Inside the Flyers: Flyers GM Hextall scores with 2 deadline trades

The Flyers picked a good time to be a stumbling hockey team.

If they had been entrenched in a playoff spot, first-year general manager Ron Hextall may have been a buyer - in a seller's market.

Instead, Hextall made his second move before Monday's trade deadline that conjured memories of the most successful general manager in Flyers history.

It was the late Keith "The Thief" Allen whose shrewd moves helped build the Flyers into Stanley Cup champions in 1974 and 1975.

Hextall has a while before the Flyers can compete for a Stanley Cup, but his latest moves - getting four draft picks and a serviceable defenseman for an almost-40-year-old defenseman on the verge of retiring, Kimmo Timonen, along with underachieving Braydon Coburn - were a good start.

Make that a great start.

Poll

Thumbs up or down on Ron Hextall’s trade-deadline moves?

On Friday, Chicago overpaid for Timonen, giving the Flyers a second-round pick in the June draft and a conditional pick that could be a second-rounder in 2016.

In the wee hours of Monday morning, Tampa Bay overpaid for Coburn, sending the Flyers hard-hitting defenseman Radko Gudas and first- and third-round picks in this June's deep draft.

From the perspective of the Blackhawks and the Lightning, the trades were made to help them win the Stanley Cup this year.

To Hextall's credit, he didn't overreact, like many of his predecessors, to the fact that the Flyers are on the fringe of playoff contention.

In the past, the Flyers have had this strategy around trade deadline day if they were sniffing the playoffs: buy, buy, buy. It cost them some much-needed draft picks and left their farm system rather barren.

Hextall saw how it worked when he was an assistant general manager with Los Angeles, and he has started the process with the Flyers. His mantra: Be patient and build through the draft.

"We've got a lot of work to do between now and the next two or three years, and we know it," Hextall said Monday afternoon. "There's nothing wrong with that. Essentially, the work never ends because even when you build a top team or you get near the top, you still want to stay there and you want to win. So it's go-go-go."

It is worth noting that, just because the Flyers traded two veteran defensemen, it doesn't mean their slim playoff chances - they are six points behind Boston and four behind Florida - have been reduced.

"We could have depleted the troops here, and we didn't choose to do that," Hextall said. "We want to give them a fair shot."

Timonen had not played this season because of blood clots, and no one knows how long it will take for him to regain his form.

As for Coburn, he had some very good years with the Flyers when he was with Timonen, forming the team's top pairing. But without Timonen, he seemed lost at times this season.

Fact is, the Flyers have a lot of interchangeable parts on their mediocre defense. It didn't make much of a difference if Coburn was playing or if he was replaced by, say, Luke Schenn or Carlo Colaiacovo.

The Flyers were 15-18-6 with Coburn in the lineup this season, and 12-7-5 without him.

Hextall has accumulated seven picks in the first four rounds of this June's draft, one that the GM labeled "high-end."

For those disappointed in the development of some of the Flyers' younger players, Hextall had words of caution.

"I think the biggest mistake a manager can make is being too impatient with young kids," he said. "It takes time, and it takes some of them a little bit longer than others. . . . You trade him and he becomes the player you thought he could be."

Patrick Sharp, Justin Williams, and James van Riemsdyk are prime examples, so Hextall will be patient with Sean Couturier, Brayden Schenn, and Luke Schenn, and he will build through the draft picks he is stockpiling.

"We've got picks, but we've got to make them count now," Hextall said. "So this is only the first part. We've got a lot of work to do, but I think when you look at young pieces, young assets . . . we've got a lot of them coming. That's what excites us."

 


scarchidi@phillynews.com

@BroadStBull