In his four years as the general manager of the Philadelphia Flyers, Ron Hextall has been methodically turning the franchise around. When he took over the team was buried in long, expensive contracts and weighed down by unproductive veterans, not to mention their lack of a prospect pool. Since then, he has maneuvered the Flyers into a team with a good core, young skilled players, the bets prospect pool in the league, and plenty of cap space.
The two main ways that Ron Hextall has done this is through the draft and savvy trading. In fact, some of his moves combined the two as draft-day trades. In each of the past three years Hextall has made a trade in the first round of the draft. The only draft he didn’t make a trade was in his first year when the Flyers didn’t have enough assets to leverage. He did swap Scott Hartnell for RJ Umberger a few days prior to the draft in order to help out down the road, however.
The Flyers have plenty of flexibility in the first round this year as well, and another trade could be in the works. Let’s take a look back at the past few years and what we could potentially expect this year.
Draft-Day trade: None
Pre-Draft trade: Scott Hartnell for RJ Umberger
This was Hextall’s first offseason as GM after being promoted the month prior. He set the table for the future with salary-based trade, and also was reportedly close to making a big splash to move up and draft Aaron Ekblad with the first pick in Philadelphia.
Draft-Day trade: 29th pick and 61st pick for 24th pick (Travis Konecny)
After trading away two veteran defensemen in Braydon Coburn and Kimmo Timonen for multiple draft picks at the deadline, Hextall used those picks to move up in the first round and draft Travis Konecny. Hextall made a great selection of Ivan Provorov with the seventh pick, then saw Konecny sliding down the board and moved up to snag him.
Hextall traded the first-round pick they acquired for Coburn and the second-round pick they acquired for Timonen to move up and get Travis Konecny. This was the first year that we saw Hextall’s magic in action. The trades at the deadline were great, and the move to get Konecny was an added bonus.
Hextall saw another opportunity to add value in 2016, and did so by doing the opposite of what he did the year prior. This time he traded down in order to draft a player that the Flyers had higher on their board, German Rubtsov, and they got a high second-round pick as well, which they used to draft Pascal Laberge.
Time will tell whether or not this trade was a good one, but Rubtsov is still a top-tier prospect and Laberge is making his way up through the pipeline. The Flyers passed on Logan Stanley, Kieffer Bellows, Dennis Cholowski, and Julien Gauthier when they traded down from 18 to 22.
It’s not fair to just judge a trade in hindsight, however. The Flyers got plenty of value by trading down just a handful of slots and were able to take two first-round talents.
Last year Ron Hextall made his biggest splash out of the draft-day moves, trading away a roster player in Brayden Schenn for two first-round picks and Jori Lehtera. Lehtera was included in the trade in order to sweeten the deal a bit, giving the Flyers that second first-round pick.
The Flyers selected Morgan Frost with the 27th pick, which is looking like a pretty good selection. Frost was one of the best players in the OHL and he’s only going to get better. They also got St. Louis’ pick for this year, which turned out to be the 14th pick, higher than their own at 19. We’ll know the second half of that trade later tonight, provided the Flyers don’t trade down.
This is turning out to be a decent trade for both sides, with the Flyers having an edge due to Frost’s development and the Blues getting a higher pick. Most importantly this trade showed that Hextall isn’t afraid to trade roster players on draft day if the deal is right.
Hextall has made three successful draft-day trades in the past three years. In summation he has traded four picks (2015 29th and 61st, 2016 18th and 29th) and Brayden Schenn for four drafted players (Konecny, Rubtsov, Laberge, Frost), the 14th overall pick this year, and Jori Lehtera.
He’s been willing to trade up, trade down, and trade away and for roster players. Even if he doesn’t make a move tonight we know he’ll be actively working the phones and draft floor to improve his hockey club.
(Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)
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