At the tender age of 35, Mark Streit won’t dodge the fact that he’s not a rookie coming out of the NHL draft.
At the same time, how many other 35-year-old puck-moving defensemen do you know of who have played only seven seasons in the United States?
Most of the Swiss defenseman’s time has been spent in Europe, which means his body, in NHL years, is probably like 29.
Outside of missing the 2010-11 season with a labrum tear in his shoulder, Streit’s body hasn’t been exposed to the every night, physical punishment that is seen with every scar of those who play in the NHL.
That means, in theory, Streit has some solid years left on the blue line for the Flyers, who traded for him this summer from the Islanders before signing him to a four-year, $21 million contract.
“There is a big difference when you are 35 and have played 15 years [versus] playing eight,” Streit said during a news conference at the Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday, including the one year he missed with the shoulder injury.
“The wear and tear is big in the NHL. I feel great, feel healthy," Streit said. "I had one unfortunate season with Islanders when I was hurt the whole year, but other than that, I played almost all games every year. I’m in good shape. I want to play a long time. I can help this team.”
Considering the uncertainty of Andrej Meszaros, with all his assorted and bizarre injuries over the last 18 months, the Flyers needed another body who could skate and move the puck.
“We added Mark, who is the type of defenseman we need,” general manager Paul Holmgren said. “He can play on the power play. He can provide offense five on five.
“He gets up in the rush, he joins the rush and, at times, can lead the rush and make plays coming out of our end. [He’s] an offensive defenseman we felt we needed badly.”
The Islanders had a competitive showing in the playoffs against the Pittsburgh Penguins before losing.
“After the season, I felt it was time for me to move on,” Streit said. “I got traded to the Flyers. After the season, I was thinking about teams. I had a few teams on my mind. The Flyers were atop that list. I always loved playing against them.
“A great mix of younger and older players. A lot of skill and grit. It was tough to play against those guys. It’s a great hockey town. A great tradition.
“As soon as I [got] traded, I was hoping to get something done here. I’m excited. I’m thankful they gave me the opportunity. I’m thrilled.”
Combined with adding Ray Emery in goal, the Flyers have changed their look on the defensive end in terms of the breakout.
Along with Steve Mason, they now have two goalies who will play the puck to the defense instead of making the defense go the distance behind the net.
“I’m a puck-moving defenseman,” Streit said. “It goes hand-in-hand. You want to feed the forwards with good passes. You want to follow up the play and join the rush. There is so much skill here up front, such big potential. For me as a defenseman, it [is] fun to play here.
“The mix between skill and grit is how you win. You will not win with just skill or just grit. You need to have a healthy mix, which is why I am excited to be a Flyer.”
The Flyers defense should have more energy this season not battling against other teams' forecheck if their goalies do their job in assisting on dump-ins, etc.
This is something that Kimmo Timonen railed about for the past couple of years, especially when Ilya Bryzgalov was in goal.
“If you got a goalie back there who can play the puck and handle it and make plays, it makes it so much easier,” Streit said.
“Offense starts with a good first pass. If the puck gets dumped in and goes past the net every time, you have to get past the forecheck.
“If he can stop the play, move it to the defense or off the glass, it’s the difference between being in your own end 20 to 30 seconds and losing a lot of energy and being out of the zone right away and creating offense.
“In today’s game it makes a huge difference. When your goalies handle the puck it makes it way easier.”
How much easier and how much of a difference it makes, we’ll see come October.
Erik Gustafsson, who got his qualifying offer recently from the Flyers, signed a one-year deal worth $1 million.
The Flyers also agreed to terms with restricted free agent defenseman Oliver Lauridsen on a two-year deal Wednesday.
Lauridsen appeared in 15 games with the Flyers in 2013, registering two goals and one assist.