VOORHEES – There are nine million reasons why Oskar Lindblom’s future took a much deserved turn for the better on Wednesday.
Lindblom, a finalist for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy for perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication, was signed to a new three-year, $9-million contract by the Flyers.
To top it off, general manager Chuck Fletcher says he plans to add Lindblom’s name to the Flyers’ 31-man roster bound for Toronto and didn’t rule out the possibility of the talented Swedish winger practicing with the team and even getting into a game.
Amazing, considering that just seven months ago Lindblom learned he was suffering from Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer.
The 23-year-old completed his chemotherapy treatments at Pennsylvania Hospital on July 2. Now all he needs is a green light from his doctors to get back on skates.
“I am very excited to be a part of the Flyers for the next three seasons,’’ Lindblom said in a statement through the team’s public relations department. “The support that the organization, the fans and the entire NHL has given me has been overwhelming.
“I can’t wait to get back to skating with the boys and being the professional hockey player I know I can be. I want to thank the Flyers for giving me this opportunity and I look forward to the day I’m back and contributing to the team’s success.’’
Lindblom was leading the Flyers in goals (11) when he received the diagnosis while on a road trip with the Flyers in Colorado in mid-December.
It’s been an uphill battle ever since but no doubt this contract is a sign the Flyers have faith in his full recovery.
Even if he doesn’t play in the playoffs, the new contract practically guarantees his NHL career will resume at some point.
“We’re hopeful that Oskar will be one of our 31 players that we bring into the bubble in Toronto,’’ Fletcher said. “We are working toward that. So we’ll see how the next few days go but that’s certainly our goal.
“And with respect to our belief in Oskar, I think our organization believes wholeheartedly in Oskar. Our players believe in him. AV (head coach Alain Vigneault) believes in him and I believe in him. So we couldn’t be happier to have this three-year deal done.’’
Back in December, few thought this day would ever come.
“Those were dark times,’’ Fletcher recalled. “When the diagnosis of Oskar’s cancer was known by all of us, it was tough times. A young man not entering the prime of his career but the prime of his life.
“He’s been through a lot the last six or seven months. Medically (now) he’s in a much better spot. When he was diagnosed, he was on a 50-point pace, even going back to the previous season, where he had a big second half for us. . .he’s had 24 goals in the last 70 games he’s played. That’s just the floor, we believe, of his potential. We’re very excited to watch him continue his career, rejoin his teammates and be a very productive player for the Flyers for years to come.’’
Whether or not Lindblom plays in Toronto, he will serve as an inspiration to his teammates.
Fletcher said the negotiations for the new contract were fairly quick and easy, just a few phone calls. Both sides obviously wanted to get it done.
The Flyers know Lindblom is a model of courage and a source of inspiration.
“I think the way Oskar responded to the news of the diagnosis and how he handled his treatments and how when he was around the group afterwards, he was more concerned about his teammates than himself,’’ Fletcher said. “That was really a big factor in bringing our team together.
“The players really care about him and respect him. Not that anyone wanted that to be a turning point (to the season) but the way Oskar dealt with it, I think it really resonated in a positive way with our team.’’
Imagine if Lindblom found his way into a playoff game. The response in the Delaware Valley hockey community would be off the charts.
“Oskar showed tremendous strength and courage during his battle,’’ Fletcher said. “He was always so selfless. I’m sure it was difficult psychologically, physically, emotionally and yet he never showed any signs of weakness or fear with his teammates.
“He was positive, took the battle head-on. The way he handled it was unbelievable, very inspirational.’’