The Philadelphia Flyers likely planned to have free agent addition Andy Welinski hit the waiver wire just before the start of the regular season, when waivers is saturated with talent and teams are not as likely to make an addition to their roster. However, Welinski suffered a lower-body injury in training camp and began the year on the Flyers’ injured reserve. Finally healthy, the team is forced to place Welinski on waivers now, as reported by Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, in order to send him to the AHL’s Lehigh Valley Phantoms. With NHL teams having two weeks of games to look at as well as injury losses in need of a response, it’s fair to wonder if Welinksi will clear waivers.
Welinksi, 26, hit the open market this summer as a Group 6 unrestricted free agent. A standout for his hometown University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs, Welinksi enjoyed a full four-year collegiate career before signing with the Anaheim Ducks, who had selected him in the third round in 2011. In his first two pro seasons, Welinski only played in seven games for the Ducks, instead producing at a high level as a top defenseman for the AHL’s San Diego Gulls. However, in 2018-19, Welinski became a valuable depth piece on the Anaheim blue line. His split his season between the parent club and farm team, skating in 26 games for the Ducks and recording four points. However, even with his emergence as an NHL option for Anaheim, he was still far short of the 80 games needed by age 25 to remain a restricted free agents. Welinksi opted to take his talents to Philadelphia, where a young defense corps undergoing an overhaul offered the potential for another NHL opportunity.
The question now is whether Welinski’s next appearance at the top level will be with Philadelphia or elsewhere. Although the Phantoms feature other NHL veterans, such as Nate Prosser and T.J. Brennan, Welinski would likely be the next man up in the event of an injury in Philly. However, other teams may be willing to offer him a depth role right away. Given the injuries to Niklas Hjalmarsson in Arizona and Adam Larsson in Edmonton, not to mention the depth concerns in Winnipeg and New Jersey, that is already four teams that could consider taking a flier on Welinski. He may not be a household name or even an established NHLer at this point in career, but for now he’s a free option with demand for defense on the rise.