Flyers

Flyers

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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