Colleagues say Hextall a 'natural fit' with Flyers

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Colleagues say Hextall a 'natural fit' with Flyers

Jack Ferreira has been in the game of hockey for 41 years. For the last seven of them, he’s been Ron Hextall’s tag-team partner with the Los Angeles Kings -- Hextall as the assistant general manager to Dean Lombardi, Ferreira as the club’s special assistant to both.
 
Spend seven years around someone, and you get to know them pretty well.
 
“I’ve been in this business a long time, and there isn’t anyone that I have worked with that is more prepared to run a franchise than Ron Hextall,” Ferreira said. “There isn’t a phase of this game that he doesn’t work at. Anything he felt that the Kings lacked in, his work ethic was such that he just attacked that area. His work ethic is unsurpassed.
 
“He was involved in everything. Long-range planning, contracts, negotiations, minor league. The only thing he was not directly involved in was the amateur draft. He was Dean’s right-hand man.”
 
And now, the first goalie in NHL history to score a goal is Paul Holmgren’s right-hand man as the Flyers' new assistant GM and director of hockey operations.
 
Hextall’s work with the Flyers begins in August. He was named to his new position on Monday.
 
“He went to L.A., paid his dues, worked hard and now he is committed to his craft,” said former teammate Mark Howe, a scout with Detroit. “He’s a valuable asset. It’s a great move. Whatever Ron does, he does it at 100 percent. He had lot of success in L.A. in putting that program together.
 
“It’s a great, natural fit. He would have been a benefit to any club, but more to the Flyers because people love him.”
 
Flyers fans have been clamoring all summer for the club to hire Hextall. This move places him at the front of the line as the guy who will someday succeed Holmgren just as Holmgren succeeded Bob Clarke.
 
Hextall, 49, was a scout and hockey personnel executive for seven years with the Flyers after he retired in 1999. He then spent an equal number of years toiling under Lombardi, who was a successful GM in San Jose before going to Los Angeles.
 
The Kings won the Stanley Cup in 2012. It was the first Cup ring Hextall ever earned.
 
Many people feel the ring was long owed to Hextall for those gutsy Flyers squads he stood behind in the late 1980s that felt short to Edmonton in 1987.

“We built a very good team out here in L.A.,” Hextall said on Monday. “I’m proud of what we’ve done. But there’s something telling me this is the right move. I’m going with it and not looking back.”
 
Ex-teammate Brian Propp said it didn’t seem as if Hextall was gone seven years with the Kings.
 
“That experience alone and winning a Cup, setting up a team and getting the right type of people really taught him a lot,” Propp said. “He was very hands-on with Dean Lombardi. It was a good move for him. I believe for Paul Holmgren to bring him back now is great because he has a lot of experience now.
 
“Hexy knows the Western Conference. You’ve got contrasting styles with the East and that can add a lot of value to really evaluating players and seeing what works.”
 
A large part of Hextall’s job now will be to revitalize the Flyers' scouting, drafting and player development aspects of the organization. Outside of the first round, the club has had a poor drafting and developing ratio for almost two decades.
 
Put it this way: When the last “generational” defenseman the organization can point to as its very own is Chris Therien -- drafted in 1990 -- you know its got some work to do.
 
“He’s going to add to it,” Howe said. “Part of what Ron will be doing is addressing that issue (organizational depth). In L.A., he was heavily involved in what kind of players he wanted to bring into Manchester as part of the scouting detail. He will be out watching players here, too. He paid a lot of dues in L.A. and learned a lot in the process. He’s a better asset now to the Flyers than when he left. He has a broader base of what the job takes.”

Ferreira said there won’t be one aspect of the Flyers' organizational depth chart that Hextall will not have thoroughly examined trying to figure out how to make it better.
 
And much like Bill Barber, one of the organization’s more outspoken scouts, everyone will know where Hextall stands on issues.
 
He had a fiery temperament as a goalie and won’t hold back as an assistant GM, either.
 
“Hexy has always been one to say what he feels and what he sees and that is part of what makes Hexy … Hexy,” Howe said.

NHL Notes: Tomas Tatar, Red Wings agree on deal worth $21.2 million deal

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NHL Notes: Tomas Tatar, Red Wings agree on deal worth $21.2 million deal

DETROIT -- The Detroit Red Wings agreed to terms with winger Tomas Tatar on a $21.2 million, four-year contract Friday.

The 26-year-old Czech native led Detroit with 25 goals last season and also had 21 assists. He has 20-plus goals in each of the past three seasons, including a career-high 29 in 2014-15. In 345 NHL games, he has 99 goals and 95 assists.

The team announced the deal a day after Tatar's arbitration hearing and before the ruling was to be handed down. Tatar will count $5.3 million against the salary cap through 2020-21.

Tatar's cap hit moving forward is the same as Tampa Bay Lightning winger Ondrej Palat, who also signed a long-term deal as a restricted free agent.

The Red Wings missed the playoffs in 2017 for the first time since the 1989-90 season. They're moving into a new arena next season and will need a new core of players to return them to relevance. Pavel Datsyuk left the team before last season, and although Henrik Zetterberg had 68 points -- his highest total in five seasons -- Detroit didn't have anyone else reach 50 in 2016-17 (see full story).

Wild: Foligno seeks more in Minnesota
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Marcus Foligno has left the leap behind in Buffalo.

That doesn't mean his offensive production can't or won't continue to rise in Minnesota.

Coming off a career-high 13 goals for the Sabres last season, the 25-year-old was acquired by the Wild to bring some needed grit and strength to the left wing position on the third or fourth line. He's capable of putting the puck in the net, too, though he has so far been more of a sporadic scorer in the NHL.

"Definitely, 20 goals is something I envision myself to reach, and I hope to do that in a Wild jersey," Foligno said. "Playing with some big centermen, playing on a well-rounded team, I think I can do that. I felt last year that my offensive side was getting there, and I'm looking to improve on that this season" (see full story).

Blackhawks: Wingels recovering from broken foot
CHICAGO -- Blackhawks forward Tommy Wingels broke his left foot during offseason training, but is expected to be ready for training camp.

The 29-year-old Wingels, a suburban Chicago native, agreed to a one-year deal with the Blackhawks on July 1. He had seven goals and five assists for the San Jose Sharks and Ottawa Senators last season.

The Blackhawks announced the injury on Friday.

A high school hit, Flyers draft pick Noah Cates now looks ahead

A high school hit, Flyers draft pick Noah Cates now looks ahead

VOORHEES, N.J. — Noah Cates was just a teenager playing high school hockey in Minnesota.
 
Then he spun himself into a national sensation.
 
Back in February 2016, Cates scored a goal you see in movies with a fairytale finish. To push Stillwater Area High School into the Class 2A state tournament, Cates shook the only defender in sight with a stunning spin move before reaching around the goalie and finding the net for the punctuation.

The result was a 1-0 overtime win and pure chaos in the stands. What ensued over the following days, Cates never could have imagined.
 
"Oh geez," he said with a smile last week at Flyers development camp. "Attention right away, but it was just a crazy experience all around. That, and the next couple days with the tourney and stuff — it was a great time in my life playing high school hockey with all my friends."
 
Cates, a junior at the time, was featured on ESPN's SportsCenter Top 10 plays, while the goal made waves on the internet across national media outlets.
 
All while he was preparing for states.
 
"It was just a whirlwind those couple days, but it was unbelievable," he said. "Unforgettable."
 
Cates is now moving on from Stillwater, looking to write a new chapter of his young but already exciting hockey career. His junior season ended in the semifinals of the state tournament. As a senior, Cates racked up 65 points (20 goals, 45 assists) in 25 regular-season games.
 
A little over a month after high school graduation, Cates was skating on the Flyers' practice ice and seeing the NHL life. The 18-year-old left winger was selected by the Flyers in the fifth round of the June entry draft and took part in the team's six-day July development camp.
 
"Just see what elite players are like from my age, year older, two years older," Cates said of the Flyers' annual youth gathering. "See what I need to work on, see what the next steps should look like for me and my development.
 
"It was definitely cool to see but you try to calm down. They drafted me, so you've got to feel you belong here."
 
Cates will play for the Omaha Lancers of the USHL in 2017-18 before starting his college career at the University of Minnesota Duluth in 2018-19. He still has long ways to go in accomplishing the NHL dream, but his potential was obvious at development camp. Cates stands at 6-foot-1, 165 pounds, and brings a slick shot as well as strong puck skills, as evident by his famous goal.
 
"I like skill, I like trying new stuff," he said. "Just kind of try new stuff, try new things out there."
 
Getting a feel for the Flyers was a nice start to his year of preparation for the college ranks in the USHL.
 
"Strength and speed, just getting bigger, faster, stronger," Cates said of what he hopes to improve. "Those players, you see them out here, they're so big, strong and skilled. They'll be tough to keep up with them, but if you're in the weight room and you're working out hard, it'll make it easier."
 
It's all part of moving on from high school. He'll never forget the spin and goal to send Stillwater into states — and how could he? It's hard to top such a memory.
 
An NHL goal might do it.