When NHL free agency begins July 1, Flyers general manger Ron Hextall plans to explore the market actively, but with a conservative mind-set.
“We’d like to get better, but we’re not going to do something stupid long-term to try to get better [for] one or two years,” he said Thursday after a news conference in which he discussed next weekend’s draft. “…We’ll see what comes along.”
Hextall seemed to rule out pursuing marquee free agents such as center John Tavares or defenseman John Carlson when he said he was looking to sign players to short-term deals.
The Flyers have about $59.6 million committed to 19 players (assuming Travis Sanheim and Oskar Lindblom are on the team) for the 2018-19 season. The cap maximum is expected to rise to around $80 million.
“We have money to spend short term; we can do something short term,” said Hextall, who said he does not plan to pursue free agent Ilya Kovalchuk. “We can do something short term in the sense that it doesn’t bottle us up in three or four years. We will do that if the right piece is there.”
Winnipeg center Paul Stastny, a pending unrestricted free agent and a strong two-way player, might be that piece.
Stastny, a two-time all-star whose four-year, $28 million deal is expiring, is 32 and doesn’t figure to command a long deal because of his age, and he would be a good fit as the Flyers’ No. 3 center. In 82 games last season, Stastny had a combined 16 goals and 53 points with St. Louis and Winnipeg. He had 15 points (six goals, nine assists) in 17 playoff games with the Jets.
Speaking in general terms about players who can become unrestricted free agents, Hextall said if it “works out right cap-wise and term, absolutely” he will add a player. “We look at everything and we’re trying to get better for today without sacrificing. I mean, I could make a deal that would make us better for next year. We could do that and sacrifice a lot of our future, but that’s not going to happen.”
Center Riley Nash (15 goals, 41 points in 76 games last season), speedy right winger Michael Grabner (27 goals in 80 games), and defenseman Ian Cole (plus-14) are among other free-agent possibilities. Grabner could upgrade the Flyers’ penalty kill.
Hextall didn’t rule out re-signing 34-year-old Val Filppula (11 goals, 33 points), but that seems like a fallback position if he can’t get another center.
Because he has been busy with draft preparations, Hextall has not had any talks with Wayne Simmonds’ agent about a possible extension but plans to chat “at some point.”… Hextall said goalie Brian Elliott had a minor hip procedure after the playoffs but will be ready for camp. … Defenseman Sam Morin (knee surgery) probably won’t be ready to play until February, Hextall reiterated.