Saturday, April 19, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Betts' trade deadline impact

BLAIR BETTS has not played in a single one of the Flyers' 45 games this season because of injury.

Betts' trade deadline impact

Blair Betts does not count against the Flyers´ salary cap since he is on the long-term injury list.  (Matt Slocum/AP file photo)
Blair Betts does not count against the Flyers' salary cap since he is on the long-term injury list. (Matt Slocum/AP file photo)

BLAIR BETTS has not played in a single one of the Flyers' 45 games this season because of injury.

Betts, 31, does not count against the Flyers' salary cap since he is in the bonafide long-term injury list.

In nearly every way possible, Betts - one of the most reliable and consistent 4th line centers in the league over the past few years - has had very little impact on the Flyers' overall season and standing.

Yet, Betts could have made a serious impact on the Flyers at the Feb. 27 trade deadline. And not as trade bait.

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How?

The Flyers were hoping to get Betts rehabbed and back in the lineup before the trade deadline so that he was playoff eligible. Having a semi-healthy Betts, an experienced, defense conscious face-off guy, in the lineup would allow the Flyers to trade an offensive piece straight-up for a defenseman without the need to replace him.

The theory goes that Betts on the 4th line would allow Sean Couturier to seamlessly slide into the spot of the forward who would be traded. The beauty of Couturier is that he can also play wing.

If you'll recall, Betts was placed on waivers on the first day of the season (Oct. 5) and claimed by the Montreal Canadiens.

He reported to Toronto for the Canadiens' season-opener but did not clear a physical conducted by Montreal team doctors and the waiver claim was voided. He was back with the Flyers, the team who suddenly had no use for him, later that weekend.

Betts' wonky knee problems were reportedly what made the Canadiens' doctors question his health.

Betts, an Edmonton, Alberta, native who now lives in South Jersey, has remained in the area and has occasionally been seen working out at the team's facility. Betts said at the time, in October, that he was disappointingly told he would not be a part of the team.

Now, it appears that the Flyers' plans to get Betts back this season are shot.

“I met with Blair [on Wednesday]," Flyers' general manager Paul Holmgren said. "He’s having a tough time, not just with his knee, but he’s got a lot of things going on in his life.

"I would say it’s safe to say he’s not going to play this year. I don’t think he’d be able to pass a physical or play right now."

Betts has been hampered with knee and shoulder issues since he arrived in Philadelphia on a tryout contract in 2009. He missed time when a blocked shot shattered the tip of his finger. Now, he has also been struggling to keep his energy levels up, as Holmgren alluded to, which has kept him away from most physical activity.

The thought was that Betts, who showed progress by skating on Monday, might be able to get back in shape by late February.

"We were hoping to get him a game here or a game in the American League just to see how he held up," Holmgren said. "He skated yesterday morning before our meeting and it didn’t go very well. He’s not responding very well. He had a period of time where he was off and he didn’t do very much, he had a period of rehab where he tried to get some strength back. It just hasn’t gone as well as anyone wanted."

Betts made the team out of training camp and then signed a two year extension shortly into his first season. His $700,000 per year contract expires on July 1.

Betts was at the Flyers' 4-1 loss to the Islanders on Thursday night, one of the few games he's attended in the press box this season. This time, he was sitting with goaltending coach Jeff Reese and assistant coach Joe Mullen, acting as an additional eye-in-the-sky.

Betts is one of the hardest workers, on and off the ice, to ever put on the Flyers' jersey. He is a brilliant hockey mind, especially when it comes to the penalty kill and positioning, a genuine person and he would be a solid addition to the Flyers' coaching staff - at least temporarily until he can get a better diagnosis on what's ailing him. He's still just 31 years old. 

"We’re hoping there’s some little area we’ll see we can get him involved in," Holmgren said. "I’m not sure what that is."

Perhaps, at the very least, Betts will find a permanent home in a relationship that has always taken care of their own. Right now, it's just not in the role that they all - Betts included - had hoped.

For the latest updates, follow Frank Seravalli on Twitter: @DNFlyers

About this blog
Frequent Flyers is your home for news and analysis of all things orange and black. Reach Frank at seravaf@phillynews.com.

Frank Seravalli Daily News Sports Columnist
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