Since Ron Hextall was named general manager in May 2014, his mantra throughout the organization has been “patience.” Marching to a different tune than what the Philadelphia Flyers had been stomping to since their last cup in 1975, which coincidentally, was won mostly on homegrown talent via draft picks.
Since their last Cup, the Flyers and the late Ed Snider were almost too competitive to a fault. The organization became a do whatever it takes in the here and now to make the team into a Stanley Cup contender, no matter what the cost.
The cost, however, was the sacrificing of young players and high draft picks for older veterans with expiring contracts. In Philadelphia, there was simply no time to wait for a first round draft pick to develop. The learning curve of drafting players at 18 and waiting till they’re 22-24 years of age to bear the fruits of their labor was too much of a risk at the expense of trying to win it all every season.
Managing The Costs
Throughout the years, the Flyers would become the masters of trades and free agency. With no salary cap in the NHL prior to the 2005 lockout, the Flyers were able to build successful and contending teams with this blueprint. To their avail, they wouldn’t win a Stanley Cup but there was no doubt that when spring came each year that Philadelphia had a shot to win it all.
With no salary cap, the Flyers were able to make any trade they wanted to with no financial ramifications. If they gave away a few promising prospects along with some draft picks, they could always fill the gaps via free agency by paying the most money for the top players’ services.
However, that was the old ways of the NHL. In the post-lockout era, a team can no longer throw mega dollars at the best free agent available without having the proper cap space to do so.
Teams now have to plan for the future rather than only worrying about winning in the here and now. Nowadays, signing the biggest free agent in the summer comes at the cost of how big the cap hit is, how long the term is and if he still will be close to the player we’re signing now in the final years of the contract.
With all these factors now in place for front offices to deal with, building through the draft and managing contracts and cap hits effectively are the keys to post-lockout success in the NHL.
The New-Age Flyers
With the hiring of Ron Hextall came a new approach in town. Gone were the old days of general managers Bobby Clarke and Paul Holmgren and in were new philosophies of building through the draft, not sacrificing future assets and not signing older veterans to cap-crippling contracts.
One of the things former general manager Holmgren did in his first few seasons was being able to make trades in the infancy stages of the post-lockout cap era.
It was more towards the end of his reign where his inability of being able to adapt to the salary cap-driven league ultimately caused saw his demise.
Now, under Hextall, the Flyers have possibly the deepest prospect pool they’ve ever assembled in their organizational history.
That's back-to-back grade-A drafts for Ron Hextall and the Flyers. http://t.co/rZ1myB5Z3J
— Tom (@TomFoti) June 28, 2015
With Hextall’s vision, the Flyers, one step at a time, have slowly began building a pool of high-end talented prospects, while acquiring an absurd amount of draft picks (10 in 2016 and nine in 2017, already) to have at their disposal, as well as clearing a number of cap-crippling contracts.
With this new mindset in place, Hextall has the Flyers clearly going into the right direction. With names like Ivan Provorov, Travis Konecny and Travis Sanheim being just the tip of the iceberg in the prospect pool, Hextall is setting the Flyers up for a chance to compete in the salary cap-driven world of the new NHL for a decade to come.
Featured Image was provided by Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers
Glen Stricker is a Temple University graduate with a degree in Media & Communication. He is the Lead Writer for the Philadelphia Flyers for The Hockey Writers as well as the social media coordinator and contributor for @PHLFlyersNation