When Ron Hextall was promoted from assistant general manager to general manager of the Flyers shortly after last season ended, he pointed out that he favors building a Stanley Cup caliber team through the farm system, and especially the draft.
It’s what he saw work perfectly while helping build the L.A. Kings into champions as an assistant GM before rejoining the Flyers front office.
“I like young players and I like draft picks,” he said at the press conference on May 7 when he was named GM.
His stance hasn’t wavered one bit since.
“If the right deal comes along for now and for the future, we’ll make it,” Hextall told reporters in the middle of February. “If it doesn’t, obviously we won’t. We’ll do everything we can to get into the playoffs short of selling off younger assets.”
So despite their recent playoff surge – albeit failing to pick up crucial points against some of the worst teams in the Eastern Conference the last two weeks – don’t expect the Flyers to be buyers before Monday’s trade deadline to bolster a late-season run.
If Hextall can add a piece that can help this season without subtracting any promising players or picks, he will pull the trigger. More than likely, though, expect the Flyers to be sellers.
Hextall already got a head start on the process, too. He dealt veteran Kimmo Timonen to the Blackhawks on Friday for a second-round draft pick this year and a conditional pick that could turn into another second or third-round selection in 2016.
And he might not be done.
Even with Timonen’s departure, there is a glut of defensemen (eight) on the roster and at least one might be moved.
The prime candidates are Braydon Coburn and Nick Grossmann, with Michael Del Zotto, Luke Schenn and Carlo Colaiacovo as possible trade bait.
Coburn and Grossmann, who left Saturday’s game against the Rangers with an upper body injury, fit the bill better because they are both signed through next season at somewhat high but reasonable rates, would be top four defensemen on most Cup contenders and net the Flyers another decent draft pick and salary cap relief.
That kind of return – just like the one for Timonen – won’t help the Flyers this season, but it would no doubt continue to help fill Hextall’s vision for the future.