VOORHEES, N.J. – Wayne Simmonds still has a year to go on his contract, so the urgency to get him re-signed long term hasn’t quite reached code red just yet.
But Flyers general manager Ron Hextall does give the impression he would like to get the 29-year-old forward signed before the upcoming season begins to avoid making talks a distraction.
“I’m not going to discuss negotiations publicly,’’ Hextall said after Wednesday’s press conference at the Skate Zone to formally introduce James van Riemsdyk. “I don’t think it’s good for anybody.
“As I’ve said, we would like to keep ‘Simmer’; whether we can or not, I don’t have the answer. Long term, I guess we’ll find out in the future if we get something done before training camp. I don’t have the answer for that.’’
Simmonds is coming off abdominal surgery but Hextall doesn’t sound concerned about what kind of shape he will be in when the season opens at Las Vegas on Oct. 4.
The GM pointed out that Simmonds had his surgery six weeks earlier than those of Claude Giroux and Shayne Gostisbehere in the summer of 2016, so there should more time to recover and rehab.
“Six weeks in the summer is a lifetime,’’ Hextall said. “So we have zero concerns about how he’s going to come back for training camp.’’
If a deal isn’t done before training camp, both sides will just have to live with it.
“Simmer has the character that something like that isn’t going to affect him,’’ Hextall said. “It’s not going to affect our team. If that (ongoing talks) is the way we go, I can certainly live with it.’’
Simmonds got married this summer and plans to spend the offseason doing his rehab in the area.
Hagg eyes contract offer
Hextall said he has made restricted free agent defenseman Robert Hagg what amounts to a two-year contract offer and is waiting to hear back.
“It (the contract offer) seemed to be where ‘Hagger’ is at in his career,’’ Hextall said. “That (two years) seems like a fair deal. If he decides to sign the deal, that’s up to him.’’
Hagg, a 23-year-old native of Sweden, enjoyed a strong rookie campaign with the Flyers last year, playing 70 games with three goals, nine points and a plus-5.
He was among the rookie leaders in hits and blocked shots.
Weal to center?
Hextall brought up the possibility that wing Jordan Weal, who is coming off a disappointing campaign after signing a two-year, $3.5-million deal a year ago, might move back to center for the upcoming season.
Maybe even as high as the third line.
Weal fell into disfavor last season and managed only eight goals and 21 points with a minus-10 in limited duty over 69 games.
At 26, the upcoming season is a crucial one for Weal.
“He’s played center and he’s a good centerman,’’ Hextall said. “He’s good on faceoffs, he’s good defensively. He makes plays.
“Jordan cares so much sometimes he can be his own worst enemy. He’s the last guy on the ice everyday (at practice). He works his tail off. Sometimes you just want to go, ‘Jordan, get off the ice and relax a little.’ He’s so driven to be the best. . .sometimes you have to let it go.’’
Then there’s oft-injured goalie Michal Neuvirth, who has changed his offseason training program for the umpteenth time.
There are some who believe if Neuvirth can’t stay healthy, the Flyers might call in super prospect Carter Hart somewhere during the season.
“He (Neuvirth) is doing extremely well,’’ Hextall said, mindful that the goalie is coming off hip surgery. “He’s been here and will be for the rest of the summer. He’s doing great.’’
Hextall indicated he’s probably done with signing free agents from other organizations. . .As for getting help on the Flyers’ sub-par penalty kill, Hextall said he saw improvement at the end of the year, but the coaches are looking hard at making improvements, including some new personnel in. “Internally,’’ he said, “we have to get better.’’