Will Gustafsson decision lead to Meszaros trade?

Will Gustafsson decision lead to Meszaros trade?

September 23, 2013, 2:30 pm
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Last week of Flyers training camp, and there are still a couple of roster spots up in the air and a couple of critical decisions that need to be made.

Among them remains the most obvious question since training camp began: What to do with all these defensemen, and who is the sixth and seventh man to start the season?

From the four days in Lake Placid to Monday’s practice at the Wells Fargo Center, the defensive pairings have not changed.

Andrej Meszaros and Nick Grossmann remain the third pair with young Erik Gustafsson as the apparent seventh, odd man out.

There are three final exhibitions this week to answer the question, starting with Tuesday’s game at home against the New Jersey Devils.

“Guys looked really good out there,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “These games are really important for the evaluation process.

“Last year, we were beaten up on defense, we were missing a lot of guys. It’s good to have that depth. I think again, going back, these final games of evaluation will push slotting and decision making on who makes the team.

“I don’t think there is anybody who has had a poor showing, which makes it more difficult.”

It’s hard to believe the Flyers would keep Gustafsson on the roster as a seventh defenseman knowing the 23-year-old has to play. He can’t sit. And his talent for moving the puck makes it almost mandatory he plays.

They won’t trade him. That would be crazy at this point -- which raises an interesting scenario. Could what we are seeing right now be nothing more than the Flyers “showcasing” Meszaros and trying to prove he is healthy to other clubs, so that they can soon move him via trade?

That makes the most sense.

Meszaros has a $4 million cap hit and the Flyers are still $1.4 million over the salary cap, per CapGeek.com.

Meszaros has looked fit, trim and in great shape on the ice in this camp. He seems recovered from his multiple left shoulder injuries suffered a year ago. Yet he remains the most likely target for a trade if the Flyers are looking to move a veteran and keep Gustafsson in the lineup.

“I don’t think about it,” Meszaros said. “Sometimes you hear stuff and sometimes you don’t. I don’t care about that. It’s what the media are saying. It’s not official.

“Until they trade you or do what they need to do, it’s out of my hands. I just have to play my game and it’s up to the staff after that. I’m not thinking about it. I love being here. What happens, happens.”

Marc-Andre Bourdon has cleared waivers, but has not been assigned. It’s still very likely Bourdon will be placed on long-term injury.

Then there is Bruno Gervais, who is the eighth defenseman, plus Hal Gill on a tryout.

Something has to give between now and Oct. 1 -- when the NHL season begins -- with all these blue liners.

It’s impossible to see the Flyers taking Gustafsson’s much-needed puck-moving skills and putting them on the bench.