New GM Hextall happy with Flyers' current makeup

Wednesday, 08.06.2014 / 3:00 AM
Adam Kimelman  - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

NHL.com continues its preview of the 2014-15 season, which will include in-depth looks at all 30 teams throughout August.

It's been a quiet offseason for the Philadelphia Flyers as far as roster changes, for two very good reasons.

First, the team is butting against the $69 million upper limit of the NHL salary cap.

Second, general manager Ron Hextall is happy with what's in place.

"When I took over I liked this team, and I [still] like our team," Hextall said.

Since losing to the New York Rangers in Game 7 in the Eastern Conference First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Flyers' biggest move came May 7, with Paul Holmgren elevated to team president and Hextall promoted from his assistant GM role to take over full control of the hockey team.

"He's ready," Holmgren said of Hextall then. "He's more than ready. He's been ready for a few years. He put his time in and he's earned the opportunity."

Hextall's biggest offseason move was trading top-line left wing Scott Hartnell to the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for versatile forward R.J. Umberger. Hextall saw the trade as advantageous for two reasons: Umberger's speed and versatility helps the lineup, and it provided a bit of salary cap relief -- Hartnell had five seasons at $4.75 million per season remaining on his contract; Umberger will count $4.6 million against the cap for three seasons.

For the Flyers every little bit helps. According to CapGeek they're $4.3 million above the cap, but that includes defenseman Chris Pronger and his $4.9 million salary, which will go on long-term injured reserve and provide a bit of relief.

"We're going to be under," Hextall said. "There's nothing pressing for us. We don't have to get rid of a player, and at this stage I don't necessarily envision us getting rid of a player. Things can change in a hurry, but I like our team."

If things hold the Flyers will look to fill any needs from within, including the open spot on the top line vacated by Hartnell.

Umberger, a five-time 20-goal scorer, will be an option to play alongside center Claude Giroux and right wing Jakub Voracek. Other options could be Vincent Lecavalier, Michael Raffl and Brayden Schenn, all of whom saw time in that spot last season.

"There's a few candidates," Hextall said. "It's going to be up for grabs. … There's a spot open there and I'm sure a lot of guys will be hungry for it."

The top six on defense took a hit with the announcement Tuesday veteran Kimmo Timonen was hospitalized in Finland due to blood clots in his lower right leg and both lungs. Timonen, who signed a one-year extension this summer, had 35 points, averaged 20:19 per game and was named the team's best defenseman for a third straight season. Hextall said the Flyers will operate as if Timonen's absence will be long-term.

"There's no question it's a setback, there's no other way to explain it. But we'll adjust and we'll do what we can to make the team better," Hextall said Tuesday. "But we'll see what happens. But absolutely, you can't take not only the player but I think the experience and the calm and the poise and the respect that Kimmo has in the locker room and say you didn't take a step back."

Nick Schultz was signed to a one-year contract this summer, and Hextall added free-agent defenseman Michael Del Zotto just hours after announcing that Timonen would miss time.

The Flyers also have a number of young defensemen that could push for spots, topped by Samuel Morin, Robert Hagg and Shayne Gostisbehere.

"They're going to have to come in and make a huge impression," Hextall said. "The way I view it is if a young player isn't going to make your team better, he's probably better playing bigger minutes somewhere else. He's going to have to come in and prove to us they can make the Philadelphia Flyers a better hockey club."

Hextall's other offseason move was re-signing Ray Emery to serve as the backup goalie to Steve Mason, whose three-year contract extension starts this season.

"Mason is a real, real talented guy," Hextall said. "If you watch him you can see it out there; he oozes talent. When he's on his game, the game is easy for him. He moves around so fluidly, he's very efficient. But he's got to come back and he's got to be consistent from year to year. That's what he's out to prove and that's what we're looking forward to seeing, the consistency from year to year."

Consistency is something Hextall would like to see more of from his entire roster.

"We have to be more consistent and more ready to go every night," he said. "And compete. It's a hard League. It's hard to win. It's hard to get points. You can't let any games go by where you just mail it in and don't have a chance at picking up some points."

Follow Adam Kimelman on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

OFFSEASON OUTLOOK

2013-14 record: 42-30-10, 94 pts, 3rd in Metropolitan Division, 6th in Eastern Conference

2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Lost to New York Rangers in seven games in first round.

Additions: LW Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, RW Andrew Gordon, C Blair Jones, D Nick Schultz, RW Zack Stortini, C R.J. Umberger, G Rob Zepp, D Michael Del Zotto

Subtractions: RW Steve Downie, D Bruno Gervais, D Erik Gustafsson, LW Scott Hartnell, C Ben Holmstrom, LW Tye McGinn, C Kris Newbury

UFAs: D Marc-Andre Bourdon, LW Tyler Brown, G Yann Danis, D Cullen Eddy, C Kyle Flanagan, D Hal Gill, C Adam Hall, G Calvin Heeter, D Tyler Hostetter

RFAs: D Brandon Manning

Promotion candidates: D Shayne Gostisbehere, D Robert Hagg, C Scott Laughton

Top 2014 NHL Draft picks: D Travis Sanheim (1st round, No. 17), RW Nicolas Aube-Kubel (2nd round, No. 48)

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