Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Travis Sanheim sees the chance to become a real defensive leader for a team that could use one, but also let his feelings known on being often mentioned in the Flyers’ trade rumors.
With Ivan Provorov traded, Tony DeAngelo bought out and Justin Braun playing overseas, Sanheim sees himself filling a needed role for the Philadelphia Flyers.
“Provy was an unbelievable defenseman and he logged a lot of minutes and somebody got to take those minutes,” Sanheim said at the Flyers Training Center.
“I want to be a guy that can step up and kinda grab a hold of those opportunities and obviously that’s going to be decided here in camp and into the season.”
That’s a long way from last season when Sanheim was benched for a February game near his hometown of Calgary. And a longer way from nearly being traded this offseason.
“It sucks,” Sanheim said about the Flyers trade rumors.
Sanheim, 27, and Flyers coach John Tortorella had some rough moments last season. Both say conversations over the summer have helped their relationship.
“Sanny [Sanheim] and I are still working through some things together,” Tortorella said. “I think it’s going to be a lot smoother this year.”
Those conversations might never have happened. Sanheim reportedly was part of the Kevin Hayes trade to the Blues that fell through when St. Louis’ Torey Krug wouldn’t waive his no-trade clause. Sanheim’s no-trade clause kicked in July 1, and Flyers general manager Daniel Briere said he no longer would try to trade him.
“I didn’t see anything [reporting about the trade rumors],” Sanheim said with a laugh. “There was probably a week there were there was lots going on. I was on my phone pretty well every day.
“It’s not a position you want to be in but it’s a business. I understand it. I understand where the team’s at.
“In saying that, I’m here today. There’s a reason I signed here for eight years. I want to be in Philadelphia. I’m excited. I like the group that we have.”
Patching it up
Sanheim confirmed that he spent time with Tortorella this offseason, talking about hockey, Sanheim’s family’s farm and life in general.
“There was no hard feelings on either side [about the trade],” Sanheim said. “I had a good chat with Torts this summer, kinda going over some of the expectations and understanding of each other a little bit more.
“I thought it was really good. Same thing with Jonesy [team president Keith Jones] coming into camp. I’m looking forward to this year and put last season in the past.”
The Flyers could use Sanheim to step up as a leader with the potential for a wave of young defensemen making the roster. Veteran Marc Staal will provide leadership, too.
“They’re getting at that point where a few of them [prospects] are on the cusp of making the roster so it’s exciting,” Sanheim said.
“Obviously there’s going to be changes as we try to build this and you saw that last season with the forwards and then those guys taking steps.
“We gotta try to grow the back end. I want to be a leader back there. I want to lead by example and have a good season.”
Sanheim said he broke a bone in his foot in the 2022 World Championships. He also said that did not affect his poor season last year but did hinder his 2022 offseason training. Sanheim is starting the first year of an eight-year, $50 million contract. He had seven goals and 16 assists last year. He played every game — except the benching in Calgary.
Sanheim will be part of some experimentation in the preseason. Sanheim, a left shot, will play the right side. (More tinkering is forward Owen Tippett playing left wing, according to Tortorella.)
“Sanny is going to play right side, right away,” Tortorella said.
“He’s done it in the scrimmages, he’s going to do it in the exhibition season. Because I want to give Cam York a really good shot at left side. There’s nothing rock solid as far as Cam York playing left side, or playing.
“These are guys that are still fighting to be legitimate National Hockey League players. That’s not being negative, it’s just wide open there. Anxious to see how everything shakes out.
“Sanny made a point to me in the offensive zone he sees the ice so much better from the right side. We need to get some offense out of him.”
And about Sanheim’s relationship with Tortorella?
“We had a good relationship,” Sanheim said. “We know each other better now. He understands me, kinda what I’m all about, my personality. I understand his expectations. I think it’s going to be a good thing.
“Some of the areas that he wanted me to work on, are areas that I needed to work on anyways. I needed to be better at. So I’m excited to continue to work with him, and improve my game and then try to take it to another level.
“In the offseason, conversation is a little lighter, a little bit more easy-going. You can chat about life. Get to know each other and just have a good conversation. I thought that was very beneficial and I’m sure he agreed as well.”