Two days ago Philadelphia Flyers new GM Ron Hextall put his signature on his first trade transaction by sending popular winger Scott Hartnell to the Columbus Blue Jackets for a return of winger RJ Umberger and a 2015 fourth round pick. This sent some shockwaves through all of the NHL. The first time I heard of the news I was much like everyone else; but like with all moves a team makes it is better to let it set in for a moment before rushing to an opinion one way or the other. After some thought and a bit of salary cap implication homework; I am on board it. Scott Hartnell was one of my favorite players on the team, but as I have indicated very recently I just didn’t see much of a fit for him anywhere on the roster that made a whole lot of sense. I felt a move for him was coming soon, but not two days ago. GM Ron Hextall has clearly put the rest of the team, and fans, on notice that there is going to be a culture change of sorts coming to Philly and this is only the beginning.
RJ Umberger has become a very good player in his own right. Is he the replacement for Hartnell on the first line with Giroux and Voracek? No. I see him more on the third line with Sean Couturier and Matt Read. Have the Flyers lost a great character person/player in Hartnell? That is a very big “Yes”. Sure they have lost a bit in making this move but I feel what they gained has more weight. RJ Umberger although has lost some speed over the last couple of seasons; he is still a much better skater. One of the biggest complaints I have made of the past season was the Flyers took far too many unnecessary penalties. Hartnell was one of the main culprits and in the playoffs it was starting to feel that the sin bin was needing to have a turnstile installed for him. Umberger took only 26 penalty minutes in the regular season and 2 in the playoffs last year. Lastly Umberger has only three more years left on his contract as compared to Hartnell with five years remaining. Those two years less are going to come in handy when free agency hits that year and a few good players will also be having expiring contracts that may need to get worked out. So if you start to put of the comparisons together this move seems to make more and more sense. That is why I applaud GM Hextall for going for a very bold move early on in his tenure as general manager. Although to Scott Hartnell I will say this: ” You have been one of the few players over the last ten years or so that have embodied what the Philadelphia Flyers have stood for as a franchise for all these many years. You are a hard working heart and soul player. As you miss us; we will miss you as well”.
***Some time soon I expect we will be getting the news that Hextall has found a trade partner to take Vincent Lecavalier off the Flyers hands as well. It is a shame that this move has to be made as well. Everyone involved with his arrival in Philadelphia had such high hopes last year. He started out early on to be the player we were all hoping for, but as the season wore on he was clearly not the same player he was and a slight injury may have had something to do with it. He, like Scott Hartnell, doesn’t really have a natural fit on this roster also. Some of it has to do with the re-signing of Brayden Schenn. So like the Hartnell move; this one will also be about the right fit. I too am a fan of his and when the time comes he is dealt I wish him the best on his new team.
*** The NHL Entry Draft is coming this Friday and Saturday. I, like a lot of us, can’t wait. Yeah most of the players that get selected, even in the first round, will not be wearing the sweaters of their respective NHL teams for at least a year or so but it is nice to see the Flyers farm system get stocked with some new potential. This will be the first draft for Ron Hextall as the new general manager and I am really curious to see what he is going to do.
*** Speaking of the draft; I have a few players that I would like to hear their names be called in the first round when the Flyers are on the clock. Before I give my list I must qualify it by saying that it will not include a players such as defenseman Aaron Ekblad or center Sam Reinhart because quite frankly they will most likely be picked first and second in the draft. It also does not have players such as wingers Nikolaj Ehlers and Nicholas Ritchie because those guys will be gone somewhere in the top ten. So unless Hextall pulls off a blockbuster of a deal I don’t see them moving to the top pick let alone the top ten. So with further ado I give you my my top five draft list, in order, if the Flyers were to pick at or at least near their slot at seventeen:
*** On more thing I have to say that I still get the feeling that Ron Hextall has more than just a Lecavalier move up his sleeve. In fact, I believe that he will make a couple of more moves, on defense, to free up some cap space for free agency which starts in full on Tuesday, July 1st. One of the players that I want the front office to look into is left winger Mason Raymond. I feel he would be the best compliment for the top line with Giroux and Voracek. Plus he could most likely be had for about a three year deal at somewhere in the 3 million dollar neighborhood. Considering Philadelphia’s cap issues that would work nicely.
A lot is going to depend on the moves that are or are not made between now and through free agency but as of now I have some faith that the right man is in place and we are headed in the right direction.
*** Lastly I have posted an early armchair GM roster for the Flyers next season on capgeek.com. I know it is just fantasy-land, but I don’t think it is totally out of the relm of possibilities. Anyway if you are bored and want a good laugh feel free to mock my roster all you like.