SAN JOSE, Calif. - In a bit of a surprise, the Flyers put forward Sam Gagner on waivers Tuesday to make room for defenseman Mark Streit, who is expected to come off the long-term injured reserve list for the game Wednesday in San Jose.
The Flyers need to clear less than $300,000 in order to have enough salary-cap space to add Streit and keep Shayne Gostisbehere on the roster, according to general manager Ron Hextall.
"Any decision we made at this point wasn't going to be easy," Hextall said by telephone from Helsinki, where he was watching the World Junior Championships.
Gagner, 26, has a $3.2 million cap hit, but the Flyers would get $950,000 in cap relief if he clears waivers at noon on Wednesday and is sent to the Phantoms. He also still could be traded.
Sidelined by a concussion for 11 games, Gagner has missed the last 14 games. Gagner, acquired last June in the deal that sent Nick Grossmann to Arizona, was respected in the locker room. He played in just 18 games, collecting two goals, five points, and a plus-1 rating.
"He's a good player and has lots of skill," forward Ryan White said after practice Tuesday at the SAP Center. "It's a tough business sometimes where you get in spots and you're not playing. A few of us have been there before. Just because one team doesn't need him right now, I'm sure he's going to get a chance somewhere else. It may not be right now, but he just has to keep on working hard and get ready for your next opportunity. He's a pro and he knows that."
Hextall told Gagner - selected sixth overall by Edmonton in the 2007 draft - not to practice with the team Tuesday in San Jose.
"It's a difficult day for a kid, so we felt it was the right thing to do," Hextall said.
The Flyers could have put R.J. Umberger, among others, on waivers. Umberger, 33, has not scored in his last 38 games. In 20 games this year, Umberger has no goals, five assists and a plus-3 rating, tied with Sean Couturier for tops among Flyers forwards.
Gagner is seven years younger than Umberger, has more speed, and is effective in shootouts.
Coach Dave Hakstol declined to comment on Gagner's demotion.
Umberger has an annual $4.6 million cap hit through the end of next season. The Flyers could buy out his contract after this season.
The Flyers also could have tried to put defensemen Nick Schultz or Brandon Manning through waivers. Scott Laughton would not have required waivers if he was sent to the Phantoms.
"We looked at everything," Hextall said. ". . . We didn't have a great option . . . but we talked it through and felt this was the best one at this time."
Claude Giroux and Vinny Lecavalier are the only Flyers with no-movement clauses, according to generalfanager.com.
The Flyers apparently are going to keep eight defensemen on the roster, depending on the severity of Michael Del Zotto's wrist injury.
"It will be on a day-to-day basis," said Hextall, referring to the crowded blue-line situation. "Carrying eight defensemen isn't the easiest thing for anybody, particularly the defensemen. But that's the spot we're in now."