Ron Hextall has plenty of defensemen coming, potentially as soon as next season, but has a bottom-third team in the league in scoring and his most dynamic forward prospect, German Rubtsov, probably at least two years away from NHL readiness.
So for this year, and for next year, the Flyers' GM has tried to address his most glaring need with the addition of Valtteri Filppula and the subtraction of Mark Streit in a trade with Tampa Bay.
At 39, Streit still can play, as the injury-ravaged Penguins, who quickly obtained him from the Lightning, can clearly see, Over four years he proved to be one of the better free-agent signings, and best teammates, in Flyers history.
But after drafting Sam Morin, Robert Hagg, Travis Sanheim and Ivan Provorov from 2011-15, the Flyers' line of blueline transition has long been determined. Much less clear has become where their next goal is coming from, so presented with the opportunity to upgrade up front, Hextall grabbed the 33-year-old Filppula for Streit's expiring contract, a return that beats any second or third-round draft choice that, until Wednesday, was presumed to be a good yield for a 39-year-old player.
"[Filppula] can play in all situations, he competes, and is an intelligent player," said Hextall. "He makes plays."
Video: GM talks about why he made the deal
Filppula also will make $5 million next season, But the Flyers could not go into it without a veteran upgrade at forward and are adamant about not trading bright future pieces to get one. The prices in free agency this summer likely are going to be more expensive than Filppula, at least in the number of seasons. "On July 1, you don't get a player like this on a one-year deal," said Hextall.
So the trade brings not only a desperately needed second playmaker behind Claude Giroux but also the flexibility at the end of next season to re-sign Filppula or move on. There is always the chance that a bigger and better option would have presented itself this July, but that likely would eat up a lot more cap room over a longer number of years than does this move.
Everything Hextall does looks at least three years ahead. Michal Neuvirth, still not established at age 28 as a No. 1 because of a lengthy series of body breakdowns, and facing an uncertain market as a result, was willing to come back to Philadelphia Wednesday on a reasonable term. When Steve Mason, an unrestricted free agent, looks around on July 1, he and the Flyers might still find each other to be their best options.
Video: GM on Neuvirth and goalie situation
With a glut of goalie prospects, there is no way Hextall will be signing any veteran netminder long term. But now he has one that the Flyers can win with, secured at a cap-friendly price at least until one or more of the kids are ready.
"I don't want to go into July 1 without a signed goalie," said Hextall. "That's a recipe for disaster."
Thus we are all spared that suspense. This is a GM probably never going to win a July, but the plan is to never have to, if Hextall can continue to draft well and make the best-reasoned deals in March. Braydon Coburn, remember, turned into Travis Konecny and Radko Gudas.
See below for 2017 NHL Draft details: