Will Brayden Schenn be a Flyer next season? New general manager Ron Hextall sure hopes so.
Schenn, 22, is the only forward on the team who played a full 82 games and isn’t locked up for 2014-15. He’s a restricted free agent, and inking him to a new deal tops the list of the Flyers’ offseason goals, according to the GM.
“Brayden Schenn would be our first priority,” Hextall told CSN’s John Boruk Wednesday. “But he’s restricted, so there’s not a timeline there where you say, ‘It’s going to be done by this time.’
“Brayden’s a good young player, and we’d like to get him under contract as soon as possible. But again, there’s timelines there. It might be training camp, it might be July. I really can’t say. But obviously he’s a priority. When you’re looking at our cap space, we’ve got to save some room.”
Schenn just completeld the final year of his entry-level contract, earning $870,000. He’s due for a sizable raise.
As surprising as it might seem, this year marked the first time Schenn played a complete season. He played 47 of the Flyers’ 48 games a year ago, and just 54 games in 2011-12. He netted a career-high 20 goals this year, as well, though he still has some room for improvement. The Flyers would like the young forward to be more of a consistent goal-scorer than he's proven to be thus far -- but that, they believe, should come with time.
Hextall, who has made no secret of his desire to focus on developing young players, said he’s seen enough from Schenn to want to keep him around.
“There’s some growth,” Hextall said. “There’s a lot more room for growth. I think Brayden’s defensive game has gotten better. Numbers wise, he’s gotten better, there’s room for growth there. This year, he was a little all over the place, he was on the wing, he was in the middle, he was with different players. I’d kind of like to try to stabilize that a little but, but we’ve got to find the right fit there, and easier said than done.”
Schenn, of course, was drafted by the L.A. Kings in 2009, when Hextall served as the team's assistant general manager. And that means Hextall helped make the decision to send him to the Flyers in the trade for Mike Richards.
But Hextall made it clear: The Kings “didn’t give up” on Schenn or Wayne Simmonds, who came to Philadelphia along with him in 2011. While it might at first seem like his actions with the Kings are at odds with his much-talked-about desire to focus on youth, that isn't exactly the case. It depends on circumstance, he said.
“If you look at the team out in L.A. there, we were on the doorstep of becoming an elite team but we were missing that one big piece,” Hextall said. “So we couldn’t wait four years for Brayden Schenn – for him not only to play, but become a second-line type of guy, which was what we needed.”