By: Wes Herrmann (@Wes_Herrm)
Hockey season is far away. Training camp and preseason, though, is not. Not to get anyone’s hopes up for genuine NHL hockey, but roster battles and chemistry building at training camps is already less than a month away.
The Philadelphia Flyers’ training camp schedule hasn’t been released yet, but their first preseason game is Sept. 17. At most NHL training camps, veteran free agent invites will be present looking for a deal with a new team.
Flyers general manager Ron Hextall hasn’t gone that rout in the past; in fact he’s never had a veteran free agent invite at a Philly camp, but with the team open to adding two to three rookie defensemen next year, some veteran competition may not be the worst idea.
Most Philly fans don’t want to see that and would rather begin the process of turning the blue line into a much younger one. Those fans aren’t wrong, but bringing in a veteran defenseman as a safety net won’t deter those plans either.
A player on a training camp invite is not guaranteed anything past the preseason. All an invited player would do is increase competition and create a backup plan in case one, or more, of the prospects aren’t ready. Plus, a veteran minimum has to be met for every preseason game, which an invited player would count toward, allowing a locked veteran to rest.
The Flyers could – and should – go that way with a defenseman. At forward there’s a logjam and plenty of competition already, and there’s no reason to bring in a goalie invite. So, who are the free agent defensemen that could get an invite from Hextall and the Flyers?
Franson is the cream of the crop of the leftover free agent defensemen in the middle of August. Although he’s slow, he’s right-handed and had plenty of seasons of success in the past. The former Sabre is also just 30 years old.
The Flyers have just one right-handed defenseman on the roster in Radko Gudas, assuming Philippe Myers doesn’t make the team. In camp, Franson would offer the best competition. Any prospect that can earn a spot over him is clearly ready for the NHL.
And if none of the prospects are ready or if Franson makes more sense to sign to a deal, the Flyers’ defense would be better off with him.
But that’s not necessarily what Hextall is looking for. Franson is a great get for a contending team, and those are the teams he should hold out for. The former Predator just isn’t a match for either side at this point.
So if too much talent puts a defenseman outside of Philly’s target, then a blueliner on his last legs may be where to look. Beauchemin fits that bill perfectly.
In his prime, the two-time Anaheim Duck was one of the best defensive defensemen in the game. At 37 years old, those days are way behind him.
But Beauchemin did play 81 games last year for the Colorado Avalanche. Maybe not at a high level, but that does prove that if something catastrophic happens, Beauchemin could be good for about 30 games in a seventh defenseman role.
What’s more likely is if the Quebec native is invited, he’d offer another competitive factor and help teach the kids a few things after carving out a 12-year career.
Like Beauchemin: Mark Stuart, Dennis Wideman
If the Flyers decide to bring in a rearguard that wants to go all-out for an NHL role, instead of a near-retirement veteran, Jokipakka could be the man.
The Finnish defenseman is just 25 years old and has 150 NHL games under his belt. After a 68-game season in 2015-16 split between the Dallas Stars and Calgary Flames, Jokipakka looked like he was on the road to becoming a full-time NHLer.
This past season, he played 38 games for the Flames before he was sent to the Ottawa Senators in March. Jokipakka played just three games after that and wasn’t given a qualifying offer making him an UFA this summer.
Jokipakka has every reason to fight for a roster spot and offer maybe one of the best compete levels on the market at this point.
Like Jokipakka: Eric Gelinas, Cody Goloubef