Future Flyers Report: A look at what lies ahead in Ron Hextall's plan

Future Flyers Report: A look at what lies ahead in Ron Hextall's plan

July 1 hasn’t been the same in Philadelphia for quite some time. It was once a day the Flyers were among the busiest buyers in the NHL. I don’t see a return to that anytime soon, either.
This summer was another the Flyers stayed away from crippling contracts pursuing short-term fixes on the open market. They filled a need with Brian Elliott and that was it.
Looking ahead, we shouldn’t expect this to change, either. This is the world we live in, one in which the salary cap dictates play and history knows the Flyers haven’t lived well in it.
This isn’t a column about this season. Instead, let’s use this summer as a predictor for what to expect in the summers of 2018 and 2019 because that’s when things become interesting.
It all ties together with Flyers general manager Ron Hextall’s ideology of drafting and developing, a drastic shift in the franchise’s historic operation that is entering Year 4 under Hextall.
Sound familiar? We can draw comparisons to the Sixers, but that’s a different sport with a different system. The NBA has a higher salary cap and is superstar-heavy. Teams need multiple stars to win and unless they get multiple top-three picks or get lucky, they have to buy them.
That’s not how the NHL works. This isn’t to compare the Flyers to the Sixers, hockey to basketball. But both teams that play at the Wells Fargo Center are rebuilding.
One has just been more vocal about it.
The Flyers are getting younger after two seasons of putting a stagnant roster on the ice. All signs point to as many as four or five rookies here in 2017-18: Nolan Patrick, Oskar Lindblom, Mike Vecchione, Sam Morin and Robert Hagg.
We’ve written about the youth movement plenty since the end of the season. The Flyers drafted Patrick with the No. 2 overall pick. Lindblom is coming overseas. Morin and Hagg, who both impressed in their debuts at the end of last season, will bring more youth to the blue line.
There is plenty more to write about 2017-18, but let’s take a step back for a moment. Let’s take a look at where the Flyers are and what’s ahead on the “course” Hextall set out on three years ago.
Salary cap
Hextall was handed a bad cap situation when he took over. The Flyers have long struggled to adapt to the cap world, and Hextall has been cleaning up the previous regime’s mess.
The cap increased by $2 million this season. It's up to $75 million from $73 million in 2016-17. The Flyers have slightly over $6 million in projected space, according to They still have some restricted free agents and Patrick to sign. They’ll likely begin the year with, give or take, about $2 million in cap space.
Hextall locked up Shayne Gostisbehere for six years with a $4.5 million average annual value. It’s a team-friendly deal compared to what free-agent defensemen land on the market.
Next summer, Hextall has three players and $9.6 million coming off the books: Valtteri Filppula ($5 million), Matt Read ($3.625 million) and Brandon Manning ($975,000).
Hagg and Morin will be RFAs. The cap will likely increase again. No problems there. But in summer 2019, that’s when things get interesting and could potentially spell trouble.
Ivan Provorov, Travis Konecny and Travis Sanheim will all be RFAs after the 2018-19 season. Wayne Simmonds and Jordan Weal will be UFAs. Both goalies, Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth, will be UFAs as well but only one spot will need to be filled.
Remember, this is all projection. By 2019-20, we can expect one of the kids in net will be here. With more kids coming, they carry cheaper cap hits but will need cap space for extensions.
Looking ahead
We can expect the cap ceiling to continue to increase. Patrick should expedite the process but will not change how it operates. We should keep this in mind going forward.
The Flyers have some difficult decisions coming in the summer of 2019, which means don’t expect Hextall to shop in free agency next summer regardless of the outcome in 2017-18.
Drafting and developing require hitting on prospects. The Flyers have a highly respected prospect pool, but that has to translate to the NHL in order for this to work.
This will play out over the next two seasons. In 2018-19, more kids will join the fray. Where it gets compelling is summer 2019 when Hextall faces his first real tough contract decision.
Provorov and Konecny figure to land long-term extensions while we can guess Sanheim will get a decent bump in pay as well on a bridge deal depending on his development.
Those will be done. That isn’t the worry. We can take an educated guess Provorov will net a hefty extension with a cap hit larger than Gostisbehere’s. Think in the $5-6 million range.
Where it gets murky is Simmonds and Weal, who signed a two-year extension last Thursday. Simmonds will be the most interesting decision Hextall will face.
Simmonds will be turning 31 in August 2019 and, barring a major decline over the next two seasons, he’ll be in line for one final big contract. That is where it gets difficult for Hextall.
As a fan favorite and the Flyers’ top scorer, Simmonds is among the team’s leaders on the stat sheet and in the locker room. But what do the Flyers do when his contract expires?
Will Hextall feel obligated to bring Simmonds back because what he brings in terms of leadership and scoring despite knowing he’ll be paying for Simmonds’ decline years?
A lot of it has to do with where the Flyers are in terms of contending, what prospects are at the NHL level and where they are at that stage of their young careers.
Then comes the money question.
Simmonds signed what has proved to be an extremely team-generous six-year, $23.85 million extension in 2012 at an AAV of $3.975 million. The next deal will be much higher.
It will be a tough decision for Hextall and a bridge he doesn’t have to cross yet. But considering he has a long-term approach, it’s safe to suggest this is something on the mind of the front office.
So while it’s easy to focus on 2017-18, we also should keep in mind this is a long-term plan. The summer of 2019 will be one in which Hextall faces some difficult decisions. It’s one reason why we shouldn’t expect the Flyers to jump back into the free-agent frenzy in 2018.
There has been a lot of praise for what Hextall has done. Despite their rebuild, the Flyers have still been competitive. They made the playoffs in 2015-16 but missed last season.
The Flyers’ offseason has been a solid one. Hextall hasn’t boxed out young players by adding veterans in free agency. He, in fact, has opened up spots. They got lucky with the No. 2 pick. There are plenty of reasons to be excited for 2017-18. It should be a fun season — there is no doubt about that.
But before we place too high of expectations on the Flyers in 2017-18 because of the of young blood that projects to improve the team significantly, let’s put things in perspective.
The Flyers are still a few years away from being considered true contenders. While they should make the playoffs this season, they’re still not there yet.

Flyers stunned by their effort in bad loss at bad time

Flyers stunned by their effort in bad loss at bad time


DETROIT — The Flyers brought a cold engine to the Motor City and it took a good 40 minutes to finally get it started.

Sure, Dave Hakstol’s team rallied back from a two-goal deficit Tuesday to earn a point at a time when every point is critical, but losing a 5-4 shootout to a fragile Detroit team is unacceptable and unexplainable (see observations).

“Maybe we thought it was going to be an easy game,” Sean Couturier said. “We didn’t play the right way. We didn’t play hard. We wasted 40 minutes. We came back and got a big point, but we can’t be wasting time at this time of the year.”

On a night when the Flyers could have officially eliminated the Red Wings from postseason contention, they turned back the clock and made this Detroit team look more like the juggernaut that won back-to-back Stanley Cup championships 20 years ago. 

At least through the first two periods.

“The second period was god-awful,” defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere said. “We really didn’t help our cause out. We weren’t pushing plays and we just weren’t battling out there. You saw in the third what we could do when we light a fire under our ass. It’s tough like that when you dig yourself a hole and you come back, you expend a lot of energy. The positive we can take is that we got a point out of it.”

You may have never known this was the same Red Wings team that, like the Flyers in the first half of the season, had dropped 10 straight with an 0-9-1 record. Detroit had been outscored a whopping 41-19 from Feb. 28-March 18.

The Red Wings had also returned from a four-game Western Conference road trip less than 48 hours prior to the opening faceoff.

With eight games remaining on the Flyers' schedule, Hakstol is also mired in a goaltending dilemma. Petr Mrazek was rescued from Detroit to be the savior in Philadelphia following injuries to Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth. 

After winning his first three starts, Mrazek’s numbers reek of mediocrity: a 2-5-1 record, 3.72 GAA and an .860 save percentage. Most recently, he’s been pulled in favor of Alex Lyon in two of his last three games.

“The second one is a bad-angle goal,” Hakstol said. “Obviously, he wants that one back, but we gave up a number of opportunities that he was very strong on.”

Mrazek was pulled from the game at 3-1, and before heading to the locker room, he expressed his disappointment with the coaching staff over a non-goaltender interference call during the Red Wings' third goal.

“I talked to Coach and I was just wondering about the goalie interference because someone had bumped in there during the shot,” Mrazek said. “It wasn’t anything like I was mad or something that I got pulled. I was just asking him if there was a goalie interference or not.”

The Flyers' shootout loss coupled with the Blue Jackets' ninth straight victory now drops the orange and black into wild-card territory (see standings).

If this is indeed a playoff team, it needs to repair what’s under the hood and fix it fast.

Panthers rout Senators after death of Karlsson's son

USA Today Images

Panthers rout Senators after death of Karlsson's son

OTTAWA, Ontario -- Jared McCann had a goal and two assists to lead the Florida Panthers over the Senators 7-2 on Tuesday night as Ottawa captain Erik Karlsson sat out following the death of his son.

The team announced the death of Karlsson's son before the game. Erik and Melinda Karlsson were married last year and announced in November they were expecting their first child in the spring. The team released a statement offering its "collective thoughts and prayers" and requested privacy for the family.

Keith Yandle, Nick Bjugstad, Evgeni Dadonov, Jamie McGinn and Frank Vatrano each had a goal and an assist for Florida. Colton Sceviour had the other goal while James Reimer made 33 saves.

Patrick Sieloff and Marian Gaborik scored for the Senators, who lost their second straight. Craig Anderson started in goal but was replaced by Mike Condon after allowing four goals on 17 shots. Condon made 19 saves (see full recap).

Blue Jackets extend win streak to 9
NEW YORK -- Artemi Panarin had three goals and an assist, Sergei Bobrovsky made 29 saves and the Columbus Blue Jackets extended their winning streak to nine games with a 5-3 victory over the New York Rangers on Tuesday night.

Markus Nutivaara and Alexander Wennberg also scored for the Blue Jackets, who have surged into a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. It is Columbus' longest winning streak since its 16-game run last season from Nov. 29, 2016, to Jan. 3, 2017.

Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad scored power-play goals and Kevin Hayes had a short-handed goal for the Rangers.

Henrik Lundqvist made 26 saves in his first start since March 10 against Florida. Lundqvist was briefly shaken up when Matt Calvert upended him and knocked his helmet off with five minutes remaining.

With Columbus leading 3-2 in the third period, Lundqvist made a nice save as Cam Atkinson drove toward the net, but Panarin poked the puck free and in for his 24th goal at 11:19.

Kreider scored his 14th with 1:52 remaining to get the Rangers to 4-3.

Panarin added an empty-netter for the hat trick and his 25th of the season (see full recap).

Islanders jump all over Pens to snap skid
NEW YORK -- Mathew Barzal and Adam Pelech scored in the first period and the New York Islanders went on to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-1 on Tuesday night.

Anders Lee had a goal in the third period and Jordan Eberle added an empty-netter to help the Islanders snap a three-game skid with just their second win in 13 games (2-7-4).

Christopher Gibson, pulled in his last start after giving up five goals on 12 shots against Washington last Thursday, stopped 36 shots and has both wins for New York in its recent stretch.

Conor Sheary scored for Pittsburgh, which was 5-1-1 in its previous seven but fell four points behind first-place Washington in the tight Metropolitan Division. Columbus pulled into a tie with the Penguins for second at 87 points -- Pittsburgh holds the tiebreaker over the Blue Jackets.

Matt Murray, returning after missing nine games due to a concussion, finished with 36 saves for the Penguins (see full recap).