When Flyers general manager Ron Hextall traded Vinny Lecavalier and Luke Schenn to the Kings on Jan. 6, 2016, many applauded Hextall for somehow ridding himself of Lecavalier’s contract.
Little was it known then that Hextall acquired a piece from Los Angeles that now has a potential to hit big. No one thought Jordan Weal was anything more than a throw-in.
Weal was a player in the Kings’ organization that never found success at the NHL level despite churning out husky numbers in the AHL — 70 points in 2013-14, 69 in 2014-15.
“Jordan is at a point where he has been a top American League player and he’s trying to prove himself as an NHL player,” Hextall said after the trade. “He’s gonna have to answer that question. He’s a very dedicated player. He’s got a high skill level.”
The Flyers got out from Lecavalier’s crippling contract, L.A. got two veterans for a playoff push while moving on from a 2010 third-round pick, and giving up a 2016 third-rounder.
Win-win for both sides. Right? Except now, it appears to be a major coup for the Flyers.
On Thursday night, Weal signed a two-year, $3.5 million contract extension with the Flyers after he went on an NHL tour gauging his interest. He reportedly visited the Maple Leafs, Canadiens and Canucks this week but chose to stay in Philadelphia.
Weal is expected to have a top-six role with the Flyers in 2017-18. His AHL success finally translated last season when he got the call-up from Lehigh Valley on Feb. 10.
The 25-year-old finished the season registering eight goals and 12 points in 23 games. He ended the campaign with eight points in his final 10 games and injected life into the Flyers.
The Jordan Weal we saw from Feb. 11 on was a completely different player from the one we saw last training camp and preseason, and in the four games he played here in 2015-16.
Weal was hungrier than we saw in camp and stronger in puck battles. A natural center, where he played with the Phantoms, he found a spot on the wing with the Flyers.
“They gave me a great chance last year to play with some great players, and I think this is a group that’s heading in the right direction,” Weal said Thursday. “The way we were playing hockey, it was a good brand, a good style.”
Weal spent most of the time last season playing left wing on a line with Wayne Simmonds (207:31) at right wing and either Claude Giroux (119:33) or Valtteri Filppula (107:02) in the middle.
He especially clicked with Simmonds. Flyers coach Dave Hakstol kept the pair together even when mixing up his lines to spread the wealth. It’s a good guess Weal and Simmonds will be together next season, but the center of the line is where it gets interesting.
Ten of his 11 even-strength points last season came while playing with Simmonds. Three came with Giroux in the middle, three with Filppula and one with Sean Couturier.
It sounds like Hakstol expects a much larger role for Travis Konecny in his second season, and it’s fair to speculate that means a top-six role for Konecny too. We know Giroux will be the top-line center, but no one expects Filppula to stay on the second line anymore.
With Nolan Patrick in the mix — and yes, all signs point to him being a Flyer next season — and Couturier, Filppula’s best bet is to shift to third-line wing or fourth-line center.
Lines will come together in camp, but a line of Weal, Couturier and Simmonds has the potential to be a productive trio. It would certainly satisfy the Corsi community. Weal (55.9) and Couturier (54.5) led all Flyers who played significantly last season.
“I think [Weal] can be a big part of where we go in the near future and the long future here,” Hakstol told The Zach Gelb Show on Wednesday. “Most importantly on game nights, he’s a guy who goes out and gets the job done. He finds a way to impact and affect the game.”
There was some concern over the money. The term wasn’t the issue. The concern was how much would Weal catch on the open market? Could he be another Jonathan Marchessault?
But at $1.75 million per over two years, it’s an extremely reasonable contract. If Weal continues to produce like he did last season, it’s a major hit. Weal turns into a 40-plus point player at a reasonable price. The next contract is where he’ll hit paydirt.
If Weal doesn’t produce at the same rate, then his $1.75 million cap hit isn’t debilitating, and the Flyers avoid a Ville Leino situation. (Sorry, Buffalo.)
As for the Kings? They were bounced in the first round of the 2016 playoffs.
The Lecavalier trade was already a win for the Flyers.
Now with Weal’s emergence, it's lining up to be a major steal for Hextall.