Flyers

Ron Hextall, Flyers passing on John Tavares sweepstakes would be mistake

ap-ron-hextall.jpg
AP Images

Ron Hextall, Flyers passing on John Tavares sweepstakes would be mistake

Year after year, Flyers general manager Ron Hextall sits at the podium and preaches about the need to get better, both now and in the future. Of course, this declaration comes after another disappointing playoff series loss or a just-not-good-enough season. But the message is always the same.

And so are the offseason moves that follow.

A depth forward signing, another year of Brandon Manning, a middling goalie. 

Hextall’s reluctance to enter a bidding war for top free agents makes sense, though. Through some black magic and cap wizardry, he’s finally gotten the team out of cap hell. 

Long gone are the days of Paul Holmgren handing out blank checks to aging big-name veterans and mortgaging the future for the present. Hextall is rightfully building the team through savvy signings while drafting and developing down the middle — mainly centers and defenseman.

And that’s all fine and dandy.

But the GM’s decision to steer clear of John Tavares this offseason is truly inexcusable. Borderline madness. Negligence. 

Whatever you want to call it, the Flyers’ inaction makes little sense.

Tavares is just 27 years old, in the prime of his career. He’s a four-time 30-goal scorer and coming off an 84-point campaign for a dreadful Islanders team. Those are legitimate 1C-superstar numbers. 

Which is why this whole thing is so maddening. Players like Tavares rarely — if ever — hit the open market in today’s NHL. 

The last time a player of Tavares’ caliber tested free agency? Way back in 2010 when Ilya Kovalchuk signed with the Devils. 

Now, there’s no way Tavares will get a 17-year deal like Kovy (good one, Devils), but this is a once-in-a-generation, franchise-shifting opportunity here.

According to TSN’s Pierre LeBrun, Tavares has met with just six teams: the Stars, Bruins, Sharks, Maple Leafs, Lightning and Islanders. 

But here’s the kicker. 

According to capfriendly.com, the Flyers have more projected cap space than all but the Islanders and Maple Leafs for the 2018-19 season.

With over $21 million projected cap space, there’s no reason the Flyers couldn’t at least kick the tires on Tavares.

Yes, Ivan Provorov and Travis Konecny are coming up on big paydays; Wayne Simmonds, too, should the Flyers decide to extend the winger. 

But when teams like Tampa — just $5 million in projected space — and Boston — just under $12 million — are in on the center, there is no excuse to not make a call.

“It’s hard to plan, and you have to be careful not to over-plan,” Hextall said before the draft. “But Provy is a year away and Konecny is a year away. You just go on and on with our kids … and time goes quick. We’re certainly not going to reach out on a seven-year deal on a good player, I can assure you that.”

That seven-year deal? That’s GM speak for, thanks but no thanks on Tavares.

Hextall has always been slowly building towards the future, and we started to see that pay off with the youngsters this season.

Still, the Flyers were severely outclassed by the Penguins in the first round, but with Tavares, the Flyers — even now in their developmental state — could stand a real chance against Pittsburgh, as NBC Sports Philadelphia's John Boruk writes.

With their current roster, the Flyers are still two or three years away from serious contention. Would adding Tavares make them instant Stanley Cup contenders?

Probably not, but it would expedite the process and energize a groaning fanbase. 

The chances of Tavares signing with the orange and the black were always very slim.

But Hextall whiffed on a once-in-a-generation chance to mobilize the fanbase and give the team a much-needed jolt. 

More on the Flyers

Flyers Talk podcast: Analyzing scenarios for Stanley Cup Playoffs

Flyers Talk podcast: Analyzing scenarios for Stanley Cup Playoffs

On the latest Flyers Talk podcast, NBC Sports Philadelphia's Katie Emmer and Jordan Hall are joined by Joe Fordyce, the Flyers Pre and Postgame Live producer.

From multiple interviews to the format of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, let's dive in:

1:25 — Kevin Hayes talks all things Flyers and the NHL stoppage

7:30 — No fans during the Stanley Cup Playoffs?

14:50 — An interview with Rick Tocchet and Keith Jones

18:00 — Should the NHL change the playoff format?

24:00 — Life without Flyers hockey right now

30:30 — Debating our all-time Flyers team

Subscribe and rate Flyers Talk: Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Spotify | Stitcher | Art19 | YouTube

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Flyers

Gritty all over the place, funny Penguins moments as Flyers roll their rival in NHL 20

Gritty all over the place, funny Penguins moments as Flyers roll their rival in NHL 20

Because of the coronavirus outbreak, which has suspended the 2019-20 NHL season, the Flyers did not get a chance to beat the Penguins last Sunday in Philadelphia.

They did, however, dominate them on NHL 20 Thursday night as NBC Sports Philadelphia aired a simulation with the great trio of Jim Jackson, Keith Jones and Taryn Hatcher on the call.

The Flyers never trailed in beating Pittsburgh, 6-4, at the Wells Fargo Center.

Michael Raffl led the way with a pair of first-period goals. Kevin Hayes (one goal, one assist), James van Riemsdyk (one goal, one assist), Matt Niskanen (two assists), Travis Sanheim (two assists) and Nate Thompson (two assists) all had multi-point games.

Oh, and Gritty enjoyed the win. So did Claude Giroux.


Raffl's goals were massive in setting the tone during the opening 20 minutes. Despite allowing four markers, Carter Hart made a ton of timely saves, especially in the first period.

On Raffl's first goal, Penguins forward Conor Sheary got stuck right in the middle of the Flyers' celebration. Poor guy.

On Raffl's second goal, Penguins forward Evan Rodrigues tripped right over his goalie Matt Murray as the Flyers were celebrating.


A big storyline in the Flyers' win was Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin being held to no goals.

As you can see, there were some daring Penguins fans in attendance. We have a strong feeling they were welcomed kindly by Flyers fans.

Just like in real life, the Flyers were very defensive of the 21-year-old Hart. Get close to the kid, you've got problems.


Tyler Pitlick added clutch secondary scoring during the second period to give the Flyers a 3-1 edge.

Gritty, with the neck of an owl, enjoyed his view in the middle stanza.

"He's always got a good spot," Jackson said.

"He's usually got some popcorn to dump on a Penguins fan's head," Jones said.

Unfortunately, that did not happen (let's be real, it probably did).

Justin Braun, Hayes and van Riemsdyk (empty-netter) tallied goals in the final stanza to seal the Flyers' win. 

The Penguins' goals came from Brandon Tanev, Patric Hornqvist, Teddy Blueger and Marcus Pettersson.

That's not going to do it against this 2019-20 Flyers team, which has dominated in Philadelphia.

Subscribe and rate Flyers Talk: Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Spotify | Stitcher | Art19 | YouTube

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Flyers