The Philadelphia Flyers have not exactly had a banner year on the ice, but the front office, most notably general manager Ron Hextall, has had a successful season off of it.
In his first year in the role, Hextall has put the organization in a better position for the present and future – while also getting a head start on fixing some of the problems stemming from the past – with nearly every move he’s made in the last 10 months.
He has improved the current roster with shrewd and inexpensive signings of players that may also help down the road, and through a handful of shrewd trades stockpiled a number of high draft picks and took small steps to untangle the awful cap mess the team inherited from former GM Paul Holmgren.
His performance at the trade deadline last week proved his mettle in negotiating and cemented his true potential as a GM.
In two separate trades involving veteran defensemen Kimmo Timonen and Braydon Coburn, Hextall netted a first, second and third round pick, a conditional pick that could turn into another second rounder, a young inexpensive defenseman and freed up $4.5 million on next year’s cap.
Hextall’s first major deal, another winner, last summer was shipping Scott Hartnell to Columbus for R.J. Umberger and a fourth-round pick. While it has mostly been a wash on the stat sheet and both players make about $4.6-7 million, Umberger’s contract expires two years before Hartnell’s.
He has also hit a home run with a trio of under-the-radar signings of journeyman defensemen Nick Schultz, discarded defenseman Michael Del Zotto and international forward Pierre-Edouard Bellemare. Schultz and Bellemare were signed to extensions just before the deadline, and Del Zotto has regained the form that made him one of the top young players in the game and should be a target to re-sign.
In less than a year, Hextall has implemented a long-term plan, strictly adhered to it and given the Flyers a clear roadmap for success.
Worst weekend of the season
In what was a make-or-break weekend, the Flyers unfortunately broke. They blew a one-goal lead in the final 14 seconds of regulation and then lost in overtime in Boston on Saturday before falling to the Devils on Sunday.
The Flyers now trail the Bruins by seven points for the final wild card spot and have just 15 games left in the season. Barring a miraculous finish, it appears the Flyers will miss the postseason for the second time in the last three years.