WITH THE YEAR of the Seven Goalies, also known as the Flyers' 2009-10 season, still fresh in his mind, general manager Paul Holmgren was in the market for an insurance policy in net. Just in case.
On the farm, Scott Munroe is on an AHL-only contract, and undrafted rookie Cal Heeter would be the only replacement possibility.
Turns out, old friend Brian Boucher didn't fit in the Carolina Hurricanes' plans, with Dan Ellis and Justin Peters beckoning to be Cam Ward's backup.
Early Sunday, the Flyers reacquired Boucher and prospect Mark Alt in exchange for minor leaguer Luke Pither. This will be Boucher's fourth stint with the Flyers organization, something the well-liked goaltender joked was "a bit embarrassing."
A need for the Flyers turned out to be a coup for Holmgren. Rather than send him to the minors, the cash-strapped Hurricanes would much rather shed Boucher's $1 million salary. They ended up giving up a solid prospect in Alt just to save cash.
Pither, 23, had fallen out of favor with the Flyers after being signed in 2011 as an undrafted free agent. The Flyers even let him play with ECHL Wheeling, instead of their own affiliate in Trenton.
Alt, 21, is a junior at University of Minnesota. Holmgren personally scouted the former second-round pick (53rd overall, 2010) at his own alma mater. The Flyers love Alt's athleticism. He was a former star quarterback in high school and his father, John, was a former two-time Pro Bowl left tackle for the Kansas City Chiefs.
"Alt is 6-3, he can skate, he's playing in a good program on a good team," Holmgren said. "We've liked him. He's a good, young prospect."
It's also a win for Boucher, who makes his permanent residence in nearby Haddonfield. Carolina suspended him without pay during the lockout for a shoulder injury sustained while playing with his kids in a swimming pool over the summer. He is completely healthy now thanks to the lengthy lockout.
Boucher, 36, will not have the opportunity to compete with Michael Leighton for the backup job. He'll be sent to Adirondack once he clears his physical and waivers, waiting for a chance to make his mark in the NHL again.
Holmgren said him and goaltending coach Jeff Reese thought it would be best for Ilya Bryzgalov and Leighton to receive as many shots in training camp as possible to sharpen up.
"The writing was on the wall. They told me to hang tight, stay at home," Boucher explained. "Maybe it is a blessing in disguise. I'm sure a lot of people are scratching their heads, with the Flyers bringing me back. The Flyers have always been good to me. There's a lot to play for."
Scott Laughton, the Flyers' first-round pick last June, was thrown right into the fire on Sunday in his first training camp with the team. Laughton, 18, was a surprise audition to the training camp roster in this abbreviated tryout, with most coaches not wanting to give up reps for veterans to players who may not make the team.
Instead, as the Daily News reported on Friday, the Flyers are giving Laughton every opportunity to start the season with the big club.
Laughton skated on a line with Matt Read and Wayne Simmonds, already supplanting competitors Tom Sestito, Eric Wellwood and Jody Shelley on Day 1. Since Danny Briere (more below) said he is doubtful for Saturday's opener, Laughton's probability of sticking with the team has skyrocketed.
Laughton is one of only 17 junior players to be invited to an NHL training camp following the lockout - and Scott Hartnell has invited Laughton to bunk in with him during camp. Holmgren confirmed Laughton can play a maximum of five games with the Flyers before they need to make a decision to send him back to OHL Oshawa or burn a year of his entry-level contract.
"I thought Scott did a nice job out there," coach Peter Laviolette said. "He's a smart kid, smart two-way player, and he didn't seem out of place."
Danny Briere will be examined by a team doctor on Monday to survey the full extent of the damage.
Briere hurt his wrist on an awkward check in Germany on Dec. 28; he has not skated in nearly 2 weeks.
Briere, 35, was the Flyers' only player to return from overseas action still injured. Multiple reports indicated that clubs will have the option to suspend players without pay for injuries sustained while playing overseas. Holmgren said he "could not imagine" the Flyers would pursue that route to recoup money, as he was happy players decided to play elsewhere to stay in shape.
Pronger in town
Holmgren said Chris Pronger will arrive in Philly on Monday. Don't get your hopes up, though. Pronger, 38, is still suffering from concussion-like symptoms and has no aspirations of returning to the ice. He will not partake in training camp.
Instead, Pronger will be examined by a doctor, as a formality, to sign off on his long-term injury reserve list status. He has been critiquing prospects on video and Holmgren said he "tells it as he sees it."
Kimmo Timonen quarterbacked a classic "umbrella" setup on the first power-play unit on Sunday, flanked by Claude Giroux and Jake Voracek, with Wayne Simmonds and Scott Hartnell down low . . . Newcomer Ruslan Fedotenko, Max Talbot, Braydon Coburn and Nick Grossmann worked the penalty kill . . . Holmgren said defenseman Erik Gustafsson (ankle) is 2 weeks away from play and there is no timetable for Marc-Andre Bourdon (concussion).