So I'm sitting down reading this transcript of Ron Hextall's call with the media last night, and I was thinking up some story ideas. And as I'm going along, all I'm really thinking is that .... yeah, this guy is still saying all the right things.
"We're building something here to be a top team for a long time," Hextall said when asked about other moves around the division, like Brandon Saad going to Columbus and Phil Kessel going to Pittsburgh. "So you really stay focused on your own team and don't do something out of emotion. I truly believe that when you start making emotional decisions, typically they're the bad decisions. So that's not going to happen."
Dang, man. I mean ... I know he's been GM for over a year now, but this stuff is still so refreshing to hear. Hextall has never diverted from this philosophy, and honestly, every single move he's made as Flyers GM falls in line with that. That continued Wednesday as free agency opened.
Here are some highlights from his conference call with reporters:
- Talks with Jakub Voracek on a contract extension have not begun, but they've talked about starting talks. lol
- He thinks Michael Neuvirth will play more than an average backup goalie. They'll probably sign a third goalie soon.
- They basically agree with our piece the other day, thinking that Sam Gagner was a better fit and option than anybody they could have fit in at forward via free agency.
- Nothing new on Vincent Lecavalier (or any other trades, for that matter).
- Michael Del Zotto contract talks continue.
- Opinion here based on two years of observation, but I'm pretty sure this dude hates free agency. He's made it pretty clear that he only wants to pick up edge pieces in the free agent period. Don't expect him to be a GM that makes a big splash in free agency ... maybe ever, really. Smart and calculated stuff.
And below is the full transcript, courtesy of Flyers public relations.
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On Michal Neuvirth:
We're excited about it. He's a proven goalie, he's a good goalie, and one of the attractive things for us with a backup goalie is God forbid something happens to Mase, he can carry the load. He's done that in the past. We think we brought in a real good goalie that's going to give us a real solid backup and I'm sure he's probably going to play more than the typical backup.
Did you want a starter-worthy goalie and one to give Mason a push?
Yeah. There's a lot of guys around the league that if they've got to pop in for a month or two they can do it and do it a good job, maybe not over the course of the year. I'm not referring to Michal there, because I think Michal is capable. He's won championships in the minors, back to back, and obviously spent enough time in the minors to bring his game up to the NHL level. He's had a successful NHL career. I don't think Mase necessarily needs to be pushed, but when you can upgrade at any position, you take advantage of it, and this is an opportunity for us.
Were you content with watching other big names sign elsewhere today?
That's fair to say. We'll listen to anything that's out there and if we can figure a way to get better we'll try to do it, but we didn't have the flexibility to go after a big guy. Quite frankly, I hope most years are like this year when you're looking for one piece or two pieces. I don't like going into free agency needing three or four bodies and you kind of end up blowing your brains out there. We feel like we got a real good fit for our team and we like our team here.
On the team's mid-level forwards
We think Sam is a nice fit. Once we got him we had the option to buy him out, but he is a very skilled forward. I think in the right situation he can be a productive player for us. He is a player we were going to try and seek whether it was through a trade or free agency or what not. We felt like he was a good fit. We did our homework, we did our research, and everything came out good, so we feel good about Sam. Again, it upgrades the skill level of our team. It's a one-year deal, which was attractive to us. We're good with it, and quite frankly I've always admired Sam's skill. I think typical to a lot of young players, I think the defensive side of the game hasn't been a strength, but I know he's gotten better, and I know our coach and the rest of our players are going to demand that from him, as will everybody on our team.
Will he play center or wing?
I see him more as a winger. That's going to in the end be the coach's decision, but talking to the coach, we kind of have him plugged in the wing. ... He played all three positions last year. He's certainly a guy that if you have injuries he can go into the middle, which is a nice option obviously. Again, we see him right now playing the right wing, but until you get to camp and start trying line combinations, we'll see how it shakes out.
Is this similar to Del Zotto's situation last year where you might extend him?
It's too early to think about that. I will say we needed to upgrade our skill and we didn't have a lot of flexibility. When the deal came along, and I know there was a lot of speculation about us buying Sam out. Quite frankly I'm not sure where that came from. I knew that was an option, but quite frankly we didn't think too much about that. The skill level that he brings, we felt like we had to add to the skill level of our top nine. Given the price and the space we cleared out, we think he's a good fit. I've talked to Sam three or four times now through the process, and he's extremely excited to be here. I think Sam is a guy who really wants to prove himself. He's a hungry guy right now, and he's going to play the game the right way for us.
Is the plan to move Brayden Schenn back to center?
Well, like I said, these are all coaching decisions here. I would think that's an option to have Brayden in the middle. But in the end, we'll have our meetings leading up to camp and then we'll come to camp and see where things shake out.
Any trade talks?
Nope. Nothing on that front. I'm not sure I'd share everything with you anyway, but there's nothing on that front. Everybody was focused on the draft and now everybody's focused on July 1st. Once you get through July 1st you kind of look at your holes and you try to fill them with the next step, which is trades. We'll see where that goes.
Will you try to clear more space on the back end?
I think ideally we'd like to clear a little bit of space there, but we'll see. We're under the cap, albeit slightly, when we plug Del Zotto in, and you want some space to call players up too. We're close, we'd like to clear a little bit more, but you've got to have a partner there. We'll see as we move along here.
Where are the talks with Del Zotto?
Same as last time we all talked. They were amicable.
What about Vinny's situation? What's the process there now?
Well, if we can move him and put him in a better situation for himself, we'd certainly be open to that. But as of right now he's a Flyer and we expect him to be in camp unless he is moved and be in shape and give it his best shot.
At what point would the amicable talks with Del Zotto get to the point of we're not going to be able to sign him, we've got to do something?
I don't know. When would the arbitration date be, I guess. It's one of those things... there's no hurry here. We've had good talks, we talked at the draft, we talked a little bit before that. It's one of those things... there's no hurry. They're not in a hurry, we're not in a hurry. They've got the draft and free agency; we ‘ve got the same thing. We'll sit down here when things settle down, in the next few days or the middle of this month, and hopefully get something done or at least continue to work on it.
Were you trying to upgrade the wing today?
If you can figure out a way for us to do something like that we might look at it, but no, we can't. I'm comfortable with our team right now. If we can upgrade it somehow we'll look to do it, but we can't be going out and spending a whole bunch of money to upgrade it, otherwise we'll be back in the situation we're in. We don't want to be over the cap, and we're not going to sign someone to put us over. We're going to be patient here, and I certainly don't want to commit to someone who's going to put us in a situation to have to move a young player in a year. If you look at it, that would be a possibility.
So are you saying you're done then?
We'll listen here to see what's out there, and if there's something out there that makes sense... I'm not going to hold my breath because I'm not sure anything's going to make sense given where we're at. If you do the numbers, we don't have a lot of space here. For us to sign someone to a big contract this year would be crazy, but next summer might even be more crazy because we might have to move one of our good young players just to get under. So I'm not sure that something's going to work out.
Have you talked with Voracek's agent yet?
Not yet. We've talked about starting to talk, but we haven't talked yet.
When you see Columbus trades for Brandon Saad, do you become concerned about the arms race and want to go out and get someone?
Well, if the cap was 100 million, we probably would have done something. But you're restricted there. We can only do so much. We've got to play within the rules and we've got to make our team as good as we can make it within the salary cap. I don't look at the arms race thing. We're building something here to be a top team for a long time, so you really stay focused on your own team and don't do something out of emotion. I truly believe that when you start making emotional decisions, typically they're the bad decisions. So that's not going to happen.
On the two-way contracted players signed today
We added a little bit of skill up front and a couple smart players who have played quite a few players up top [in the NHL]. Davis Drewiske, the defenseman, has played quite a few games up top. We needed some depth, we need some guys to make us a better team at the minor league level as well as some options when players get hurt and what not. Hopefully we'll add a couple more in the next few days here to strengthen us even more. I think depth is a critical part of an organization. You've got a 23-man roster, but you've got to have guys below that can come up and fill in, and we feel we got three good guys today.
On a #3 goaltender
We're still working on that. Hopefully in the next day or two we'll have somebody in place.
Are you largely done for the offseason or do you have some trades between now and September?
I have no idea. It's hard to even speculate. Suddenly you think you've got nothing going on and a day later you have something going on. I'm comfortable with where we're at as a team. I like the additions of [Chris VandeVelde] coming back and [Ryan White] coming back, upgrading the skill with Gagner, upgrading our defense with Medvedev, and now upgrading our goal with Neuvirth. I'm comfortable with where we're at now, but we'll continue to try to do anything we can to make our team better.