Flyers’ Walker not letting trade rumors affect his game

Sean Walker

VOORHEES, N.J. – The shock of his first trade in the NHL has barely worn off and already defenseman Sean Walker is being subjected to another round of speculation about a possible new address.

The 29-year-old Flyers defenseman need not be reminded the trade deadline is coming up on March 8 and he doesn’t have a contract for next season.

Walker came over to the Flyers from Los Angeles last offseason in the Ivan Provorov trade and there weren’t any guarantees he would even crack the lineup.

To the surprise of some, he not only made the team but has flourished so far. His 20 points and plus-10 both rank second among Flyers backliners.

Did we mention his two shorthanded goals are tied for the NHL lead among defensemen?

If the trade rumors are on Walker’s mind, he’s not letting it show. He’s played in every one of Philadelphia’s 55 games and can be counted on to be reliable in all situations.

How does he manage to stay focused?

“There’s not much I can do about it,” Walker said after Monday’s practice at the Flyers Training Center, using an oft-repeated line of trade candidates. “I kind of take it day by day and play the best I can.”

Walker is one of the more popular players in the Flyers’ locker room. He can engage in conversation with both veterans and youngsters alike. Some of that might have to with the warm welcome he received when he showed up for work back in September.

“I feel very welcome,” said the Keswick, Ontario, Canada native. “From the first days I got here, everyone made me feel great, comfortable. That just kind of grew as we went on. I can’t speak enough about this group, the organization.

“It’s just such a tight group and everybody is good people around here. It’s been a really great experience.”

With the Flyers in contention for a playoff spot, it’s understandable they would listen to offers. However, if they’re going to part ways with this sort of energized talent, they better make sure they get fair value in return.

Walker knows the Flyers are going through a rebuild so he acknowledges they have every right to listen to general managers around the league. Philadelphia general manager Daniel Briere has made it clear virtually no one on his roster is untouchable.

“They’ve been very vocal about where they were at the beginning of the year, the rebuild they were committed to,” Walker said. “So, obviously they’re going to be taking calls and listening. If they feel it makes sense for them and the organization’s future, then that’s just what they have to do.

“At the end of the day it’s business. They’re responsible for making it the best team they can. That’s the decisions they have to make and sometimes they can be tough.”

One thing that could keep Walker here is the way he plays the game, that is, with a lot of speed. Team-wise, it’s something coach John Tortorella has been harping on all season.

“Personally I don’t think I ever want to play the D-zone,” Walker said with the trace of a smile. “Get the puck up ice as fast as you can and go the other way. From day one, that’s kind of what ‘Torts’ wanted. Be aggressive, get a turnover, go the other way. I think it’s a big part of our success, transitioning and going on the attack the other way.”

Fellow defenseman Travis Sanheim, who leads the blue line corps in total scoring and minutes played, said Walker has been a welcome addition to a rebuilt defense.

“He’s been a great teammate,” Sanheim offered. “Guys have enjoyed having him here. From on-ice standpoint, just our style, he’s a really good skater. He’s aggressive in the neutral zone. It’s allowed him to get up the ice more and create more.”

Sanheim doesn’t believe trade rumors have affected Walker’s play.

“We hope to continue to have him the rest of the season,” Sanheim said.

Coach John Tortorella said he’s spoken to all the players who might be moved in a few weeks.

“They know,” the coach said. “I asked Danny if I could talk to them. I want to show them as much respect as I possibly can and not have something sprung on them. We’ve been very transparent with this group leading up to the deadline, where we sit as far as the organization. That’s just showing them respect. Players know where they stand. It’s always an open door if they have other questions about it.”

>Key game in Chicago

The Flyers see the Blackhawks for the first time this season on Wednesday in the Windy City. Sean Couturier is mindful of the fact the Flyers have lost two straight after a four-game winning streak. The Blackhawks might be one of the worst teams in hockey but shouldn’t be taken lightly.

“I think we’ve done a good job all year of responding,” Couturier said. “There was that five-game losing streak but we came back strong after the (All-Star) break. We lost the last two games but overall I think we just have to get back on track, play our game and we’ll be all right.”

Couturier knows this can be a trap game.

“We just have to focus on ourselves,” he said. “Same approach as we would have against a top team. That is what we’ll do.”

One of the Blackhawks’ legitimate threats is No. 1 overall draft pick Connor Bedard, who leads all rookies in scoring despite missing 13 games due to injury.

“He’s an exciting young player,” Couturier said. “His shot and his release are pretty special. We’ll definitely have to be ready when he is on the ice.”

>Short shots

Rookie right wing Tyson Foerster, who’s been out the past week with a lower-body injury, skated for the first time on Monday but only in the first half of practice. “He’ll play when he’s ready to play,” Tortorella said. “Day to day.”

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About Wayne Fish 2472 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.