When asked by reporters on the motivation to sign 32-year-old Evgeni Medvedev, Flyers GM Ron Hextall’s answer was pretty clear.
“He upgraded our defense. We were looking to upgrade our defense and he was available. He’s got good size, skates well, he moves the puck well. He’s a real solid two-way defenseman who can play either side of the ice.”
Medvedev has over 370 career games in the Kontinental Hockey League under his belt and has been an all-star for Kazan as well has won two KHL titles with Ak-Bars to go along with an appearance for Russia in the 2014 Winter Olympics and gold medal in the 2014 IIHF World Championships.
“This isn’t a guy that just crawled out under a rock,” said Hextall, who admitted that he was looking into Medvedev while he was out west as an Assistant GM in Los Angeles. “He’s been a good player for a few years and I know multiple teams have been after him, so this isn’t like we found some gem. He’s been a well-known player.”
A big reason for his success in Europe, and a big reason why NHL clubs were after his services has been his versatile play. At 6’3” and 187 pounds that was an attraction that the Flyers couldn’t overlook.
“Evgeni’s not a young guy, he’s an experienced guy and we feel like he could play either side as well as some power-play if we need him, he can kill penalties. There’s some versatility there,” added Hextall. “He’s got a good shot, so we just felt like the size, the mobility, the skating - we upgraded our group so he’s a real solid all-around player.”
With such versatility, one question that remains is where exactly does he fit in?
“Does he have the ability to be in the top four [of defense]? Yes, he does. Now, how quickly he makes the transition to the smaller ice and the North American game, that’s going to dictate whether he gets into our Top Four or not, but he certainly has the capability.”
The biggest challenge Medvedev could face is the language barrier, however Hextall said that he will spend time in North America this summer and he will have an English tutor.
But perhaps the biggest question that now faces the club is the quantity of defensemen that the Flyers now have. With the addition of Medvedev will come, at some point, the subtraction of other blueliners.
“We’re going to have to look into something, you mentioned that we have a logjam, and we’re going to have to look to move somebody. Obviously [with] Evgeni we felt that it was a real solid upgrade for us on defense so it was something that we couldn’t [let] go by, but yes something will have to give here.”
Don’t expect one of those players to be Michael Del Zotto, who Hextall said that he expects to be on the Flyers roster next season and initial conversations with his agent have taken place.
The restricted free agent had a career-comeback year in his first season with the Flyers. He tied his career-high in goals (10) and added new career-best for game-winning goals (4) while putting up 32 points in 64 games.