Originally posted on NHL Hot Stove  |  Last updated 10/4/11

By David Strehle
NHL Hot Stove Managing Editor

It was yet another day of numerous roster moves by Paul Holmgren, as forwards Brayden Schenn, Harry Zolniercyzk, and defenseman Erik Gustafsson were all sent to the Adirondack Phantoms, and the club also waived center Blair Betts, as well as defensemen Matt Walker and Oskars Bartulis.

Some who were on the bubble appear that they will be donning the Orange-and-Black when the club opens the regular season on Thursday night in Boston.  Among the skaters who dodged the latest wave of cuts were forwards Matt Read, Sean Couturier, and Zac Rinaldo.

Schenn, the highly-coveted centerpiece of the deal which also brought winger Wayne Simmonds to Philadelphia in exchange for Mike Richards, was among those sent to the Phantoms.  Thought to be a lock for the opening night roster, Schenn battled a shoulder injury in camp and saw action in just four of the club’s seven exhibition contests.  His $3.11 million salary didn’t help matters.  Schenn is likely to be brought back to the Flyers soon, after some roster juggling that will include moving Ian Laperriere to LTIR after the season’s first day.

According to CapGeek, Schenn’s pact will drop from the $3.11 million to $1.705 million if he is kept in Adirondack for just one day.  As noted by CapGeek, this clause pertains only to this season in Schenn’s pact.  Expect Schenn’s AHL stay to be a brief one, indeed – possibly one game(?)

The addition to the club of Read and Rinaldo was no surprise whatsoever. 

Read had a fantastic summer with the team, and ended up tied with Claude Giroux for the club lead in points with seven (two goals, five assists) during the preseason.  His ability to be used in any situation is a big positive, especially since he can also man the point on the power play.  The team went all of last season without a right-handed option at the point, and it will throw a new look at the opposition when preparing to defend against the Flyers man advantage unit.

Rinaldo had been in a battle with Tom Sestito to open the season in Philadelphia’s vacant enforcer role when Jody Shelley was suspended for the remainder of preseason and the first five games of the regular season by Brendan Shanahan for a hit from behind. 

But when Sestito was also banned for a similar transgretion and subsequently sent to the AHL, Rinaldo’s presence on the roster became a necessity.  At 5′ 11″, 169-pounds, he obviously is not a heavyweight.  But he can fight, as evidenced by his astounding PIM numbers over the last few seasons at the junior and AHL-levels.  While he almost certainly will develop into a prototypical super-pest - akin to a Dan Carcillo or Steve Ott - he will be the Flyers player to answer to for any opponents taking liberties with teammates for the time being.  Rinaldo has expressed a desire to play in a more-controlled fashion and contribute offensively as well as with his fists, and he will be given some time to prove he belongs.

Couturier is somewhat the biggest surprise of the three, since he is only 18-years-old.  The original train of thought regarding the eighth-overall selection in this summer’s entry draft was to give him a look in his first training camp in Philly, then send him back to the Drummondville Voltigeurs of the QMJHL.  But Couturier demonstrated keen hockey sense that spanned well beyond his age, and the likelihood of his remaining with the club increased with each passing game. 

Like Read, Couturier adds another skilled, versatile, two-way player to the Flyer lineup.  If it appears that the 6′ 3″, 197-pound center is physically overmatched against NHL regulars, the club reserves the right to return him to his junior team by his 10th game.  If he plays in his 11th, he will be a Flyer for the entire campaign, as he is not eligible to be sent to the AHL at any time.

On the blue line, Bartulis’ waiver came as something of a surprise.  In addition to Flyers management seeming high hopes for the 24-year-old Latvian, he comes at a paltry cap hit of just $600,ooo.  That is always a huge benefit when Holmgren is attempting to fit everyone within the upper constraints. 

Meanwhile, Walker was much less of a shock.  He got himself into much better shape this summer after losing pretty much the entire 2010-11 campaign, and played pretty well in the exhibition season.  Holmgren even labeled his preseason play as “tremendous”.

But no matter how well Walker fared on the ice, his $1.7 million contract was an albatross that may just have sealed his fate in Philly.

Or so it would seem.

It’s odd that all three defensemen that were in competition for the club’s open number seven slot on the blueline would all be subtracted in one fell swoop.  Plus it leaves the team with just six rear guards, which would be an oddity in itself, but especially considering the fact that Chris Pronger has played only one game following his April back surgery.  It would seem a rather risky move to go with just six.

Much of what will happen regarding the Flyers’ defense will likely have to do with which of the defensemen clear waivers.

At any rate, it’s almost certain that after yet another busy day for Holmgren, his work is not completely done.

If you have any comments or questions, you can email the author at dstrehle@nhlhotstove.com.  You can also follow him on Twitter – @David_Strehle


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