The Philadelphia Flyers got some good news Sunday afternoon. Twenty-four year old defenseman Marc-Andre Bourdon practiced with the team and has been cleared to move forward with his career. Aside from what this means for the Flyers on the ice, this is great news for everyone off the ice. Bourdon has suffered from concussion symptoms for over a year. The fact that he is free from these issues is great news for Marc-Andre and his family.
So what does this mean for the Flyers on the ice? Well not very much right now, but that could change in two weeks. Bourdon is on a one-way contract. That means that he cannot be sent to the Adirondack Phantoms without clearing waivers. However, the rules concerning recovering players allow for a player on a one-way contract to spend up to two weeks in the AHL for conditioning purposes. Paul Holmgren issued this statement concerning Bourdon:
Marc-Andre has continued his rehab the past couple of months and has improved to the point where we anticipate him being loaned to the Phantoms this week and getting back on the road to playing professional hockey games.
Therefore, it looks like Bourdon will spend the next 14 days with the Adirondack Phantoms. At the end of that stint, the Flyers will have a few decisions to make.
With the addition of Bourdon, the Flyers have 11 defensemen on one-way contracts. Of those 11, Chris Pronger is on LTIR and will never play again, Bruno Gervais is successfully stashed in the AHL, and Bourdon has two weeks until he must be brought up to the NHL.
What happens in two weeks will depend on how Bourdon plays for Adirondack. He has not played in a game since December of 2012 (for the Phantoms during the lockout) and has not played in the NHL since April 11, 2012. If Bourdon does not look good and/or is too rusty, do not be surprised if Holmgren attempts to keep him in the AHL. This would require Bourdon to pass through waivers, but it would be odd for a team to claim a depth defenseman coming off of a slew of injuries who is not playing well. If Bourdon performs well, then the situation becomes more complicated. Better, but complicated. The Flyers would then have nine defensemen who would need to clear waivers to be sent to the AHL. This opens up the possibility of a trade.
Even as strictly a depth defenseman, there is an upside to keeping Bourdon around. He is still just 24 and would become the 2nd youngest defenseman on the roster (he’s a month and a half older than L Schenn). In his 45 NHL games played in 2011-2012 he did not look out of place and showed some potential. At $612,500 this season, and an RFA at the end of the season, he will be a cheap option on the blueline. If Bourdon stays healthy and performs well during his conditioning stint we could see a guy like Grossmann or Meszaros (although he is making quite the case to stick around) shipped out to make room on the roster for Bourdon. In that case, Bourdon may still only be the 7th/8th defenseman, but Gustafsson could slip into the line up on a regular basis.
Another huge advantage of keeping Bourdon around is cap space. I do not know all of the intricacies of the prorated salary cap, but obviously if the team subtracts a salary like that of Grossmann ($3.5M) or Meszaros ($4M) and adds that of Bourdon ($612.5K), it would give the Flyers significant cap flexibility heading into the trade deadline. When the summer comes, it would not be too hard to re-sign a guy like Bourdon. Having been injured for a long time, it is not likely that he will command much money in negotiations and would probably just be happy with a contract.
It is unfortunate to see a guy who was once a promising 3rd round pick (2008) having a tough time in his career. However, he is at a point right now in which there are few, if any, expectations on him. He may not plug the holes at the top of the Flyers defensive depth chart, but his low cap hit and youth could enable the team to ship out some overpaid veterans. Even if he remains an AHL defenseman this season, at 24, he is still young enough to get his career back on track.Like the rest of Flyers nation, I wish Marc-Andre Bourdon the best and would love nothing more than to see him develop into a reliable NHL defenseman wearing the orange and black.