Flyers Notes: Quotes from Player Exit Day Interviews
With the 2022-23 Flyers season in the books as of Thursday night, Friday marked the start of the offseason. That was when the players on the current roster departed for the summer, with some not knowing what the future will hold.
Let’s dive into some of the key moments from exit day among the players, some of which made indications of improvements in the future, returns to health, or dealt with questions about their place on the roster going forward.
James van Riemsdyk: ‘Disappointed I Wasn’t Able to Get That Opportunity’
The 2022-23 season for James van Riemsdyk always featured an end date for his Flyers tenure. Many figured it would be sometime around the trade deadline on March 3, even van Riemsdyk himself.
“I’m obviously extremely proud to be a Flyer and play for the Flyers for as many games as I have and as many years as I have. That being said, that was probably one of the more disappointing things that I've gone through just for a whole host of different reasons,” van Riemsdyk said. “Definitely disappointed that I wasn't able to get that opportunity.”
His Flyers career may have been extended by a few weeks and capped off by scoring his 300th career goal in his final home game with the Flyers. While it’s not a complete certainty that van Riemsdyk won’t return, it is the expectation.
“I'm obviously, probably like everyone else, looking at the situation and I'm assuming there's a direction they're going to go as far as being a younger team and still a team that's kind of transitioning to be as young as they can,” van Riemsdyk said. “That's just kind of the way I'm assuming that things will go. I haven't had official things one way or the other, but just assuming that's what's going to happen.”
Sean Couturier: ‘I Have a Lot to Prove Coming into Next Year’
For a brief period following the deadline, there was a possibility that Sean Couturier would return from a second back surgery that kept him out for the entire season to that point. Ultimately, the team was closing in on the end of the season and decided that it was better for Couturier to sit out as a precaution rather than return, despite being cleared to play.
That has Couturier motivated to return next season with a lot to prove. It has been since Dec. 18, 2021 that Couturier has played in game action.
“I've trained a lot in the last year and a half, and I feel strong again, I feel back 100 percent. So, it's just a matter of getting back to the level of a high NHL player,” Couturier said. “It's going to be on me to just get ready. Obviously, I'm disappointed I couldn't get into a few games and see where I'm at, but only time will tell if it was a benefit or not. We’ll see next year, but I'm for sure going into this offseason motivated and with a lot to prove coming into next year.”
Couturier was around the team throughout the season from afar, and is well aware of the rebuild they are entering. Couturier’s belief is that, by being prepared and ready from the start of training camp can help players show that the process may not need to take as long.
“We're using the rebuild word, but I think it's on us players to just make sure we come ready, and we can maybe speed up the process,” Couturier said. “That's on us to just develop and grow as a team, and we'll see how it goes next year.
“I'm not going to be saving this organization by coming back. I think it's important to do this rebuild the right way. We've seen it the last two, three years, we were supposed to be one of the top-end teams and we went to the bottom of the standings. It's on us as a team, as players, as an organization to switch it around and get back to where this organization belongs.”
Kevin Hayes: ‘Their Decisions Have Probably Already Been Made’
If the Flyers are going to start the offseason by making subtractions, one of the most likely candidates is Kevin Hayes. After being named an All-Star for the first time in his career and one point shy of his career-high for points, Hayes reflected on a “weird” season.
“Had almost a career year and I was an All-Star, but never really felt like that throughout the whole season to be honest. Like I said, ups and downs,” Hayes said. “Fun year with these guys. The players on this team work extremely hard, and they love this city, and they love this team. It was a lot of fun.”
In the final 31 games of the season after the All-Star break, Hayes had three goals and nine points.
Hayes still has three years remaining on his seven-year contract with a cap hit of $7.14 million. For the Flyers to move it, they will have to retain salary, and potentially a lot of it. That said, it feels like the writing's on the wall for Hayes to be a likely trade candidate.
“Absolutely love this organization. I thought Chuck [Fletcher] was great. I loved [Alain Vigneault]. I know they've both caught a lot of flak here from fans and media. Danny [Briere’]’s great. The city's awesome. It's a sports town,” Hayes said. “Like you said, I'm turning 31. I picked up the message that was sent months ago. I'm okay with it. It's their decision. I don't want to say I'm suited for a contender, because I think I'm suited for anyone to be honest. We'll see how that unfolds. Their decisions have probably already been made. We don't know them yet. I'm sure I'll find out around the draft.”
Hayes noted that the direction the team wants to go may not align with his contract. He talked about being a player relied upon for big minutes going to playing nine or 10 minutes a night. That sounds like a player who also recognizes what is happening and expects to be moved.
Cam Atkinson: ‘You’re Trying to Trust Certain People’
Cam Atkinson was another player who missed the entire 2022-23 season due to injury. It was a long road for Atkinson, who started skating on his own by the end of the season and now sees a light at the end of the tunnel on his recovery.
“Gonna get cleared hopefully next week. Been skating a lot the last three weeks. Training hard. No setbacks,” Atkinson said. “Just looking forward to obviously getting cleared for contact and having a really, really good summer training. Revving it up even more than I ever have and obviously, itching for next season to start already selfishly.”
What was especially interesting from Atkinson’s exit interview was discussions of the way the training staff handled his injury. Atkinson did state that the current Flyers medical staff has been great and he has full trust in them, but there seems to be some gray areas in how much trust previous team physicians and medical staff were regarded.
Atkinson noted that he had several misdiagnoses. He was recommended to have neck surgery almost immediately after the season started, but opted to rehab the injury naturally and went to Columbus to see “people that I trust and know.”
Atkinson felt he could potentially return in December, but couldn’t get through a practice on his own. He then went to see another doctor, Vic Carroll, a surgeon for Boston College and several other professional athletes. Atkinson was told he needed surgery or he may not be able to play again. He had surgery three days later.
But having trust in the team’s medical staff is important for players, especially given the number of significant surgeries and severe injuries the team has had over the years. Atkinson’s trust in the Flyers medical team has certainly evolved over the last season, especially as more significant changes have been made to the staff.
“It went through a pretty, pretty significant change, the new head athletic trainers and bringing in new guys that I hadn't known as well. You're trying to trust certain people. I have all my trust in Tommy and the team that's here now,” Atkinson said. “It obviously took a little bit of time just because I was going through things that I've never experienced and listening to this guy, that guy. People telling me this. Someone telling me that. It was just a kind of a gong show.
“It definitely has gotten straightened out and it's going to continue to get better. Like I said, I've been rehabbing here since my surgery for the last couple months and trust them.”
Ivan Provorov: ‘They’re Going to Do It the Proper Way’
Another player with his future up in the air is Ivan Provorov. While Provorov is not an imminent trade chip this offseason, his name has definitely already circulated in rumors. Given his age and the amount of playing time he handles, Provorov could certainly net a nice return for the Flyers from an interested team, especially with two years remaining at $6.75 million AAV on his contract.
Provorov’s interesting quote was regarding the team entering a rebuild. Obviously, this creates an uncertain timeline for what the future holds and who may be part of the team moving forward.
“That's definitely not exactly what you want to hear because I feel like I came into a rebuild, we had one good year, the bubble year that was also kind of paused,” Provorov said. “Then after that, things went sideways, and we tried a quick fix that didn't work. I wouldn't say it's the most positive news you can hear, but there's a bright future here, and there's a lot of great players that can keep growing.
“Obviously, it depends on how quick everybody gets better and how quickly the team game gets better. I think that's what determines the length of the rebuild.”
Provorov did offer some insight into the messaging from interim GM Danny Briere, who is expected to permanently take over in the role in the coming days.
“He was pretty open about it, that it is in kind of a rebuild stage. We did talk about it, but there was no real set years or how long it's going to take,” Provorov said. “All that was said was they're going to do it the proper way and I believe he will.”
It could just be coincidence that Provorov said they’re instead of we’re, but it leaves it open to interpretation if Provorov didn’t come away from his meeting with Briere with questions of his future status in Philadelphia.
Tony DeAngelo: ‘Ridiculous I Didn’t Play the Last Five’
The last handful of games certainly had some drama for Tony DeAngelo. After being the main pickup for the Flyers in the offseason, DeAngelo finished the season as a healthy scratch for the final five games. DeAngelo didn’t want to get into the reasoning behind it, expressing that there was only a brief conversation with John Tortorella about it and otherwise, he had no idea why he was scratched.
“I love being a Flyer. My whole life I've wanted to be a Flyer. Now that I am, I don't take it for granted at all. It's something that means a lot to me, so we're not going to let any relationship stuff get in the way,” DeAngelo said. “He's the coach of the team, so you’ve got to respect that, and I respect what he does. Do I agree with it, what happened in the last five games? Absolutely not. I think it's ridiculous that I didn't play the last five. That's one thing, but he's also the coach of the team. It's not my job to decide that.”
So what’s DeAngelo’s future in Philadelphia?
“I plan on being back. I want to come back. I have no clue what's going to happen,” DeAngelo said. “It's not my decisions, but I'll be training and getting ready to play another season here.”
It’s reasonable to wonder if the last five games were a precursor to a divorce in the offseason. The Flyers could look to trade DeAngelo in the final year of his contract or even buy out the final year if they can’t find another team willing to take on the contract.
In his first season with the Flyers, DeAngelo did put up solid offensive numbers, with 11 goals and 42 points in 70 games, but struggled defensively and certainly didn’t provide the desired impact on the power play ranked worst in the league.
If DeAngelo were to not return, either through trade or buyout, it would be quite the ending to a move that was heavily criticized this offseason, acquiring DeAngelo’s rights from Carolina for three draft picks and signing him to a two-year, $10 million deal only to have everything fall apart within a year.
Kevin Durso is Flyers insider for 97.3 ESPN and Flyers editor for SportsTalkPhilly.com. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin_Durso.
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