Flyers

Flyers

Sometimes, not having a lot of salary cap money to spend can be a blessing.

It makes you less likely to do something extravagant or emotional, which the Flyers have been prone to doing every July when free agency arrives.

Flyers general manager Ron Hextall had about $4.1 million in spare change after signing goalie Michal Neuvirth on the first day of free agency (see story).

It wasn’t enough to make them major players in the pursuit of such names as Michael Frolik, Phil Kessel or Matt Beleskey.

And that’s just fine with Hextall.

“We didn’t have the flexibility to go after a big guy,” Hextall said. “Quite frankly, I hope most years are like this year when you’re looking for one piece or two pieces.

“I don’t like going into free agency needing three or four bodies and you kind of end up blowing your brains out there. We feel like we got a real good fit for our team and we like our team here.”

Hextall needed a backup goalie to replace Ray Emery. He found one in Neuvirth. The mid-level winger he spoke about at the NHL draft has now become Sam Gagner (see story).

Because he was unable to again rid himself of Vinny Lecavalier’s $4.5 million cap hit or lose salary with either Luke Schenn ($3.6 million) or Andrew MacDonald ($5 million) on his overcrowded blue line, Hextall tried to join a poker game without the entry fee.

Are the Flyers done in free agency?

Well, barring something involving Lecavalier or his defense, yes. Nothing really significant can happen the remainder of the summer without losing millions off the cap.

“We can’t go out and spend a whole bunch of money or we’re back in the situation we’re in now,” Hextall said. “We don’t want to be over the cap. We’re not gonna sign someone to put us over. We’re going to be patient here.”

He admits he would like to trim his budget on defense.

“Ideally, we’d like to clear a little bit of space there, but we’ll see,” he said. “We’re under the cap, albeit slightly, when we plug [Michael] Del Zotto in, you want some space to call players up, too.

“We’re close, we’d like to clear a little bit more, but you’ve got to have a partner there. We’ll see as we move along here.”

They need to re-sign Rob Zepp or some other depth goalie for the Phantoms. That should happen by the weekend.

Other than depth moves with the Phantoms, they appear done.

“We’ll listen to see what is out there and see if it makes sense,” Hextall said. “I am not gonna hold my breath because I’m not sure anything is going to make sense given where we’re at [on cap]. If you do the numbers, we don’t have a lot of space here.”

The $4.1 million cap money left doesn’t include the $1.3 million qualifying offer to Del Zotto. His final salary will more than double that if they agree on a multi-year contract, further lessening his cap dollars.

Hextall said it would “be crazy” to add an expensive player right now. He intends to be more fiscally conservative than his predecessor, Paul Holmgren.

Truth is, the Flyers won’t be able to solve all their issues in one offseason. This is going to take a few years.

It’s a process.

“I’m comfortable where we are as a team,” Hextall said. “Comfortable with the additions and Vandy (Chris VandeVelde) coming back and [Ryan] White coming back and upgrading our skill with Gagner and defense with [Evgeni] Medvedev and now upgrading goaltending with Neuvirth.

“For us to sign someone to a big contract this year would be crazy, but next summer might even be more crazy because we might have to move one of our good young players just to get under. So I’m not sure that something’s going to work out.”

Fiscal sanity. On the Flyers.

Whodathunk?