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Flyers will look to add size, skill at forward

Philadelphia was 22nd in NHL in scoring, had six goals in first round against Washington

by Adam Kimelman @NHLAdamK / Deputy Managing Editor

VOORHEES, N.J. -- The Philadelphia Flyers' offseason focus will be upgrading their offense, general manager Ron Hextall said Wednesday.

"We need some upgrades up front," Hextall said. "We need some goal-scoring [and] playmaking. That would be our No. 1 need."

The Flyers scored six goals in six games against the Washington Capitals during the Eastern Conference First Round, and one was into an empty net. Their average of 2.57 goals per game during the regular season was 22nd in the NHL.

Philadelphia's forwards had trouble against the bigger Washington defense. The 14 Flyers forwards who played in the first-round series averaged 6-foot, 197.3 pounds; the eight Capitals defensemen averaged 6-2, 207.5 pounds.

Hextall said he'll explore all options but will be judicious in his spending.

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"The first thing we have to look at is where we can get better from within," Hextall said. "Whether people improving fitness levels, players on the way up, those are ways there we can get better. Then we'll certainly look at the free agent market and if something makes sense. We'll look at the trade market, and if something makes sense, we'll do it."

Hextall will look to sign forward Brayden Schenn, who scored an NHL career-high 26 goals this season and can become a restricted free agent July 1. Schenn said Tuesday he would like a long-term contract to remain in Philadelphia.

"There's a lot of factors that come into play with term," Hextall said. "Term, money, cap. So I can't make a blanket comment right now and say we'll sign Brayden to a long-term deal. I'd certainly be open to it. But I have no idea right now where that's headed."

The Flyers have several high-end offensive prospects who could be ready to compete for roster spots, including forwards Travis Konecny and Nicolas Aube-Kubel, each 19, and defensemen Ivan Provorov, 19, and Travis Sanheim, 20.

Hextall is inclined to leave prospects in the development system rather than rush them to the NHL.

"We're not going to change philosophically in terms of young players," he said. "They have to come in and be better than someone else that's here. ... I'm not putting a young player on the team so we can say we're a young team. They're going to come in here and earn a spot."

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Hextall said he does not expect much roster turnover. He said he hopes to sign forward Ryan White and defenseman Radko Gudas; White can become an unrestricted free agent July 1, and Gudas a restricted free agent. Forward Sam Gagner and defenseman Evgeny Medvedev are doubtful to return, and forward R.J. Umberger could have the final season of his contract bought out.

Hextall also expects an open competition in goal between Steve Mason and Michal Neuvirth, who each played well this season but missed time because of injuries.

"To have inner competition is a good thing," Hextall said. "So we get two good goalies, and I think as we saw this year, it's nice to have. If we have one of them this year, then we're probably nowhere near the playoffs. It was a strength of ours, and I give them both credit for giving us a chance to win most nights."

Keeping the roster intact should give the Flyers a better chance to have a good start next season, the second under coach Dave Hakstol.

"I think our players understand the demands that we expect of them and that the coaching staff expects of them," Hextall said. "I don't anticipate getting off to a bad start, and it's something we certainly have to be cognizant of. ... Playing from behind, it's hard. It's hard chasing. We'll do what we can to have a good start. But again, the system's the same, there's a lot of the same players. The demands, guys understand now.
"We have to look at getting better. We lost out in the first round, so our focus this summer is getting better. I don't see a big roster turnover; it's not going to happen. We have pieces in place that we like. Would we like to get better in a couple of places? Yes, we would. And if we can, we're going to do it."

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