Flyers

Quiet no more, Ron Hextall makes statement with James van Riemsdyk

Quiet no more, Ron Hextall makes statement with James van Riemsdyk

VOORHEES, N.J. — Something clicked for Ron Hextall.

Something that hadn't in his previous 1,515 days as general manager of the Flyers.

Maybe it was the 98 points last season in Year 3 with Dave Hakstol, the most under the head coach.

Maybe it was his core pieces experiencing career years while those well-publicized age figures climbed another notch on the ladder.

Or maybe it was the organization's youth taking a collective stride, convincing Hextall that the future is reaching the present.

Whatever it was, Hextall turned day No. 1,516 as GM into his most momentous yet.

James van Riemsdyk, a 36-goal scorer on the wing, the biggest commodity on the free-agent market not named John Tavares, is coming to Philadelphia thanks to Hextall's shift in mindset — swing big.

A time of year in which he typically makes no more than a peep, Hextall made a bang that vibrated not only the Delaware Valley but also the National Hockey League.

And it was loud. And it was clear.

Hextall is ready to push his process into high gear. It's not that he never would, but the logistics and timing had to be right. No, he's not forgetting the long game — he would never — but the conservative, broad-picture approach was pushed to the wayside for van Riemsdyk, showing Hextall believes they're close.

"Four years ago, I sat here, I said our vision is to build a top contending team to win the Stanley Cup. Unfortunately, it doesn't happen overnight," Hextall said in late April. "If someone thinks we're going to add three players, four players this summer that are going to make us the top team in the league, I don't know where we're going to get those players from, nor the cap space, nor anything else. This a bit of a slow process."

It was just expedited with one good player.

"There's a big difference between people doing their job and being satisfied," Hextall said. "We have no reason to be satisfied. Matter of fact, if we were, that would be pathetic."

Which makes any frustration with Hextall a bit confounding because van Riemsdyk is the second example of the general manager showing he can go against his methodology.

Tired of him exercising extreme patience with prospects?

He's put three 19-year-olds on the opening night roster the past two years while four rookies played important roles in 2017-18.

Pleading for him to spend money and make a splash?

He just reeled in the second-biggest catch of this year's NHL free agency.

"My philosophy is I do what I believe is right," he said after the Flyers' first-round playoff exit, the team's third in the last five years. "I'm not going to do something to make me popular."

That never mattered.

Hextall is all in — he always was despite the misperceived look of his process.

This just shouts it nice and loudly.

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Flyers vs. Rangers preseason: Live stream, storylines, game time and more

Flyers vs. Rangers preseason: Live stream, storylines, game time and more

VOORHEES, N.J. — The Flyers' preseason games are becoming more and more important.

The next one is Saturday night as the Flyers welcome the Rangers for their fourth exhibition contest out of seven.

Let's get into the essentials:

When: 7 p.m. ET
Where: Wells Fargo Center
Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia+
Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports MyTeams app

• It will be fun to see Travis Konecny and his usual energy back out there. He will make his preseason debut after missing the first three days of training camp.

The 22-year-old has shaken off some rust and feels caught up following plenty of work from Tuesday to now.

"I'll be ready," Konecny said Tuesday about the Oct. 4 regular season opener (see story). "I didn't miss too much time, I did a lot of work on my own when I wasn't here."

• Saturday night is a big game for roster hopefuls Joel Farabee, Morgan Frost, Chris Stewart and Carsen Twarynski (see story). The Flyers want to shape their roster as soon as they can in preparation for the opener (see story). The teams flies out to Switzerland on Sept. 27 before its final preseason contest on Sept. 30.

• Keep an eye on Matt Niskanen if he's paired with Ivan Provorov. The 32-year-old blueliner will be crucial to the Flyers' defense this season and he wasn't happy with his first preseason performance, despite scoring the team's lone goal.

"We didn't do too good. Or I didn't at least," Niskanen said Thursday. "But it's part of the process. Get our feet wet together for the first game. I have to get my timing back. But it's good to get in there and you can see his skill. He is a fun guy to play with and we will be better next time."

What didn't Niskanen like about his own game?

"Just too much time in our zone," he said. "I couldn't execute well enough to get on the attack enough."

• Carter Hart is expected to play the first two periods before giving way to Jean-Francois Berube. In Hart's final preseason outing, the 21-year-old will go the distance.

Quotable

I know as media and a fan standpoint, you see three losses and you're like, 'Oh my God, this isn't what we thought it was going to be.' I don't think that's a big deal, but it is a whole new system for a lot of guys in this room — pretty much every guy in the room besides myself basically. In order to get to the best part of your system, you need to get the regular guys who the coaches think are going to be there every night.

- Kevin Hayes on the Flyers' preseason and roster

Game roster

The Flyers did not hold a morning skate, so the projected lines and defensive pairs are to be announced.


Forwards

Travis Konecny
Michael Raffl
Kevin Hayes
Scott Laughton
Oskar Lindblom
James van Riemsdyk
Claude Giroux
Chris Stewart 
Morgan Frost
Joel Farabee
Carsen Twarynski
Jakub Voracek

Defensemen

Travis Sanheim 
Robert Hagg
Ivan Provorov
Matt Niskanen
Samuel Morin
Mark Friedman

Goalies

Carter Hart
Jean-Francois Berube

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Kevin Hayes honest about his time with Rangers, 'ecstatic' to be with Flyers

Kevin Hayes honest about his time with Rangers, 'ecstatic' to be with Flyers

VOORHEES, N.J. — Kevin Hayes scored a career-high 25 goals at 25 years old during the 2017-18 season with the Rangers.

As a restricted free agent in the summer that followed, Hayes signed a one-year, $5.175 million deal with New York. He played only 51 more games for the Rangers before being traded to the Jets last season in February.

Seven months later, he has a seven-year, $50 million contract. On Saturday morning, he was wearing an orange sweatshirt with the No. 13 on it and standing in the Flyers' dressing room at Skate Zone.

Times have seriously changed for Hayes following that trade.

"Obviously you get comfortable with where you're at but it's a business. It's something I thought could have happened by signing a one-year deal that year," Hayes said. "I'm very happy with where I'm at and what I have at the moment. Looking back a year ago from today, I was asking for things from New York that they said no to and we went our separate ways in February. 

"I'm ecstatic with where I'm at right now, playing with this group of guys. The players that we have here, the goalies, the Ds and the forwards who I'll be playing with are elite and it's something that I'm excited for — and tonight's just one step toward the regular season. I'm sure there will be mistakes out there but I'm happy with what side I'm on."

Although it's just the preseason, tonight will be the first time Hayes has played against the Rangers since the trade. New York put its rebuild into overdrive this summer by acquiring Jacob Trouba and Artemi Panarin, and drafting Kaapo Kakko.

Is it tough for Hayes not seeing the rebuild through after watching the steps the Rangers made this offseason?

I don't know if they're good steps or bad steps, that's what you guys get to decide, but they're steps I guess. I have no hard feelings toward them. I loved my time there, I'm happy with where I'm at right now. I feel like this year is the best shape and best mentality I've ever been in in my career. I don't know if it has to do with the change or the excitement I have to be here in Philly, but I'm excited to get this going.

Three of the Rangers' top six scorers are gone from last season, including Hayes and Jimmy Vesey, who was traded to the Sabres on July 1.

"They chose to get rid of me and Vese, but that's their decision," Hayes said. "I'm sure it'll come back to them, we'll find out."

Hayes is back with Alain Vigneault, who coached the 27-year-old from 2014-18 in New York. Vigneault was a major selling point for Hayes signing with the Flyers on June 19 after the club acquired his rights earlier in the month.

Hayes was a plus-30 under Vigneault and his minutes climbed each season. The 6-foot-5 center is now one of the better penalty-killers in the league and a two-way guy poised for his biggest offensive role yet.

"I had a great relationship with him in New York for the four years we were together," Hayes said. "He turned me into a 200-foot player and I think that was — if not the biggest reason — one of the biggest reasons why I decided to come here.

"There was some tough love there, for sure. It's the NHL. It's not easy for everyone. … It's growing pains. I thought the way he handled my situation and how I responded was very professional and I think I entered the league as an offensive guy and A.V. kind of turned me into a 200-foot player and an NHL guy. 

"At the time, I don't know if I was super excited about it — fast-forward six years and I couldn't be more happy with where my game is at."

The Flyers play the Rangers four times in 2019-20. The first trip to Madison Square Garden is on March 1. From his rookie year in 2014-15 to now, the New York roster is very different.

"I have friendships there outside of the hockey players — equipment guys, media guys, trainers that basically shaped me as the person I am today," Hayes said. "I think it will be more emotional seeing those guys — I don't even know half the team anymore to be honest.

"I'm sure going back to MSG will bring back some memories and be a little bit emotional. I'm not even just saying this just because I have to, I couldn't be more excited to be here in Philly, to start a new chapter in my NHL career where I have the security to be somewhere for a long term. In New York, my longest contract was two years, the last three years it was trade bait basically every year. I'm happy with where I'm at it, physically and mentally, and getting excited again to play hockey."

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