Flyers On the Straight and Narrow After Banner Weekend by Ron Hextall


The Flyers are likely a few years away from heading into an NHL season as a legitimate Stanley Cup contender. That being said, their GM may have provided the template for the type of offseason the Orange-and-Black needs to have should they hope to eventually compete for hockey’s holy grail on an annual basis. Ron Hextall went into the 2015 NHL Draft with a bevy of picks and a docket of tasks to accomplish before leaving Sunrise, Florida. As of Saturday evening, Hextall can (but won’t) rest easy knowing he has the Flyers on the right track.

The Flyers draft weekend was a calculated, systemic sequence of events that Hextall recited to perfection. At no point in the two-day affair did the second-year general manager attempt to bite off more than he could chew, but instead recognized the importance of focusing on each task at hand before moving to the next one. Because of this, Hextall was able to yield maximum results in both the short and long-term for the franchise.

Friday evening was all about improving the talent level of the Flyers from an organizational standpoint. Landing defenseman Ivan Provorov and forward Travis Konecny without having to give up prime resources ensured, at the very least, the Flyers would walk away from Florida with a pair of young players who would immediately vault themselves to the top of the franchise prospect rankings at their respective positions. Hextall managed to do this without debilitating the wealth of picks he had built up over the past year.

Day two was about striking a balance between addressing a concerning organizational problem and finding players whose talent level exceeded the slot where they were picked. The problem in question was Philadelphia’s dearth of goaltending prospects up-and-down the Flyers pipeline. Aside from Anthony Stolarz, there is almost no young talent that projects to the NHL level at the goalie position. Hextall, a former Vezina winning goaltender himself, saw to it that the Flyers would have organizational competition between the pipes for years to come.

Hextall explained that he wanted to walk away from the draft with two goalies among however many picks the team ended up with. In lieu of a second defenseman, he instead ran that number to three to ensure the entry-level tiers of the Flyers prospect pool would boast legitimate talent between the pipes. Hextall knows as well as anyone the importance of strong goaltending at the NHL level. Steve Mason is by no means past his prime, but the difficult development timeline for goalies makes it a situation where a team can never have too many.

Rounding out the class, Hextall put an emphasis on forward prospects with versatility and intangibles to flesh out another position that does not boast much top-end talent throughout the organization. Sandwiched between the three goalies taken on day two, Hextall selected Canadian Samuel Dove-McFalls, Russian Mikhail Vorobyov, and Czech Republic native David Kase. Especially in the case of Kase, many feel as if the Flyers got a late-round steal of a player who could pay dividends down the road.

With the draft in the books, Hextall turned his focus to alleviating some of the salary cap issues that hamstrung him during his first free agency period last offseason. He was able to take advantage of a team in the Arizona Coyotes who needed to take on a certain amount of cap money in terms of contracts to reach the NHL’s salary floor. Hextall traded defenseman Nicklas Grossmann and the rights to Chris Pronger (currently serving out his contract on long-term injured reserve) to the Coyotes in exchange for forward Sam Gagner. Chris Johnston, who writes for SportsNet in Canada, provided a simple overview to the transaction and how each team benefited from it.

"It could see the perpetually capped-out Flyers realize a cap savings of more than $6.5-million next season — assuming they buy out Gagner, which isn’t guaranteed — while allowing Arizona to move about $4.6-million closer to the cap floor, add a defenceman and only take on somewhere in the neighbourhood of $100,000 in actual salary commitments."

The organization has been non-committal as to whether or not they will retain Gagner. Though he probably could be seen as an upgrade over the likes of R.J. Umberger, it’s possible the Flyers would prefer to use their new-found cap space on a more dependable commodity. It’s also possible that Hextall would like to lock up a young talent such as Jakub Voracek to a long-term extension and now has the flexibility to do so. Whatever direction Hextall decides to take will be an interesting development to follow, given it will be the first instance in his tenure as general manager that he actually has cap space to work with.

The Flyers still have plenty of work to do before they find themselves in the conversation of the Blackhawks and Kings of the world. Much of their future fortunes will depend on the development of their young defensive prospects and whether or not Hextall and the Flyers can acquire or develop some top-end forward talent to take the load off of Voracek and Claude Giroux. Building a cup champion is an inexact science and takes a fair amount of luck to get to that level. That being said, for a weekend in June Ron Hextall addressed everything he could control as an executive to put the Flyers in a better position to develop into a contender. It’s been quite some time since Philadelphians could look toward the Flyers front office as the model of stability and effective team-building among their four major teams. Ron Hextall made a strong case that it’s time for the jokes about the ‘Broad Street Bullies’ to come to an end.

Next: Flyers Select Ivan Provorov with 7th Overall Pick

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