NHL trade deadline

Decision time for Hextall as trouble hits Flyers' net

Decision time for Hextall as trouble hits Flyers' net

Flyers general manager Ron Hextall will explore all options, including the possibility of making a deal to acquire a goaltender prior to the NHL’s Feb. 26 trade deadline.

“I can’t say I’ll go with the 23 guys on the roster right now," Hextall said Tuesday. "I’ll repeat what I always say — if I can make our team better at any position, we’ll look at it. The deadline is two weeks away. I guess things could change between now and then.”

Hextall was addressing the media a little over an hour after the Flyers announced starting goalie Brian Elliott would miss five to six weeks following core muscle surgery Tuesday (see story).

The possibility of adding someone outside the organization would likely be as a complement to Michal Neuvirth and not necessarily someone who will step into Elliott’s role as a No. 1 netminder. Hextall would also be looking at a goalie on a short-term contract.

“We believe in Michal Neuvirth. He has showed at times he can be a very good goalie,” Hextall said. “We’re pretty confident that Neuvy is a guy who can carry us through the short term.”

Elliott is expected to be sidelined for the next 17 to 22 games and Neuvirth should start the majority of those games. If Hextall elects to stand pat before the deadline, Alex Lyon will have to see some action, as well.

“Alex has proved capable at the American League Level. Here, he hasn’t proved it,” Hextall said. “Up here, I think he’s been OK. He can play a little better than he’s played for us up here. I have no doubt in my mind he will. Whenever you have your two goalies and you get down to one, you’re nervous no matter what.”  

Elliott underwent the successful core muscle surgery after sustaining the injury during last Saturday’s shootout in Arizona. If the five-to-six week prognosis holds up, Elliott should return to action by the end of March and be ready for the playoffs.

“I’ve got a high level of confidence,” Hextall said of Elliott’s return. “First off, I believe in our training staff. I believe in our doctors. I know Brian Elliott is a warrior and he’ll do everything he can to get back as soon as possible. It won’t be the work or a pain threshold.”   

Dr. William Meyers, renowned core muscle surgeon at the Vincera Institute, performed the surgery at Philadelphia’s Navy Yard. Elliott’s injury was a reaggravation from a previous injury he suffered in January, and the Flyers knew at some point following the season, the problem area would need to be corrected. 

Elliott missed four games sandwiched around the All-Star break and the Flyers struggled in net, giving up 18 goals with an 0-3-1 record during that stretch.   

If the Flyers are forced to dig deeper into the organizational depth chart, Hextall has a certain level of confidence in 28-year-old Dustin Tokarski, who has played 25 games with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms this season. Tokarski’s NHL résumé includes extensive time with the Montreal Canadiens in 2014-15, including five starts in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

“He’s got experience. He’s got playoff experience,” Hextall said. “We wanted to add another layer of depth to our goaltending position. Dustin’s been good up there. Would I be comfortable if he came down here to play some games for us? Yes.” 

Flyers fans rate team's active deadline on range from 'meh' to 'ugh'

Flyers fans rate team's active deadline on range from 'meh' to 'ugh'

Flyers general manager Ron Hextall had a relatively active trade deadline day Wednesday, re-signing two players and trading a third.

We went to Twitter to get a sense of the fan response to the departure of Mark Streit, addition of Valtteri Filppula and re-signing of Michal Neuvirth and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare. The results are in, and the grades … well, they’re not great.

Of the 100 or so responses we received on Twitter when we asked fans to grade the Flyers’ trade deadline, most fit into two categories. We can call them “meh” and “ugh.”

Let’s start with “meh.”

Responses here were from fans who didn’t hate the Flyers’ moves but wished there had been others. The grades largely hovered around “B.” Here’s a good example:

As @avappleyard points out, Filppula could be a stopgap for the Flyers in the middle of their lineup as prospects develop. We know Hextall won’t be rushing any young players now or in the future simply because of need.

The issue, though, is that Filppula doesn’t come cheap (he’s got a $5 million cap hit) and he’s got a no-movement clause, which means the Flyers don’t have a choice but to protect him for this summer’s expansion draft. And that’s to say nothing of the fact that his production has dropped off a cliff since he signed a five-year, $25 million contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning back in 2013.

And while they weren’t trades, the Flyers’ re-signing of Neuvirth and Bellemare factored into a number of fans’ grades, like @Angelo_Masso03, who feels Hextall could have gotten more accomplished in that department:

@BobbyGonnella had a similar take, and similar grade:

(This is where I make a joke about it not being Philadelphia if we’re not discussing some kind of goalie issue.)

Let’s move on to the “ugh” responses. Time for a moment of honesty: These were the vast majority of the tweets we received. There were a lot of “D”’s and “F”’s tossed around Wednesday evening.

A tweet from @PeteyAllen sums up a popular discussion that happened online once the news had broken on both re-signings, that the players Hextall had re-signed aren’t just underperforming, they’re the worst players at their positions:

OK, so this isn’t exactly true. Neuvirth has had a down year, and his save percentage is indeed 47th of the 47 goalies who’ve played at least 20 games this season. But … worst in the league? Overall? Probably a stretch.

The same can be said for Bellemare. Is he the worst forward in the NHL? No. He's a solid two-way player, who did a strong job stepping into Sean Couturier's role when he went down with injury earlier this year. But as BroadStreetHockey.com pointed out, Bellemare is among the 10 worst forwards in 5-on-5 scoring.

Money, too, is an issue. @Flyersguru points out that the already cash-strapped Flyers added $8.95 million for next season with Wednesday’s moves – which means filling the vacancies that clearly exist might have gotten more difficult:

Ahead of the deadline, Hextall said repeatedly he’d likely be a seller, and that adding a key piece wasn’t likely in the plans. If there’s one thing Hextall has done since becoming general manager, it’s stay true to his word. And his word is “patience.”

So with that in mind, we’ll leave you with our favorite response from the day:

Flyers hold brief practice amid 'stresses' of trade deadline day

Flyers hold brief practice amid 'stresses' of trade deadline day

VOORHEES, N.J. – The Flyers held a very brief morning practice on trade deadline day.

It wasn't a coincidence.

It was by design.

"We wanted to go out and get a good work day in, get a good sweat and we went short, went 20 minutes," coach Dave Hakstol said.

"Just pace and execution. Certainly, you want to be respectful of some of the stresses of today. Those are legitimate stresses for players and I am understanding of that."

For one day, the focus wasn't on the Flyers critical upcoming game Thursday against Florida but whether they'll all be around to see it.

Players seemed nervous in the dressing room. Some quickly undressed and left the room. This wasn't like last season when the Flyers were already on a playoff push and had some momentum. Guys weren't as nervous.

Not so this time around. The Flyers have been terribly inconsistent and most of their forwards have flat-lined in goal production. Their playoff chances are "iffy." Sportsclubstats.com rated this chance of qualifying at 2.3 percent.

"Guys checking [their] phone to find what's going on," Jakub Voracek said of the mood today. "It's never a very good day.

"If we were seven or eight points in the playoffs, it would be a different scenario. There's nothing in our control right now."

If the Flyers were seven or eight points up in the wild card, general manager Ron Hextall would likely be standing pat.

One player generating some interest, reportedly from Pittsburgh, was defenseman Michael Del Zotto. He admitted there was tension within the dressing room today.

"I've been through eight deadlines every year and it's the same every year," Del Zotto said. "My teammates and best friends have been traded. You learn early on how to deal with that.

"It's not easy, but it's part of the business. It’s tough. You're with these guys 8-10 months of the year. All day, every day. They become your second family. It's always tough when you see guys leave."