The Flyers haven't won a Stanley Cup in 39 years, and the longest-running questions about the club in that time have been: Will they ever find a No. 1 goaltender and No. 1 defenseman again?
There is reason to believe, based on this past season and playoffs, that Steve Mason has settled the No. 1 goalie issue.
It's hoped that Mason will enjoy the kind of longevity the Flyers haven’t seen since Ron Hextall stood in front of their crease for more than 10 years, broken up by a two-year gap spent in Quebec and Long Island.
The stud defenseman, however, has been a hot topic with fans for more than a few generations.
The Flyers thought they had it with Chris Pronger, but post-concussion syndrome forever changed the fate of the organization, especially given what the club gave up to obtain Pronger back at the 2009 draft.
What should be Hextall’s single biggest priority in this, his first full summer as the Flyers new general manager? I posed this question on Twitter Monday.
Most of the responses were along these lines:
@JasonBoggs1: get a #1 defenseman
It’s either poetic injustice or sheer irony that the Flyers tried so hard to land Nashville’s Shea Weber when Peter Laviolette was around and couldn’t. Laviolette gets his final reward, even after being fired in Philadelphia. He will coach Weber to the bitter end because Weber has more years on his contract than the coach does.
Nashville is expected to fork over another $10 million this summer in bonus money to Weber while Preds GM David Poile said back in April he will not move him, regardless of the finances involved.
The Flyers tossed the name of Buffalo’s Tyler Myers around a few times, even at this year’s trade deadline and passed on him. Many feel he could use a change of scenery, much like Jakub Voracek, when he came here from Columbus.
Hextall seems intent on drafting and development, which is something else the Flyers haven’t done in generations on the defensive end. The Flyers remain the only NHL club without a home-grown defenseman playing regular minutes for them since this current decade began which is a big reason why they still haven’t won another Cup.
While Hextall continues to say publicly he will not push Robert Hagg, Shayne Gostisbehere or Samuel Morin onto an NHL roster until they are absolutely ready, I sense from reader comments and the fan base’s general unrest that people would prefer the opposite: They want a young defenseman promoted to the roster now.
Given Erik Gustafsson's escaping the press box for Russia and the KHL, the Flyers now have no other blueliner in their organization who has played even close to the young Swede’s game totals (91).
Hextall, at this point, has to move a younger player up and live with it. Hagg or Gostisbehere have the inside track. Hextall also has to find at least one more defenseman in either free agency or via the trade route, given Kimmo Timonen’s situation with retirement and potential cap hit should he be re-signed.
Matt Niskanen remains the most attractive option for the Flyers in free agency. If they are going to spend dollars on the blue line, it would best suited spending it there.
Given Pittsburgh’s dilemma with several UFA’s including Brooks Orpik, and the Penguins cap situation (about $16 million), the Flyers could take the $6 million they were paying Timonen and give it to Niskanen in free agency.
That’s something big to watch for this summer.
It would be money well spent on the position.