Northampton Press

Friday, May 29, 2020

Flyers deadline moves affect LV Phantoms

Friday, February 28, 2020 by Chuck Hixson Special to the Press in Sports

It’s been a topic that nobody around the Phantoms or Flyers has wanted to talk about, but perhaps now, more details will emerge.

The man at the center of the story – defenseman T.J. Brennan – was dealt to the Chicago Blackhawks for forward Nathan Noel, who was assigned to the Reading Royals of the ECHL by the Flyers.

The Brennan controversy started a little over a month ago during a five-game homestand for the Phantoms. How it started depends on who you talk to, but the prevailing story is that there was some sort of blow-up in the Phantoms locker room that ended with Brennan’s locker being cleaned out. He hasn’t returned since and has been listed as a healthy scratch since the alleged incident.

As usually happens in cases like these, you can find people who will say Brennan was a good guy and others – in this case, most – who will say he wasn’t such a good guy. One former Phantom even described Brennan as a “brutal teammate.”

One thing that can’t be disputed is that Brennan was a frequent contributor of his time in the community, helping with Phantoms Charity events at schools and other organizations around the Lehigh Valley. Finding a trade partner who would take the 30-year old Brennan couldn’t have been easy, since he has a $450-thousand contract for this season, a king’s ransom for an AHL player. But, the move solves the problem for the Flyers and Phantoms brass.

In another move involving the Phantoms, Philadelphia sent Kyle Criscuolo and a fourth-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft to the Anaheim Mighty Ducks for center Derek Grant. Criscuolo was fifth on the Phantoms in total points this season with eight goals and 16 assists in 40 games with Lehigh Valley. Grant will join the Flyers roster. Another move that indirectly affected the Phantoms was Philadelphia sending a fifth-round pick in 2021 to the Montreal Canadiens for center Nate Thompson. How that move affected Lehigh Valley came a short time after the deal was announced when Connor Bunnaman was sent back to Lehigh Valley along with Joel Farabee.

Both Bunnaman and Farabee were with Lehigh Valley earlier this season. Bunnaman, 21, has played in 24 games with the Phantoms this season, picking up four goals and one assist. The 19-year old Farabee is in his first professional season and has three goals and an assist in just four games with the Phantoms. It’s possible that either or both players will be recalled later in the season, but for now, the Flyers prefer for them to get more ice time with Lehigh Valley than they would be getting in Philadelphia because of the new additions to the roster.

One potential trade candidate who is still a member of the Phantoms is goalie Alex Lyon. It was thought that Lyon could be dangled to a team that could use a backup goalkeeper, but the Flyers didn’t make a trade involving him. They may view him as insurance in case anything were to happen to a goalie at the NHL level.

ON THE ICE... With 20 games left in the season, Lehigh Valley is 10 points out of a playoff spot in the Atlantic Division. Hershey, Hartford and Providence have all but wrapped up playoff spots with the three teams finishing in any possible order by the end of the season. Fourth-place Charlotte (64 points) is battling with Springfield and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (62 points) for the final spot in the postseason. The Phantoms are 23-25-2-6 on the year.

IN THE SEATS... Lehigh Valley ranks seventh in the AHL in per game attendance for the season. The Phantoms average 7,138 fans per game, just above eighth-place Chicago at 7,060 and just behind Grand Rapids at 7,421. Cleveland and Hershey are battling for the top spot in attendance with the Monsters at 8,829 per game and the Bears at 8,635 on the season. Lehigh Valley has 12 home games remaining, including back-to-back home games with Charlotte on Friday and Saturday.

AMONG THE LEADERS... Thanks in part to key players spending chunks of time with the Flyers, the Phantoms don’t have any players among the top 50 points leaders in the AHL. Among the most penalized players in the league, Kurtis Gabriel is the only Phantom in the top 50, coming in at number-36 with 72 penalty minutes. Among goalies, Alex Lyon is 12th with a .913 save percentage and 20th with a 2.65 goals against average.