I was a little surprised to hear the Flyers have invited Michael Nylander to training camp on a tryout.
Signed by the Caps in 2007, he never quite clicked anywhere and found himself playing out his contract in the AHL. While in the AHL, he injured a vertabra in his neck and had what many said could be season-ending surgery.
Capitals owner Ted Leonis would eventually tell Puck Daddy Nylander was “a bad signing.”
So what exactly do the Flyers see in a 39-year-old player who had trouble keeping his NHL job and is coming off of an injury?
The answer, is of course, Jaromir Jagr, who was signed by the Flyers in the off-season. Jagr has spent a lot of time with Nylander as his center and the two have had a lot of success over the years.
But even knowing that, the invitation still raises some questions. Was Nylander invited as a favor to Jagr? Is the invitation more courtesy than serious consideration? Or are the Flyers suddenly having second thoughts about Jagr’s ability to produce in the modern NHL?
Jagr played his last season in the NHL without Nylander as his center and things didn’t go very well, as he had a lot of trouble finding someone to click with. Jagr wants the puck on his stick as much as possible and most centers like to carry the puck themselves. Nylander’s skill was in finding ways to get Jagr the puck where and when he wanted it. It usually involved a lot of figure eights on Nylander’s part.
The Flyers could be worried that they don’t have anyone on their roster who could fill that role. And they could be worried that without that kind of center for Jagr, they might not get much return on their investment.
In the frenzy of the NHL off-season, the Flyers might have thought signing Jagr seemed like a great idea. They got to stick it to the Penguins, who were also interested in Jagr. And they got people talking about something other than the Flyers trading away Mike Richards and Jeff Carter.
But when the excitement of signing Jagr cleared, I’m wondering if the Flyers suddenly found themselves with doubts about just how Jagr will fit into their team. Coach Peter Laviolette loves sending forwards to the net, while Jagr lives along the side boards. Will Laviolette have to run two different offenses depending upon who’s on the ice?
I suspect the Nylander invitation is a bit of an insurance policy on Jagr. If Nylander can still play well enough, I think the Flyers like the idea of having a security blanket for Jagr. Jagr and Nylander could do their own east-west thing while the rest of the team can execute Laviolette’s north-south game plan.
If Nylander is still a viable NHL player, which is a big if, signing him means Jagr probably has a better chance of being productive and happy without disrupting the rest of the team.
The Nylander invitation could be nothing. It could be an NHL team carrying out due diligence on a player who could prove to be a great bargain. But it could also be a sign the Flyers are suddenly nervous about having Jagr on their roster.