Yesterday, the Flyers placed Finnish defenseman Joonas Lehtivuori on waivers for purposes of releasing him from his entry-level contract. The move comes as no surprise.
Lehtivuori, who is already signed to play in Sweden's Elitserien this season with Modo Hockey, would have been in the third and final year of his entry-level deal before becoming a restricted free agent. Last season, he was unhappy in Adirondack, and asked to be sent home to Europe. The Flyers granted his request, and loaned him for the rest of the season to Finnish club KalPa Kuopio (owned by Sami Kapanen with Kimmo Timonen and Scott Hartnell as minority owners).
Although Lehtivuori was listed on the Flyers' training camp roster, it was a foregone conclusion that he would not be attending camp, as the Elitserien regular season starts on Thursday of this week.
Coming to mutual agreement with Lehtivuori on a contract release allows the Flyers to sign one additional player to a contract. Technically, the team is still at the 50-contract maximum even without Lehtivuori, but the contract of recently signed 2011 draftee Marcel Noebels falls under the "slide rule" (meaning that the contract won't count this season toward the reserve list maximum as long as Noebels is returned to his WHL team).
Unsigned 2011 first-round pick Sean Couturier would also fall under the slide rule if he is signed but does not make the NHL club. Non-roster prospect Blake Kessel
would count against the maximum if signed, because he would be sent to the AHL this season if he earns a contract.
Likewise, if veteran non-roster invitee Michael Nylander (or potential non-roster attendee Adam Mair) were to make the team, he would have to be signed to a contract against the maximum. Right now, however, the Flyers do not have enough salary cap space to sign anyone to even an NHL minimum contract. That will change once the team gets approval to place Ian Laperriere on LTIR this season.
This week's Across the Pond
at NHL.com takes an in-depth look at Flyers goaltending prospect Niko Hovinen. The 6-foot-7 Finn is expected to come over to North America next season to compete for a starting job on the Phantoms or the Flyers' backup job.
The SM-Liiga and Elitserien regular seasons both get underway tomorrow. I will post updates on Hovinen periodically during the season.
By the way, ex-Phantom Lehtivuori will be one of four Modo defensemen this season who have former ties to the Flyers' organization. In addition to Lehtivuori, the defensive lineup includes Freddy Meyer (whom I think will excel in the Swedish league), Ole-Kristian Tollefsen and Patrik Hersley. The team's new head coach is ex-Flyers defenseman Ulf Samuelsson and the assistant GM is the recently retired Peter Forsberg.