Philadelphia Flyers: A Detailed Look into Ron Hextall’s Plan

Feb 29, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Flyers former defensemen Jimmy Watson (left) poses with Flyers general manager Ron Hextall and president Paul Hextall during induction into the Flyers Hall of Fame prior to game against the Calgary Flames at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 29, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Flyers former defensemen Jimmy Watson (left) poses with Flyers general manager Ron Hextall and president Paul Hextall during induction into the Flyers Hall of Fame prior to game against the Calgary Flames at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports /

We welcome this guest written piece by Paul Caracciolo going over Ron Hextall‘s plan for the Philadelphia Flyers.

Ron Hextall has been praised for how he’s managed the Philadelphia Flyers since he took over as General Manager approximately two years ago. Whether it’s been with mid-season trades, draft day decisions or offseason signings, he has been building the Flyers from the ground up with his sights set on a young and talented team for the future.

There haven’t been many complaints about what the Flyers are doing in their youth movement. Drafting players like Travis Sanheim, Ivan Provorov, Travis Konecny and Nicolas Aube-Kubel, Samuel Morin and Robert Hagg has built a solid future blue line along with future goal scorers for the Philadelphia Flyers. A lot of those prospects are considered NHL ready. The gray area is why Hextall has chosen to keep these bright young players with their respected amateur teams instead of giving them a shot in the NHL.

Many people around the league have tried to explain the Flyers not calling up their prospects by accusing them of tanking (losing on purpose to receive a higher draft pick). Hextall has denied tanking and rightfully so.

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This is a Philadelphia Flyers team that made clinched the playoffs last season, which shows they’re not interested in losing for more talent through the draft, they still want to win while also rebuilding. This still presents the question of why aren’t these prospects, who could make an immediate impact, playing at the NHL level? The answer isn’t simple mainly because it’s tucked away in the future.

It’s no secret the NHL is looking to expand. Last summer, the NHL started accepting applications for new franchises. Two ownership groups submitted applications, one in Las Vegas and one in Quebec City. The NHL only awarded a team to Las Vegas and the team is set to join the league at the start of the 2017-18 season. The expansion not only brings a new team to the league, it also brings an expansion draft.

"“What I would say generally about them is that they are very similar to the expansion draft rules that we had previously, except it is designed and intended to create a somewhat deeper draft so the expansion club can be more competitive early on,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said.“But in a one-team expansion, the most a team can lose is one player per team. In a two-team expansion, they can lose two players per team, and if we don’t expand, they don’t lose any players.”"

These are some of the rules from the NHL’s last expansion draft.

  • Teams will have two options in who they protect: either they safeguard seven forwards, three defensemen, and one goalie; or they protect eight skaters (whether they’re defensemen or forwards) and one goalie.
  • First- and second-year pros — including those playing pro hockey at any level — will be exempt from the expansion draft. But if they’re entering their third year of pro hockey, they’re no longer exempt. Teams would have to either protect them or expose them.

Okay, so lets put the pieces of the puzzle together. By keeping these prospects off of the Philadelphia Flyers roster until they’re qualified as “First-and- second-year pros” (The second bullet point above), Ron Hextall is protecting them from getting plucked by an expansion team.

The Flyers do not only have talented young prospects, they also have talented young professionals. Based on the rules above, if the expansion draft were to happen today, the Philadelphia Flyers would likely protect Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn, Sean Couturier, Michael Raffl, Shayne Gostisbehere, Scott Laughton and Steve Mason.

The Philadelphia Flyers are talented and deep at forward, that’s why they’d likely protect seven forwards and only one defenseman. The Flyers are log-jammed with average skaters at the defensive position (which is why many were wondering why these talented young defensemen aren’t up in the pros). Protecting Shayne Gostisbehere would be the highest priority on defense, especially after his historic rookie season.

If players like Ivan Provorov, Robert Hagg, Sam Morin and Travis Sanheim were to come in and play for the Flyers at the beginning of the 2015-16 season, they would all be third-year professionals when the planned expansion draft would take place.

Being third-year pros, they are not automatically protected meaning the Philadelphia Flyers would have used one of their eight protected spots to prevent them from possibly being taken by a new team. Like I mentioned earlier, the Flyers have some very good young forwards all at the pro level that they’d love to keep and they would all require one of the eight spots used to protect players from the expansion draft.

What all of that means is that Ron Hextall isn’t necessarily keeping these prospects with their amateur teams so they become more NHL ready (because a few certainly are NHL ready), he’s keeping them out of the pros long enough to protect them from the very possible 2017 expansion draft while also protecting the team’s young core that they have now.

The 2016-17 season is the window for these young prospects to make the Philadelphia Flyers’ roster while also automatically being protected for the expansion draft in 2017, so expect to see a few more rookies on the Wells Fargo Center ice this season.

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It also isn’t a coincidence that the 2017-18 offseason is the year that the Philadelphia Flyers are officially done paying / eating all of the veteran contracts they have/had under their salary cap right now from the likes of Mark Streit ($5.25 million AAV), Michael Del Zotto ($3.9 million AAV), Nick Schultz ($2.25 million AAV). RJ Umberger was bought out this past summer, which means the Flyers’ will absorb the final year of his contract this season.

So in the end, Ron Hextall is protecting his highly touted young prospects from getting plucked by and expansion team while also clearing enough cap room for the team to possibly make a splash in the 2017 offseason to build around their young talent. This is a very strategic and well thought out plan by Hextall that Flyers fans should be excited about.

Editors note: We appreciate this guest written piece from Paul. If you like what you’ve read, feel free to follow him on twitter @windowtothepaul