Laviolette: 'I want to make sure we leave camp healthy'
WASHINGTON -- Preseason hockey ended for the Flyers on Friday night with an exhibition game against the Capitals that only serves as a tune-up for next week’s regular-season start.
The bigger news was the Flyers' roster.
Austrian winger Michael Raffl, who appeared to have a spot all but locked up at left wing, was sent to the Phantoms along with defenseman Oliver Lauridsen.
By process of elimination, that left Chris VandeVelde as the sole survivor at left wing with Tye McGinn going back to the Phantoms early Friday morning following Thursday’s loss in New Jersey.
The Flyers still have 14 forwards in camp, including 19-year-old Scott Laughton, who the organization feels has to play center, whereas VandeVelde has played both center and wing.
The 25-year-old Raffl was trying to make the jump from Europe to North America without a year on the smaller ice at the AHL level. He nearly succeeded.
“He played four of our games and I thought he did something good in each of those games, but we want to get him more experience on the smaller ice down there where he can play more minutes,” general manager Paul Holmgren said of Raffl. “Kind of learn the North American game.”
VandeVelde has a minor-league deal. He will likely be offered a two-way contract, Holmgren said. The Flyers have 48 pro contracts and a couple of “slide” contracts, as well. Fifty is the limit.
The wild card, once again, is Laughton.
“Yes, a lot depends on what happens with Scott,” Holmgren said. “He has the little 'J' [junior eligibility] beside his name unless he plays X-number of games. We kept our options open with Chris. He’s played pretty good for us.
“The difference there is Chris is a North American player and has played three years pro and NHL games. For purposes of sending Michael down, it’s important to get him playing more minutes down there.”
Laughton can stick around for nine NHL games before going back to junior or the clock starts ticking on his NHL contract.
Ideally, the Flyers would prefer to place Laughton with the Phantoms, but they can’t because of age restrictions.
“We want to be extra careful,” Holmgren said. “It’s good that he is still here. I thought he was one of our better guys [Thursday] night and it was hard to find a guy who played good.”
Laughton and VandeVelde both played Friday night in the Flyers' preseason finale against the Caps.
Holmgren said he is having difficulty deciding on whether to keep 13 or 14 forwards.
As part of this decision, there remains the question on defense -- carry seven or eight?
Holmgren admitted he’d like to sign Hal Gill, who is on a tryout. Both men are slated to meet Saturday morning. Holmgren said he is considering asking Gill to sign a minor-league deal.
The 38-year-old Gill would be a better option as a seventh defenseman rather than asking a younger player, who needs playing time, to sit in the press box as an extra. The Flyers don’t like doing that.
“He doesn’t get beat,” Holmgren said of Gill. “You could argue that he is slow, but he’s been the same player for probably the last 10 years. Maybe the game has gotten a little faster.
“Having him at camp has been a real pleasure. He is full of life. For an older guy who played as many games as he has, he provides enthusiasm. He’s a good pro. I love having him around.”
Complicating this is the fact that the Flyers have seven regulars on defense right now with Andrej Meszaros and Erik Gustafsson vying for the final spot among the top six.
Holmgren said he would not put Gustafsson through waivers for the purposes of sending him to the Phantoms for fear of losing him.
NHL rosters have to be submitted by 5 p.m. on Monday. Holmgren said he would like to make some roster decisions by late Friday.
Holmgren: Gagne not in Flyers' plans
Free agent forward Simon Gagne said late Friday that he had not heard from the Flyers. Holmgren said, at this point, Gagne no longer figures in any plans for the Flyers, regardless of what happens with their current roster.