Ron Hextall is a magician.
Under “Hexy,” the Flyers had one of their best drafts in years, landing defensive stud Ivan Provorov at pick seven, trading up for Travis Konecny at 24 and restocking the goaltending pool in the later rounds.
He also managed to move dead weight in trading Zac Rinaldo, Nicklas Grossman, and Chris Pronger’s contract, freeing up nearly $7 million in salary cap space. He locked up 20-goal-scorer Chris VandeVelde for 2 more seasons and began negotiations with Michael Del Zotto.
He is also rumored to be shopping Luke Schenn and Vincent Lecavalier, and if he managed to pull off trading those two, he is nothing short of a hockey messiah.
The Flyers now have some options heading into next week’s start of free agency. There are some possible forwards that they should target to improve the inconsistent scoring that plagued the team last season. Here are the top forwards that are realistically possible to land in Philadelphia based on price range, age, and system fit.
1. Justin Williams
I had mentioned Williams in a previous article. He is a former Flyer, and his cap hit of $3.65 million is reasonable. He could fill the void on the first line, alongside Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek. Last season, he had 41 points in 81 games played. He is a winner too, having played key roles in Stanley Cup victories with the Hurricanes and Kings.
2. Mike Santorelli
Santorelli fell off drastically after being traded to the Predators, and was not very productive last season with the Maple Leafs either. However, he did have 28 points in 49 games in 2013-14 with the Canucks and was a 20-goal-scorer with the Panthers in 2010-11. At 29, and with a small cap hit of just under $2 million, he could provide some scoring depth for a decent value. It is probably unlikely to happen though, as VandeVelde was just re-signed and has shown a steady increase in his play while Santorelli has gone backwards and is a gamble.
3. Daniel Winnik
Some hockey experts have Winnik being the possible diamond in the rough of this year’s free agency crop. He spent the majority of his stint with the Penguins playing on a line with Sidney Crosby, so maybe placing him with Giroux and Voracek could get some serious production out of him. He also had 25 points in 58 games last season with the Maple Leafs. His previous cap hit was $.1.3 million, and would probably stay under $2 million this season.
4. Antoine Vermette
Vermette would be a great replacement for Vincent Lecavalier, if he is eventually traded. He is slightly younger at 32 years old, and coming off a solid season with the Blackhawks that concluded with a Stanley Cup championship. He would be what the Flyers were hoping Lecavalier would be, recording 30-40 points and helping the second line. His cap hit was just over $3.5 million, which isn’t too bad given his production.
5. Matt Beleskey
Here is a free agent that should be at the top of the Flyers’ list. He scored 22 goals with the Ducks playing with Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf. Playing in a system with similar caliber stars in the lineup could help him continue his production. The only concern with pursuing Beleskey is his cap hit, which will definitely increase due to the fact that there are no real superstar free agents, so he could be paid like one by someone desperate. And we all know that Hextall won’t be fooled into overspending.
It appears that this franchise can finally begin to move forward. Thank you Ron Hextall.