Flyers GM Ron Hextall Calls Re-Signing Brayden Schenn ‘First Priority’


Mar 16, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Philadelphia Flyers center Brayden Schenn (10) takes the ice before playing the Pittsburgh Penguins at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Flyers won 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

As we continue to watch an NHL Playoffs where former members of the Flyers score goals at a rate that could shave years off a fan of the Orange-and-Black, there is always offseason rumblings going on around Broad Street that serve as a welcome distraction. After being named general manager a few weeks ago, Ron Hextall was faced with a laundry lists of personnel decisions to make. One of the most pressing matters at hand is what to do with restricted free agent center Brayden Schenn. The 22-year-old forward who was acquired as part of the Mike Richards deal with the Kings is susceptible to an offer sheet in the offseason. Because of this, it is in the Flyers best interest to take care of their plans with Schenn before other teams start probing the centerman. Apparently Hextall, who saw quite a bit of Schenn during his time in Los Angeles, places a great deal of importance on the only forward to play all 82 games for Philadelphia last season.

"“Brayden Schenn would be our first priority,” Hextall told CSN’s John Boruk Wednesday. “But he’s restricted, so there’s not a timeline there where you say, ‘It’s going to be done by this time.’ Brayden’s a good young player, and we’d like to get him under contract as soon as possible. But again, there’s timelines there. It might be training camp, it might be July. I really can’t say. But obviously he’s a priority. When you’re looking at our cap space, we’ve got to save some room.”"

Now that Schenn has completed his entry-level contract that he signed with Los Angeles, he is in store for a substantial bump in salary and a cap-hit that coincides. The 2009 5th overall pick made under a million in actual salary in the 2013-2014 season, but the salary cap impact brought on by player bonuses that come with the unique structure of his initial contract made it that Schenn filled a substantial spot on the team’s roster.

Schenn potted a career-high 20 goals, 21 assists, and 41 points last season. Despite the strong showing statistically, critics of the 22-year old note his penchant for ‘disappearing’ at times on the ice and not having the impact a 2nd line center should. There are even some that would prefer to see him play along the wing and diminish some of his defensive responsibilities. Judging by how Hextall speaks of Schenn, one would have to think he shares some of the skepticism but feels his promise outweighs some of his early-career inconsistencies.

"“There’s some growth, there’s a lot more room for growth. I think Brayden’s defensive game has gotten better. Numbers wise, he’s gotten better, there’s room for growth there. This year, he was a little all over the place, he was on the wing, he was in the middle, he was with different players. I’d kind of like to try to stabilize that a little but, but we’ve got to find the right fit there, and easier said than done.”"

Possibly (definitely) fueled by their 1st round loss to the Rangers in the NHL playoffs, Flyers fans and analysts have speculated over whether to include Brayden Schenn in a deal to acquire an upgrade along the blue line. With former first round pick Scott Laughton playing the same position and style and with the team already strong up the middle, some see Schenn as an attractive piece that could help them improve elsewhere. While I recognize some of the team’s deficiencies on defense, it is transactions such as these that bring upon frustration in the long term. The Flyers essentially gave up on forward James van Riemsdyk before trading him to Toronto for Brayden’s brother Luke Schenn. Though the stalwart defenseman is a serviceable top-6 NHL blue-liner, JVR has blossomed into the type of prolific power forward that many feel the Flyers lack, especially on their top line. The best organizations turn their top prospects into impact players. Unless they are blown away by a deal that brings in a legitimate #1 defenseman, I’m with Hextall on this one. Schenn should be a priority and the Flyers should pay him as such.