With improved depth at every position, the Philadelphia Flyers can afford to cut a veteran loose if a young player impresses. But which veterans are most likely to get the axe?
Yesterday, we released our first Philadelphia Flyers roster prediction of the 2017-18 season. On the whole, it went “chalk,” which is to say there weren’t really any surprises. Nolan Patrick and Oskar Lindblom were the only rookie forwards to make the team, and Samuel Morin and Robert Hagg took the two open spots on the blue line.
However, it wouldn’t be all that surprising to see more young players usurp some veterans with strong training camp and preseason performances. Taylor Leier, Mike Vecchione, Travis Sanheim, and Mark Friedman are just a few of the prospects with an outside chance at making the roster.
So which veterans are most likely to miss the roster? Here are some of the prime candidates.
Read’s had a solid, long run with the Flyers, but his time may be coming to an end. His contract expires at the end of this season, and it seems more likely than not that the Flyers will let him walk.
Read looked like a stud after his rookie year, in which he posted 47 points and finished 4th in Calder Trophy voting. Since then, his point production has steadily declined, culminating in last year’s disappointing 19-point showing. He remains a dependable, defensively-responsible option in the bottom-6, but the Flyers could easily choose to go in a different direction if a younger, higher-upside player has a strong showing.
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Acquired in the still-excellent Brayden Schenn trade, it’s hard to say what the Flyers’ plans for Lehtera are. Ron Hextall only had good things to say about him after the trade (“He is a utility guy with a well-rounded game and can play in the middle”), but would he say anything else about an incoming player?
In reality, Lehtera was likely a throw-in the Flyers had to accept in order to get better draft picks. While taking on Lehtera was certainly worth it, he is by no means guaranteed to make the roster. Like Read, Lehtera’s performance has steadily dropped off since entering the league, and his advanced age precludes the possibility for a rebound. Lehtera does have two years remaining on his contract, which helps his case, but he’ll still need to show something if he wants to remain at the NHL level.
Manning would probably be the odd man out if Sanheim, Friedman, or a different defenseman made a strong enough impression in camp. He has established himself as a decent bottom-pairing defenseman and an excellent player to have around as a healthy scratch. But once again, his upside is limited by his age. At 27 years old, Manning isn’t likely to see a significant drop-off yet, but he certainly won’t be getting any better.
At this point in time, this trio is still expected to make the team. But if a prospect wows the coaches over the next few weeks, one of these three will likely get the short end of the stick.