Every year in training camp, basically every team seems to face some sort of anxiety regarding sending players down to their minor league affiliate on waivers, as teams are concerned that they may lose players in the process as another team may take a chance on them. Often times, these concerns are probably overblown — there’s probably some endowment effect in play here, and teams may think that their own players are better than other teams’ guys — and in general, most players who hit waivers around this time of year do tend to clear them and get sent to the minors.
Today, we got an exception to the rule, and it hit none other than the Flyers themselves. Forward Danick Martel, who has spent three years with the organization (mostly) in Lehigh Valley and was waived on Friday, was claimed today by the Tampa Bay Lightning, meaning he is no longer with the organization that signed him as an undrafted free agent in March of 2015.
TB claims Martel from PHI— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) September 22, 2018
Martel was always a player whose success was going to be reliant on putting up points, as guys of his diminutive stature (the Phantoms’ roster lists him as 5’8” and 166 pounds) typically need to light up the scoreboard to stay in the lineup at this level of hockey. After two solid-if-unspectacular years with the Phantoms, Martel roared out the gate in the fall of 2017, with 14 goals in his first 14 games. This earned him a promotion to the Flyers around Thanksgiving, and he’d play three games with them before being sent back to the Phantoms.
Martel was named to the AHL All-Star game last season, though he wasn’t able to participate after falling victim to a big (and illegal) hit in January. After coming back from injury, Martel struggled to maintain quite the same pace of production he was on earlier in the year (unsurprisingly, as that would’ve been a tough clip to match regardless), but finished the year with a respectable 25 goals and 15 points in 59 games.
Despite not looking totally out of place in his brief stint with the Flyers — he was certainly capable of playing at NHL speed, and had more than a few near-misses offensively during those games — Martel was always going to be in tough to make this Flyers roster. The team’s top-9 winger spots were essentially set in stone entering the season (for Claude Giroux, Travis Konecny, Jakub Voracek, James van Riemsdyk, Wayne Simmonds, and Oskar Lindblom), and it would’ve been difficult to imagine the Flyers putting a guy like Martel on their “fourth line” for stylistic reasons. On top of that, the competition for bottom-of-the-roster spots in camp this year has been tight, and most guys were going to lose out on it. He was almost always going to be ticketed for the Phantoms, who are now without a regular top-6 forward.
But does the loss of Martel hurt the Flyers? Eh. Martel was ranked 23rd on our Top 25 Under 25 this past summer. The Athletic’s Corey Pronman also ranked Martel 23rd in his piece on the Flyers’ prospects (which would put him even lower than we had him, given that his piece only ranked prospects and not established young NHLers). He wasn’t going to make the team in the short-term, and at least a few of the organization’s other high-upside prospects at wing figured to pass him in the long-term. At worst, it seems like the Flyers lost a guy who maybe had the skills to be an interesting bottom-6 piece on a team that would play guys like him in the bottom-6.
Which makes him a good fit for Tampa, a team that’s never had any issue playing smaller players all around their lineup. Martel will now, by rule, be with the Lightning for at least 10 NHL games, and it’ll be interesting to see how they decide to use him. Most teams probably wouldn’t take a shot on him (and the fact that he was claimed by Tampa, who had the 3rd-highest points percentage last season and as such were 29th in the waiver order, means that at least 28 other teams passed on him), but if there’s a team that can get something out of him, it’s probably them. We’ll see.