Decisions are looming for Ron Hextall and the Philadelphia Flyers with the NHL trade deadline fast approaching at the end of February.
Another year, another Philadelphia Flyers season that sees the team on the playoff bubble. With that comes some tough decisions ahead for Flyers GM Ron Hextall. Do the Flyers make a move at the deadline to improve this year’s team to solidity a playoff spot? Do they keep an eye towards the future and become sellers at the deadline and trade such veterans as Mark Streit and Michael Del Zotto? Or do they they stand pat?
Hextall has been adamant about not making any moves that could jeopardize the team’s future in order to improve the team in the here and now. So you can cross off the Flyers making a deal in order to make the playoffs. So that leaves them with two options. They can either stand pat and hope that what they have will be good enough to get them in to the playoffs or they can become sellers at the deadline and trade veterans for draft picks. Below are some of the players and positions that Hextall will have to make decisions on as the deadline approaches.
Goaltenders Steve Mason and Michal Neuvirth
Both Steve Mason and Michal Neuvirth will be unrestricted free agents at the end of the season. The fact that there will be an expansion draft this summer makes Hextall’s decision that much tougher. Every NHL team must expose at least one NHL goaltender who is under contract in 2017-18 or who will be a restricted free agent at the expiration of his current contract immediately prior to 2017-18. With both Mason and Neuvirth unrestricted free agents, the Flyers don’t have an NHL goaltender to expose to the expansion draft. So the Flyers will have to either sign Mason or Neuvirth to an extension, or they need to sign another free agent goaltender to expose to the the expansion draft.
So the decision for Ron Hextall is this: does he keep both veteran goaltenders in the hopes that one of them gets hot and carries the Flyers in to a playoff spot? Or does Hextall trade one of the netminders and call up Anthony Stolarz from the AHL to get a better idea as to whether or not he is a number one NHL goaltender?
Defensemen Mark Streit and Michael Del Zotto
Again, Hextall will have to decide between sticking with veterans or trading them and making room on the roster for some of the prospects in their system. Do the Flyers stick with Streit and Del Zotto, who might not be as talented as prospects Travis Sanheim or Phillipe Meyers but who are veterans who will be less likely to make mistakes that could cost the Flyers games that could lead to them missing the playoffs? Or does Hextall look to the future and decide to trade both Streit and Del Zotto for draft picks thus hurting the Flyers chances of making the playoffs this year?
Hextall will accomplish two things if he decides to look to the future. Both Streit and Del Zotto are unrestricted free agents at the end of this year. If the Flyers were to trade both players, even if it were only for mid-round draft picks, they would at least be getting something back in return instead of losing them both for nothing at the end of this season. They would also clear up $8 million of cap space. As a result of the additional cap space and the opening up of two roster spots, the Flyers would be able to call up prospects such as Samuel Morin and Sanheim to give them some NHL experience. The downside of that route is that if the Flyers go in that direction, it means that they have fallen out of playoff contention.
More Flyers: Flyers Need To Give Steve Mason Some Time Off
What direction the Flyers decide go in is anyone’s guess. A lot will depend on who how the team plays between now and the trade deadline. None of the options available to the team this year are sexy ones. And some of the fans are growing impatient with the slow build and with being on the playoff bubble year after year. But it is part of the process (Did I really just say that?) of building a Stanley Cup winner. Whether the Flyers stick with their veterans and make a run for the playoffs, or deal them and look to the future, the process (that’s right I said it again) will be moved further along come next year. Gone will be veterans such as Streit, Del Zotto, Chris Vandevelde and Pierre Edouard Bellemare and in will be Sanheim, Morin, and possibly Oskar Lindblom, Nicholas Aube-Kubel and Radel Fazleev.
The fans need to … that’s right, be patient and trust the process.