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The latest on Travis Sanheim, Flyers prospects competing in AHL playoffs

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The latest on Travis Sanheim, Flyers prospects competing in AHL playoffs

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — There’s a very good chance Travis Sanheim’s season isn’t over just yet.

Eleven days after sustaining an ugly knee injury in a collision with Checkers forward Valentin Zykov, Sanheim was skating with Lehigh Valley teammates Phil Varone and goaltender Anthony Stolarz Tuesday morning prior to the team’s practice at the PPL Center.

“I think with Phil and Travis, it’s not a question of if, but when,” Phantoms head coach Scott Gordon said. “I think they’re moving in the right direction and we’ll see how the week goes.”

The Phantoms returned to Allentown, Pennsylvania, for the first time since May 5 after sweeping three games in Charlotte, advancing to the AHL’s Eastern Conference Finals against the Toronto Marlies, starting Saturday. While Sanheim isn’t expected to play in the first two games of the series, there’s a stronger possibility he could return to action when the series shifts back to Allentown for Games 3, 4 and 5.

Stolarz hasn’t played since making his Phantoms season debut on March 24, allowing six goals on 35 shots to the Providence Bruins. He reinjured his surgically repaired knee and has spent the better part of the past seven months in rehabilitation.

However, Stolarz is expected to join the team when it leaves for Toronto later in the week. 

“I think he’s been officially cleared health-wise,” Gordon said. “I don’t want to say I’m 100 percent, but I’m 95 percent he’s officially been cleared. He’s going to make the trip to Toronto because of it.” 

The news surrounding defenseman Samuel Morin doesn’t appear so optimistic. The Flyers' defensive prospect sustained an apparent knee injury last Wednesday in the first period of the five-overtime thriller against the Checkers.

Internally, there’s concern that Morin may not be 100 percent when training camp opens in September. 

Michael Raffl signs 2-year extension with Flyers

Michael Raffl signs 2-year extension with Flyers

Chuck Fletcher is in the process of identifying which players will be part of the Flyers' future moving forward, and those who aren’t. 

Versatile winger Michael Raffl is one of the Flyers the new executive VP and GM wants to keep around.

The Flyers and Raffl agreed on a two-year, $3.2 million extension Tuesday, roughly a 32 percent pay cut from the three-year, $7.05 million contract that expires at the end of this season.

Why isn't Raffl worth more?

For starters, Raffl has played the full 82-game slate only once in his six seasons with the Flyers. He has also seen a significant dip in ice time this season, averaging 11:38 through 61 games played and has been utilized primarily in a bottom-six role.

When Raffl signed his current three-year contract in February of 2016, he was more of an offensive contributor coming off a career-high 21 goals playing alongside Claude Giroux.

In the proceeding three years, Raffl, now 30, has scored just 27 goals, including a career-low six this season.

You can also argue that Raffl doesn’t always play with a high motor consistently.

Flyers still get a bargain

However, you won’t find many veterans who bring the versatility of Raffl, capable of playing both left and right wing while contributing on the penalty kill, and he doesn’t hurt a team with undisciplined penalties. 

He’s also a big-body forward with a penchant for playing physically, winning board battles, while using his size to carve out space in front of the net. For a player listed at 6-foot, 200 pounds, Raffl plays bigger than his size at times.

Raffl is also a good locker room presence known to have a loose sense of humor, bringing a lighthearted approach. His signing fills a depth role, and according to Cap Friendly, the Flyers now have 14 players under contract with roughly $31 million in cap space to work with.

If the Flyers plan on being active in free agency, they also need some lower-tiered salaries to provide the necessary space. Give Fletcher credit for ridding the organization of Dale Weise’s lengthy contract, while signing Raffl to a modest two-year deal through 2021.

Clearly, there was a comfort level with Raffl, who chose comfortability with the organization, as opposed to testing his value on the market.

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Despite a lack of playing time, Cam Talbot still sees a future in Philly

Despite a lack of playing time, Cam Talbot still sees a future in Philly

VOORHEES, N.J. — The timing couldn’t have been better for Cam Talbot to come to Philadelphia.

Then again, it also couldn’t have been worse.

The 31-year-old workhorse was no longer the lead pony in Edmonton and was bracing for a change of scenery. It came sooner than expected when the Flyers were willing to swap out Anthony Stolarz for Talbot. He even waived his no-trade clause to make the deal happen.

What hasn’t happened has been a sufficient amount of playing time. Talbot has seen action in just two games since the trade on Feb. 16. If it wasn’t for an injury to Carter Hart, who knows if Talbot would have seen any playing time at all. 

“It’s not exactly what I had envisioned when I got here, but when the other two guys are playing as well as they have been, you have to just sit back and wait for your chance,” Talbot said. “I’m just coming to the rink every day, working hard and waiting for my opportunity.”

Now that we’re entering the final week of the regular season, the Flyers could see a heavy dose of Talbot once the Flyers are officially eliminated from playoff contention — which could come as early as Wednesday with a regulation loss to the Maple Leafs coupled with a Canadiens regulation win on Tuesday. 

Scott Gordon says Carter Hart will get the nod for Wednesday’s game against the Maple Leafs, but Talbot could earn “at least two, maybe three” starts beginning with this weekend’s back-to-back against the Hurricanes and the Rangers.

The Flyers interim head coach even felt the need to meet with Talbot recently regarding the unique state of affairs that have led to his current situation, where Talbot has seen just 93 minutes of action in two games with his new team.

“I talked to him about the circumstances of coming here, the delay of getting here with the visa issues didn’t allow him to practice for a week,” Gordon said. “Didn’t expect that Brian would come back and play. Those could have been situations had he been here he may have jumped in there and played those two games that Carter came out of, and then maybe he’s playing that next start in the outdoor game.” 

But it hasn’t worked out that way at all, and Talbot can only ask repeatedly the “What’s next?” question.  

So far, there has been no movement towards a new contract for the free-agent-to-be goaltender, but between extended practices, Talbot has had a chance to get acclimated even more with the city, the organization and his teammates.

“It makes you want to come back a little bit more,” Talbot said. “Obviously, I would have loved to play some games here down the stretch, but the organization has been first class. The guys in the room have been great with me and they seem like a great group of guys. It seems like a great group moving forward and I’d still like that opportunity if they’re looking for that.”

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