Flyers Recall Phil Varone
While many fans were intrigued by Chuck Fletcher's tendency of bringing in outside help when he was GM of the Minnesota Wild, Fletcher made it crystal clear that he was going to seek internal help to solve the Flyers problems before looking at other teams. And his first official transaction as GM of the Flyers reflects that - the Philadelphia Flyers have recalled center Phil Varone from their AHL affiliate, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.
Although I never wrote about it, I wondered throughout the pre-season why it didn't seem like Varone was being given a legitimate shot at making the Flyers out of camp. Sure, they had a long list of candidates vying for what was pretty much one, maybe two spots. But Varone was coming off a 70-point season in which he won the Les Cunningham Award for AHL MVP, I thought Varone deserved a fair chance to prove his worth. After all, the best player at a lower league is usually better than the worst player at a higher league, and Varone was certainly the latter.
Varone obviously didn't make the team out of camp, but to his credit he's responded to his MVP season with an even better start to the 2018-19 season. Varone put up 28 points in 22 games, leading the Phantoms and slotting in at 3rd in the AHL scoring race.
What Varone's role at the NHL level will be obviously remains to be seen. With Jordan Weal seemingly having fallen out of favor with Dave Hakstol (again), Varone could certainly make for a nice upgrade at 4C over Jori Lehtera, and would also debunk the notion the Flyers have pushed of certain "roles" based on where a player was playing in the lineup (ex. a skill player like Varone couldn't play on the 4th line, that was reserved for defensive vets like Lehtera). Varone doesn't have much of an NHL track record - 50 career games in the NHL, never more than 28 in one season, and just 10 points. He hasn't scored a goal in the NHL since 1/16/16 when he was a member of Buffalo, which just so happens to be the Flyers next opponent.
This doesn't seem like an overly important transaction on paper - it's probably most comparable to the Danick Martel recall about a month earlier into the season last year. A skill guy with potential gets a brief callup to provide a spark into the struggling Flyers. Martel couldn't run with his opportunity, failing to score in 4 games before being sent back down. We'll see if Varone, wearing #44 on the big club, can make the most of his chance.