Don’t expect to see Sam Morin patrolling the blue line next season for the Philadelphia Flyers. Or for that matter, Robert Hagg, Mark Alt and Shayne Gostisbehere.
The quartet, which makes up the best crop of defensive prospects the organization has possessed in decades, will have trouble stepping on to the ice at the Wells Fargo Center in 2015-16.
Unless there are some major personnel changes between now and the start of training camp in September, which General Manager Ron Hextall has acknowledged is in the plans, the four young D-men will likely be buried deep on the depth chart.
With the signing last week of defenseman Yevgeni Medvedev, who played in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League, the Flyers have eight defensemen under contract for next season and that doesn’t include Michael Del Zotto, who is a restricted free agent and expected to re-sign.
Although much can and probably will change on the blue line before the season opener, as it stands in the last week of May, the Flyers also return Nick Grossmann, Mark Streit, Andrew MacDonald, Luke Schenn, Brandon Manning, Radko Gudas and Nick Schultz.
“We’re going to have to do something,” Hextall told reporters last week. “We thought Yevgeni was a real good, solid upgrade on defense and was someone we couldn’t let go by. Something will have to give here, though.”
Schenn and Grossmann are both in the final year of their contracts, which might make them more attractive to other teams – although neither would net much in return. MacDonald and Streit each carry a giant cap hit over multiple years and would be more difficult to move. Manning, who played well during his 11-game stint at the end of last season, could begin the year in the minors.
Even if the GM can swing a couple of trades, it will still leave the team with six-to-seven players in front of the young guys. While most of the fan base would prefer to see one or two of the heralded prospects next season, Hextall is in no rush.
It explains why the organization went after Medvedev, who will turn 33 during the year.
“We want to get better today,” said Hextall. “We look at (Medvedev) as a guy, hopefully moving into the top of our D, not necessarily the one or two-hole. The kids are not going to come in and necessarily be a clutch piece if they come in.”
The key word was ‘if.” Hextall has preached patience since the day he inherited the GM role. He has stated over and over that he is not going to rush the kids.
Right now, he couldn’t expedite their arrival even if he wanted to.
“We’re going to have to look at (possible trades),” Hextall said. “We’re going to have to look to move somebody.”
Or two or three.
Otherwise, don’t expect to see Morin, Hagg, Alt or Gostisbehere skating on the Flyers blue line in the fall.