Flyers Biggest Forward Additions May Come from Within
It was certainly a different offseason for the NHL. Activity was limited and moved slower than usual, as teams worked around the flat salary cap and focused more on internal moves than signing free agents.
The Flyers were relatively inactive in this area, adding newcomer Erik Gustafsson on the blue line, but not making any other significant additions. Perhaps that’s because the significant additions that could come may be internal.
The Flyers played a majority of the 2019-20 season without Oskar Lindblom. After the shocking diagnosis with Ewing’s sarcoma in December, Lindblom began treatment and recovery from the rare cancer and triumphantly made his return to the ice in September, playing in Game 6 and 7 of the Flyers playoff series against the Islanders.
The work has not stopped for Lindblom since then. He has continued to work out and skate when he could, recently returning to the area to begin workouts in Voorhees, and also had his second follow-up scans since completing treatment, revealing that he remains cancer-free since his final treatment in July.
With a clean bill of health, Lindblom’s sights are set on this season, and Alain Vigneault made it clear on Monday that he is ready to go.
"Oskar is fine," Vigneault said. "He's been skating, he's been in Philly for quite some time and he's good to go."
It certainly seems like it’s all systems go for Lindblom. For the player who had a team-leading 11 goals on Dec. 7, the final game he played before the diagnosis, there is certainly scoring potential as he makes his return full-time.
Another player who ultimately missed the duration of the 2019-20 season is Nolan Patrick. The former No. 2 pick in the NHL Draft has been dealing with migraine syndrome and has battled through this for over a year now.
At the time of the playoffs, Patrick had communicated to the team that he was feeling much better, but GM Chuck Fletcher announced that he would not participate in the return-to-play and playoffs because it would be unfair to ask him to prepare for such emotional and physical play that quickly. With that announcement, Patrick’s season was over.
It will have been over 21 months since Patrick played in an NHL game if he were to make his return at some point in January. Vigneault updated the status of Patrick, to his knowledge, in his Monday conference call.
"What I have been hearing lately, for quite some time, is that he is in a good place and that he is feeling better," Vigneault said. "But just put yourself in his shoes, the anxiety and the stress of all this. Coming back, I want this to be as smooth and easy for him. It's not something that has been easy for him to go through. There's no doubt in my mind that he wants to be with this team. There's a young man that's played hockey all his life and I'm sure loves the game so he wants to get back at it. But first he's got to be healthy and hopefully we get some good news come medicals. And right now all I'm hearing are good things about him skating, working out, and feeling good about himself."
The physicals will take place on the first day of training camp on Sunday, Jan. 3. That should provide more clarity on Patrick’s current health and status as the season begins.
Of course, Patrick showed flashes of his potential at various times during his young career. He scored 13 goals in each of his first two seasons despite struggling with inconsistency in his production. That said, there was a lot of excitement for his potential in a lower role that could open up more ice and better matchups for him.
That possibility remains, should Patrick be ready to make his return, and that has Vigneault and the rest of the organization excited for his future.
"There's no doubt, the few times that we did see him [at practice last season], you could tell that there's a tremendous amount of potential there," Vigneault said. "I think we're all keeping our fingers crossed that he is healthy, that he does pass his physical."
If the Flyers are able to add both Lindblom and Patrick to the roster at the start or early in the 2020-21 season, it will make for two additions to last season’s primary lineup that can certainly contribute at both ends of the ice. Those two additions could bring a new dynamic to the Flyers lineup that was missing, even during the bulk of their best play a season ago.