Jordan Weal's emergence makes Vinny Lecavalier trade look that much sweeter

Jordan Weal's emergence makes Vinny Lecavalier trade look that much sweeter

When Flyers general manager Ron Hextall traded Vinny Lecavalier and Luke Schenn to the Kings on Jan. 6, 2016, many applauded Hextall for somehow ridding himself of Lecavalier’s contract.
 
Little was it known then that Hextall acquired a piece from Los Angeles that now has a potential to hit big. No one thought Jordan Weal was anything more than a throw-in.
 
Weal was a player in the Kings’ organization that never found success at the NHL level despite churning out husky numbers in the AHL — 70 points in 2013-14, 69 in 2014-15.
 
“Jordan is at a point where he has been a top American League player and he’s trying to prove himself as an NHL player,” Hextall said after the trade. “He’s gonna have to answer that question. He’s a very dedicated player. He’s got a high skill level.”
 
The Flyers got out from Lecavalier’s crippling contract, L.A. got two veterans for a playoff push while moving on from a 2010 third-round pick, and giving up a 2016 third-rounder.
 
Win-win for both sides. Right? Except now, it appears to be a major coup for the Flyers.
 
On Thursday night, Weal signed a two-year, $3.5 million contract extension with the Flyers after he went on an NHL tour gauging his interest. He reportedly visited the Maple Leafs, Canadiens and Canucks this week but chose to stay in Philadelphia.
 
Weal is expected to have a top-six role with the Flyers in 2017-18. His AHL success finally translated last season when he got the call-up from Lehigh Valley on Feb. 10.
 
The 25-year-old finished the season registering eight goals and 12 points in 23 games. He ended the campaign with eight points in his final 10 games and injected life into the Flyers.
 
The Jordan Weal we saw from Feb. 11 on was a completely different player from the one we saw last training camp and preseason, and in the four games he played here in 2015-16.

Weal was hungrier than we saw in camp and stronger in puck battles. A natural center, where he played with the Phantoms, he found a spot on the wing with the Flyers.
 
“They gave me a great chance last year to play with some great players, and I think this is a group that’s heading in the right direction,” Weal said Thursday. “The way we were playing hockey, it was a good brand, a good style.”
 
Weal spent most of the time last season playing left wing on a line with Wayne Simmonds (207:31) at right wing and either Claude Giroux (119:33) or Valtteri Filppula (107:02) in the middle.
 
He especially clicked with Simmonds. Flyers coach Dave Hakstol kept the pair together even when mixing up his lines to spread the wealth. It’s a good guess Weal and Simmonds will be together next season, but the center of the line is where it gets interesting.
 
Ten of his 11 even-strength points last season came while playing with Simmonds. Three came with Giroux in the middle, three with Filppula and one with Sean Couturier.
 
It sounds like Hakstol expects a much larger role for Travis Konecny in his second season, and it’s fair to speculate that means a top-six role for Konecny too. We know Giroux will be the top-line center, but no one expects Filppula to stay on the second line anymore.
 
With Nolan Patrick in the mix — and yes, all signs point to him being a Flyer next season — and Couturier, Filppula’s best bet is to shift to third-line wing or fourth-line center.
 
Lines will come together in camp, but a line of Weal, Couturier and Simmonds has the potential to be a productive trio. It would certainly satisfy the Corsi community. Weal (55.9) and Couturier (54.5) led all Flyers who played significantly last season.
 
“I think [Weal] can be a big part of where we go in the near future and the long future here,” Hakstol told The Zach Gelb Show on Wednesday. “Most importantly on game nights, he’s a guy who goes out and gets the job done. He finds a way to impact and affect the game.”
 
There was some concern over the money. The term wasn’t the issue. The concern was how much would Weal catch on the open market? Could he be another Jonathan Marchessault?
 
But at $1.75 million per over two years, it’s an extremely reasonable contract. If Weal continues to produce like he did last season, it’s a major hit. Weal turns into a 40-plus point player at a reasonable price. The next contract is where he’ll hit paydirt.
 
If Weal doesn’t produce at the same rate, then his $1.75 million cap hit isn’t debilitating, and the Flyers avoid a Ville Leino situation. (Sorry, Buffalo.)
 
As for the Kings? They were bounced in the first round of the 2016 playoffs.
 
The Lecavalier trade was already a win for the Flyers.
 
Now with Weal’s emergence, it's lining up to be a major steal for Hextall.

Flyers re-sign Jordan Weal to 2-year contract extension

Flyers re-sign Jordan Weal to 2-year contract extension

It looks like Ron Hextall did not want to let Jordan Weal hit free agency.

The Flyers on Thursday night re-signed the 25-year-old forward to a two-year contract extension. NHL free agency opens Saturday and Weal, who was set to be an unrestricted free agent, would have been an attractive piece on the market.

According to TSN's Pierre LeBrun, the deal is worth $3.5 million over the two years, giving Weal an average annual value of $1.75 million.

"It's awesome," Weal said of returning to the Flyers. "They gave me a great chance last year to play with some great players, and I think this is a group that's heading in the right direction. We've got a lot of talent and skill, especially with some of the additions we've made. I'm just really excited to get back and start up the year where we were finishing it. The way we were playing hockey, it was a good brand, a good style. I'm just excited to get back and see the guys and keep getting better as a group."

Weal pounced on his opportunity with the Flyers last season after being called up from AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley because of an injury to touted rookie Travis Konecny. Weal recorded eight goals and four assists for 12 points in 23 games, injecting life into an offense that slumbered from Dec. 15 to his call-up date of Feb. 10. Over that stretch, the Flyers scored the NHL's fewest goals with 38 in 23 games. Once Weal joined the big club, the Flyers scored 72 goals over their final 27 games, but still missed the playoffs.

Weal, a 5-foot-10, 179-pound natural center who plays wing, as well, started fast with three goals in 10 games and then finished even better, registering eight points (five goals, three assists) over his final 10 games, essentially solidifying a spot among the Flyers' group of forwards.

"He's a bulldog out there," Wayne Simmonds said in late March. "He's extremely strong on the puck and not many guys can take it off him."

His impressive sample had apparently caught the eye of teams around the NHL. Weal had met with the Maple Leafs, Canadiens and Canucks this week, according to a report by TSN's Darren Dreger, but the Flyers got something done before he could test the waters — just as Hextall had hoped.

Weal was acquired by the Flyers in a January 2016 trade that saw Hextall unload veteran center Vinny Lecavalier and his lucrative deal to the Kings, along with defenseman Luke Schenn. Weal played only 14 games — 10 with the Kings, four with the Flyers — in 2015-16, his first taste of the NHL, which consisted mostly of healthy scratches. During those final three months of the season with the Flyers, Weal was frequently the first player on the ice before practice for extra work by himself.

"He's earned everything he has got and he continues to do that on a daily basis," Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said last season. "And no doubt he will continue doing that."

For 2017-18, which should his first full NHL season, Weal will be a part of a growing stable of forwards, featuring newcomer Jori Lehtera (acquired in the Brayden Schenn trade last week) and possibly three rookies in Nolan Patrick, Oskar Lindblom and Mike Vecchione.

"You can't really put too much expectation and hype into anything right off the bat," Weal said of his goals. "You've just got to take it as it is, take every game and every practice as a time to get better and better — and try to win hockey games. That's what we're trying to do, we're trying to make the playoffs and I think we've got the group to do that."

Logical choices for Vegas as Flyers prepare to lose player in expansion draft

Logical choices for Vegas as Flyers prepare to lose player in expansion draft

Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Michael Raffl, Matt Read, Taylor Leier or maybe an offer for unrestricted free agent Jordan Weal?
 
Or perhaps 27-year-old defenseman Michael Del Zotto, who will not be re-signed by the Flyers.
 
Those are the logical Flyers choices for the Vegas Golden Knights, whose expansion draft list will be publicly unveiled Wednesday night as part of the NHL Awards gala in Vegas.

And while the Golden Knights will select Pittsburgh's Marc-Andre Fleury as their starting goalie, they still need to draft two more, per the rules of the draft.
 
Vegas general manager George McPhee is obviously familiar with Michal Neuvirth, whom the Flyers left unprotected. McPhee was Washington's general manager when the Capitals selected Neuvirth in the second round (34th overall) of the 2006 NHL draft.  McPhee, however, also knows how injury-prone Neuvirth is and admits that has kept Neuvirth from becoming an elite goalie in the league.
 
Given the other goalies available who don’t have a history of injuries, it doesn’t make sense for Vegas to select Neuvirth.
 
If any of the Flyers coveted, young defensive prospects were draft eligible, you can bet the Golden Knights would be taking one of them. Fortunately for the Flyers, that’s not the case under the expansion draft rules.
 
Del Zotto is interesting because of his age, his experience – eight seasons in the league – and, despite his defensive deficiencies, is a puck-moving defenseman who can assist on the power play.
 
Bellemare was a Flyers assistant captain last season and in terms of line play, like Raffl, can move up and down the lineup.
 
Vegas must select one player from the other 30 NHL rosters.
 
“We’re in a reasonable position,” Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said last week. “We’re gonna lose a good player, make no mistake. Whoever we lose, we’re gonna lose a good player.”
 
McPhee told reporters on Tuesday, he had at least six deals already in place with teams. He also said some picks won’t stick around very long.
 
“We knew that from the start that we were going to claim 30 players,” McPhee said. “But, your roster can only be 23. ... We understand and I don't know that the terminology is the right terminology, but people call it 'throwaway picks.'
 
“There are some teams where there isn't a whole lot to do and you're going to make a throwaway pick rather than taking on a contract that you don't like.  So, there will be some of those claims, people that won't be qualified, and that sort of thing.”