The Flyers 2015 draft was an overall success. Everyone can agree that Provorov was a smart addition to the pool of talented defensive prospects that the Flyers already have and drafting Travis Konecny showed that we are finally putting some value in skilled players rather than big tough players who need a miracle to develop into top level NHLers.
Besides the draft, Ron Hextall managed to pull off a couple of trades that made him look like an absolute magician. We all know that the Flyers had a cap space issue coming into this offseason and players like Ryan White and Michael Del Zotto in need of contract extensions. The plan from the beginning of Hextall’s tenure as Flyers GM was to trade away players like Nick Grossmann and any other players that could offer some breathing room in cap space. Obviously with the Flyers players being what they are, bad, that looked like no easy task.
The biggest trade of the weekend saw Nick Grossmann and Chris Pronger’s contract shipped off to Arizona in exchange for Sam Gagner and a conditional draft pick. Grossmann was one of the Flyers biggest defensive liabilities and constantly the first on the trade list. The interesting part of the trade is the inclusion of Pronger’s contract. Everyone thought the Flyers were stuck with Pronger’s cap hit for another two years, a depressing reminder of what the Flyers blueline was in 2010. The thought of Trading Pronger’s contract never crossed some people’s minds as a possibility until earlier this season when the Leafs traded David Clarkson to the Blue Jackets for Nathan Horton, a player who will likely not be able to play again due to a back injury. The move was a creative cap space maneuver and got some Flyers fans seriously thinking about the possibility of trading Pronger’s contract. Pronger’s contract will help Arizona reach the cap floor.
As for Sam Gagner, it was reported that Hextall was planning on buying out Gagner as soon as he was traded here, but as the week went on, Hextall seems to have changed his mind. For the first time in years, the Flyers had some room to work with and some money to bolster the lineup.
Hextall’s next move showed that he knows how to take advantage of vulnerable GMs, trading Zac Rinaldo to a very lost Boston Bruins in exchange for a 3rd round draft pick in 2017. With around $7 million in cap space available, Hextall was free to add depth players to the lineup. And he started by giving Chris VandeVelde a two-year extension worth $712,500 each year. The trading of Rinaldo and VandeVelde extension shows Hextall’s plan for this team, a turn away from grinding undisciplined 4th liners to more skilled, fast 4th line talent. The kind of skilled 4th line that more powerhouse teams are adopting, and succeeding with.
Hextall then signed Ryan White to a one-year extension worth $800,000. Hextall also addressed an issue we’ve rarely seen addressed, backup goaltending. Hextall signed Michael Neuvirth to a multi-year contract, two years 1,625,000 per year. The Flyers now have $4,458,334 in cap space available, and have given Del Zotto a qualifying offer until they can come to terms on a longer deal.
This past week has solidified the culture change for the Flyers. We’re not trying to be the bullies anymore, Hextall is making smart moves that will help us win without screwing up our future. The lineup is slowly becoming more skilled and not as old. The future is looking bright and Ron Hextall is leading the way with his magical abilities.