Flyers’ Offseason Preview: Big Splash Coming in 2016?

Posted: June 8, 2014 in Uncategorized
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ronhextallAs the Stanley Cup Final continues to offer NHL fans extraordinary excitement, fanatics from The City of Brotherly Love anxiously await the NHL Draft, to be held at Wells Fargo Center, later this month. That weekend, for all intents and purposes, will be the beginning of new GM Ron Hextall’s promising tenure atop the Flyers’ front office. For Philadelphia, a city without a Cup for nearly 40-years, the time is now for new leadership and a broadened philosophy.

Over the past few summers, former GM Paul Holmgren has sacrificed stability for the capacity of the big splash. Some moves have paid off and others haven’t. While the abomination that was the Ilya Bryzgalov contract was bad, it’s the long-term, cap crippling deals that Holmgren handed out to the likes of Scott Hartnell, Vincent Lecavalier, and Mark Streit that will ultimately affect how Hextall runs the next few offseasons.

Still, this is a team with a Stanley Cup core. Claude Giroux is locked up long term. As are Wayne Simmonds, Matt Read, and Andrew MacDonald. With the exception of the previously mentioned trio of overpaid veterans, no other skater is signed 130215151956-steven-stamkos-single-image-cutbeyond 2016. That leaves Holmgren’s successor with an abundance of cap space over the next few years. As it stands, the Flyers will have over $26 million to spend in 2016, when the likes of Steven Stamkos (pictured), Anze Kopitar, Milan LucicBrent Seabrook, and Keith Yandle will be free agents.

Now, there’s no guaranteeing that the Flyers will approach these targets, or that they’ll even be available come that time. Philadelphia also will have to deal with the trifling task of locking up Jakub Voracek, Sean Couturier, and Brayden Schenn to new contracts, the latter of whom becomes a restricted free agent next month. But, as it stands, the Flyers appear well positioned to attack the market vociferously in a couple of years. Until then, Philadelphia might have to be more frugal with their money.

The Flyers only have around $6.5 million to spend this summer (with just under $5 million more coming off once Chris Pronger is put back on LTIR (long-term injured reserve) this fall). With young defensemen Mark Alt and Shayne Gostisbehere (pictured) potentially NHL ready by 2015, and the promise of Scott Laughton’s graduation to the NHL approaching, Philadelphia’s immediate needs are few.

The impending loss of Kimmo Timonen, either to unrestricted free agency or retirement, is something to keep an eye on. Timonen struggled at times last year, finally looking like the 39-year old that he is. His speed has diminished and his hesitancy to shoot on the power play has increased. In Streit, the Flyers have an immediate replacement at the top of the man-advantage umbrella. In Gostisbehere, many reckon they have the long-term solution at the same spot, as well.

Other needs may include a top-six winger to pair with Giroux and Voracek, as well as a netminder to replace backup Ray shayneEmery. But, how will Hextall go about patching these blemishes? One would hope that he wouldn’t fall into the same trap that Holmgren did, signing veteran free agents to long term deals without the likelihood of long term success. Such examples of upcoming free agents who fit into this criteria are Dan Boyle, Andrei Markov, Mike Cammalleri, and Matt Niskanen.

Instead, the Flyers should try to fix their short term problems with players who could be long term assets like Marian Gaborik and Ryan Callahan. Or, Hextall could take a page from his former employer, the Los Angeles Kings, who sit two victories from their second championship in three years. L.A. found success through shrewd trades (Jeff Carter, Mike Richards, and Gaborik), as well as brilliant drafting (Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty, and Jonathan Quick) instead of cap crippling long-term free agent deals.

For some Philadelphians, the idea of the same cast of characters returning for another run in 2014-15 is a disparaging one. Many faithful are only pleased when the dollars are flowing and the newswires are active with rumors. But, the truth is that Philadelphia’s financial situation and lack of immediate needs will handicap Hextall in his first offseason in charge. A splash for a scoring winger is possible, but not incredibly likely given the checks that they’re writing to Lecavalier and will soon be providing to Schenn. Barring a trade of one of those two, can Philadelphia afford to spend upwards of $5+ million a year on a winger and relegate someone making $4.5+ million to the bottom-six?

Hextall has his hands full running one of the most successful franchises in the sports’ illustrious history. He’ll be even busier thanks to his predecessor’s previous problems. For a team without a title since 1975, patience is not a virtue. But, it’s something that the fans will likely have to continue preaching, as they have for what is soon to be four tiresome decades.

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