DALLAS — At the NHL draft this weekend in steamy Dallas, Hexy wasn’t sexy.
Flyers general manager Ron Hextall didn’t make any major moves as Los Angeles did in signing Ilya Kovalchuk to a three-year deal worth $6.25 million per season, or Carolina and Calgary, teams that completed a huge deal.
Hextall didn’t have a draft as productive as the division-rival New York Islanders, who came away with mega-prospects Oliver Wahlstrom, a right winger who could become a prolific scorer, and Noah Dobson, a blue-chip defenseman.
And he wasn’t able to move up in the draft and get one of the marquee right-handed defensemen such as Dobson, Adam Boqvist, or Evan Bouchard.
Hextall seemed a tad disappointed he was unable to make any deals, but said he was happy with his draft results, especially with his top pick, speedy left winger Joel Farabee.
Slow and steady is Hextall’s mantra. Build through the draft and stay the course is the way he operates.
“Yeah, philosophically, that’s where we’re at,” he said, “but we’d still like to add to our group on the big team and if we can do it in free agency or via trades, we’ll still look at it.”
>>READ MORE: Meet the Flyers draft picks
Armed with significant cap space for the first time since he was hired in 2014, Hextall is a paradox. He says he is ready to spend, but last week said he wasn’t going to hand out a long-term deal, which seemingly takes him out of the John Tavares sweepstakes.
The trade market reportedly includes wingers Max Pacioretty, Jeff Skinner, Artemi Panarin, and Jason Zucker; centers Ryan O’Reilly and Kevin Hayes; and defensemen Erik Karlsson, Justin Faulk, Colton Parayko, and Matt Dumba. The free-agency market, which opens July 1, features franchise center Tavares; defensemen John Carlson, Ian Cole, and Mike Green; wingers James van Riemsdyk, David Perron, James Neal, Michael Grabner, and Patrick Maroon; and centers Paul Stastny, Tyler Bozak, and Riley Nash.
Hextall has about $20 million in cap space and seems determined to make the club better, mindful that fans’ patience will start to run low if the club fails to win a playoff series next season for the seventh straight year.
The way to ensure you will win a playoff series or two in the spring is to find a missing piece in the summer.
“We want to win playoffs, too,” Hextall said. “That doesn’t mean we’re going to sacrifice an ‘A’ prospect for a one-year asset. It’s just not going to happen. We’re not going to move Carter Hart or Morgan Frost for a guy that’s going to help us for one year.”
Flyers again choose talent over need | Sam Donnellon https://t.co/yBQtYpV8kg
— Philly.com Sports (@phillysport) June 23, 2018
That goes without saying. But many were hoping Hextall could package a draft pick and one of his good-but-not-great prospects (Nic Aube-Kubel?) to move up in the draft and select a big-time scoring prospect such as Filip Zadina (drafted sixth by Detroit), Vitali Kravtsov (Rangers, ninth), or Wahlstrom (Isles, 11th) — or one of the highly regarded defensemen.
Hextall couldn’t find a trading partner, so more patience is required from his loyal fan base.
“If it comes down to having to wait for some of those kids to take a little bigger piece, we’ll do that,” he said, referring to young players such as Travis Sanheim and Oskar Lindblom. “In saying that, we want to move forward. We’d like to add a really good player, and if we get a chance, we will, assuming the term and the cap hit is right. We’ll do everything we can, and we’ll continue to explore the trade market.”
>>READ MORE: Center of attention for Flyers in free agency
He is still committed to build through his farm system, but he also knows that’s not enough. He must make a statement trade and/or free-agent signing while his key veteran players are still in their primes.
In the coming weeks, he hopes to add a forward who can play on the top two lines and a veteran defenseman.
“That’s our wish list,” he said.
Stay tuned. Hextall seems eager to make a few moves, becoming even itchier after being shut out this weekend.
Flyers draft forwards Joel Farabee, Jay O'Brien with first-round picks https://t.co/UuwTuMF97E
— Sam Carchidi (@BroadStBull) June 23, 2018