Flyers Fleeing the Coup: Who’s out come the 2018-19 NHL season?

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The timing has never been better for the Flyers to make a serious run at the Stanley Cup. Ron Hextall has spent half of a decade stockpiling prospects for the Flyers, and they are finally becoming of age, and ready to take the next step to the professional level. With a good mixture of youth and veteran leadership, and with a few moves before the start of the season, the Flyers could find themselves as one of the leading favorites to represent the Eastern Conference next year in the Stanley Cup Finals.

There seemingly is only one more step Hextall needs to take to bring this team to the next level, and that next step is building through free-agency. Signing aging veterans who’s games are declining just won’t cut it any more. Players like Dale Weise, Ryan White, even acquiring players like Jori Lehtera, regardless of the fact that he was a smaller chip in a bigger deal, just won’t cut it any more. Hextall finally has some cash to spend on free agents, 20-23 million approximately, and that should be used sooner, rather than later, to upgrade the Flyers.

With players like Jeff Skinner, Max Domi, even Erik Karlsson still being dangled out over the trade market, Hextall is in prime position to upgrade his team, even if the free agent market proves to be too expensive for his taste. However, to acquire one of these players, Hextall may have to pay a ransom of sorts, a king’s ransom if Erik Karlsson is a realistic target. Luckily, Hextall has a few aces up his sleeve, who could net a pretty decent return.

 

Draft Picks
With the St. Louis Blues first round pick being outside of the top ten, the Flyers acquired said pick as part of the terms of the Brayden Schenn deal. The Flyers now sit with picks 14 and 19 in the first round, a luxury that many other teams could see as an opportunity. The Calgary Flames find themselves out of the first round, and have been vocal about trading back in and drafting a young player to help out.

The Flyers could be reluctant to part with one of their first round picks, as history has shown, but it has also shown that Hextall is willing to pull the trigger on a deal that helps the team and won’t mortgage their future. The future is closer than he may think, so now would be the time to use one of his first rounders, maybe a player as well, and go out and nab one of the higher-profile players that are on the block.

 

Wayne Simmonds
This topic has been touched on before, but the timing could be right to move Wayne Simmonds. Coming off of an injury-riddled season, Simmonds still put up 46 points. He is a force on the powerplay, and a leader in the locker room, and could be a tremendous acquisition for a team that is on the brink of being a contender.

To draw a comparison, when the Boston Bruins shipped forward Milan Lucic to Los Angeles, they got a first round pick, the 13th overall, goaltender Martin Jones, and defenseman Colin Miller. All for a player who scored 44 points in the season prior.

Wayne Simmonds could garner a return very similar, if not better, than the return Boston got for Lucic. A healthy Wayne Simmonds is worth his weight in gold, and if the Flyers realize that soon, they could end up cashing in, in a big way.

 

Radko Gudas
The same can’t be said for Flyers defenseman Radko Gudas. After coming to the Flyers, Gudas was meant to be the guy you could depend on for a momentum-shifting hit, his physicality being his strong suit. After a few suspensions, it seems Gudas is reluctant to play that same role now, almost shying away from it due to fear of another suspension, maybe?

Regardless, his 3.35 million dollar cap hit over the next two years is an enticing option to unload, given how his play has declined, and the fact that the Flyers have options in house.  Travis Sanehim figures to establish a more permanent position in the lineup, and Philippe Myers appears ready to take the next step. With Hextall’s 20 million or so to spend in free agency, Gudas could easily be replaced, or bumped down to a 7th defenseman role. The return won’t be nearly as fruitful as Simmonds’, but it could add another pick to the plethora of picks Hextall has stockpiled since taking office.

 

Michal Neuvirth
Moving Michal Neuvirth could prove to be tricky, given his horrid track record of injury after injury. However, when healthy, Neuvy has proven he can shoulder the load and excel when depended upon. In 22 games this past season, he recorded a 9-7-3 record with a .915 save percentage and 2.60 goals against average. Those numbers aren’t mind-blowing, but are solid enough to convince another team to bite on a trade offer.

There’s still some value to Neuvirth, even with his injury history. The man almost single handedly brought the Flyers back into the series against the Washington Capitals two years ago. If it weren’t for the Flyers’ inability to score in game 6, he may have even pushed it to a game 7, possibly stealing that one as well, and moving past the first round of the playoffs for the first time in nearly three years. Neuvirth will garner a return similar to Gudas, based on a “what have you done for me lately” mentality. With other options in net, Neuvy could find himself sporting a new sweater come October.

 

Coming into the offseason, Hextall was presented with a tricky situation. He’s made all the right moves on draft days past, acquiring pick after pick, prospect after prospect. He’s built one of the most solid, if not the most solid, pools of prospects in the NHL. At some point, that needs to translate to wins on the ice. This is the year Hextall needs to focus on getting rid of the so-called “dead weight,” and start bringing aboard impact players who will make a difference for the Flyers now, as opposed to down the line. The Stanley Cup isn’t a must-win for the Flyers in 2018-19, but it isn’t necessarily out of reach if the right moves are made.

 

Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

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