|2009 - Mika Pyorala||36||2||2||4||-3||10||0||0||13:35||45.9||41||4.9|
The Flyers signed the Finnish forward to a one-year deal without much fanfare. Not much was known about the forward other than that he was a solid two-way player with some offensive potential. Well, he earned a spot on the team with a strong preseason where he scored three goals and an assist in 6 games. The plus-5 cemented the scouting report and ensured that Pyorala would start the year in the NHL.
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Things went downhill from there as Pyorala went 17 games only notching one assist. The second goal of Pyorala's career came in Peter Laviolette's debut as head coach, but Pyorala only had ten more games under Laviolette before being sent to Adirondack. His season was cut short with a broken collarbone and unable to rejoin the club for the playoffs.
Despite rather disappointing numbers, Pyorala played pretty well once he was able to get adjusted to the North American game. He certainly seemed to adjust slowly, but that might have been due to the many different lines Pyorala played on. The most common line for him was only 12.18% of his even-strength ice time and that was hardly a scoring line. Pyorala spent at least 8% of his ice time on five different lines.
Once he went to Adirondack, though, Pyorala found his game. In 35 games spent in the AHL, Pyorala had 8 goals, 10 assists, and finished a plus-7. That type of production certainly would have been helpful when the Flyers were missing Simon Gagne, Jeff Carter, and Ian Laperriere. Unfortunately, Pyorala was injured.
Going forward, it's unlikely Pyorala is re-signed by the Flyers and that's unfortunate. At a half-million dollar cap hit, Pyorala is a steal. Even if he isn't producing, Pyorala is an above average defender. His goals against per sixty minutes ranks third best among all Flyers with at least 30 games played. What knocked him out of the lineup was his lack of offensive production. Peter Laviolette's familiarity with Arron Asham and Darroll Powe's ability to kill penalties kept Pyorala out of the lineup.
What could keep the Flyers from re-signing Pyorala is the emergence of Andreas Nodl. The two of them have very similar styles - strong defense with as-yet-untapped offensive potential. The difference is that Nodl's cap hit is $850,000 while Pyorala should cost around $550,000. But it's unlikely that the Flyers carry both players and when one is already signed, the other is likely to go elsewhere.
Really, Pyorala can succeed as a third-line player in the NHL. His versatility - offense and defense, winger and center - ensures that he will have opportunities. His 36-game sample from this past year will simply keep his price-tag down. If the Flyers are unable to find a suitable winger for the third line (assuming Asham isn't it), the team can do a lot worse than penciling Pyorala in there.