Hextall Builds Toward Future At Trade Deadline

Actions speak louder than words, and Philadelphia Flyers general manager Ron Hextall’s moves during the NHL’s trade deadline Monday conveyed his true intentions for this team.

Hextall’s forthcomingness about his vision for the Flyers and the patience he preaches has been refreshing, but once the Flyers made their run and moved within four points of a playoff berth, those values and virtues were going to be tested. Was Hextall going to move forward as planned and try to rebuild this team by cutting salary without mortgaging too much of the future?

In the past, considering where they were a few months ago, the Flyers would have been projected as buyers at the deadline. However Hextall, true to his word, didn’t mortgage the future to make a playoff push. He instead made two moves that should help shape the Flyers’ future sooner rather than later.

Dealing Kimmo Timonen

Philadelphia Flyers - Kimmo Timonen - Photo by Andy Martin Jr
On the sentimental scale, this deal hit home for many Flyer fans when the team announced they had dealt Kimmo Timonen before he could lace up his skates one more time for the orange and black. Hextall sent the 39-year-old defenseman to the Chicago Blackhawks for a 2015 second-round pick and a 2016 conditional fourth-round pick that could be as high as a second-round pick, depending on how far the Blackhawks go in the postseason and how much Timonen plays during their run.

The 2015 second-round pick was already a little more than expected for someone who was coming off blood clots in his lungs and legs and hadn’t playing in a game all season. However, nabbing the 2016 conditional pick was a nice added bonus in the deal, especially if it ends up becoming a second-round pick. Two potential second-round selections for the price of a 39-year-old player who wasn’t going to help the team beyond 2015 is a great haul for Hextall.

Hextall Makes It Count With Coburn

(Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)
(Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)

When was the last time you can remember the Flyers having cap space heading into the next season? Looking to unload one of the defensemen on the roster, Hextall dealt the one blueliner who he would probably get the most value out of in Coburn. Excluding the mega deal between the Sabres and Jets and the haul the Coyotes got for Keith Yandle, Hextall ended up with the most value for someone who wasn’t perceived to be on the block.

It had been speculated for months that the Coyotes were going to deal Yandle, due to the uncertainty of if he would re-sign in Arizona. The Myers-for-Kane deal was surprising due to the vastness of the players exchanged, but it had been speculated that both players were going to be moved one way or another.

All the other deals of significance that transpired on the trade deadline all involved rental players. In Coburn, the Tampa Bay Lightning acquired a player that would be under contractual control for the next season and a half. With the cap not expected to increase significantly in 2015, taking on players with term was tough for many teams, but Hextall seemingly found a way to deal one of these defenseman and got a great return for it.

The most I expected in a deal for Coburn was a first-round pick, considering that he was a top-four defenseman whose AAV wasn’t unmovable via a trade. Hextall acquired the Lightning’s 2015 first-round pick, a third-round pick and defenseman Radko Gudas, one of the most physical blue liners in the NHL — a greater haul then anyone could’ve imagined heading into the trade deadline.

What Now?

Even though it will be a later selection, the first-round pick was the real prize of the Coburn deal, but as The Daily News’ Frank Seravalli noted, dealing for Gudas and his $1 million AAV gives the Flyers a chance to restructure their defensive pairings.

The Coburn trade also represents the changing of the guard in Philadelphia. Hextall broached the subject after the trade deadline, but the defensive prospects that are coming up through the system are close to being NHL ready. Robert Hagg, Shayne Gostisbehere and Samuel Morin all figure to compete for a spot along the blue line next season, with Travis Sanheim looking at an outside shot of making the team out of juniors.

Not all of these prospects are expected to be ready, but there won’t be many spots available to try and crack the lineup. Even though it’s expected that Hextall will deal one of them at the NHL draft, Mark Streit, Andrew MacDonald, Nicklas Grossmann, Nick Schultz, Luke Schenn and Gudas are all signed through at least next season. If Hextall is unsuccessful in dealing one of the blueliners listed above, then one of the young kids will have to unseat a veteran if they expect to earn a spot on the team next season.

One thing is for certain though — Hextall has a plan, and he’s sticking to it.