Catasauqua Press

Monday, March 19, 2018

Phantoms see shake-up with NHL trade deadline passing

Wednesday, February 28, 2018 by chuck hixson Special to the Press in Sports

You’ve heard of trickle-down economics.

On Monday, it was trickle-down transactions for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. The day brought with it the NHL trading deadline, which also brings the rule that states any player on the NHL roster when the deadline passes is not eligible to be returned to the AHL for the rest of the season. That put all eyes squarely on Flyers GM Ron Hextall to see just what he was going to do in an effort to improve the NHL team and how any moves would affect the Phantoms.

The only player acquisition that Hextall made was to claim defenseman Johnny Oduya off waivers from the Ottawa Senators. The move was made to bolster a Flyers defense that has been hit with some injuries this season. Oduya has experience on two Stanley Cup Championship teams and was a nice addition to the Flyers roster.

Unfortunately, some of that depth on defense was lost just as quickly as it came when Mark Alt was placed on waivers with an eye on sending him to the Phantoms so that he could be returned there if necessary. The Colorado Avalanche ruined that plan when they claimed Alt off waivers to give themselves some help on defense. In the end though, Hextall was still happy with the composition of his team heading into the final stretch of the season.

“When you look at our D, Travis [Sanheim] was up for a good part of the year. He’s played extremely well in Lehigh Valley, so we have Travis and more guys down there, and we felt more comfortable once we got Johnny [Oduya],” said Hextall at a Monday afternoon press conference.

While Alt is gone and not an option to be a part of the Phantoms stretch run for the playoffs, goalie Alex Lyon and forward Oskar Lindblom will be eligible. Both players were assigned to Lehigh Valley before the deadline and could wind up back with the Phantoms at some point. Lyon is likely to return to Lehigh Valley when either Brian Elliott or Michael Neuvirth return from injuries, which could be as long as another month.

Again, with good news comes bad news for the Phantoms. Matt Read was recalled by the Flyers before the deadline, so he will be spending the rest of the season with the Flyers and won’t factor into Lehigh Valley’s plans for the remainder of the season.

Reinforcements could come from Reading and/or the collegiate ranks and juniors once those seasons are completed. Players currently on junior league rosters or playing in college can join the Phantoms on amateur tryout contracts once their current team’s season concludes.

DO IT ALL OVER AGAIN ... The Phantoms stretched their point streak to eight games with a 6-4 come from behind win at Utica last Wednesday, thanks in part to Phil Varone’s hat trick in the game. The win gave the Phantoms eight-straight games where they added at least one point to their season total. Two nights later, the streak ended with a 2-1 loss in Syracuse, but another quickly started Saturday when the Phantoms traveled to Binghamton and downed the Devils 2-1.

JUST WHERE DO WE STAND? ... The Phantoms have played four more games than rival Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and two more than Providence and hold an eight-point advantage over the Penguins in the standings, meaning that the Pens would need wins in all four of those extra games to catch the Phantoms. Lehigh Valley also leads the division in winning percentage.

Conference-wise, the Phantoms are in second, two points behind Toronto, who have played two less games than Lehigh Valley.

SIGN HERE ... Goalie John Muse, who has played well in stints with Lehigh Valley and has been near dominating with Reading, was signed to a two-way contract after clearing waivers. The move means that if the Flyers have any further injuries to goalies, Muse would be an option to bring to Philadelphia in an emergency.