VOORHEES, N.J. — If you thought Ron Hextall never wanted to be in the John Tavares sweepstakes, think again.
The Flyers' general manager made certain to be extra clear Friday when discussing his team's motives in free agency, which opens Sunday. While it sounded like the Flyers wouldn't dole out a long-term deal to a star player this offseason, Hextall offered clarification from when he talked earlier this month.
"I misspoke that day or you guys misunderstood me, I said we weren't going to go long term with a good player. Maybe a great player, we'd look at it," Hextall said with a smile. "I probably misspoke a little bit. We don't want to go long, long term … we'll see where that goes."
So, Tavares? The talk of hockey has surrounded the Islanders' center, who is the biggest name on the free-agent market. According to reports, Tavares' camp is talking to six teams — the Stars, Bruins, Sharks, Maple Leafs, Lightning and Islanders.
Was this the Flyers simply staying away?
"I don't want to mention any names, so I'll just say, we would have liked to have been in there," Hextall said.
The wait on Tavares has had a ripple effect on the entire league.
"I think it's holding up the hockey world a certain amount, for sure," Hextall said.
The Flyers, though, will be completely content with improving at the margins and continuing their build-from-within principles. Hextall will utilize free agency, but likely to fill holes and not chase the big fish just for the sake of doing it.
In late April, he mentioned the desire to add a defenseman with experience to stabilize the back end or another center to improve their depth. The Flyers can certainly improve their bottom six and Hextall hopes to address the penalty kill, as well.
Before making any decisions, the Flyers first look internally.
"We went down our list and we drew a line," Hextall said. "Here's the line where it's not an upgrade from what we have in the system, so we're not going to go out and sign guys to three- or four-year deals that are no better than either the players that we have on our team or the kids that we have that our close to being ready.
"That's how we've approached it and we're going to stick with that approach. Do we end up with somebody? Yeah, and I guess on the other hand, we could probably end up with nobody because our line is our line and we're not going below it."
Tavares is above the line ... or at least he was.