For the first time since he became the Flyers’ general manager four years ago, Ron Hextall has money to spend in the free-agent market.
But just because he has cap room doesn’t mean he will fill his shopping cart with, say, John Tavares, a franchise center who is the No. 1 unrestricted free agent available.
Tavares would make the Flyers a monster down the middle, but they aren’t one of the teams he is considering — much to Hextall’s dismay.
So Hextall will probably pursue a “B”-level player when the free-agency period opens Sunday at noon, and he is expected to sign former Flyer James van Riemsdyk.
With van Riemsdyk ($7 million annual cap hit), the The Flyers will have about $13 million in cap space after they re-sign restricted free agents Robert Hagg and Taylor Leier.
Hextall can also use a third-line center and a defenseman
As for centers, Paul Stastny would be a pretty good consolation prize in the free-agent market.
It should be noted, however, that Winnipeg general manger Kevin Cheveldayoff is trying feverishly to get enough cap space to re-sign Stastny — and he took a step in that direction Saturday by dealing Steve Mason and Joel Armia.
Here are the free agents who may draw Hextall’s interest, listed alphabetically:
Tyler Bozak, center: The 32-year-old Bozak usually produces around 45 points and is good in the faceoff circle. He has more speed than Val Filppula — the third-line center he could replace — but isn’t exactly a burner.
Ian Cole, defenseman: An old-school player out of the Ed Van Impe mold, Cole would help the Flyers’ awful penalty kill and provide some much-needed physicality on the back end.
Calvin de Haan, defenseman: He’s not flashy but is a reliable second-pairing type who blocks lots of shots. Red flag: He had shoulder surgery in January and missed the rest of the Islanders’ season. The 27-year-old de Haan had a plus-11 rating in 33 games before being sidelined.
Anthony Duclair, left wing: Chicago declined to give him a qualifying offer, making the creative and speedy Duclair (11 goals last season) an unrestricted free agent. Duclair, 22, who will be with his fourth team, looked like a viable option before the Flyers’ reportedly came to an agreement with van Riemsdyk. He had 20 goals and 44 points during his rookie season with the Coyotes in 2015-16 and is still young enough to blossom.
Michael Grabner, right wing: The speedy Grabner, who turns 31 in October, would greatly upgrade the Flyers at wing and the penalty kill. He has scored 27 goals in each of the last two seasons.
John Moore, defenseman: He wouldn’t be a sexy signing, but Moore, 27, is a steady defender who can eat up minutes. A former No. 1 draft pick, he had seven goals and a plus-3 rating for the Devils last season.
Riley Nash, center: A tenacious checker, he offers a low-cost option. Nash, 29, a first-round selection by Edmonton in 2007, had a breakout season (15 goals, 26 assists) for Boston. He can also be used on the penalty kill.
James Neal, left wing: Before the JVR developments, Flyers figured to pursue Neal, who has scored at least 20 goals in 10 straight seasons. Vegas wants the 30-year-old winger back in the fold.
David Perron, left wing: The 30-year-old Perron is coming off a 16-goal, 50-assist season with the Golden Knights. Again, scratch him off the Flyers’ wish list if JVR signs Sunday.
Paul Stastny, center: He would be the Flyers’ second- or third-line center and would give them scoring, solid penalty killing, and veteran leadership. The Jets want him back but may have to deal some players to make cap room. Maybe 6-foot-8, 229-pound defenseman Tyler Myers, 28, who shoots righthanded, will draw interest from Hextall in a deal if he can’t sign Stastny?
James van Riemsdyk. left wing: In 2012, then-general manager Paul Holmgren sent van Riemsdyk to Toronto for Luke Schenn in what turned out to be one of the worst trades in Flyers history. He scored 36 goals last season and would give the Flyers a much-needed, big-bodied left winger. They are expected to announce his signing Sunday afternoon.