As the 2014-15 NHL season came to a close without a playoff berth for the Philadelphia Flyers, the offseason checklist began a bit sooner than usual. Over the next few weeks and months, the team will likely decide whether or not to pursue a coaching change, what strategy they will take at the NHL Draft depending on the draft lottery and what players to target via free agency and trade.
Without skipping a beat, General Manager Ron Hextall re-signed defenseman Brandon Manning to a one-year, one-way NHL contract worth $625,000.
Flyers announce Brandon Manning @mandog1990 has signed a one-year contract extension with Flyers. Kudos to him. Has earned it.
— Bob Rotruck (@BobRotruck) April 10, 2015
Manning finished the season on the Flyers blue line, his third overall stint with the big club since the 2011-12 season. In 19 total NHL games, he has posted five assists, two penalty minutes and is a plus-eight. With the number of defensemen already on one-way deals next season as well as some prospects who may make things interesting in camp, the Flyers brass clearly saw something they liked in the Prince George native.
Manning put himself on the map by playing for the Chilliwack Bruins of the Western Hockey League. In 2008-09, he recorded 11 goals and 18 assists for 29 points in 72 games. The season was a struggle defensively and he ended up with a minus-32 rating and 140 penalty minutes for one of the WHL’s worst clubs.
Manning made huge strides the following season by notching 13 goals and 41 assists for 54 points in 69 games. The team made a turnaround behind the leadership of Manning, who had been named captain after attending the Toronto Maple Leafs training camp. Manning also made leaps defensively as he posted a plus-20 rating.
After attending the New York Rangers camp, the 2010-11 campaign would be the captain’s last with Chilliwack and he posted 21 goals and 32 assists for 53 points and a minus-four rating in just 53 games due to injury and suspension. Manning led the Western Hockey League’s defensemen in scoring and signed an entry-level deal with the Philadelphia Flyers.
Manning was assigned to the Flyers AHL affiliate, the Adirondack (now Lehigh Valley) Phantoms for 2011-12. He posted 19 points in 46 games (started season in December due to injury) and earned himself a four-game call -up to the Flyers in March in which he was scoreless. In 2012-13, Manning was named one of the Phantoms assistant captains and scored six goals and 15 assists for 21 points in 65 games.
He was called up to the Flyers and recorded two assists in six games, his first NHL points. Manning spent the entire 2013-14 campaign with the Phantoms and posted professional highs with eight goals, 23 assists, 31 points and a whopping 231 penalty minutes. He was becoming known throughout the league as a bruising defender who could punish opponents in the defensive zone but also show up on the scoresheet on any given night.
The 2014-15 season was Manning’s best in the minors as he scored 11 times and added on 32 assists for 43 points in 58 games. He was named to his first AHL All-Star Game and led all Phantoms defensemen in points. In fact, he had 24 more points than Robert Hägg, the next closest defender, and finished third overall on the team behind center Nick Cousins and winger Jason Akeson, both of whom ended the season with Manning in Philadelphia. In nine games with the orange and black, Manning recorded three assists and was a plus-three.
Having inked a one-way deal, Manning will compete for a top-six job in training camp in September. Having him under contract gives Hextall some flexibility this summer as he may elect to try and move some of the other defensemen under contract such as Nicklas Grossmann and Luke Schenn.
With restricted free agent Michael Del Zotto looking for a deal, the Flyers will need to shuffle around defenders one way or another as they could potentially have eight with NHL deals. Then again, it may not be the worst thing considering how many man games the Flyers lost on the blue line this season, the consensus Achilles heel of the team.
In the grand scheme of things, Manning is likely a third-pairing defender who can dish out some pain while occasionally chipping on offensively. His style fits with the Flyers culture and for the price tag, he is a welcomed re-signing.
Here are a few clips that highlight what the team can expect moving forward.
Manning vs. Brad Malone
Manning slides it to Lauridsen for the game winner
Do you like the addition to the Flyers defensive corps? Let me know in the comments and/or on twitter @healedbyhockey