Before the Flyers officially reported for training camp, defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere sat down with head coach Alain Vigneault to clear the air. Gostisbehere had once again slipped out of the top six, even down the stretch of the regular season and in the bubble during the playoffs.

Gostisbehere admitted he hasn’t been healthy in quite some time and that even returning during the summer showed he wasn’t where he wanted to be. In his conversation with Vigneault, he simply wanted to express that he was healthy and wanted to help the team win.

“We just had a good talk in the sense that it’s a clean slate,” Gostisbehere said. “For him and I, we talked out obviously last season. I went through a tough time with injuries and really couldn’t be the player I wanted to be. I just told him I’m healthy and feel really good right now. This is the first time in a couple of years that I feel really good. I think it was a good talk, and like I said, it’s a clean slate going into the season.”

“I had a very good meeting with Shayne prior to camp. We both expressed ourselves. He’s a very smart young man. He wants to play and wants to help this team win,” Vigneault said. “He’s going to get an opportunity. He’s got to prove himself obviously. I think for the first time since I’ve been here, he’s 100 percent healthy, which is real positive for him.  He’s coming in here with a real good attitude. Obviously, no exhibition games, but we’re paying a lot of attention to the scrimmages. We’ve got that intersquad game on the 10th. We’ll see what happens, how well he plays and how well he can help contribute to us winning some games.”

There’s a good chance Gostisbehere will get a chance to help this team and be another internal addition that didn’t factor into the equation much in a successful season. Gostisbehere will still have to earn that place, but in a shortened season, rotating in fresh players will be important.

“Are we going to keep seven? Are we going to keep eight? What are we going to do with eighth or ninth? Are they going in the taxi squads or if they are younger players, are they better off going into the American League? Those are all the things that are going to go into our decision-making. At the end of the day, we’re working on keeping the best seven eight guys that are here at camp for the start of the season,” Vigneault said. “A lot of our drills we’re able to evaluate forwards and Ds, but you’re talking to me about defense right now, and in the scrimmages we are. We’ve got quite a few possibilities at our disposal right now. As the days go on, we’re going to make some decisions and make the best ones for the team.

“Obviously this is a performance-based business. Ice time is earned and playing time is earned. Like I told the group the first day I met them, eight times this year we’re playing four games in six nights. That’s more than half our schedule. So there’s no doubt in my mind we’re going to need players. We’re going to need our depth. I believe we have good depth in this organization on D and up front. We’re going to monitor that. The fact that we’re no different from any other team, no real exhibition games and meaningful games right from the start.”

Gostisbehere has been the subject of trade rumors plenty of times before, and continues to be now. In a flat-cap world, it’s difficult to trade any player with a salary like Gostisbehere’s. He still has three years remaining on a deal with a cap hit of $4.5 million per season.

He has heard the rumors and is just determined to focus on what’s in his control and getting an opportunity on the ice with this team.

“I’m getting pretty used to it now. It’s been a couple of seasons now going,” Gostisbehere said. “Obviously, I pay attention to it because it’s my life and I’ve built a life here in Philly. Obviously, I am going to pay attention. It’s definitely not the best when you hear your name in trade rumors, but nothing happened, and I am happy to be here and help my team do the best.”

Through everything, the rumors, the injuries, the drop in playing time, Gostisbehere has felt the toll of it mentally. He has spent the offseason working on his own game, changed how he trained, and knowing he is completely healthy allows him to play more freely and not think about his condition or health as he is in the game.

“I’ve dealt through injuries a pretty good part of my career and obviously, when you sprinkle some trade rumors on top of that and not playing and you can’t get in the line-up, it’s definitely tough mentally,” Gostisbehere said. “I think for myself, this break, not summer, I just worked on doing what is in my control. I can’t control what is going to happen. I can’t control where I am going to go. The only thing I can control is getting healthy and becoming the best player I can be.

“I switched it up training aspect wise. I did it for more of a body development and doing what I can do. I can’t do things I used to do when I was younger, but I think for myself, I’m in a very good place mentally because I am healthy. That goes a long way with my play. I don’t have to worry about certain movements on the ice where maybe it will hurt or not. I just worry about the game itself. When you’re healthy, it’s a lot easier on the mind when you’re out there.”

This training camp doesn’t leave Gostisbehere with a lot of time to become one of the top six defensemen on the depth chart. Even with the retirement of Matt Niskanen, the addition of Erik Gustafsson – a player with a similar playing style to Gostisbehere – leaves the former Calder finalist on the outside looking in to start the season.

There’s time for that to change and there will certainly be opportunities with so many games to be played in such a short time. Gostisbehere will need to be prepared and remain determined to show he can still help this team. It could be the last chance he has to be with them for the long haul.

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