Kurtis Foster signs deal with Flyers

YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Kurtis Foster takes shot during first day of Flyers' training camp.
YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Kurtis Foster takes shot during first day of Flyers' training camp.
Posted: January 14, 2013

KURTIS FOSTER will never forget the night of March 19, 2008.

Foster, playing for the Minnesota Wild, was in San Jose. He was racing for a puck with Sharks forward Torrey Mitchell. Closing in on the goal line at a blistering pace, Foster received an extra push from Mitchell as he reached to touch the puck for an icing call.

Foster flew into the boards, shattering his left femur - the longest and strongest bone in the human body - into three separate pieces.

Laying on the ice waiting for a gurney, his career flashed before his eyes.

On the ride to the hospital for emergency surgery, Foster asked the ambulance driver to slow down, because every bump was so agonizing.

During surgery, Foster nearly bled out. Doctors worried whether they could save his leg, let alone enable him to play hockey again. Nine hours of operating, three screws and two metal rods later, Foster began the 11-month journey back to the NHL. He was lucky enough just to be able to walk in his own wedding 4 months after without a cane.

Foster bounced to four different teams before finally landing back in Minnesota at last year's trade deadline. Even his return to the Wild was temporary.

In many ways, Foster's on-ice performance has never been the same.

Now, after signing with the Flyers on Sunday morning as a free agent, Foster is hoping a new offseason mobility training regimen and a fresh start in Philadelphia will jump-start his once promising career.

Foster, 31, will provide much-needed depth for the Flyers' thin defense corps. With Andrej Meszaros' uncertain status after August surgery to repair a torn Achilles' and Phantoms Erik Gustafsson (ankle) and Marc-Andre Bourdon (upper body) injured, Foster is on the inside track to beat out Andreas Lilja for a spot on the opening night roster on the third pair.

His 1-year deal with the Flyers is worth $950,000. Foster said he had a firm offer from at least two other suitors.

"We just felt it was a gaping hole in our organizational depth," Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said, "and we were able to be real aggressive with Kurtis."

When Foster returned to the ice in 2009 after surgery, his skating was not fluid. It took a long time for his range of motion to come back.

At the recommendation of former Devils assistant Adam Oates, who is now the head coach of the Washington Capitals, Foster spent a good portion of his summer with physiotherapist Kevin Haller in Bellevue, Wash., across the lake from Seattle.

"I worked on a lot of things out there," Foster said. "He broke down every bit of my movement, both on the ice and in my day-to-day life. I never realized how much I was subconsciously compensating on my root leg for my left leg's injuries.

"He reworked my movement so that I don't cheat. Everything is balanced. He's taken my mobility to a new level. Now, I feel it's as good or better than it was before the injury."

Foster is known for his cannon of a shot from the point. Coach Peter Laviolette already had him on the Flyers' second power-play unit on Day 1 of training camp.

He posted a career-high 42 points for the Lightning in 2009-10, most of them coming on the power play in conjunction with phenom Steven Stamkos. Foster, a 6-5 presence, did play a handful of games at forward under coach Rick Tocchet that season.

"I'd say the vast majority of my points that year came on defense on the power play," Foster said. "I love to shoot. I'm the type of player that just plays, I don't complain and I just do what the coaches tell me."

Foster has long lobbied the NHL to change its rule on touch-up icing, and players are now penalized for playing the body instead of the puck on icing calls. He'd like to see the "Kurtis Foster" rule implemented, moving to no-touch automatic icing.

For now, though, after schlepping his family though Finland during the lockout, Foster is just happy to be back in the NHL.

"I'm happy to be a Flyer," Foster said. "When you have a forward group like we do, it's fun to get the puck up to them. I get the chance to shoot the puck as much as I can."

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