VOORHEES, N.J. – Ron Hextall can afford to pick and choose when it comes to adding a free agent or two.
Hextall does have quite a bit of money to play with when the National Hockey League’s free agent signing period opens Sunday at 12 noon. But the problem is, he says he’s not going to get into a big financial commitment just for the sake of adding a glitzy, high-priced name to his roster.
So rather than go after, say, a Paul Stastny (who might very well go back to his current team, the Winnipeg Jets) or a James Neal (late of the Vegas Golden Knights), Hextall sounds like he could go chase a bargain instead.
Maybe a Michael Grabner, the fast-moving sniper who finished up with the Devils last year after a late-season trade with the Rangers. Grabner, 30, was making only $1.65 million per year on his last deal and probably won’t command a giant number on his next contract.
On the back line, guys like veteran Ian Cole are available. The 29-year-old, who last played for Columbus, is coming off a contract for just $2.1 million.
One thing is certain: The Flyers are not in the running for consensus No. 1 free agent John Tavares, who has spent his entire career on Long Island. Tavares listed five teams he’s also going to talk to but the Flyers aren’t one of them.
At the Skate Zone on Friday, Hextall shrugged his shoulders when asked if he’s keeping an open mind to many possibilities.
“You talk, that’s pretty much what you do,’’ Hextall said. “We’ve talked to some people (players, agents).’’
Hextall said he wanted to clarify remarks he recently made regarding long-term offers to “good’’ players vs. “great’’ players.
“I meant to say we weren’t going to go long-term with a good player,’’ Hextall said. “If it’s a great player, we would look at it. We don’t want to go long, long term. . .we’ll see where that goes.’’
The GM explained, in so many words, how active he plans to be in this annual grab-fest.
“We go down our list and we draw a line,’’ he said. “We go, ‘here’s the line where it’s not an upgrade (over what’s) in our system. We’re not going to go out and sign guys to three- or four-year deals that are no better than either the players we have on our team or the kids that we have that are close to being ready.’
“We’re going to stick with that approach. We can end up with somebody or nobody because our line is our line and we’re not going to go below it.’’
As for signing a headliner, forget about any notions of going after star power for attention’s sake.
“We have stars on our team,’’ Hextall said. “We have, I believe, enough stars and we have some blossoming stars.
“Would we like to have more? Of course we would. That is the goal. But, again, once you get by a certain number of names in free agency, the stars aren’t there and we’re not going to go below.’’
That said, he might have thrown some big bucks at Tavares if the opportunity presented itself, which it won’t.
“We would have liked to be in there (on the list),’’ Hextall said with a rueful smile.
He added that he believes the league is sort of waiting to see what kind of money Tavares gets to, in a way, set the market for others.
“I think it’s holding the hockey world up to a certain amount,’’ Hextall said.
Flyers’ Top 5 All-Time Free Agent Signings:
1. Daniel Briere: One of the best clutch playoff performers in hockey history. Holds the Flyers’ single-season postseason mark with 30 points in 2010.
2. Peter Forsberg: Signed toward the end of his career but was still productive for some not-so-great teams.
3. Scott Hartnell: That one-year line of Hartnell-Giroux-Jagr remains one of the best in Flyers’ history.
4. Jeremy Roenick: Gave the Flyers some personality and was a key player in team’s run to 2004 Eastern Conference finals.
5. Derian Hatcher: A former captain on the 1999 Stanley Cup winner Dallas Stars, he was an effective captain here but slowed by injuries.
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