Cleary spurns Flyers, returning to Detroit

Winger Michael Raffl talks with Flyers defensive coach Kevin McCarthy during camp. He is trying to go from a lower-level league in Sweden to the NHL.
Winger Michael Raffl talks with Flyers defensive coach Kevin McCarthy during camp. He is trying to go from a lower-level league in Sweden to the NHL. (   MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff)
Posted: September 14, 2013

Winger Dan Cleary did not report on the first day of Flyers training camp Thursday and decided to return to Detroit, meaning several rookies now are battling for a roster spot, including Tye McGinn, Scott Laughton, and Michael Raffl.

"I just followed my heart," Cleary told reporters in Detroit. "I wanted to come here."

Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said he held no grudges toward Cleary.

"Good for him," Holmgren said. "He obviously had eight years there and was hoping to continue the ride with them."

Instead of trying to make the Flyers on a tryout contract, Cleary opted for a one-year deal for a reported $1.75 million with the Red Wings.

Cleary's decision will have a ripple effect on the Flyers, who now are searching for a third-line left winger.

"I'm just keeping the same mind-set I had even when he was supposed to be here," McGinn said after leaving the ice at the Wells Fargo Center. "I just have to go out in camp and prove myself and show I can earn a spot."

McGinn, 23, played in 18 games with the Flyers last season - he was used on virtually every line - and he managed five points and three goals. He suffered a broken right orbital bone in a Feb. 25 fight with Toronto's Mike Brown, underwent surgery, and returned to play two more games.

"It's healed up 100 percent and I'm ready to get going," said McGinn, calling last year's stint with the Flyers a "confidence builder."

Laughton, 19, selected by the Flyers in the first round of the 2012 draft, worked with a trainer in the offseason and got bigger, stronger, and faster.

A natural center, Laughton said it wouldn't be a major deal if he was converted to left wing.

"It may be easier; it's less skating and you go up and down the wall," he said. "I think I'd be OK."

Raffl, 24, lauded by coach Peter Laviolette on Thursday for his skating, puck-handling, and "heavy shot," had a strong World Championship performance for Austria, and he was on the top line, with Buffalo Sabres star Thomas Vanek as one of his linemates.

The 6-foot-0, 192-pounder is trying to make a gargantuan leap from a lower-level Sweden league to the NHL.

"It's obviously different," said Raffl, a free agent who signed in May. "The surface is smaller here and I have to get used to that kind of stuff. I try not to think too much. Thinking too much is not good, I think. So I'll try to keep my focus and do my best and see what's coming out."

In addition to the young hopefuls, Max Talbot is a possibility as the third-line left winger.

Cleary, 34, had agreed to a tryout contract with the Flyers, but had second thoughts.

The Detroit Free Press said Cleary turned down a three-year, $8.25 million offer from the Flyers. Holmgren, however, said the Flyers never had that kind of deal on the table.

Cleary, an unrestricted free agent, texted Holmgren on Thursday morning, saying he felt too attached to leave Detroit.

"I'm sorry how it all played out. Philly is a great organization," Cleary told reporters. "My heart was here."

Cleary, a grinder who is adept at winning board battles, had nine goals for Detroit last season. He was one of the Red Wings' top players during the playoffs.

As of late Wednesday, the Flyers had not heard from Cleary and still expected him to be at camp Thursday at the Wells Fargo Center.

As it turned out, Cleary won't be at the Center until Jan. 28. With Detroit.


Chris Pronger watched the camp sessions and said he still has concussion symptoms. . . . Mark Alt (concussion) was not on the ice. . . . Defenseman Tyler Hoestetter, the pride of Lititz, is among the 62 players in camp. He played for the Trenton Titans last season and had 16 points in 38 games. . . . Inexplicably, the Flyers players do not have numbers on their jerseys, making it difficult for fans to know who is on the ice.

Contact Sam Carchidi at Follow on Twitter @BroadStBull.

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