I’d rather be covering the Stanley Cup playoffs these days, but since a certain local hockey team had more ups and downs (mostly the latter) than a roller-coaster on the Ocean City Boardwalk, I find myself writing about the Flyers’ many needs in the offseason.
So, it was refreshing to take a break from the latest version of Fixing the Flyers and to write about one of my all-time favorite personalities, Ian Laperriere, a Philadelphia assistant the last eight years who was named the Phantoms’ head coach Sunday.
I used to call him “Hollywood” because that’s where he told me he went to make “my movie,” a flick called This Is 40. But when he wasn’t making cameos, Laperriere was always willing to share his thoughts on what makes special teams click, or dozens of other hockey topics. The guy known as Lappy was always informative and gracious with his time. Always someone who didn’t take himself too seriously, but was truly a student of the game.
Unfortunately, when Ron Hextall became the Flyers’ general manager in 2014, he shut down the media’s access to the assistant coaches. That was a shame because the assistants added much-needed insight to stories.
When Chuck Fletcher was named the GM late in 2014, the muted-assistants policy was eased a bit; if you were working on a special story and needed input from an assistant, permission was frequently granted.
Anyway, Laperriere is no longer off limits to the media. He was named the 11th head coach in the Phantoms’ history. It’s the first time he will be a head coach on any level, and if his coaching matches his anecdotes, his amazing rapport with players and his in-depth knowledge gained over 30-plus years in the sport, he will be an overwhelming success.
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The goalie situation for the Flyers and Phantoms appeared muddled until Felix Sandstrom signed a one-year contract Tuesday for $750,000.
Carter Hart will go into next season as the Flyers’ No. 1 goalie, but they are expected to explore the free-agent market to get someone who complements him — and can handle a lot of the workload if Hart struggles as he did this season.
Among the pending unrestricted free-agent goalies, with their ages: Buffalo’s Linus Ullmark (2.63 GAA, .917 save percentage), 27; Toronto’s Frederik Andersen (2.96, .895), 31; Colorado’s Philipp Grubauer (1.95, .923), 29; Detroit’s Jonathan Bernier (2.99, .914), 32; and Tampa Bay’s Anders Nilsson, 31, who missed the season because of post-concussion syndrome.
Brian Elliott (3.06, .889), who has spent the last four seasons with the Flyers, is also a pending UFA. But Elliott is 36, and though he has played gamely, the Flyers will probably opt for a younger, more durable goaltender.
As for the Phantoms, Sandstrom finished strong this season, but a Finland professional team signed him Monday, according to multiple reports. But Fletcher said Tuesday the reports were erroneous, and he signed the 24-year-old goaltender Tuesday.
Sandstrom is expected to be the Phantoms’ No. 1 goalie. He will get competition from Samuel Ersson and Kirill Ustimenko, who missed last season because of hip surgery.
Ersson, 21, signed a three-year entry-level contract last week for a total of $2.775 million.
Playing for a weak team (Brynas IF Gavle) in the Swedish Hockey League last season that gave him little help, he had a 16-26 record, a 2.96 GAA, and a .910 save percentage. The Flyers drafted him in the fifth round (143rd overall) in 2018.
Fletcher said he was “still making a decision” on whether to sign the 28-year-old Alex Lyon, who in 22 career games with the Flyers has a 3.21 GAA and .893 save percentage.
Things to know
Former Flyers defenseman Erik Gustafsson opened the scoring Monday as Montreal defeated Winnipeg in overtime, 3-2, and swept the four-game playoff series. Montreal, the last team to qualify for the playoffs, needs four more wins to reach the Stanley Cup Finals.
The Islanders, thanks to a power play that keyed a 5-4 victory in Boston, are one win away from reaching the Stanley Cup semifinals.
The Flyers will pick 13th in next month’s draft. Mike Sielski has the story.
Kevin Hayes has successful surgery and will be ready for camp, Ed Barkowitz writes.
Donna Ashbee, wife of former Flyer Barry Ashbee, has died at 82. She was a “driving force in helping form the Flyers Wives Carnival,” Gary Miles reports.
How many of the Phantoms’ 11 coaches can you name since they began in Philadelphia 25 years ago?
The Phantoms have been known as Philadelphia (1996-2009), Adirondack (2009-14), and Lehigh Valley (2014 to present). Here are their coaches in that span:
1. Bill Barber, 1996-2000.
2. John Stevens, 2000-06.
3. Craig Berube, 2006-08.
4. Kjell Samuelsson, 2006-07.
5. John Paddock, 2008-09, 2010-11.
6. Greg Gilbert, 2009-11.
7. Joe Paterson, 2010-12.
8. Terry Murray, 2012-14.
9. Kerry Huffman, 2018-19.
10. Scott Gordon, 2015-21.
11. Ian Laperriere, 2021-?.
July 17: Deadline for clubs to submit protection lists for expansion draft, 5 p.m.
July 21: Seattle expansion draft.
July 23: NHL draft, Round 1.
July 24: NHL draft, Rounds 2-7
July 28: Free-agent signings permitted, noon.
From the mailbag
Question: Which could/would wear Orange and Black next season: (Seth) Jones, (Dougie) Hamilton, (Johnny) Gaudreau? — from Luc (@theashcity) via Twitter
Answer: Thanks for the question, Luc. Gaudreau would definitely help the Flyers’ stale attack if he came home, but their No. 1 priority should be adding a right-handed defenseman, and Jones and Hamilton are two of the best who fit that description.
Hamilton is a free agent and would be a perfect fit with the Flyers, but he will probably re-sign with Carolina. Columbus’ Jones would be a great consolation prize, and he has said he will test the free-agent waters when his contract expires after next season. So what would he cost in a trade? Plenty. And before the Flyers put together a hefty package, they would need to get assurances that Jones would sign a long-term deal here.
Would a package of, say, a first-round pick, Phil Myers, Nolan Patrick, and Scott Laughton get it done?
Jones, who will turn 27 on Oct. 3 and has a modified no-trade clause, is a three-time All-Star selection and is in his prime. His defensive analytics slipped this season, but he played for a bad Columbus team.
The 6-4, 209-pound Jones plays in all situations, and averages about 25 minutes a game. He and Ivan Provorov would give the Flyers one of the league’s best No. 1 defensive pairings.
Jones’ father, Popeye, is a former NBA star who is now an assistant with the Sixers. Seth Jones’ brother, Caleb, 24, is an Edmonton Oilers defenseman.
Send questions by email or on Twitter (@broadstbull), and they could be answered in a future edition.