Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher doesn’t plan to make any deals or sign any free agents – high-scoring Mike Hoffman is among the forwards still available – before the pandemic-shortened, 56-game season starts on Jan. 13 against the archrival Pittsburgh Penguins.
That means Shayne Gostisbehere, who is coming off a disappointing season that was plagued by knee injuries, will be among the defensemen battling for a roster spot. Gostisbehere’s name was in numerous trade rumors in the offseason, especially after the Flyers signed offensive-minded defenseman Erik Gustafsson.
“I would anticipate this is our roster,” Fletcher said during a Webex call with reporters Wednesday afternoon. “We’re not entertaining any free-agent signings at this point in time. You never know with trades. It’s been relatively quiet, at least on our front. I think October was a pretty busy month with a lot of communication. Things have seemed to have quieted down since then.”
Added Fletcher: “We like our team, and I like the fact we have a little bit of cap space to make adjustments as we may need to in season.”
According to CapFriendly, the Flyers have $2.26 million in cap space, based on cap hits to 22 players.
Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim, and Phil Myers are locks to be defensive regulars. (For what it’s worth, Fletcher said he “really liked” the way Myers and Sanheim complemented each other as a duo last season.) Justin Braun, Gostisbehere, Robert Hagg, Gustafsson, and Mark Friedman figure to battle for the other three spots.
Fletcher said he wanted to “see what we have in camp and how some of these players perform and get into the season. I’m sure there will be surprises, both positive and negative, that we have to deal with. And we should have the ability to deal with those things in a proactive manner.”
The Flyers will have medical and fitness testing Jan. 3 then begin the abbreviated on-ice portion of training camp Jan. 4 at the Skate Zone in Voorhees.
Fletcher said the team plans to carry 23 players on its roster and six on the taxi squad. The NHL requires teams to carry three goalies, and Fletcher plans to have one of them – most likely Alex Lyon – and five skaters on the taxi squad.
“We’ll build the taxi squad around those 23 in terms of performance in camp and the health of our club,” Fletcher said.
Taxi-squad players will practice and travel with the team. The Flyers have numerous prospects battling for a spot on the 23-man roster or taxi squad, including forwards Morgan Frost, Linus Sandin, Carsen Twarynski, Connor Bunnaman, Wade Allison, and Tanner Laczynski.
The AHL, which includes the Flyers’ affiliate in Allentown, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, isn’t expected to start until at least Feb. 5.
Fletcher said left winger Oskar Lindblom, who played two playoff games after missing most of the regular season because of a rare bone cancer, “has had a tremendous offseason. He’s been able to rebuild his body, if you will, and regain some of the muscle mass that he lost during his treatments last spring and summer. He’s in really good shape physically.”
The GM said he would find out if there were any issues with Lindblom, Nolan Patrick or any other players when they underwent physicals.
Patrick missed the entire 2019-20 season because of a migraine disorder.
“I watched him skate today, and he’s an amazingly talented young man,” Fletcher said of the 22-year-old center. “He looked great. He feels good, and, again, we’ll wait for the doctors to meet with him for the preseason physical. Life is unpredictable. We saw that last year, and I certainly can’t make predictions on anybody. But I think we’re in good shape going into camp, and we’re excited to get these two players back.”
Fletcher hinted that if Patrick passed his physical, he probably would be ready for the season opener against the Penguins, the first of two straight games between the cross-state rivals.
» READ MORE: Flyers schedule opens with Pittsburgh on Jan. 13
“I don’t know that you take it slowly,” Fletcher said. “If anything, everybody is basically on the same page right now. Nobody is in midseason shape. In some way, this may be the best time to reintroduce players back in. I know he hasn’t played in a while, but there are seven teams that haven’t had games since last March, so it’s going to be a different start for a lot of players and a lot of teams.
“Clearly, everyone will probably be in better form at midseason than what they are at the beginning.”