Matt Read: “I would love to be a Flyer next year”

Photo Courtesy of Yahoo Sports

Photo Courtesy of Yahoo Sports

(By @David_Strehle)

When the 2013/14 season begins in a little more than two weeks, Philadelphia Flyers’ winger Matt Read will be among one of the biggest bargains to be had for any of the 30 NHL teams.

Heading into the final year of a three-year pact that pays him $900,000 annually, Read will become an unrestricted free agent if not re-signed before next summer.

After a 24-goal, 47-point rookie season, the graduate of Bemidji State University got off to a pretty decent start last year. He notched seven goals and 13 points in his first 17 contests, but was slowed after suffering a rib cartilage injury against the Pittsburgh Penguins in late-February. He missed just six games before probably returning prematurely in an effort to bolster his fading club’s offensive struggles on the way to posting 11 goals and 24 points in 42 games.

Read is one of the players headed to Ontario today to play in games in London Sunday and Toronto Monday night against the Maple Leafs.

While he would prefer that his contract situation to be resolved, the 27-year-old is presently concentrating solely on his performance on the ice.

“Just kind of taking it day-by-day right now”, Read said following Saturday’s training camp session, making no bones about where he wants to be plying his trade come the 2014/15 campaign. “I would love to be a Flyer next year, but right now all I’m worried about is on the ice, getting ready and making sure I’m prepared every day for camp.

“It’s not up to me. My agent (Neil Sheehy) and Mr. (GM Paul) Holmgren are talking and I get the messages relayed to me. I’m not worried about it at all right now. It’s a long season and if it comes to it that next summer I’m able to sign here or no matter what the possiblility is, I’m not worried about it. I’m worried about being the best I can be on the ice right now.”

What Read’s versatility gives the Flyers is a tremendous amount of flexibility throughout the lineup. He can play any of the three forward slots, on any line and in any circumstance, as well as excelling on both special teams units.

“I feel like I can play every position on the ice,” he said. “I can play defensive, I can play offensive. I can play on the first line or the fourth line. For me it doesn’t matter. Whatever the lineup is or whoever you’re playing with, you try to take it in stride and gel with your linemates as quickly as you can.”

That’s a pretty unselfish attitude from a player heading into a critical contract year, but Read insists personal goals are completely secondary in his mindset.

“To play to my potential and help this team win, that’s what matters,” Read explained. “It’s about winning. It’s not about being a first line guy or a fourth line guy. It’s what’s best for the team and making it a winning team and getting to the postseason.”

The chances for the Flyers to get into the playoffs, something Philadelphia failed to do for a second time in the last seven years during the abbreviated 2012/13 campaign, were improved greatly over the past summer when they signed free agents Vincent Lecavalier, Mark Streit, and Ray Emery.

Read likes the club’s outlook with the addition of the trio and took some time to give his thoughts on each of the new acquisitions.

“Lecavalier, you can’t say enough positive things about him,” Read beamed about how the 33-year-old former Tampa Bay Lightning captain has appeared in camp thus far. “He’s been looking great out there. I look forward to seeing him in a Flyers uniform and helping our team out.”

As for Streit, Read sees not only crucial help for a blue line that struggled greatly last year, but also the speed of the defender and his ability to jump into the attack.

“Mark Streit’s a good offensive defenseman”, Read observed. “Hockey’s changed where that fourth man in the zone is a huge key to a team’s offense. If he’s gonna be offensive and join the rush, that’s another way to score more goals. That’s a good pickup.”

Read sees Emery’s signing as a prelude to what could be a good battle between the former-Blackhawk netminder and the returning Steve Mason.

“We have two goalies that will be fighting for a number one spot,” Read said. “You watch the Chicago Blackhawks did that last year (Emery and Corey Crawford) and they played very well all season. I look forward to seeing who’s gonna come out on top. They’re both really good goalies. They’ve been looking good all camp. That should be interesting.”

While Read seemed a bit disappointed in Holmgren’s failed attempt to lure free agent winger Dan Cleary away from the Detroit Red Wings, he says the team now knows exactly what they have and it’s time for that group to come together.

“Now you have a team kind of set here and you gotta take it in stride,” he said. “You see 20 guys in your locker room and you’ve got to gel and become one team as quickly as you can.”

Read’s current contract is definitely a bargain and the player would be very marketable if Holmgren attempted to trade him. Philadelphia will eventually have to move a couple of bodies and in excess of $2 million before the regular season begins, and the contract status has led to some rumors regarding the Ilderton, Ontario-native.

The journey as to just how well the Flyers integrate as a cohesive unit begins tonight in London, Ontario in preseason game number one, as Read begins his quest to see if his future indeed lies in Philadelphia.

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