VOORHEES, N.J. — Consider Shayne Gostisbehere's summer to be the calm before the storm. He couldn't have asked for a better offseason considering this same time last year he was recovering and rehabilitating from hip surgery.
"I have a lot less doubt, just I'd say, body-wise," Gostisbehere said Monday after skating with about 18 other players and prospects for an hour at Flyers Skate Zone in Voorhees, New Jersey. "Obviously last year coming off surgeries and stuff. You have your doubts mentally if I'm going to hold up. I think the biggest thing for me is how good of a summer I just had, how strong I got. I feel like I'm in great shape. I'm ready for the season. Build it up to break it down."
Much of Gostisbehere's offseason conditioning program centered around upper-body core strength while adding muscle that he believes will help him battle defenders along the boards, fight for loose pucks and just improve overall stamina.
Whatever that workout regimen was, it seemed to put more weight on his shoulders than his contract negotiations. Set to become a restricted free agent on July 1, Gostisbehere signed a six-year, $27 million extension ($4.5 million cap hit) in early June, reaffirming the organization's belief in him coming off a disappointing 2016-17 season. If he can string together seasons comparable to his rookie year of 2015-16, Gostisbehere will be a bargain compared to other young defensemen (see list below).
"The biggest thing for me is the organization as a group believes in me and looks at me as part of the future, and I think that's the biggest thing especially with so many young D prospects coming up," Gostisbehere said. "I think that was the biggest thing for me and my family. I'm happy to be in Philly and happy to be in Philly for a long time."
And now he'll have the financial flexibility to help his girlfriend, Gina, who just enrolled in Jefferson's College of Nursing.
More importantly, "Ghost" and his agent secured peace of mind and eliminated any stress that comes with extended negotiations, much like the scene between the Boston Bruins and RFA forward David Pastrnak.
"Yeah it actually went pretty smooth," Gostisbehere said. "It took about a month or so. I thought it went pretty smooth. We came to a decision quick. I think it was good to happen earlier in the summer so I could focus on the rest of summer and have a good summer."
Gostisbehere has done everything this summer within his power. Now he braces for something much more powerful outside his control: the weather. As Hurricane Irma bears down on the Caribbean, Gostisbehere's family and friends who live in the Miami/St. Petersburg area are anxiously waiting to see where Irma makes its next move and how powerful the storm might be if, and when, it reaches the Florida coast.
"Obviously, you wish it would make a U-turn and go the other way and die out in the ocean but it's part of life," Gostisbehere said. "I think the best thing you can do is prepare. I remember we probably had six or seven hurricanes growing up, some major ones. I was in my mom's belly for Hurricane Andrew.
"My whole family lives down there. They've been through it before. It's easy. We have hurricane shudders. Just bear down and just prepare for the worst and get through it. They're more than welcome to come up here. I know they've dealt with it before, and if it gets too bad, we'll make some plans."
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Shayne Gostisbehere (PHI)
Contract: 6 years, $27M
Signed: June 2017
Colton Parayko (STL)
Contract: 5 years, $27.5M
Signed: July 2017
Seth Jones (NSH)
Contract: 6 years, $32.4
Signed: June 2016
Rasmus Ristolainen (BUF)
Contract: 6 years, $32.4M
Signed: October 2016
Jaccob Slavin (CAR)
Contract: 7 years, $37.5
Signed: July 2017
Morgan Rielly (TOR)
Contract: 6 years, $30M
Signed: April 2016