Ron Hextall has started his tenure as Flyers GM with a mop in his hand, trying to clean up all the messes his predecessor, Paul Holmgren, made. So far, so good.
The trade of Scott Hartnell last week made perfect sense to everyone except those fans – especially women – who loved his shaggy look and personable style. Hartnell played seven productive years here, but will always be remembered as much for his outside endeavors as his contributions on the ice. As a player, Hartnell is pretty much done.
Anyone doubting that statement need only recall Hartnell’s still-incomprehensible 35-game streak last season without an assist. That Hextall acquired R.J. Umberger, a comparable player (both are 32) with two fewer years on his contract, is a tribute to the new GM’s acumen. Is it too early to say Hextall is already a better GM than either Holmgren or Bob Clarke? Well, he is.
Even more startling was a much less obvious move. Hextall told the agent for free-agent bust Vinny LeCavalierre, to try to find a team that wants the washed-up 34-year-old center. Good luck there. Holmgren signed LeCavalier to a five-year, $22-million deal last summer. The Flyers still owe him $16 million over the next four years. If there is no trade partner, expect a buyout before next season.
It’s still way too early, two months into his new role, to draw any conclusions about Hextall’s impact on the decaying culture of the Flyers under chairman Ed Snider, but the GM’s moves last week at least established that he will not try to hide Holmgren’s many mistakes. In short, Hextall still has a lot of work to do.