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Trade Coverage

Flyers get their man in trade for Valtteri Filppula

GM Ron Hextall said center gives Philadelphia playmaker, mentor for young players

by Adam Kimelman @NHLAdamK / Deputy Managing Editor

VOORHEES, N.J. -- Philadelphia Flyers general manager Ron Hextall approached the 2017 NHL Trade Deadline with one eye on the present and another on the future.

He said he satisfied both visions Wednesday, acquiring center Valtteri Filppula, 32, along with fourth- and seventh-round picks in the 2017 NHL Draft, in a trade with the Tampa Bay Lightning for defenseman Mark Streit, 39.

Hextall said Filppula is a player he's coveted for a number of seasons, and was willing to take on his $5 million salary-cap number for next season and a no-movement clause that means he must be protected in the expansion draft.

"This gives us a guy that makes plays," Hextall said. "I look at this as an upgrade in our playmaking."

Filppula has 34 points (seven goals, 27 assists) in 59 games, and likely will slot in as the second-line center starting against the Florida Panthers on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; CSN-PH, FS-F, NHL.TV).

But Hextall said there was more to acquiring Filppula and signing fourth-line center Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, 31, to a contract Wednesday, reported by Sportsnet to be two years with an average annual value of $1.45 million.

He said he expects a number of prospects to begin arriving in the next season or two, and wants role models in the locker room to help them. That was a role Streit played, and one Hextall said Filppula and Bellemare will fill

"When we were analyzing this [trade], that went into it because we've got kids coming and the kids are going to be here sooner rather than later," Hextall said. "To have really quality people around … part of the reason we signed Pierre-Edouard, really quality person, and you can't have enough. You're bringing kids into an environment, and pro sports is a tough environment and the more leadership, the more guys that lead by example, the better. When I talked to Steve [Yzerman, Lightning GM] after the deal was done he told me that you won't find a better person or better pro than Filppula."

Video: Rosen explains the Streit deals; Flyers get Filppula

Defensemen Shayne Gostisbehere and Ivan Provorov, and forward Travis Konecny started the process the past two seasons. Maturing with Lehigh Valley in the American Hockey League are defensemen Travis Sanheim, Samuel Morin and Robert Hagg, forward Nicolas Aube-Kubel and goaltenders Anthony Stolarz and Alex Lyon. And the Flyers also had a League-high nine players at the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship.

Signing goaltender Michal Neuvirth, 28, to a two-year contract with a $2.5 million average annual value Wednesday also is hoped to help today and tomorrow. Neuvirth had been unsigned beyond this season, as is goaltender Steve Mason, and their tenuous future could have affected their play. Neuvirth has a 2.90 goals-against average and .887 save percentage in 24 games; last season he had a 2.27 GAA and .924 save percentage in 32 games. Mason has a 2.83 GAA and .903 save percentage in 43 games, down from a 2.51 GAA and .918 save percentage in 54 games last season.

"Hasn't been as consistent as we'd like," Hextall said. "Last year they did a little better job of picking each other up when one guy would be a little cold and vice versa. When you get two really good goalies that's what you hope for. This year it's been the opposite. Neither of them has been hot enough."

Signing Neuvirth also prevents the Flyers from having to expose Stolarz, 23, in the expansion draft. He was 2-0-0 with a 1.79 GAA and one shutout in two NHL games this season while Neuvirth was injured. Each team has to leave one goaltender signed through next season, or a restricted free agent with a qualifying offer, available for the Vegas Golden Knights.

Video: TBL@ANA: Filppula pots rebound to open the scoring

"It gives us flexibility," Hextall said. "We have two choices now. We had one choice before."

Hextall believes the moves he made Wednesday can help bridge the four-point gap between the Flyers and the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference.

"Can we make the playoffs? Yes, I believe we can," he said. "Do we have to go on a lights-out run? Absolutely. We did last year."

It also helps them beyond 2016-17.

"Our goal is get better every year, and to get younger," he said. "… I don't like going backwards. That's not what we're about. We want to move forward and finish ahead of where we did last year. And we'll be saying the same next summer."

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