DEBUNKED! Sbisa NOT sent back to juniors.. yet.

Although sources pointed to Flyers’ rookie defenseman Luca Sbisa being relocated to the Lethbridge Hurricanes of the WHL prior to All-Star weekend, Kevin Kurz, the manager of communications and new media for the Philadelphia Flyers, denied the transaction.

“This is a BS rumor,” bluntly said Kurz.

There has been no official word by the Flyers either way.

Regardless, it still looks dim that Sbisa will end up with the Flyers before his 40-game time limit is up.  If Sbisa, who is on his 38th game with the Flyers, is with the club for 40 games total, he loses a year of restricted free agency on his contract, making him an unrestricted free agent a year sooner — something the Flyers want to avoid unless he is in the lineup full time.  The delay in a decision also could be due to the Flyers diligent work in trying to trade away a blue liner and replacing him with  Sbisa, gaining cap space in the process.

At one point in the 2008-09 season, there was a question whether 18-year old Swiss rookie Luca Sbisa, would ever re-join his juniors team, the Lethbridge Hurricanes of the WHL. But after some hard thought and the inability to gain cap relief by a transaction on the blue line, the Flyers were forced to send highly coveted Sbisa back to juniors for the rest of the season.

Filling in for a depleted Flyers’ blue line at the start of the season, Sbisa, who was drafted 17th overall in the 2008 NHL entry draft,  played like a veteran defenseman possessed. His strong play impressed the organization so much, that General Manager Paul Holmgren kept him until the final day of his allotted time with the pro club.  According to the CBA, if kept more than 40 games, Sbisa could become an unrestricted  free agent a year earlier, something the Flyers wanted to avoid if he wasn’t active. Sbisa had seven assists and was a minus-4 in 38 games with the Flyers.

However, all signs point to the Flyers trying to move a defenseman to get Sbisa in the lineup.  With the return of expensive defenseman Randy Jones from injury,  Sbisa was inactive  until the last possible moment to send him back to juniors.  Holmgren expressed that playing time is important for young defensemen and that Sbisa should be with a team where he would get a great deal of playing time.  But that statement didn’t stop the Flyers from having Sbisa hang around, flirting with the notion to keep him with the team.

Because of Sbisa’s surpring play and the tough cap situation, the Flyers were rumored to be shopping Jones, who makes $2.75 million for the next two years.  Jones struggled upon his return from the hip injury suffered in training camp and put the Flyers in a salary cap hell in exchange for mediocre play.  Jones has one goal and one assist in 14 games played.  He also has eight minor penalties since his time back from injury.

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Filed under 2008-09 season, Prospects

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