VOORHEES, N.J. – This past season, the Flyers finished with 98 points, good for third in the Metropolitan Division and a playoff spot.
While that was an admirable achievement, there’s still a lot of work to be done, especially because the Stanley Cup winner has come out of the Metro each of the last three seasons (Pittsburgh twice and now Washington).
So, do the Flyers make their move now and go for serious contention or do they remain patient and not chase down some high-priced free agents that will tie their hands in the salary cap picture?
General manager Ron Hextall won’t rule out acquiring some assets when the bidding wars begin July 1.
At the moment, there’s plenty to choose from, including Islanders’ superstar center John Tavares, Capitals defenseman John Carlson, Winnipeg forward Paul Stastny, Vegas forward James Neal, former NHL forward Ilya Kovalchuk and former Flyer forward James van Riemsdyk, late of Toronto.
“We’d like to get better but we’re not going to something stupid that long-term to try to get better one or two years,’’ Hextall said during a press conference at the Skate Zone on Thursday.
“Yeah, we’d like to get better. Do I feel we have to? That’s my responsibility. So I want to get better. We’ll see what comes along.’’
The Flyers are four years into this rebuilding program. Only Hextall knows when he believes the Flyers will be serious contenders, if that happens.
“If it (acquiring a big free agent) fits right and the term and it works out right cap-wise and term, absolutely (the Flyers will act),’’ Hextall said.
“We look at everything and we’re trying to get better for today without sacrificing. I mean I could make a deal that would make us better for next year, we could do that, sacrifice a lot of our future, that’s not going to happen.’’
Hextall updated his injured players’ health status:
Goaltender Brian Elliott, who underwent core muscle surgery during the season, had clean-up surgery on his hip when the season ended but will be OK for training camp.
Goaltender Michal Neuvirth underwent surgical procedures on both hips. He is in rehabilitation now.
Forward Wayne Simmonds had an abdominal operation similar to those of Claude Giroux and Shayne Gostisbehere in 2016 and also figures to be ready for training camp.
Both center Sean Couturier (torn MCL) and defenseman Ivan Provorov (shoulder sprain) did not require surgery.
On the Phantoms, defenseman Sam Morin will be out until February due to ACL knee surgery.
Hextall said he was surprised Giroux did not make the list of three finalists for the Hart Trophy (NHL MVP). The three finalists are Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon, New Jersey’s Taylor Hall and Los Angeles’ Anze Kopitar are the finalists.
Giroux had a career year, finishing second in the NHL in scoring, first in assists and scored eight goals in the Flyers’ last five games, including a hat trick in the playoff-clinching season finale win over the Rangers.
“We look at it and say G should have been in it,’’ Hextall said. “Other teams probably look at it and say their guy should have been in it. There’s always an argument, but I think G did enough this year that he should have been included in the group of three. I feel strongly about it.’’
Hextall said he still has interest in Flyers’ potential unrestricted Valtteri Filppula but has until June 30 to make up his mind before the Finn goes on the open market. . .The GM said he has not had any contract discussions yet with Simmonds’ agent on a new contract. Simmonds has one year left on his current deal. . .The Flyers are pleased with the progress of defenseman Travis Sanheim, a former No. 1 draft pick. “Travis from the start of the year, when he went down (to Allentown), grew a lot when he went down and played well and played well throughout the playoffs,’’ Hextall said. “So I think Travis grew. It’s not only getting better as a player, but it’s also holding up to the demands every day as a player and that’s hard.’’