Ron Hextall just fine with uneventful free agency for Flyers


Ron Hextall just fine with uneventful free agency for Flyers

Sometimes, not having a lot of salary cap money to spend can be a blessing.

It makes you less likely to do something extravagant or emotional, which the Flyers have been prone to doing every July when free agency arrives.

Flyers general manager Ron Hextall had about $4.1 million in spare change after signing goalie Michal Neuvirth on the first day of free agency (see story).

It wasn’t enough to make them major players in the pursuit of such names as Michael Frolik, Phil Kessel or Matt Beleskey.

And that’s just fine with Hextall.

“We didn’t have the flexibility to go after a big guy,” Hextall said. “Quite frankly, I hope most years are like this year when you’re looking for one piece or two pieces.

“I don’t like going into free agency needing three or four bodies and you kind of end up blowing your brains out there. We feel like we got a real good fit for our team and we like our team here.”

Hextall needed a backup goalie to replace Ray Emery. He found one in Neuvirth. The mid-level winger he spoke about at the NHL draft has now become Sam Gagner (see story).

Because he was unable to again rid himself of Vinny Lecavalier’s $4.5 million cap hit or lose salary with either Luke Schenn ($3.6 million) or Andrew MacDonald ($5 million) on his overcrowded blue line, Hextall tried to join a poker game without the entry fee.

Are the Flyers done in free agency?

Well, barring something involving Lecavalier or his defense, yes. Nothing really significant can happen the remainder of the summer without losing millions off the cap.

“We can’t go out and spend a whole bunch of money or we’re back in the situation we’re in now,” Hextall said. “We don’t want to be over the cap. We’re not gonna sign someone to put us over. We’re going to be patient here.”

He admits he would like to trim his budget on defense.

“Ideally, we’d like to clear a little bit of space there, but we’ll see,” he said. “We’re under the cap, albeit slightly, when we plug [Michael] Del Zotto in, you want some space to call players up, too.

“We’re close, we’d like to clear a little bit more, but you’ve got to have a partner there. We’ll see as we move along here.”

They need to re-sign Rob Zepp or some other depth goalie for the Phantoms. That should happen by the weekend.

Other than depth moves with the Phantoms, they appear done.

“We’ll listen to see what is out there and see if it makes sense,” Hextall said. “I am not gonna hold my breath because I’m not sure anything is going to make sense given where we’re at [on cap]. If you do the numbers, we don’t have a lot of space here.”

The $4.1 million cap money left doesn’t include the $1.3 million qualifying offer to Del Zotto. His final salary will more than double that if they agree on a multi-year contract, further lessening his cap dollars.

Hextall said it would “be crazy” to add an expensive player right now. He intends to be more fiscally conservative than his predecessor, Paul Holmgren.

Truth is, the Flyers won’t be able to solve all their issues in one offseason. This is going to take a few years.

It’s a process.

“I’m comfortable where we are as a team,” Hextall said. “Comfortable with the additions and Vandy (Chris VandeVelde) coming back and [Ryan] White coming back and upgrading our skill with Gagner and defense with [Evgeni] Medvedev and now upgrading goaltending with Neuvirth.

“For us to sign someone to a big contract this year would be crazy, but next summer might even be more crazy because we might have to move one of our good young players just to get under. So I’m not sure that something’s going to work out.”

Fiscal sanity. On the Flyers.


2017 NHL draft Day 2: Tracking all of the Flyers' picks

2017 NHL draft Day 2: Tracking all of the Flyers' picks

The Flyers finished Day 1 of the NHL draft with a trade and opened Day 2 in the same fashion.

In the second round Saturday, Ron Hextall and company sent the 44th, 75th and 108th selections to the Coyotes in exchange for the 35th overall pick to take LW Isaac Ratcliffe.

The Flyers still have seven more selections: 80th, 106th, 107th, 137th, 168th, 196th and 199th.

Follow along here for all of the Flyers' Day 2 selections:

Second round

No. 35: Isaac Ratcliffe, LW, 6-6/200, Guelph (OHL)
Ratcliffe, from London, Ontario, is a big boy that scored 28 goals with the Storm last season, his second in junior. The 18-year-old also tallied 26 assists to finish with 54 points.

The lefty shot also notched two goals in five games for Team Cananda at the 2016 Under-18 World Junior Championship. He is a left winger but can also play the right side.

Per, Ratcliffe models his game after Rangers forward Rick Nash, a six-time All-Star who is also a left winger and 6-foot-4, 212 pounds.

Ratcliffe, according to NHL Central Scouting, is a "big, strong power forward who demonstrates good hockey intelligence and a soft touch around the net — possesses a multi-dimensional skill set where he can make plays on the rush and also use his size, strength and reach to be a threat on the cycle."

Third round

No. 80: Kirill Ustimenko, G, 6-3/187, MHK Dynamo St. Petersburg (MHL)
Hextall and the Flyers hoped to snag one goalie and got one in the third round. Ustimenko had a 1.74 goals-against average and .938 save percentange in 27 games last season for MHK Dynamo St. Petersburg.

Going No. 1 still 'hasn't hit' Markelle Fultz after whirlwind draft process

Going No. 1 still 'hasn't hit' Markelle Fultz after whirlwind draft process

Let’s pretend you were drafted No. 1 in the NBA draft: how would you commemorate it?
Chances are, it’s not doing what Markelle Fultz did. 
“I got some sleep,” Fultz said. “That was my celebration. I packed my bags and got some sleep.”
The 19-year-old had been on a whirlwind during the draft process. Up until a week ago, he was projected to land in Boston. A trade between the Sixers and Celtics quickly shifted Fultz’s new home to Philadelphia. Then he had the anticipation of the actual draft in New York City with public appearances and media circuits all before his name was called on Thursday night.
“I haven’t had a chance to sit down and think about what just happened about the pick,” Fultz said. 
Sixteen hours after being selected by the Sixers, Fultz was back at their training complex in Camden, N.J. for an introductory press conference. He had been to the facility last Saturday for a workout, but this time his trip wasn’t quite the same as a three-hour drive from his home in Maryland. 
“The difference is my mindset coming in here today,” Fultz said. “I know that I’m officially a part of this organization. I’ve just got my heart and soul into it now. I’m opening up, meeting everybody. I’m very happy. I’m very excited.”
Fultz was ushered around the court from the podium to stations with multiple media outlets and groups of reporters. He answered questions about his fit with the current roster, expectations, and long-term goals for the organization. 
Fultz’s world has been moving forward at rapid speed. Meanwhile, he still has plenty to catch up on from his day-old, pre-NBA life. Fultz had kept his phone turned off during the draft. He received over 300 missed messages and calls. 
“When I turned it on, it actually froze up,” he said. “I still haven’t replied to everybody. I’m pretty sure everybody knows what’s going on right now. I’m going to take the time out one day to make sure I reply to everybody.”
Fultz planned to go back to Maryland after his day in Philadelphia. His destination once he returned home: the basketball court. At first Fultz thought he hadn’t worked out in two days. Then he remembered he had in fact done so while in New York for the draft, but the gym rat already was itching to get the ball in his hand again. 
“I’ve got to get back in the gym and get a workout in,” Fultz said. “Then I’m trying to get up here (to Camden) as soon as I can.” 
Even though Fultz still was soaking in his new future, he already has plans once he gets settled in Philadelphia. Fultz intends to volunteer his time to the youth, students, and homeless. 
“I want to impact the community a lot,” Fultz said. “Growing up, my mom has always put me in stuff like Food and Friends where we delivered dinners. I just know I have a blessing and I want to make other people feel blessed.”

There will be little down time for Fultz. Just as soon as he digests draft night, he will be traveling out west for summer league (see story). He's in no rush, though, to move beyond the enormity of being selected No. 1. 

“I’m glad that it hasn’t hit me yet,” Fultz said. “I think when I sit down and it hits me, it’s going to be a very emotional time. Right now I’m just happy.”