The trade of Kimmo Timonen on Friday night told us one big thing: Ron Hextall is a man of his word.
Since taking over the Flyers general manager job last year, Hextall has been unrelenting in his insistence that the team will not deviate from its path -- that they won't sacrifice the long-term vision for the team in exchange for short-term gain. By trading Timonen -- who even despite not playing in 10 months could easily step in and be at least this team's second-best defenseman right now -- he's doubling down on that even harder. He's saying that he doesn't care about making the playoffs this season, which if you've been paying attention since last offseason, has been the message all along.
Of course, he won't say that explicitly.
"I don’t look at this like we’ve taken away from our team," Hextall said on Friday after the trade, and he does have a point about that since Timonen hasn't played for the Flyers all year. "[Our current team] has done a great job in the last month, and we’ve got to keep moving here. We’ve got a lot of ground to catch and fighting the three teams right now, so we’ve got to get going. The focus shouldn’t be the fact that we’re looking at the future, because we’re four points out right now and we’ve got to win hockey games."
OK, sure. He's obviously not going to say that he doesn't believe the Flyers can't make the playoffs right now, because general managers can't rip the rug out from under their team like that. But make no mistake, trading Timonen makes it quite clear that the focus is the future. Timonen left because Chicago could win the Cup this year and the Flyers almost certainly won't. The focus isn't and has never been on this season -- not that Hextall or anybody else will mind if the team stumbles its way into the playoffs in spite of that.
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•Broad Street HockeyAs the Flyers approach the trade deadline, they may be faced with the question of whether or not to deal their longest tenured player in Braydon Coburn.
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And that means that we should expect more deals, too. This market has been great for teams that are selling. We talked the other day about what Andrej Sekera hauled in, and Braydon Coburn is a similar defenseman on a good contract. The Flyers could get a decent haul for him at this deadline. The same goes -- to a lesser degree -- with guys like Mark Streit (valuable but a tough contract), Nicklas Grossmann (meh meh meh) or Luke Schenn.
There's always the chance that the right deals don't come along, of course, but if you're afraid that Hextall will just stand pat because he's banking on a playoff run here, the Timonen trade should erase that worry for you. At the very least, expect Hextall to listen between now and Monday at 3 p.m.
"There's some things we have to flush out here," Hextall said Friday night. "There's a couple more games here, obviously one for us and for the other teams, so we'll see where we're at then, we'll see what's happening, and about our health after tomorrow night. I don't have the answer for you. I might not give it to you anyway if I had it for you, but I don't have it for you.
"People call back and they ask what you're looking to do. Obviously we're creeping up and getting close here, but there's a certain price where you'll take a look at different things. This is an active time of the year. It's a time of year where you have to listen and you have to assess anything that's kind of thrown your way, and look at today and look at tomorrow and make hard decisions. It's an intense time of year for us."