Stolarz, Alderson locked in; Sestito goodbye, Leighton sent down

Image courtesy of www.kitchenerrangers.com

Image courtesy of www.kitchenerrangers.com

The Philadelphia Flyers were a busy organization on Friday.

First, they announced the signings of free agent winger Brandon Alderson and goaltender Anthony Stolarz to entry-level contracts.

In 59 games played with the Sault. Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the Ontario Hockey League, Alderson has totaled 25 goals 32 assists for 57 points. The Oakville, Ontario native is listed as 6-foot-5, and 212 pounds and brings much needed size to the winger position in typical North American Flyer fashion.  Last year with the Greyhounds, Alderson registered 30 points in 69 games played. Prior to playing for Sault. Ste. Marie, the 21-year old Alderson suited up two years for the Sarnia Sting.

The undrafted Alderson is a big fast winger with a bit of scoring touch. He has the potential to be a third-or-fourth-liner at the NHL level, sort of like the Tye McGinn role. Alderson’s play has flourished since the arrival of Sheldon Keefe and the new coaching staff in The Soo.

Interesting enough, he’s roommates and linemates with Flyers prospect Nick Cousins, who currently leads the OHL in scoring with 98 points.

Coincidence?

The addition of Alderson gives Cousins a familiar line-mate to start next season with in the American Hockey League. My only concern with this signing is the fact that he’s so close to Cousins. Listen I don’t have to go over it again but Flyers fans know all of the baggage that Cousin’s brings. Why bring in a guy like this? Just so he can keep an eye on and babysit Cousins? Seems so to me.Heck, Cousins may never step on the ice ever again for all we know. Yes, I understand Alderson is having a career year but I don’t understand the rush  to sign an overage junior player who’s a bottom-six player at best.

With an already thin cupboard of prospects I see what Paul Holmgren is trying to do. Stockpile a bunch of gritty serviceable  two way players like Alderson.  It remains to be seen how wise that plan will be.

Stolarz, the club’s 45th overall pick back in June, is currently plying his trade for the London Knights in the OHL, after a brief freshman season with the University of Nebraska-Omaha. The 19-year-old native of Jackson, NJ began the year with the Mavericks, having never regained the confidence of head coach Dean Blais in favor of senior John Faulkner. He posted a 2-5-0 record with one shutout, a 2.56 GAA and save percentage below 90 percent in eight appearances before jumping to juniors.

“A true honor to officially be a member of the Philadelphia Flyers organization after signing my entry level contract,” Stolarz said on Friday.

With London, a powerhouse club coached by ex-NHLer Dale Hunter and operated by members of the Hunter family, Stolarz has slid into the role comfortably, going 9-2-1 with a 2.17 GAA and one whitewash in 14 appearances thus far.

Despite the way he treated his brief USA D-I collegiate experience, if Stolarz continues to excel in Canadian juniors, he may see a faster track up the ladder inside the Flyers organization. After all, Michael Leighton, Scott Munroe, Cal Heeter and Brian Boucher won’t stick around forever at the NHL and AHL levels, right? And the Flyers do have a history of accomodating players who wish to find another organization in which to gain more playing time, so either way, if Stolarz continues to improve, he’ll find a way to work himself into the plans of any NHL franchise who sees that.

Next, the revelation (from the team which claimed him) that forward Tom Sestito has been spirited away from the Flyers organization and that Leighton has once again been sent down to the Phantoms.

Both Sestito and Leighton had been placed on waivers yesterday, with the intention of being assigned to the minors. But you had to figure that somebody would be claiming Sestito, whose job as the straw that stirs the drink was essentially taken up and performed better by both Zac Rinaldo and Tye McGinn.

You also have to think Holmgren was acutely aware of that and was willing to part with the 25-year-old from upstate New York, if anything, for that extra bit of cap space as the trade deadline approaches.

Sestito totaled two goals — both in a home win over the Bolts on February 5 — and 12 penalty minutes in seven games this season, and only recorded three points and 95 PIM in 21 games for Philadelphia since his acquisition from Columbus two years ago yesterday. He added 11 goals, 20 points and 165 PIMs in 45 games in Adirondack, but it appears his most notable time with the club came in the preseason, when he drew a suspension for boarding Andre Deveaux of the Rangers.

“Loved my time in Philly, fans were great to me I wish the team well, Can’t wait to get to Van for a new beginning with a great team,” Sestito said through his Twitter account earlier on Friday afternoon.

Meanwhile, Leighton has been nothing short of a ping-pong ball during his days in the Flyers organization. He lost his one and only start of the year, a 5-1 defeat in Tampa on January 27, and has been usurped as backup by Boucher — all the while nursing a broken finger which the organization has been very adept at downplaying.

His presumed trip back up to Glens Falls once again creates a conundrum for Terry Murray in a similar fashion as Boucher’s signing did at the outset of the year: to go with a three-goalie rotation or sent either Heeter or Munroe down to Trenton of the ECHL until the situation is resolved through injury or by the Flyers’ front office.

According to broadcaster Bob Rotruck, Murray will carry three goaltenders this weekend at the very least, since Leighton is due to join the club in Bridgeport for Saturday’s game. The Phantoms are in Springfield on Friday to complete the suspended contest from February 17 and then play another complete, previously-scheduled tilt with the Falcons.

The 31-year-old carried a 28-26-1 record, 2.58 GAA and two clean sheets for the Phantoms last season.