Anthony Stolarz

End to End: What is Flyers' biggest training camp storyline?

End to End: What is Flyers' biggest training camp storyline?

Going End to End today are NBC Sports Philadelphia's John Boruk, Tom Dougherty and Jordan Hall.

The topic: What is the biggest training camp storyline?

Boruk
Looking back at the 2017-18 preseason, much of the anticipation surrounded the three-way prospect battle among the young, talented defensemen of Robert Hagg, Samuel Morin and Travis Sanheim.

I don’t see a similar roster battle brewing as we inch closer to September. I expect some of the Phantoms forwards to make a strong push to make the team, but their role (if they make the team) will likely be as a fourth-line player.

So the anticipation surrounds the goaltenders, and the most commonly asked question I’ve been receiving is when will Carter Hart will be ready? The answer to which all depends on Hart himself and the preseason will serve as an early-season litmus test.

Let’s keep in mind it’s also a very important season in the careers of Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth, both in contract years and both looking to overcome injury-plagued seasons that rendered them not close to ready when the playoffs started. Elliott is the presumed No. 1, but when healthy and confident, Neuvirth is capable of making a serious push for playing time. 

If either Elliott or Neuvirth goes down with another injury, who steps in and fills that void and where is Anthony Stolarz in his progression? All of which makes for another intriguing (and yet redundant) storyline in the world of Flyers goaltending.

Dougherty
This is pretty simple.

Who is the third-line center?

The Flyers do not have a clear-cut favorite for their third-line center vacancy. Scott Laughton may have the inside track, but we can't rule out the team's prospects or even Claude Giroux returning to the middle. It will be the most intriguing camp battle this year.

We can move forward believing that moving Giroux back to center is the Flyers' last resort. It's an option, sure, but not the plan. My bet is that Flyers general manager Ron Hextall is betting on either Laughton or a prospect to prove they can take the reins.

But if Laughton doesn't show he can handle a more offensively-dependent role and none of the kids are ready, then moving Giroux back to center could be in the cards.

Much like the defensive position battle last September, the third-line center will have a few prospects attempting to show Hextall they're ready for The Show.

I'm going out on a limb and saying Morgan Frost will do just that — force his way onto the NHL roster.

Hall
How about Dave Hakstol's personnel decisions within the power play and top six?

I'm most intrigued to see how those shake out during camp and preseason action because the outcomes won't come easily.

These are good problems, though. With the addition of James van Riemsdyk, the Flyers' depth was bolstered, giving Hakstol and company much more to work with in 2018-19.

Does van Riemsdyk, who has developed a net-front prowess, jump right onto the first power-play unit? Or does Wayne Simmonds, coming off a wide range of injuries and eyeing a new contract, take back that role? Or is Nolan Patrick the sleeper to stick there after showing his skills in deep during the stretch run last season?

It will be fascinating to see how Hakstol experiments early, not only with the man advantage but also piecing together his top six, which is much more loaded.

People love to analyze the coach's decisions. It'll only pick up come September.

More on the Flyers

Flyers re-sign restricted free agent Anthony Stolarz

Flyers re-sign restricted free agent Anthony Stolarz

General manager Ron Hextall is nearly finished wrapping up contracts for his restricted free agents.

And his goalie picture is now clear for 2018-19.

The Flyers on Wednesday re-signed netminder Anthony Stolarz to a one-year, two-way contract. The deal is worth $761,250, according to a report by hockey writer John Hoven.

With Stolarz back, defenseman Robert Hagg remains the Flyers' lone restricted free agent.

Stolarz, a 2012 second-round pick, underwent a nightmarish 2017-18 season just a year after he made his NHL debut and performed well in seven games with the Flyers. The 24-year-old tore the meniscus in his left knee during early September, the same injury he suffered at the end of 2016-17 with AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley.

He played in just one AHL game and three ECHL contests as a result. In 2016-17, he made his way to the big club and put up a 2.07 goals-against average and .928 save percentage in a small sample. Then the injury occurred with the Phantoms and it's been an uphill battle ever since for the 6-foot-6, 210-pounder.

Stolarz will have his work cut out for him — if he hasn't already — as playing time will be earned at Lehigh Valley with Alex Lyon back in the fold and Carter Hart joining them.

"It's just competition. No one is going to go in there and hand you a job, so you have to earn it,” Stolarz said in June after an on-ice workout at Flyers Skate Zone. "I think the thing for me is to prove I'm healthy. I don't think I've skated since the end of January. I had the one flare up before one of my games and it had nothing to do with my knee injury. It was a separate injury. I think the biggest thing is proving I'm healthy and going out there and working to prove I'm still a high-caliber goalie."

The Flyers' goaltending tandem is set with Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth, both of whom are in the final year of their contracts. Things obviously can change this offseason, as Neuvirth and Stolarz seemed like realistic trade candidates.

But as of now, it's Elliott and Neuvirth with the younger trio pushing and competing.

"I'd rather have too many goalies than too few," Hextall said earlier this month. "If something makes sense and we can make something happen, we'd at least look at it. We saw it last year. All of a sudden, a couple goalies go down and you're scrambling for goalies. If we start with five, we start with five. Not a perfect situation, but again, I'd rather start with five than with three."

More on the Flyers' goalies

• Following 'gloomy' time, what's next for Elliott?

• Why Neuvirth's NHL career hinges on this offseason

• Hart says so long to Twitter, hello to pro life

• No arbitration needed for Flyers and Lyon

• Sandstrom hungry to prove he's not the 'other' goalie

Anthony Stolarz, with a lot to prove, among Flyers' qualified RFAs

zackhill_anthonystolarz.jpg
Zack Hill/Flyers

Anthony Stolarz, with a lot to prove, among Flyers' qualified RFAs

VOORHEES, N.J. — Anthony Stolarz is still very much a part of the Flyers' organization. 

So is Alex Lyon.

Both players received qualifying offers Monday from the Flyers. Teams have until 4 p.m. Monday to tender qualifying offers to their restricted free agents. The move is more procedural than anything so teams still retain negotiating rights.

In all, the Flyers tendered six players — a group that also includes defenseman Robert Hagg and forwards Taylor Leier, Tyrell Goulbourne and Danick Martel. As expected, the organization did not extend a qualifying offer to Petr Mrazek, who will now hit the free-agent market on July 1.

If a player rejects the qualifying offer, they still remain a restricted free agent and their rights are retained by the Flyers.

However, the Flyers weren’t about to lose a young prospect with nothing in return, so in all likelihood, Stolarz and Lyon will be with the organization when training camp opens in September. The goaltending situation is perhaps the most intriguing with four netminders with NHL experience along with highly-prized prospect Carter Hart joining the mix in 2018-19.

“It’s just competition. No one is going to go in there and hand you a job, so you have to earn it,” Stolarz said Monday. “I think the thing for me is to prove I’m healthy. I don’t think I’ve skated since the end of January. I had the one flare up before one of my games and it had nothing to do with my knee injury. It was a separate injury. I think the biggest thing is proving I’m healthy and going out there and working to prove I’m still a high-caliber goalie.”

Stolarz went through a rigorous workout Monday at the Flyers Skate Zone and even took shots from defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere. He doesn’t see the knee injury derailing his offseason following last summer’s surgery to repair the meniscus tear that required months of rehab.

Now, the 2012 second-round pick, who was actually selected higher than Hart was, can prove why he was such a valued commodity coming out of the draft six years ago. 

“I definitely think I’m still an NHL-caliber goalie,” Stolarz said. “I think with my size and quickness, it’s two attributes that you don’t see too often — guys like Pekka Rinne and Ben Bishop. I think the biggest thing with me is, just proving I can stay healthy.

“Taking that year off at first took a toll on me mentally and it hit me hard, but as the year went on, I was able to watch some Flyers games and watch some goalies and take some things from other goalies and incorporate them into my game.”

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