If all goes according to plan, the Flyers may very well have top prospects Brayden Schenn, Sean Couturier, and Matt Read on the big club for the 2012 season.
This might be a promising sign for the Flyers but it certainly impacts the depth of their AHL affiliate Adirondack Phantoms. Without Schenn and Read (Couturier is too young to play in the AHL), the Phantoms would be paper thing down the middle and lacking on offense.
Certainly, the Phantoms are off to a promising start with a 6-3 win in their season opener but this is also a team that boasted only two 20+ goal scorers last season. There’s some new blood in the locker room but there is not enough reason to believe the team will score significantly more goals this season. The Phantoms could use more offensive punch than Denis Hamel to help these young prospects develop.
While the offense is a question mark, the team has plenty of options on both defense and in net. The Phantoms are currently carrying three goaltenders in Johan Backlund, Jason Bacashihua, and Michael Leighton. On the blue line, recent signee, Blake Kessel, is showing early signs of being a solid acquisition and provides more depth to a roster that already features Erik Gustafsson, Kevin Marshall, and Oskars Bartulis, among others.
If the Flyers are looking for a way to unload a contract to keep Couturier in the NHL, the organization has pieces it can move from the blue line on back from Glens Falls.
Marc-Andre Bourdon appeared to be a sleeper pick when the Flyers drafted the offensively gifted defender in 2008 but he turned out to be a bit of a disappointment in his rookie AHL campaign and slumped in his sophomore term. By the end of last season, he found himself demoted to the ECHL, where he posted five assists in fifteen games, including 10 playoff games).
Kessel and Gustafsson fill the same role as Bourdon and, so far, have done it better. Bourdon, who is in the last year of his entry-level contract, slid down the depth chart and is running out of time to make an impact.
This begs the following question: Why not package Bourdon and Backlund/Bacashihua for a forward, preferably a center? Ideally, it would be great to get an offensive prospect with solid NHL upside but that is unlikely. In this instance, the organization would be better off targeting a strong AHLer who could not quite make the jump to the NHL.
If a high-scoring veteran center like Alexandre Giroux, Keith Aucoin, or Jeff Taffe could be added to the Phantoms for the aforementioned price, it would really help the club. The Phantoms would get a veteran presence, increased goal scoring, a mentor for the young guys, and the organization would lose a contract in the process. Additionally, such a player would make his linemates better and, hopefully, help them develop at a quicker pace.
Meanwhile, Bourdon gets a chance to get his career back on track and the goaltenders do not have to worry about being part of a three goalie rotation.
As far as I can tell, it’s a win-win situation.