July 4 Observations: Flyers' cap, Hartnell & more

July 4 Observations: Flyers' cap, Hartnell & more

Can the Flyers unload Vinny Lecavalier?

July 4, 2014, 11:00 am
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In Ron Hextall's (middle) first offseason as general manager, the Flyers have traded Scott Hartnell (left) to Columbus and drafted Travis Sanheim (right) over South Jersey's Anthony DeAngelo, who was arguably the best offensive defenseman in the draft. (USA Today Images)

Between trades, a draft and free-agent signings, Ron Hextall has had already had an eventful, busy two months on the job as Flyers general manager.

Here are four thoughts on this 4th of July weekend: 

1. Money conscious
One Paul Holmgren quote always resonated with me when it came to his salary cap compliance, "We'll cross that bridge when we get to it."

Hextall has been forced to cross it very cautiously. The one-year extension given to Kimmo Timonen was a club-friendly $2 million base deal, and Hextall also acted responsibly re-signing Brayden Schenn to a modest two-year contract allowing the player to show some progression before the Flyers make a lengthier commitment. However, Hextall may not have the luxury of taking a penny-pinching approach if he wants to trade Vinny Lecavalier.

As I wrote earlier, the move is an addition by subtraction transaction. Perhaps, Hextall is holding out as long as he can in hopes of receiving a player or a draft pick. Ultimately, it will come down to how much salary the Flyers will retain. After picking up a $2 million dollar roster bonus July 1, Lecavalier is now due $14 million more for the remainder of his term, and by terms of the CBA, the Flyers can only pick up half of that value.

I admire Hextall's trying to stand firm financially, but it's hard to rationalize after the organization spent $24 million in compliance buyouts just last year. 

2. Upgrading between the pipes
One area Hextall could have upgraded through free agency was signing a backup to Steve Mason. Justin Peters (WASH), Thomas Greiss (PIT) and Chad Johnson (NYI) were younger, healthier alternatives snatched up within the first 90 minutes of free agency and given comparable deals to the one-year, $1 million contract the Flyers presented Ray Emery.

You have to admire Emery's toughness, resiliency and team-first attitude he has shown throughout his career, but the Rangers exposed some obvious weaknesses in his game. The one underlying question you have to ask if you're a GM: Is your backup capable of carrying the load if the starter is injured long term? With Emery's injury history, I'm not sure he can be a No. 1 for an extended period of time. Remember, Emery hadn't started back-to-back games this past season until the playoffs.   

3. #Hartnelldown
You may not like the return Hextall received in the Scott Hartnell trade, but I believe the former Flyers forward received a free pass at times during his seven-year stint in Philadelphia.

Hartnell's in-your-face, stand-up-for-a-teammate style fit perfectly with the blue-collar attitude Flyers fans appreciate, but there were too many shifts and too many games when Hartnell was an invisible presence on the ice. As much criticism Lecavalier received for his first season with the Flyers, he still scored 20 goals in 69 games while battling injuries.

Compare that to a healthier Hartnell who managed just 20 goals in 78 games and that was playing alongside Claude Giroux for much of the season. For whatever reason, Hartnell wasn't dedicated to offseason conditioning and he didn't possess that extra gear in the playoffs, which resulted in scoring just four goals over his last 29 postseason games. If the Blue Jackets believe they've acquired a top-line winger, they should reassess their thinking.  

4. Draft day decisions
I think the most interesting decision to come out of last Friday's first round wasn't so much Hextall's pursuit of the Panthers' No. 1 overall pick, but rather the selection of defenseman Travis Sanheim over South Jersey's Anthony DeAngelo, who was picked just two spots later by the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Central Scouting had DeAngelo, arguably the most gifted offensive defenseman in the draft, ranked 14th in their final rankings while Sanheim was a distant 53rd. Personally, I don't think DeAngelo's attitude issues should have played much of a factor, and after talking with an unnamed Flyers source, the organization simply preferred Sanheim's offensive ceiling to go along with his size.

Projecting NHL potential is difficult, but eight-to-10 years from now passing on homegrown talent as good as DeAngelo may come back to haunt the Flyers, especially if Shayne Gostisbehere, who plays a similar game to DeAngelo, doesn't pan out.

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