Despite his mammoth six-year, $30 million contract, the Philadelphia Flyers chose to send defenseman Andrew MacDonald down to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms to begin the 2015-16 season.
Now, with the defense ravaged by injury and suspension, MacDonald makes his return.
The Flyers announced this morning that MacDonald would be recalled and almost certainly will be in the starting lineup for Tuesday's game against the New York Islanders. Luke Schenn's lower body injury suffered on Saturday combined with Radko Gudas' suspension necessitated the call-up.
MacDonald was not the only option. With enough cap space available to call up multiple players due to the long-term injured reserve status of Mark Streit, Philadelphia could have chosen a younger prospect such as Mark Alt, Robert Hagg or Samuel Morin. They also had the option of recalling a low-ceiling veteran like Davis Drewiske.
Instead, the Flyers picked MacDonald. In 23 AHL games this season, MacDonald has scored one goal and twelve assists for thirteen points, while primarily playing top-pairing minutes in Lehigh Valley. So far in his Flyers' career, MacDonald has 16 total points in 77 games.
The defenseman has long been criticized for passive neutral zone play, which BSH has broken down in the past. As a result, he would seem to be a poor fit for Dave Hakstol's more aggressive tactics. Still, he provides a veteran presence for the lineup, and Flyers general manager Ron Hextall may not have been comfortable using two rookies in his defense corps, which would have been the case had Philadelphia recalled Alt, Hagg, or Morin.
At this point, MacDonald is only guaranteed one game with the Flyers. Radko Gudas will miss the Islanders game due to his suspension, but he will be active yet again on Thursday. This could be a short stint in Philadelphia for MacDonald. But for the first time this season, the embattled defenseman will have an opportunity to impress Dave Hakstol in regular season play, and make a case for a long-term return to the NHL.