Shortly after he was dismissed in November as Flyers general manager, Ron Hextall said he had been searching for someone with a "little more sandpaper.”
Monday, before the NHL deadline, the Flyers traded away some “sandpaper,” Wayne Simmonds, and acquired some when feisty Ryan Hartman was part of the deal with Nashville.
“He blocks shots, gets in on the forecheck, and can be an agitator,” Flyers interim coach Scott Gordon said before Tuesday’s game. "… You can’t have enough players who have a dog-on-the-bone mentality, and from what I’m told, that’s how he plays.”
Gordon’s scouting report was correct.
On his first shift with the Flyers, Hartman, a right winger, leveled Buffalo’s Rasmus Dahlin with a clean hit Tuesday. Zach Begosian then went after Hartman and got four minutes for roughing. Begosian got two minutes for roughing and received a roaring ovation as he skated to the penalty box.
“I’m excited to get going,” Hartman, who won a World Junior title for Team USA in 2013 with Shayne Gostisbehere as one of his teammates, said after the morning skate. He said his dad sent him a photo of five Flyers “laying out to block a shot” in the waning moments of their 2-1 win over Nashville on Dec. 20, “and that shows the character of this group, and I’m really looking forward to playing here.”
The 6-foot, 181-pound Hartman, a 19-goal scorer in his rookie season with Chicago, can become a restricted free agent this summer, so essentially this is a 20-game tryout for him.
Hartman, who netted 10 goals with Nashville but went through a 27-game scoring drought, was on a line with Scott Laughton and James van Riemsdyk.
Captain Claude Giroux, who has spent time golfing with Hartman in the offseason, said his new teammate had a high hockey IQ. “He’s got some skills and some grit. Orange and black is going to look good on him," he said.
Gordon was asked how the Flyers would avoid an emotional letdown after losing Simmonds, the heart and soul of their team.
“I think these two games are like playoff games for us,” Gordon said prior to the opening faceoff, referring to matchups against Buffalo and Columbus, “and with the stakes being high with these games, it should allow us to get our focus on that. But that’s not to say our players’ thoughts aren’t with Simmer. It’s sad to see him leave.”
“You feel a little taller with Wayne Simmonds around,” winger Michael Raffl said.
Giroux talked about how Simmonds affected the team.
“There were multiple times where he made me feel safe or like we were all in this together,” he said. “When I had my really bad season three years ago, I think Wayne was one guy who really supported me and made sure I was OK. That’s just the kind of teammate he is. I think it’s going to take a little time before we get used to this. It’s just bizarre.”
Added Giroux: “It’s important we move forward … and we need to find a way to do that without Wayne. As hard as it is, we have to do it.”