VOORHEES, N.J. — Ron Hextall is taking inventory, and at the same time, perhaps paying even closer attention to the developments at Flyers rookie camp.
The most recent lower-body injury to Andrew MacDonald and his six-week recovery has forced the general manager to see where he goes from here to ensure the Flyers have the necessary depth at defense to begin the season.
“It tears into your depth a little bit, but it’s not long term,” Hextall said Monday of MacDonald’s injury. “One of those things that if you could add the right guy for the right price and everything else. All of a sudden you get down the road, you get a numbers problem. It’s a bit of a tricky situation. We’ll certainly monitor what’s out there and if something is going to make us better, we’ll look to do it.”
By bringing in an outsider on a PTO, the Flyers might look at a veteran such as 34-year-old Paul Martin with nearly 1,000 games of regular-season and playoff experience, or they could lean toward a younger player such as 28-year-old Luca Sbisa, who the organization is familiar with having drafted him 19th overall in 2008.
“Two years ago, we’d be looking to add a body right now,” Hextall said. “Now, we’ll see where things go, what’s available, what the kids do and make decisions at the appropriate time.”
Over the summer the Flyers replaced free agent Brandon Manning with Christian Folin on a one-year, $800,000 contract, primarily as a depth defenseman. However, Hextall didn’t feel the need to make any additional moves.
Cap space isn’t an issue as the Flyers sit approximately $10 million below the ceiling. Hextall’s bigger concern is adding another SPC (standard player contract) in which the limit is 50 and the organization currently has 48 players under contract, a number that includes entry-level deals as well as the players with the Phantoms.
As for the kids, the Flyers opened rookie camp Monday morning with all eyes on right-handed defenseman Philippe Myers, currently the No. 1-rated blue-line prospect in the organization. The 21-year-old just completed his first season with the Phantoms while logging some heavy minutes alongside Travis Sanheim in the Calder Cup Playoffs. He battled a groin injury in the first half of the season before eventually hitting his stride in January.
“Obviously it’s an opportunity. There’s a spot open but that doesn’t mean anything,” Myers said. “By all means, I still have to work my butt off and try to earn that spot and for now that’s the goal.
“I covered a lot of ground with my game last year. I’m really excited coming into camp. I feel more confident. Last [season], I got a lot of experience in the playoffs, played a five-overtime game and that was huge. I’m going to take all that experience and bring it into camp with me.”
A six-week timetable would have MacDonald missing the first seven to eight games of the regular season, which would also span the first six games of the AHL season. Part of Hextall’s decision is how much does he want to utilize Myers as the Flyers' seventh defenseman as opposed to logging in upwards of 25 minutes with the Phantoms.
“I don’t like young players to not play or typically be in another lineup,” Hextall said. “As an unwritten rule, you like a young player playing a decent chunk and getting better. We’ll see how it goes.”
One option would be to reward Myers with a roster spot on opening night for a solid training camp and preseason and have him accompany the team on its two-game road trip to Las Vegas and Colorado to begin the season.
From there, the Flyers could lean on a more veteran defenseman in T.J. Brennan or 24-year-old Reece Willcox as backup depth while Myers continues his development in Lehigh Valley.