Travis Sanheim, who signed a lucrative contract Saturday, is pleased with the offseason moves the Flyers made to improve a hapless defense.
The Flyers have brought in veterans Ryan Ellis, Rasmus Ristolainen, and Keith Yandle.
After a season in which the Flyers allowed the most goals in the NHL (3.52 per game) and continually shuffled their pairings, the new defensemen should add some stability to the back end, Sanheim said.
“I think that was something that they looked at and wanted to address,” Sanheim said in a Zoom call with reporters Monday afternoon. “It’s difficult playing [with] different partners, different positions, whether it’s left or right. I think to be able to kind of settle in, find somebody, find some chemistry is going to make each other better and make our team better.”
Sanheim, 25, said he has spoken to general manager Chuck Fletcher and assistant coach Mike Yeo, who runs the defense, about the blue-line newcomers and is looking forward to meeting them when camp starts Sept. 22.
Ristolainen will probably be Sanheim’s defensive partner, and he will bring physicality to the duo.
“I’m excited to get to know him, and potentially play with him,” Sanheim said. “I know our forwards have hated to play against him and go up against him every night.”
Fletcher’s summer remake has brought in “a lot of changes, a lot of new faces,” Sanheim said. “I think everyone’s excited. I think we see a lot of good things in the moves that were made and gets us excited to get back to Philly. I know speaking with the other guys and the potential that we see. Chuck’s done his job. Now it’s up to us to come together as a group.”
Last season, Sanheim was paired mostly with Phil Myers, who, along with Nolan Patrick, went to Nashville in last month’s trade for Ellis. Patrick was then dealt to Vegas.
“Obviously, me and Phil were really good friends and played together quite a bit, whether it’s American League or even in the NHL,” said Sanheim, who is coming off a subpar season in which he had just 15 points and a minus-22 rating. “Got to know him quite well. I messaged him as soon as the trade went down. Obviously, I’m going to miss him and best of luck in Nashville. He reached out Saturday as well, right after I signed. We’ve got that good friendship, and hopefully we can meet up when we play each other next.”
Sanheim signed a two-year deal with an annual $4.675 million salary-cap hit, leaving the Flyers up against the $81.5 million cap. Based on their projected roster, if they carry just 22 players — most teams use 23 — they will have only $281,477 in cap space.
“We discussed all options,” Sanheim said of his contract negotiations. “Ultimately, with the situation that we were in with the cap, I think it just made more sense to do something short term.”
As for the new defensemen, Ellis (10 years), Ristolainen (8) and Yandle (15) have a combined 33 years of NHL experience.
“Guys that have been there, done that,” Sanheim said. “Ellis has played a lot of big games. I think we’re going to rely on those guys to come in and settle things down a little bit. I think we need that. There were certain nights where maybe we ran into being a younger group. Sometimes you need that voice or that calmness and somebody that’s done it before. I think we’re going to learn a lot from those guys. I’m excited to not only meet them, but learn from them as well.”
The new pairings are expected to look like this: Ivan Provorov and Ellis; Sanheim and Ristolainen; and Yandle and Justin Braun.
The Flyers will open their preseason schedule by hosting the Islanders on Sept. 28 at 7 p.m. They will play six exhibition games among the Isles, Washington, and Boston, including three at the Wells Fargo Center.