Philadelphia Flyers

Ed Snider hints at changes to Flyers' front office

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Ed Snider hints at changes to Flyers' front office

Updated: 7:42 p.m.

VOORHEES, N.J. -- Will Ron Hextall replace Paul Holmgren as general manager of the Flyers next season?

Club chairman Ed Snider said on Friday afternoon that whatever happens between now and next fall when training camp opens, Holmgren will be part of the decision-making process, but that job titles in the hockey ops department could change.

Holmgren said later in the afternoon he wants to return as GM next season.

Snider said he would meet with Holmgren, who has one year left on his contract, soon to discuss his future role.

“Of course Paul will be back,” Snider said Friday at Skate Zone. “Basically, he's the head of our hockey operations. The job he did I think was excellent. Not too many guys would have guts enough to fire a coach after three games.”

When pressed specifically about what role Holmgren will have next year, Snider said the Flyers' front office is in the process of “analyzing everybody's title” and that Holmgren will “be the head of hockey operations” before offering a wry smile.

Snider did concede that assistant general manager Ron Hextall was brought in to one day succeed Holmgren as GM.

“Paul brought in Hextall. ... That's why he was brought in [to become GM]. He didn't come in to stay assistant GM forever, but that doesn't mean tomorrow. But I've got to sit down with Paul.

“I expect our operation to be solid, good hockey men. We have a lot of people that are analyzing this entire situation.”

It’s Holmgren's call ... so long as he and Snider agree.

“It’s really Paul’s call. All I have to do is endorse it,” Snider said. “If I don’t agree with him, then we have a behind-closed-door discussion.”

There have been several general manager openings this season, and even this past week, that Hextall would have been a logical candidate for.

Yet his name has not and does not come up. Why? Sources inside and outside the Flyers say it’s because Hextall is going to be the next GM in Philly and it could happen this summer.

Asked if he wanted to remain GM, Holmgren said, “Yes. I’m the one who brought Hexy back. He’s an excellent resource in our organization, a tremendous hockey man.

“I have no question he is ready to be a general manager at any point. We’ll see how it goes. I’m certainly not in any position today to change chairs.”

Snider was observing Holmgren’s remarks from the back of the room at Skate Zone where the new conferences took place.

If Vancouver or Washington called and asked to speak to Hextall, would the Flyers allow it?

“I don’t have to if I don’t want to,” Holmgren said. “If that were the case, for me, you do the right thing. Is that the right thing? Yeah.”

Ironically, Hextall’s other title is exactly as Snider called Holmgren: director of hockey operations.

If a change is made, it’s entirely possible the two men switch titles, with Holmgren also taking on the vacant title of “club president.”

Peter Luukko, who left Comcast-Spectacor this past winter, was the previous club president.

Snider said he thought Holmgren did an “excellent” job with the Flyers this season.

In assessing the Flyers' current roster, Snider gave the team a "B" and stated that he was pleased with the team's core but does believe the team needs some “several tweaks.”

NHL Notes: Oilers sign star Leon Draisaitl to mega 8-year contract

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NHL Notes: Oilers sign star Leon Draisaitl to mega 8-year contract

EDMONTON, Alberta -- The Edmonton Oilers have signed center Leon Draisaitl to an eight-year contract extension with an average annual value of $8.5 million.

The extension runs through the 2024-25 season, similar to the eight-year, $100-million extension superstar captain Connor McDavid signed with the team in July.

With the signings, the Oilers are banking on McDavid and Draisaitl providing a potent one-two punch for the team as it looks to build on last season's return to the playoffs after a decade of futility.

Draisaitl, a 21-year-old German, had 77 points (29 goals, 48 assists) last season, his third in the NHL.

He finished eighth among NHL scorers, and second on the Oilers behind McDavid.

He led the Oilers in scoring during the 2017 playoffs, posting 16 points (six goals, 10 assists) in 13 games.

Draisaitl was selected third overall by the Oilers at the 2015 draft (see full story).

Avalanche: Hobey Baker winner Butcher now free agent
College hockey's top player is an NHL free agent after former University of Denver defenseman Will Butcher allowed a deadline to pass without signing with the Colorado Avalanche.

The Avalanche selected Butcher in the fifth round of the 2013 draft and had until Tuesday to sign the Hobey Baker Award winner who led Denver to a national championship in April.

A person with direct knowledge of the discussions told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Butcher already has had discussions with the Buffalo Sabres, New Jersey Devils and NHL-expansion Vegas Golden Knights. The person said Butcher has not yet narrowed his list, and is also talking with other teams.

The person spoke to the AP on the condition of anonymity because the talks are private.

The Denver Post first reported the three specific teams expressing interest in Butcher (see full story).

Wild: Cullen comes home for 21st NHL season
The Minnesota Wild and center Matt Cullen have agreed to a one-year, $1 million contract, bringing him back to his home state for a 21st season in the NHL.

The Wild announced the deal, which includes $700,000 in potential performance bonuses, on Wednesday.

Cullen played the last two years with Pittsburgh, winning consecutive Stanley Cups with the Penguins. He played three seasons for the Wild from 2010-13, his first return to Minnesota since launching his career at Moorhead High School and St. Cloud State.

Cullen, who will turn 41 on Nov. 2, had 13 goals and 18 assists in 72 games in 2016-17 for the Penguins, plus two goals and seven assists in 25 playoff games. He has played in 1,366 career regular season games, the sixth-most among active players (see full story).

ESPN analyst ranks Flyers' farm system No. 1 in NHL

ESPN analyst ranks Flyers' farm system No. 1 in NHL

Ron Hextall never told fans to "trust the process," but apparently any faith in the Flyers' GM has been vindicated.

At least that's the case if you believe ESPN NHL writer Corey Pronman's latest farm system rankings (it's an Insider story, so apologies in advance). Pronman has the Flyers' farm ranked as No. 1 in the NHL. 

"The Flyers don't have as much game-breaking talent as our No. 2 team (Coyotes) does at the top of their system," Pronman writes, "but 2017 No. 2 overall pick Nolan Patrick is right up there; after Patrick, the Flyers have the cupboards lined with talent at every position."

Pronman credits the Flyers with nailing his first-round picks (Patrick, Ivan Provorov), grabbing middle-round prospects that have blossomed (Shayne Gostisbehere, Oskar Lindblom) and specifically mentions Phil Myers, an undrafted defenseman that has become "one of the very best defense prospects in hockey."

For so long, the Flyers' organization was perpetually in "win-now mode," but the late Ed Snider hired Hextall away from the Kings and eventually made him GM, knowing that Hexy was taking a broader view of the organization. Instead of trading away young talent and draft picks for aging veterans, Hextall restocked a dreadful farm system to get the team where it is today.

"Not too long ago, the Flyers' farm system was a laughingstock, with C-grade college free agents making it into their top five," Pronman said. "Today, they are in the best position of any NHL team in terms of adding young premium players to their roster."