In a world where the salary cap remains king of hockey, every general manager has some tough decisions to make at season’s end.
The Flyers’ Ron Hextall is no exception.
While he appears to be in good shape with the cap going into the offseason (a surplus of $1,348,611, according to CapFriendly.com), a GM always has to be thinking a couple steps ahead.
What will next year’s roster look like?
Some of it will depend on whether youngsters are pushing veterans off the team.
We do know that 34-year-old center Valtteri Filppula, 31-year-old right wing Matt Read and 27-year-old defensemen Brandon Manning and Johnny Oduya are impending unrestricted free agents.
The fact that Filppula just finished a contract that paid him $5 million per year probably precludes a return to Philadelphia for the 2018-19 season.
Filppula did a nice job during the regular season with 11 goals and 33 points (minus-7), but not at that money.
Ditto Read ($3.625 million). He only played 19 games during the regular season with just a single goal and spent most of the year with the Phantoms. He was a productive player for the Flyers in the playoffs but even he acknowledges he probably will be changing addresses.
Manning has become something of a scapegoat with media and fans, even though he improved this year and had 7-12-19 numbers with an even plus-minus.
Pittsburgh’s speed in the playoffs exposed the pairing of Manning and Radko Gudas, who was a minus-4 in that Game 6 blowout.
Manning only made $975,000 this past season, so maybe he comes back if the salary is reasonable.
What Hextall has to give a hard look to are players such as 30-year-old Jori Lehtera, who still has a year left on the contract he signed in St. Louis which pays him $4.70 million. That’s way too much for a fourth-line player who produced just eight points in 62 games with a minus-8.
In the same boat is 29-year-old Dale Weise, who still has two years left on his contract which is scheduled to pay him $2.35 million for each of the next two seasons. Weise played in only 46 games with just eight points and minus-7.
Can Hextall unload players like this? Well, he did manage to send Vinny Lecavalier and Luke Schenn to Los Angeles for Jordan Weal and a draft pick, so anything is possible.
Speaking of Weal, what happened to him this season?
After lighting it up the last 25 games of last season, the 26-year-old Weal signed a two-year deal that’s paying him $1.75 million per. Then he went out and scored only eight goals in 69 games with a minus-10.
As mentioned, Hextall had Weal in Los Angeles when he was the assistant GM there and obviously he likes the kid. But there seems to be some kind of disconnect between Weal and coach Dave Hakstol, so a change of scenery might be in order.
There have been trade rumors involving veteran Wayne Simmonds, too. The 29-year-old has one year left on his contract worth $3.975 million. Critics say he had an off year and the Flyers should trade him while he still has value.
But let’s not forget Simmonds was banged up the second half of the season, including a shoulder injury and the loss of a number of teeth. He still scored 24 goals in 75 games and displayed once again that he is a true warrior who plays through pain.
Getting back to Gudas: He’s scheduled to make $3.35 million each of the next two years and some people are wondering if that’s cost efficient.
Gudas did clean up his act somewhat after a 10-game suspension but he didn’t do himself any favors by totaling Sean Couturier in a practice last week, resulting in a torn medial collateral ligament in the centerman’s knee.
While the play was deemed an accident, it still left a bad taste in some people’s mouths. It wouldn’t be shocking if the Flyers parted ways somewhere along the line.
Goaltending probably will go according to form next year. Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth both have one year left ($2.75M and $2.50M) respectively. Super prospect Carter Hart is still a year or more away. Alex Lyon is a restricted free agent and should be retained for insurance purposes.
It should be an interesting summer. The Flyers made strides this season but there’s that little headache called no-playoff-series-wins-in-six-years.
Hextall is moving in the right direction but there are people out there who want his team to pick up the pace in this rebuilding experiment.