Props to Hextall, but Flyers still need to bolster left wing

The Flyers traded Scott Hartnell (left) to the Blue Jackets in exchange for R.J. Umberger (right) and a fourth-round draft pick. (Getty Images)

From here, dealing Scott Hartnell to Columbus on Monday for R.J. Umberger and a fourth-round 2015 pick was an even deal - until you look at the contracts.

That’s where the Flyers gained a big advantage.

Hartnell has five years left on a deal that has a $4.75 million cap hit per season. Umberger has three years remaining, with an annual cap hit of $4.6 million.

When Umberger’s contract expires, the Flyers will need the extra cap space to help pay for other free agents, including goalie Steve Mason.

Hartnell and Umberger are both on the decline, and both bring different things. Hartnell brings grit, Umberger brings speed. Hartnell is terrific on the power play, Umberger is a quality penalty killer.

But give new GM Ron Hextall props for creating some future cap flexibility, and, hey, the fourth-round pick he acquired just might turn into a useful NHL player.

That fourth-round pick will probably be around the 100th overall selection. The odds on getting a gem with that pick are small. That said, Dustin Byfuglien, Mark Streit, Henrik Lundqvist, Jaroslav Halak, Dominik Hasek, Joe Pavelski, Pekka Rinne and countless other quality players were chosen in the 200s.

The point is, you never know, so stockpiling draft picks is a good strategy.

Even before the colorful Hartnell was traded, the feeling here was that the Flyers needed an upgrade as their top-line left winger.

Now that feeling has intensified. Hextall mentioned that Umberger, Brayden Schenn (who is better suited as a center), Michael Raffl, and Vinny Lecavalier are among the candidates to fill Hartnell’s old spot and play alongside star center Claude Giroux and emerging right winger Jake Voracek.

No disrespect to those four candidates, but that probably won’t cut it.

If Hextall can carve out the cap space by dealing Lecavalier, he might have the ability to go after a left-wing free agent such as Mike Cammalleri, Thomas Vanek, or Moulson. Or he can make a move for intriguing free agents like Benoit Pouliot or Mason Raymond. The latter two wingers are younger, cheaper, and productive.

Ales Hemsky, who has played left and right wing, is a former first-round pick who is also on the free-agent market.

In short, these are interesting times for Hextall as he prepares for the free-agency period to start on July 1.

Stay tuned.

Follow Sam Carchidi on Twitter @BroadStBull.