Ron Hextall’s Best Moves as Flyers GM
Ron Hextall took the reins from Paul Holmgren heading into the 2014-15 season. In his fourth year, he’s suddenly come under quite a bit of scrutiny.
Is it warranted?
The answer is complicated, both yes, and no. The glass-half-full crowd tends to love Hextall, preaching patience and great drafting. Fans more interested in results are less friendly.
It’s no secret in the Flyer community that Hextall has a knack for drafting. A list of high end prospects come from late in the first round and beyond, including Carter Hart, Wade Allison, Isaac Ratcliffe, Oskar Lindblom, and Robert Hägg. Phil Myers was signed off a tryout, one of the best steals in recent memory.
However, things haven’t gone so swimmingly at the NHL level. Two playoff appearances translating to two playoff rounds in total. A circus carousel in goal year in and year out. Most frustratingly, the terrible penalty killing despite the overall skill of the team.
@BroadStBull I OWN A HVAC COMPANY, IF I PUT A BROKEN PART BACK ON SOMEBODYS FURNACE THAT HAS PROVEN IT BREAKS EVERYTIME? I DONT USE THAT PART BRAND AGAIN! IF I DO THEN CUSTOMERS FIRE ME, WHY IS HEXTALL ABOVE THIS OBVIOUS BLUNDER,WHY IS HE NOT CALLED OUT? WHY BROAD ST? WHY?
— Chris Patrick (@ChrisPa20177079) November 17, 2018
We’ll call this guy the loud minority.
Based on his decision making, he’s a salary cap wizard with a special talent in drafting. His free agent signings have been, overall, a disappointment. He is the professional, and we’ll assume it’s all part of the process.
Here are his greatest achievements:
1. Sean Couturier’s contract
The Flyers have one of the best contracts in the NHL in Sean Couturier’s deal. Signed in the summer of 2015, the team’s number one center and Selke trophy finalist is making $4.33 million against the cap until 2021.
What an incredible advantage to allow money to be spent elsewhere, and a display of excellent foresight by Ron Hextall and his team in the front office. Aleksander Barkov, a young, Selke worthy center for the Florida Panthers, makes $5.9 million in the same role.
The last three unique Selke winners— Jonathan Toews (2013), Patrice Bergeron (2012, 2014-15, 2017), and Anze Kopitar (2016, 2018) average a $9.1 million salary.
2. The Kimmo Timonen trade
This just gets better and better as it ages— much like the ultimate reward of the trade, Travis Konecny.
Thats right, Hextall sent fan favorite Kimmo Timonen to have his name engraved on the cup for Chicago’s second round pick in 2015. Everyone wins. Hextall used this pick to trade up, selecting Konecny at #24. He now plays on the first line with Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier.
— Frank Seravalli (@frank_seravalli) May 31, 2015
The conditional 2016 pick, also acquired in the trade to Chicago, was used to select Wade Allison, one of the best players in all of NCAA hockey last year before going down with an injury. Allison has legitimate top-six winger potential.
If Allison signs with the Flyers and continues to grow, this will be the best trade Hextall ever makes, without question.
As a side note: the 2016 draft was huge for Philadelphia. Hextall also drafted German Rubtsov, Carter Hart, Linus Hogberg, Connor Bunnaman, Tanner Laczynski, and David Bernhardt. With the exception of the two NCAA forwards, all of these picks are still enjoying professional growth at the AHL and SHL levels.
3. Shayne Gostisbehere’s contract
Another great look for the team’s financial future was locking up prime Ghost on a team friendly $4.5 million cap hit. The offensive defenseman runs point on the top powerplay unit, and amassed 65 points last year while heavily improving his work in the defensive end.
While Holmgren gave six years, $30 million to Andrew MacDonald, Hextall gave Gostisbehere a team friendly deal that will never come back to hurt the team. MacDonald is having trouble staying in the defense rotation these days, at a more expensive cap hit.
Similar contracts (Brett Pesce, Jakob Chychrun) are with players who haven’t brought quite the same value to their teams as Gostisbehere. This will prove to be a great deal, if it hasn’t already.
4. Trading Chris Pronger’s salary
In the summer of 2015, the Flyers had less cap space than any team in the NHL. Pronger, who had been inactive for years, was costing $4.9 million against the cap for another two years. He, along with defenseman Nicklas Grossmann, collected $8.4 million yearly.
4 trades in a row made by Hexy.
Lecavalier and Schenn for Jordan Weal 3rd round pick
Grossmann and Pronger for Sam Gagner 2016 3rd/4th
Coburn for Gudas a 1st round pick and 2015 3rd round pick
Timonen for 2015 2nd round pick 2016 conditional 4th round pick
— FlyersPuckSauce (@FlyersPuckSauce) September 16, 2018
Hextall banished them both to the desert in exchange for Sam Gagner, and while he didn’t amount to much in Philadelphia, was never supposed to. The Arizona Coyotes needed millions of dollars to even reach the salary floor. It was the beginning of post-Holmgren cap management, and brought along a conditional fourth round pick with it.
5. The Vincent Lecavalier Trade
After a pretty bad free agent hire in former Lightning great Vinny Lecavalier, he was costing too much for very little production. Naturally, Hextall did his thing and sent Lecavalier and Luke Schenn to the Los Angeles Kings for Jordan Weal and a third round pick.
The pick was used to take Carsen Twarynski, who has just put up a 45 goal season in the WHL and is now playing for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. Weal is an everyday NHL center for Philadelphia, and one of the top play driving forwards on the team by advanced statistics.
The trading room was built last season after Ron Hextall ran through his office wall when the Kings accepted the Lecavalier trade.
— Tim Riday (@TimRiday) December 1, 2016
Lecavalier has since retired, as part of the deal, and Luke Schenn was recently put on waivers by the Anaheim Ducks.
– Zac Rinaldo to Boston in exchange for a third round pick (Kirill Ustimenko, G)
– Braydon Coburn to Tampa Bay in exchange for Radko Gudas, a first round pick (traded with Chicago’s second round pick to select Travis Konecny), and a third round pick (Matej Tomek, G)
– Late first round picks (Travis Konecny, Morgan Frost)
– Excellent SHL picks (Adam Ginning, Oskar Lindblom, Linus Hogberg, Marcus Westfalt, Felix Sandstrom)
– Signing free agent James van Riemsdyk to a 5 year, $35 million deal in 2018
While Hextall took the team and steered them in the right direction, fans are still waiting for the next step in the process. The team has an abundance of assets to trade and build with, and theoretically one of the most talented forward corps in the NHL. He needs to push the team over the metaphorical threshold into a true contender, while Giroux is still a true elite talent.
All in all, he’s done a good job. So have many other GM’s across the league, and good isn’t good enough for a Cup. It needs to start coming together, and pretty soon.