Players of the Past

Signing Guys Off of the Street: How Paul Holmgren’s Salary Cap Woes Gave us Jamie Fritsh and David Sloane.

We all have that one obscure player who just sticks in our head. That one obscure player we just remember at the most random times. Maybe they were a childhood favorite. Maybe they had a cool mustache. Or maybe you just remember them for no good reason. Our subconscious can be filled with the most random thoughts and memories. Somewhere someone out there has the likes of Dale Weise, Paul Ranhiem, Jody Shelly, Cal Heeter… you get the idea… bouncing around in their heads.

In the grand scheme of things, these players for the most part are all fairly obscure. There’s some exceptions here but the majority of these players had some form of an NHL career.  

 But there’s probably one or two random players of the past that you’ve completely forgotten about, or have never heard of. 

If you’re someone who has paid attention to the Flyers at any time over the last fifteen years you’re aware of how valuable cap space is – and how detrimental it is to have cap space taken up by large albatross contracts. He hasn’t held the position in years, but the waves from Paul Holmgren’s spending problem can still be felt to this day. Homer had a knack for taking out the checkbook and handing out some fairly large amounts of money. Sometimes it worked out fantastically, other times… not so much. 

Paul Holmgren was hired  to build a winning team and spend as much money as the cap allowed him. I can’t find exact historical information, but a Bleach Report article from November 2008 mentioned the Flyers had $449,000 in cap space entering play for the 2008/2009 season. With almost no room to breathe under the cap ceiling, Flyers fans had to painfully watch the cap circus playout on their television screens. 

  • November 13th 2008 defenseman Lasse Kukkonen was forced to play 4th line center because there was not enough cap space to call up a forward from the Phantoms 
  • February 27,2009 placed Glen Metroplit and Ossi Vaaanen on waivers due to cap constants losing them to Montreal and Vancouver respectively 
  • March 4, 2009 traded Scottie Upshall AND a 2nd round pick for Dan Carcillo

Then on March 9th we saw the icing being carefully spread on top of our cake made out of cap hell. In a game against the Florida Panthers two nights prior, defenseman Ryan Parent was injured and wasn’t going to be available for the team’s next game. 

Picture this: you’re in the last three games of the season and battling it out for the 4th seed in the East – which would give you home ice against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round. Now you’re down a defender, what do you do? Call up a player from the AHL? Nope, not enough cap space. Play a forward on defense? You have no extra forwards. Okay, how about playing with only 5 defenders?

NOPE.

If you have any other ideas I’ll give you a moment to make one final guess…

Alright… ready?

You sign an undrafted college defenseman who has never played professional hockey to a try out agreement and then play them in an NHL game.

Enter David Sloane. A 6’2 defenseman who just wrapped up four seasons of college hockey at Colgate university. About two weeks prior to making his NHL debut with the Flyers that fateful Thursday night Sloane signed a tryout agreement with the Flyers AHL affiliate, the Philadelphia Phantoms. But Sloane never saw game action and found himself on the list of healthy scratches the entire time he was with the Phantoms. Nonetheless, here he was making his NHL debut at Madison Square Garden one month removed from completing his college playing career. Paul Holmgren also went on the record saying “he’s going to get a baptism-by-fire and on-the-job training.” 

By stepping onto the ice that night David Sloane also became the first Philadelphia born player to play for the Flyers, which admittedly is pretty awesome and even over ten years later you can’t help to not feel happy for the guy. 

Sloane was paired with Andrew Alberts for the night and saw his first shift of the game come at the 18:21 mark of the first period. Obviously he was going to be played in a sheltered role by coach John Stevens, his first shift and every shift he took that night would start in the offensive zone. But, he did quickly find his way onto the games play-by-play sheet by blocking a Scott Gomez shot at the 18:04 mark of the first. Sloane would see eleven more shifts throughout the night, but the only other notable thing to occur for him was taking hits by Fredrik Sjostrom and Wade Redden. The Flyers went on to lose 2-1, Sloane’s final stat line went down with 6:44 in ice time and 1 block. While he never made it back to the NHL, Sloane did sign a contract with the newly relocated Adirondack Phantoms the following summer. He spent two seasons between the AHL and ECHL before returning in 2011.

Alright, well the good news is Ryan Parent is back for the 2nd to last game of the season and you can roll with six NHL defenseman again… 

Well not exactly.

Ryan Parent did come back to play the teams next game against the New York Islanders – only to get injured again. In his defense, no pun intended, he wasn’t playing at 100% and just reaggravated the existing injury. 

Now it’s the final game of the season, a Sunday matinee at home with the New York Rangers. Win this game and you’ve got home ice in the first round. With the same issue as three nights prior we see a similar situation unfold. 

Enter Jamie Fritsch. A 6’2 defenseman from New Hampshire who was preparing to play in the Frozen Four Skills Competition, in Washington D.C when he got the call from the Flyers. Like Sloane, Fritsch found himself being played in a sheltered role. His first shift of the game came in the offensive zone, 1:26 into the game. And then about four minutes later Fritsch stepped on the ice as Claude Giroux scored, officially making him +1 on the night, and for his career. Fritsch didn’t see any ice time during the remainder of the first, and was kept on the bench until the 18:20 mark of the second period. And during that shift Danny Briere deflected a point shot in from Andrew Alberts, making him a +2 on the night. Apparently on a mission to collect various stats, Fritsch threw a check on Aaron Voros collecting his first NHL hit. 

And then a goal. 

A goal for the wrong team. 

With the Rangers skating the puck over the redline, Aaron Voros was attempting to dump the puck into the corner and chase after it. But the puck never made it to the corner, and instead it took an unfortunate bounce off of Fritsch, bouncing right to a wide open Blair Betts who put the puck past Marty Biron. Fritsch didn’t see the ice for the remaining 11 minutes of the third period and just like that his NHL career had come and gone.

In the modern era of the NHL 289 players have had their ‘cup of coffee’ and played only one game. Out of those 289 only Sloane and Fritsch make up two of the five players who were college amateurs signed to tryouts. The other three being Shane Sims, Jamie Doornosch and Matt Campanele – who all played one game tryouts during the 2010/11 season for the New York Islanders.

At the end of the day, Sloane and Fritsch were still lifelong hockey players and not some random Joe Schmoe off of the street. They were able to live out the lifelong dream of playing an actual NHL game, albeit under some absurd circumstances, but a memory they’re both able to cherish and carry with them throughout this life. 

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