It should come as no surprise that Philadelphia Flyers’ General Manager Ron Hextall has yet to break out the checkbook in the first few days of Free Agency.
With Restricted Free Agent Brayden Schenn to re-sign, and most big name free agents asking for 6 years at $6 million, it’s easy to see why he’s holding back. Instead of spending big as past Flyers GMs were apt to do, Hextall continues to preach patience.
This Flyers team is not ready to challenge for a Stanley Cup. Hextall realizes that. That’s why he’s not overpaying 30 year old forwards who are already exiting their prime years. Instead he’s gone for a much more sane approach and added a few depth skaters to a team trying to develop a young defensive core.
4 Years – $2.35 million per season – Wing
This signing can be broken down to a pretty basic level. Hextall has spent an extra $1.35 million per season to replace Ryan White with Dale Weise (White signed for $1 million in Arizona). That’s not such a bad thing. Weise adds slightly more offensive upside, and a lot more disciplined minutes while not giving up the physicality that White is known for.
Weise will probably fit into the middle six forward group, if he plays with Giroux for any length of time something is drastically wrong. He’ll skate on the third unit for the most part, but don’t be surprised if he moves up to the Couturier line. He showed that he can contribute offensively in the right situation which he did on a line with Fleischmann and Desharnais last season for a bad Montreal team.
1 Year – $950,000 – Center
Photo: Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire
Gordon isn’t the most glamorous signing, but he takes care of a crucial need for the Flyers; defensive responsibility. The Flyers were depending on Sean Couturier, and Claude Giroux a bit too much in the defensive zone over the last couple of years. It appears they want to move away from using Giroux in the defensive zone all together. That means a heck of a lot more offensive opportunities for one of the game’s elite offensive talents. If Gordon can ease the defensive load on those two key centers then his signing will have been a success.
Last year’s line of Bellemare, Vandevelde, and White was not used as a shutdown line (contrary to popular belief). Subtracting White, and adding Gordon might take away a few goals from the bottom six, but it also adds a better defensive forward. Gordon will be used almost solely in the 4th line role, taking defensive face-offs, and as a Penalty Killer, don’t expect more than that.
1 Year – $625,000 – Defenseman
Photo: Fred Adam – Times Leader
It’s very unlikely that Will O’Neill will find himself in an NHL arena during this season. It’s not unthinkable, but he’s obviously been signed on as an AHL defender. The Lehigh Valley Phantoms will have a VERY young defense group this season including Hagg, Willcox, Sanheim, and Morin who are all under 22 years of age. It’s much more likely Hextall gives one of those youngsters a call-up if injuries take their toll on the Flyers’ blueline. That said, adding an experienced 28 year old in O’Neill who has put up 35, 48, and 50 points in the last 3 AHL seasons makes a lot of sense. A nice AHL addition that also takes a valuable asset from a division rival in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
1 Year – $600,000 – Center
Photo: Robert Wilcox
Another 28 year old, Miele is about as close to an elite AHL player as you can get. Again, it’s not unthinkable that Miele could be a contributor at the NHL level, but as with O’Neill, it’s unlikely. He’s netted 311 points in 355 AHL games over a 5 year pro career. His offensive prowess has gone largely overlooked by the NHL because he’s only 5’8″. With the signing of O’Neill and Miele it’s plain that Ron Hextall wants to improve the AHL Phantoms’ fortunes. Miele is a former Hobey Baker winner as the best College hockey player in 2011 when he scored 71 points in 39 games with Miami University (Ohio).
1 Year – $575,000 – Center
The signing of Greg Carey looks like Hextall and his minor league counterpart Barry Hanrahan of the Phantoms playing the odds on a steadily improving player. Carey was a great forward in the NCAA where he scored 1.22 points per game (185 points in 152 games) for St. Lawrence. He also excelled in the ECHL where he had 15 goals and 27 points in 30 games for Gwinnett before earning a promotion to Springfield two seasons ago. Last season he led a bad Falcons team with 26 goals (3rd in points) in 64 games.
If Carey’s upward trend continues he should at least be a solid offensive contributor at the AHL level. He’s obviously worked very hard to get some respect, and it’s paying off. He’s always been more of a goal scorer than playmaker, he’s entering his prime years, and he seems to still be improving. Carey’s signing might end up being the most calculated of the bunch if he continues to raise eyebrows.