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What do the Flyers’ free agent signings mean for the Phantoms’ roster?

Parsing through these new additions.

Casey Liberatore / SB Nation

It seems we’ve survived the storm that was the opening day of free agency, and we’ve got a lot to work through here, folks! The Flyers made eight signings on Monday, and the Phantoms chipped in four of their own, which all works out to a whole lot of new faces that we could be seeing in Lehigh Valley next season.

Do we expect some of these guys to be in the mix to earn spots on the Flyers’ roster out of camp? Sure. But it seems more likely, at present, that a prospect will earn one of those spots, and that these signings were more for AHL depth and insurance for injury call-ups, in the event that they need someone and the rest of the prospects aren’t ready. So, with all of that considered, what are we looking at for a potential roster for the Phantoms to start the season?

We’ll start with a note that we’re penciling in Nicolas Aube-Kubel to make the Flyers out of camp, because he’s already gotten a handful of games in with the team, and as well as for the fact that the Flyers would have to send him through waivers to assign him to the Phantoms. We’re also going to assume that Kurtis Gabriel, because of his contract status, will stay with the team as the 13th forward. Which leaves us with the following:

Forwards (16)

Andy Andreoff

Connor Bunnaman

Greg Carey

Kyle Criscuolo

Joel Farabee

Gerry Fitzgerald

Morgan Frost

David Kase

Cal O’Rielly

Pascal Laberge

Isaac Ratcliffe

German Rubtsov

Matthew Strome

Maksim Sushko

Carsen Twarynski

Mikhail Vorobyev

Defense (9)

Chris Bigras

T.J. Brennan

James de Haas

Mark Friedman

Eric Knodel

Nate Prosser

Andy Welinski

Reece Wilcox

Tyler Wotherspoon

Goaltenders (4)

Jean-Francois Berube

Alex Lyon

Felix Sandstrom

Kirill Ustimenko

And, after perusing this list, two things should be readily apparent: this team is pretty stacked, and they also have too many players. The AHL doesn’t have a roster limit like the NHL does, just the rule that a team can only dress six veterans on a given night (and since we mentioned this, the Phantoms have exceeded that limit, so they would have to work out some kind of rotation where one would sit out every night, like they were doing at the end of last season). They could work out some kind of rotation with everyone, if they wanted to keep all of them, but considering the number of prospects they have vying for spots, they’re going to want to get them the most playing time as possible.

So, that means that they’re going to have to get creative. At least two goalies are going to have to be on the move, either to Reading in the ECHL or on loan to another AHL team. They tried the three goalie rotation last season, and it just didn’t work. They’ll have to figure something else out.

And then as far as the skaters go, to carry eight doesn’t seem absolutely unreasonable, particularly considering that Friedman is the only prospect in that group, and he seems like a lock for a whole bunch of ice time, but that would still require to push one player to Reading. But, at the same time eight is still a lot, and it wouldn’t be much of a surprise if they loaned at least two of, say, de Haas, Wilcox, or Knodel to the Royals for next season and only carried the one extra defenseman.

But the forwards? They have entirely too many. To try and work out a rotation with 16, again, isn’t entirely unmanageable—the Phantoms started last season with 14 forwards and more or less just rotated the rookies while they got adjusted to the AHL. But then once those rookies started to get hot (David Kase and German Rubtsov, hello), they earned themselves more permanent lineup spots, and other players were looking to be boxed out. Injuries and callups ultimately ended up preventing this from happening, but it’s certainly a threat, and as we said, with the number of prospects on the roster, the organization isn’t going to want to see them just wasting away in the press box. So, that said, it stands to reason that a couple of them might spend some time in the ECHL, just to get them some more minutes. An early, shot in the dark guess as to who that might be would be Strome, Sushko, and Fitzgerald, but performances in their preseason will likely dictate who that winds up being. And we’ll do some more guessing when that happens.

The moral of the story here is that a Phantoms team that, at one point last season, was so ravaged by injuries, had to play a game with just 10 forwards, is going to be starting this season with a lot of players, a lot of talent, a couple of tough decisions to make. It’s going to get weird, probably, and we’re all for it.