Hal Gill has played in 1,212 NHL games - including the Stanley Cup playoffs - throughout his career. On the eve of his first season without a contract in 16 years, he isn’t about to change.
And that’s just fine with Flyers coach Peter Laviolette.
“I don’t think I have to show people what I can do,” Gill said after Tuesday night’s exhibition loss to the Rangers. “I’ve been doing the same thing for a long time. I don’t have a new deke or anything that I’m trying to show anyone.
“I think I can show that I am healthy, ready to go, and have that desire to be a part of a team.”
The Flyers will make approximately 30 roster cuts prior to heading to Lake Placid, N.Y., on Thursday - just as Herb Brooks was forced to do in 1980 - but Laviolette hinted Tuesday that he wants to see more from Gill.
Gill, 38, is with the Flyers on a tryout contract. At 6-foot-7, he isn’t fleet of foot. He won’t dazzle anyone with his skating. And he isn’t going to pile up points. That doesn't mean he couldn't have a role with the Flyers.
“His job is to keep the puck and people away from our net and I think he’s done a pretty good job of that,” Laviolette said. “His best asset is defending. You think back about Hal and his career and what’s most noticeable and it’s him being physical on top-end and high-end players, so I think we’ll get an even better look and read on Hal as camp moves on and you can see those matchups that you’re trying to get.
“I like Hal against somebody on the top line of the opposition.”
Paul Holmgren said the Flyers will take approximately 26 to 28 players to Lake Placid for three days of practices and team-bonding experiments.
Even if Gill goes on the trip, does he fit on the 23-man roster?
With everyone healthy, the Flyers’ top six is pretty set: Kimmo Timonen, Mark Streit, Andrej Meszaros, Luke Schenn, Nick Grossmann and Braydon Coburn. It’s likely that Erik Gustafsson will be the extra guy, though he could play his way into the opening lineup. What about Bruno Gervais, who is also on a one-way deal?
The Flyers will have the contract space and will have salary cap room to sign Gill to a deal if they so desire. It’s just tough to figure where he would play, unless he is willing to start the season in Adirondack as an insurance policy.
Gill posted an assist and was a plus-1 with four hits against the Rangers. He was scratched on Monday in Toronto and had a few rusty moments in his debut against the Maple Leafs in London on Sunday.
“I think in a normal situation when you have a contract you’re just worried about progressing and getting ready every game. In this situation I wanted to speed up the process, but it was good,” Gill said. “I felt good. It’s preseason where you are still learning a new system and timing needs to get there, but it is nice to get out there.”
Despite the tough situation - including living in a hotel while his family is back in Massachusetts - Gill has kept a smile on his face. He’s recognized league-wide as a “good guy” and has many people rooting for him, including his current coach.
“He’s got just a terrific personality,” Laviolette said. “He’s always got a smile on his face. He comes in and is happy to be here. He is in phenomenal shape, lots of experience, been here done that. You know he’s come here to work out and try to make our team. He has come with a great attitude.”
Check back later Wednesday for a list of cuts, as the Phantoms prepare to open their preseason this weekend in Glens Falls, N.Y.
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