Isaac: 3 Roster Battles to Watch at Flyers Camp
VOORHEES — In a salary cap world, general managers are looking to do anything they can on the cheap.
Flyers boss Ron Hextall has the best tool a general manager can have in September and it’s free: fear.
There’s more competition than any year in recent memory as the Flyers embark on training camp Friday at the Skate Zone in Voorhees.
“I hope the players are on edge,” Hextall said bluntly. “Because they should be.”
After a couple years of reciting his plan about having patience with prospects, Hextall sees a crop of young players being ready for an opportunity in the NHL. The incumbents have missed the playoffs twice in three years.
With Michael Del Zotto and Nick Schultz leaving in free agency, the Flyers have two open spots for defensemen and Hextall purposefully left them open for prospects to take.
Up front there are young players pushing for roster spots also. No. 2 overall pick Nolan Patrick and 2014 fourth-round pick Oskar Lindblom seem to be at the front of the line and performed well in rookie camp.
“I felt great out there and it’s really exciting to feel where I want to be and move forward,” said Patrick, who is coming off sports hernia surgery, after Wednesday night’s rookie game against the New York Islanders. “I’m going to keep getting better and keep trying to improve every day.”
There are changes between the pipes, also.
Gone is Steve Mason, who was in Philadelphia for parts of five seasons, which was long enough to put him third on the franchise’s all-time lists for games played and wins. He’s second in franchise history in saves and save percentage.
Instead, Brian Elliott will work in tandem with Michal Neuvirth. Both are on two-year contracts.
“You have to have two guys that can win you games no matter what,” said Elliott, who signed as a free agent after playing in Calgary last year. “It’s a show-me league and if you’re not winning, someone’s gonna take your job. It can go back and forth. You can have ups and downs throughout the year. Our job is to have that consistency to be the solid rock back there and it’s a tough league, a tough schedule.
With the tandem in goal there may not be a clear starter-backup scenario for the Flyers, so don’t consider that a training camp battle. Here are three decisions Hextall will have to make in the span of the next two weeks.