-term big-money contracts was destined to bite the team sooner or later, and their 2019 14th overall pick may be the first major example of it hurting a player within the organization.
If they don’t value York as a roster player, do they use him as a trade chip to land a star forward they so badly need? Does York go on to make them regret trading him, especially if he never sees NHL action for the franchise before the deal? Though if he excels at the AHL level, then gets called up and plays meaningless third pair minutes in the NHL does that hurt a trade value they’re going to rely on?
Let’s say they trade him in a package to land the rights of San Jose Sharks star forward Timo Meier. A former first round pick leading his AHL team in points probably holds more trade value that 10 random minutes a night alongside Justin Braun. But what happens if York then goes out to San Jose and looks like a star defenseman? Chuck Fletcher will look like a complete buffoon for never giving York an extended look at the NHL. The one potential high-end defenseman the organization possessed and he’s gone without even a sample size of NHL action under Tortorella and the new direction of the Flyers.
If York’s play continues at a high level, especially if the Flyers continue down their mediocre path, the front office may have no choice but to acknowledge him, but not only does that feel unlikely, with so many players on the roster in front of him, it very well may be impossible. Sanheim’s fresh contract means he’s not going anywhere, and attempting to move the last two years of Ivan Provorov’s deal could open an entirely different can of worms. So at best he’s already stuck on the third pair, unless they play him on the right side, which they attempted to do last season with mixed results. But even then, Ristolainen is signed for four more years, DeAngelo is still here next season (and considering Fletcher’s track record, an eight-year extension is in his future) and they’re already in the process of transitioning lefty Egor Zamula to a spot on the right side, as well having natural righty Ronnie Attard in the AHL.
With his play on the up and up in Lehigh Valley, the future of Cam York will certainly be one of the biggest storylines to follow the rest of the season, and it’s potentially one of the biggest decisions the front office will have to make in regards to the future as well. York could still very well be in their plans and he’s just getting a bit of tough love from the coach and front office, but the construction of the rest of the defense paints a grim outlook for any real opportunity for him here. It sure feels like he’s the odd man out right now, and time will tell how the front office plans on dealing with their exiled former first round pick.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: Getty Images