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Flyers consider promoting Hextall to GM

by Sean McCullen

Two days after the Philadelphia Flyers were eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs, owner Ed Snider said some changes may be coming within their personnel department.

Paul Holmgren, who has been general manager since 2006, will be "head of hockey operations," and Snider hinted Holmgren may relinquish the GM title to Ron Hextall this offseason.

"We're going to all sit down, and it's going to be up to Paul. We're in the process of analyzing everybody's title," Snider said.

Holmgren may not be ready to hand the day-to-day reins to Hextall, the former Flyers goalie.

"I'm the one who brought [Hextall] back. He's an excellent resource in our organization," Holmgren said. "He's a tremendous hockey man, and I have no question that he's ready to be a general manager at any point. We'll see where that goes, but I'm certainly not in any position today where I want to change chairs."

Hextall, who was assistant GM with the Los Angeles Kings before Philadelphia hired him last July, may be on the radars of teams searching for a GM, including the Toronto Maple Leafs, Washington Capitals and Vancouver Canucks.

The Flyers cleaned out their lockers and met with the media Friday at Wells Fargo Center. They were eliminated by the New York Rangers in Game 7 of their Eastern Conference First Round series Wednesday.

Holmgren is not on the hot seat.

"The job that he did, I think was excellent," Snider said. "Not too many guys would have guts enough to fire the coach after three games."

Holmgren fired Peter Laviolette after an 0-3-0 start, replacing him with Craig Berube, who had never coached an NHL team.

"I'm anxious to see what Craig Berube can do with a full training camp and a fresh start," Snider said.

The longtime owner seems content with the core group and goaltending situation despite the early playoff exit. The Flyers finished third in the Metropolitan Division with a 42-30-10 record.

Captain Claude Giroux bounced back from a slow start to finish with 28 goals and 58 assists in 82 games; he was named a Hart Trophy finalist Thursday. Forward Wayne Simmonds had a career-high 29 goals; seven Flyers scored at least 20.

Goalie Steve Mason, in his first full season in Philadelphia after being acquired in a trade with the Columbus Blue Jackets in April 2013, went 33-18-7 with a 2.50 goals-against average and .917 save percentage in 61 games. The Flyers signed Mason to a three-year, $12.3 million contract extension in January.

Backup Ray Emery can become an unrestricted free agent July 1.

"I think that we need certain things, obviously, and the hockey department will analyze it and tell me what they think our needs are, and we'll try to then go out and get them," Snider said. "By the same token, I think when you have and you've found an outstanding goaltender, [and] when you have one of the top three guys for the Hart Trophy in the League, it's a good place to start.

"We've got a lot of other good assets, a lot of good young talent, but you never can be satisfied being knocked out in the first round."

The Flyers will have to address their defense; Kimmo Timonen, 39, completed the final season of his contract.

"We have to replace maybe several defensemen. Maybe Kimmo wants to retire, I don't really know. Maybe he doesn't," Snider said. "These are all things that we don't know yet."

Timonen said if he plays in the NHL next season, he would like to return to the Flyers.

"This is my place. If I get back here, this is where I want to be," he said. "I like our team."

Holmgren will give Timonen some time to decide if he wants to talk about a new contract.

"Well, probably before the draft, to make sure we get our ducks in a row," he said. "Kimmo's Kimmo; I think he should take his time. He's been through a lot. He's a good person and a good man, so he deserves all the time he needs."

Holmgren announced center Sean Couturier may have a sports hernia.

"I think there was a point in January where he was checked ????????? it wasn't at the point now, and again I haven't found out the results from today's exam yet, but it was never at the point where we had to do anything other than maintenance," the GM said.

Left wing Michael Raffl will have surgery to remove bone chips in his left elbow, according to Holmgren, and right wing Steve Downie will have a second ear surgery to improve his hearing.

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