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Part 2 of Q&A with Flyers GM Danny Briere: Prospects, Plans for Veterans

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Ivan Fedotov was the mastermind behind his surprise move to join the Flyers. (Photo: AP)

A precarious, anticlimactic end to the 2023-24 regular season left the Philadelphia Flyers with more questions than answers heading into the 2024-25 season. The recent news on Matvei Michkov certainly helps things, but Michkov was a pleasant surprise more than anything.

Decisions still need to be made elsewhere, and roster spots on the Flyers are still up for grabs. Finding the solutions to these questions is quite literally part of general manager Danny Briere’s job. Only he and a select few others truly know how things will play out for the club this offseason.

Let’s get into Part 2 of our Q&A with Briere for a little more insight.

Note: some questions and answers in this interview were edited for clarity.

Bailey: Cam Atkinson said in his exit interview that he still had the juice for the right situation… What has your dialogue been like this summer, and where are you two at right now?

Briere: “He wants another chance. He wants another chance, he wants to keep playing. He thinks he’s still good. He went through a lot last year in the offseason with the neck issue and all that. For us, we’re still kind of looking. There’s all kinds of moving parts. . . what happens with Carter Hart? Cal Petersen… we have Ryan Johansen. Cam Atkinson. So, like, we’re all trying to navigate what happens in certain situations. Might force us one way or the other. So, it’s kind of a moving target still at this point.

Q: So, Cam could stay on the team, be bought out, or be traded still?

A: “Yeah, everything is on the table still, at this point. And he (Atkinson) knows that. We were honest with him. We try to be as honest as we can with our players. They don’t want to be lied to. There’s obviously information you can’t share with them, but, for the most part, we try to be respectful and to keep them in the loop as much as possible.”

Q: How about Nick Deslauriers? Another veteran who lost his role… how long can you see him keeping his place on the roster?

A: (Briere smiles) “First of all, there’s no one that can replace what he does. There’s no one that can fight like he does, first of all. If he’s not the best in the NHL, he’s pretty close to it. His leadership is contagious, he’s an amazing guy off the ice. When you’re building something, he does a lot of stuff that people and fans don’t see in the background. So, we respect a lot of that stuff. Yeah, coming down the stretch you had guys that started playing that beat him out of his spot. But, he was still a key contributor around the team. And him, he’s kind of in the same spot. He’s going to have to earn it, you know? There’s situations where that’s good.

“I think where he helped a lot was the development of our young guys. (Briere smiles again, then laughs) Because when you go on the ice and you have Nick Deslauriers sitting on the bench, you feel a lot more comfortable. A guy like Morgan Frost, a guy like Tyson Foerster. Farabee, and I could go on. Konecny, who’s an antagonist who get’s in other people’s faces. Knowing that Nick is on the bench if something goes south, he can come in and take care of things, I think it goes a long way, especially early in the season, for our players. And it helped the development of those guys I mentioned. Play well, play a little bit bigger and taller, because you know you have a guy like that backing you up.

“It’s something, sometimes, that we forget. We don’t realize how much how much of an impact I really think it did have. A good impact on our team, especially a team that was young and with a lot of guys kind of trying to figure out where they fit in, like Bobby Brink and Morgan Frost early in the season. You don’t have to worry about being taken advantage of on the ice, because Nick is sitting on the bench ready to jump on and protect you. I know, as a player, I really appreciated those players.”

Q: When Ivan Fedotov came in and you two did the presser, you wanted to leave it strictly to hockey… Can you share how that came together, or any details about his arrival?

A: “I can’t. I can’t. That would have to come from him. He’s the one that made the arrangement, made the decision to come here. So, I can’t speak for him.”

Q: Ivan told MatchTV that, essentially, he paid the debt he owed to his country with his service, and after the season, he and CSKA reached an agreement so that he could come here. Is that your understanding of how this happened?

A: “That sounds about right, yeah. They gave him the freedom to come here and play. But yeah, I’d rather not say. I’ll let him say, because he’s the one that lived it.”

Note: You can read everything Fedotov had to say about this after the season here.

Q: There were questions and rumors about Alexei Kolosov not being adjusted to North America and potentially going back to Belarus to play for Dinamo Minsk again…

A: “Yeah, as far as we know, he’s going to be here. He’s going to fight for a position. It was good to see him come over at the end of last year and play a few games. I think he’s going to be a lot more involved this year. He most likely would start in Lehigh Valley. I can tell you that he’s going to see a lot of action down there. It’s probably going to be a little bit easier for him if he plays more, as well.”

Q: With him maybe not playing as much in the Calder Cup playoffs, do you think that contributed to where some of this talk started? 

A: “Yeah, I’m sure the loneliness, it makes for long days. We didn’t have any other Russian-speaking players (in Lehigh Valley), you know? He didn’t have his friends, his family, or his girlfriend with him. So, we totally understand. We’re going to try to help him out in that regard as best as we can, make it feel like home as much as possible. And we’re learning along the way, too. We realize it was a tough situation for him. But we’ve been in contact with him, and as far as we know, he’s coming back, he’s going to be here, and we hope to see him on the Flyers pretty soon, because he definitely has the talent for the NHL.”

Q: So, at this point, this is a non-issue for you guys?

A: “Correct. Yeah, I think that’s fair to say. As far as we know, there’s no issue there.”

Q: You have the rights to Bryce Brodzinski for a few more months, but it sounds like there won’t be a deal done and he’ll leave the Flyers. 

A: “Yep, correct.”

Q: You spoke a little bit about Rodrigo Abols and Oscar Eklind… are you expecting them to compete for an NHL spot and maybe give the Flyers some depth?

A: “Yeah, they’re going to have to earn it. We understand that there might be a little bit of an adjustment period. Two big guys that are a little bit of a late bloomer, same situation, and might be able to help us. I’m really excited about both of those guys. I haven’t seen much of them, so I’m looking forward to seeing them at training camp, how it translates and goes for both of them.”

Q: You got Massimo Rizzo for quite a low price last summer, one of the best point-scorers in the NCAA. He signed the ATO towards the end of the season but never played. Was he hurt? Or was that just to acclimate him?

A: “No, no. (Briere laughs). No, we wanted to see him play. He had the injury down the stretch, then came back and played in the Frozen Four because he wanted to play. But, probably pushed him back in terms of playing and starting his pro career with that, unfortunately. Yeah, he’s a guy whose game we hope can translate to the pro game. That’s going to be the biggest thing we’re looking to see on with him. But he’s going to get a really good look. Hopefully, he can reproduce kind of the way he was playing in college to the pro-level game.”

Q: Olle Lycksell is an older prospect… Ronnie Attard is getting up there now, too. Where do you see those guys as older Flyers prospects?

A: “Again, they’re going to have to earn it. You know, Ronnie came in at the end of the year. I don’t think he had a really good camp. Didn’t have a good start to the season. But he improved over the second half, and that’s why he earned the late call-up. He played some games and he was good, especially in the first three or four games he played. He was really impressive. You know, for him, he’s going to have to come in and be really impressive from the get-go at camp.

“Lycksell is different in the sense that he took a big step last year. We barely had any injuries the whole year up front. We wanted to give him a deeper look, but we didn’t really have the chance as much. Torts really liked what he provided. We’re really happy with him, and he’s going to get a good long look at camp. It’s, again, going to be really up to him to push and steal a roster spot.”

Q: Emil Andrae made the NHL roster last year and kind of tailed off before going back to Lehigh Valley. Is he going to be fighting for that roster spot again this year and repeating that process?

A: “Yep, correct. He’s going to be in that mix with all our defensemen and fight for those few spots. It’s really going to be up to him to keep it. I was really happy with how he played in the playoffs down in minors last year at the end of the year. He stepped up his game big time; that was good and encouraging to see.

Q: I came out to see him against Wilkes-Barre in Game 2, scoring the goal, getting in on the forecheck and knocking guys over…

A: (Briere laughs) “He’s strong, he’s strong. Exactly. And it was tough. It was his first year over here, we have to remember that. He came out with a boom, he was really good in camp. It kind of caught up to him and he slid a little bit, but I was real excited to see him play the way he played in the playoffs last year. That was good to see.

“He’s a gamer. A guy who can elevate his game and perform in the playoffs like that, it’s good for the Flyers.”

Q: Do you see the comparisons between Andrae and your old teammate, Kimmo Timonen, at all?

A: (Briere laughs again) Yeah, the way they’re built and down the road, I could see a bit of Kimmo in him!”

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