Tyler J. Altemose
It's an unfortunate thing to encounter, but it hits nearly every NHL team each and every season.
I'm talking, of course, about the injury bug.
The Flyers have been lucky to not have to worry about it too much until now, but as it rears it's ugly head, the team is forced to cope.
First, Ville Leino suffered a lower body injury against the Florida Panthers on February 16th. He sat out a game, but he has since told Teemu Hytonen of Broad Street Hockey that he is "100 percent".
Captain Mike Richards has been battling the flu (as have I) since February 18th. He missed the game against the Carolina Hurricanes as a last minute scratch, which gave way to the Zherdev rumors as Jody Shelley and not the Ukranian forward was called to fill in. He has since been day-to-day.
Forward Blair Betts was also injured during the 'Canes game, suffering a finger injury and missing the third period. He has not returned to action since.
On February 20th against the New York Rangers, the Flyers suffered a two more injuries. First, defensemen Sean O'Donnell suffered what the team initially believed to be a ligament injury in his knee. The initial prognosis was a 10-14-day recovery, but yesterday it was discovered that the knee problem wasn't a ligament issue.
Goaltender Brian Boucher also went down (albeit temporarily) with an injury to his blocker hand. Fortunately, Boosh finished the game and is only sore. He has since been cleared to play.
According to Steven Whyno of Philadelphia Sports Daily, O'Donnell skated Tuesday and said he felt fine. Whyno reported earlier today that O'Donnell will be skating Thursday against the New York Islanders.
The most serious of these injuries, however, was suffered Tuesday night by defenseman Oskars Bartulis. The Latvian defenseman suffered a late hit at the hands of former Flyer Scottie Upshall. Bartulis was thrown awkwardly into the boards and was unable to get up for several minutes.
Bartulis later left the ice with the assistance of Flyers trainer Jim McCrossin and Andrej Meszaros. He did not return. The team stated that he would receive an MRI Wednesday, the results of which have yet to be made public. Unfortunately, a report from TSN's Bob McKenzie reveals that the injury suffered by Bartulis is season-ending.
In a subsequent report by McKenzie, Scottie Upshall has been given a two game suspension by the NHL for the hit.
In terms of personnell, the Flyers sit at the bare minimum. They have 12 healthy forwards with Blair Betts and Ian Laperriere out, and they have 6 healthy defensemen with Oskars Bartulis out. Oh, and two goaltenders, and a partridge in a pear tree.
But what if the injury bug isn't finished yet? What options do the Flyers have?
Fortunately for the Flyers, they have a lot more options now that Nikolay Zherdev has been waived. With Zherdev off the books, the team will be under the daily cap limit by $7,578. With 45 days to go, and accounding for their banked cap space from earlier in the season, the team is slated to have $773,475 in cap space at season's end. That, of course, is barring any roster changes.
Flyers GM Paul Holmgren has made it clear to the media that he isn't going to make any call ups if he doesn't have to. But what if the Flyers don't have a choice? What if the team suffers yet another injury?
If you ask me, the Flyers first option as a defensive call up should be Danny Syvret. Syvret has the upside of having played in the NHL before, unlike Erik Gustafsson. That's a critical element at this juncture in the season.
Tim Panaccio of CSN Philly tweeted last night that he would rather the team go with Gustafsson and is disappointed that teams don't utilize the "trial by fire" method like they used to, but with the Flyers already playing streaky hockey, I don't believe now is the time to experiment.
I also spoke with Dustin Leed of The Hockey Guys/The Fourth Period, as well as Tim McManus, the beat writer for the Adirondack Phantoms. Both of them seem to agree with me as well that the call up should be Syvret.
Whichever player the team decides to go with, they'd be cap-compliant. Here's the quick rundown:
If PHI recalls Syvret--a $600,000 cap hit--they would be $4,352 under the cap limit per day and would have $628,313 in cap space at the end of the season.
If PHI recalls Gustafsson--a $900,000 cap hit--they would be $2,739 under the cap limit per day and would have $555,733 in cap space at the end of the season.
What about Matt Walker? Well, in a strange twist of fate Matt Walker has once again suffered a knee injury and is going to go under the knife for the third time this season, this according to duel reports from Steven Whyno and Tim McManus. He's out of the question.
Of course, there are still a few days left before the trade deadline. Teams have been scrambling lately, and there's the possibility that Holmgren will be making some phone calls for a defensive depth man.
Since the CBA bars teams from using their LTIR space to make an acquisition, the team would be stuck to using up their extra $7,578 per day. That equates to an NHL salary of roughly $1.4M.
As far as forwards are concerned, it's almost common knowledge at this point that the call up could be the youngster Eric Wellwood. If called up, his $580,000 cap hit would leave the team $4,459 under the daily cap limit and would give them $633,152 in cap space at the end of the season.
And finally, the injury that no one wants to hear about (and frankly one I don't want to talk about). What if Bob or Boosh go down? (Knock on wood.)
Here is where waivers make things tricky. Since Michael Leighton--the obvious selection--was placed on waivers earlier in the season, he would be subject to re-entry waivers. If any team picks him up during that time, he is theirs at half the cost. The remainder must be payed by the Flyers. If he isn't picked up, however, his $1,550,000 cap hit would leave the Flyers $756 over the daily cap limit. With Laperriere on LTIR, however, that would not be a problem. The team would still have $398,475 in cap space at the end of the season.
Going with a less-costly route, the Flyers could recall Johan Backlund. His $800,000 cap hit would leave the Flyers $3,277 under the daily cap limit and would give the team $579,926 in cap space at the end of the season.
While there is much uncertainty in the air about what moves this team will make in the coming days, it sure makes for exciting chatter.