The Flyers pulled a rabbit out of a hat on Wednesday night when they sent Vincent Lecavalier and Luke Schenn to the Los Angeles Kings for Jordan Weal and a third round pick.
It's amazing that Ron Hextall was able to get anything in exchange for Lecavalier's terrible, horrible, no good, very bad contract. Yes, he had to add Schenn to the deal -- and there's a chance that at the trade deadline in two months, he could have gotten more for him. But not all that much more, given that Schenn basically tops out as a third pairing defenseman on a good team, and his contract expires after the current season.
The extra $4.05 million in cap space is the big asset gained here. So in looking at this deal, the fact that Hextall was able to get a third rounder and a breathing human being in return is very impressive.
But what about that guy? In our initial post on the trade shortly after it went down, I wrote that Weal was essentially a "throw in" player. That may have been premature. After spending an evening reading up on the newest member of the organization, it seems like he could really be a player.
The basics on Jordan Weal
Weal is a product of the Regina Pats of the WHL and a native of Saskatoon. After scoring 385 points in 282 games with Regina, he was drafted by the Kings with the 70th overall pick in 2010. He became and AHL regular in 2012-13, and in the three seasons since he's scored 173 points in 221 AHL regular season games.
His contract expires at the end of the season, but at just 23 years old, he's still a restricted free agent. His cap hit is only $632,000.
A breakout playoff performance
We make the "regular season" distinction there for one big reason: the 2014-15 AHL playoffs with the Manchester Monarchs was Weal's breakout. Sure, he had a wonderful regular season with 69 points in 73 games that year, and an AHL All-Star nod.
But in the playoffs, Weal was a major reason the Monarchs went on to win the Calder Cup. His 22 points in 19 playoff games were enough to earn him the Jack Butterfield Trophy as AHL playoff MVP. He's also the all-time postseason points leader for the Monarchs. And the performance was enough for Kings blog Jewels From The Crown to slot him as the fifth-ranked player in their annual Top 25 Under 25 ranking a few months back.
Size a hurdle ... but should it be?
The one knock on Weal has been his size. He's just 5'9 and 180 pounds, and the Kings in particular have formed an identity of a team that likes beefier players. But take this June 2015 quote from Kings director of amateur scouting Mike Yannetti:
"It has taken a little longer, but look at Jordan Weal's development. He's an NHL player playing in the American Hockey League right now. Every single perceived deficiency that Jordan Weal has had since the day we drafted him, obviously people talk about size. ... Year, upon year, upon year you see him adapt and then excel. You've seen arguably one of the two best players in the American Hockey League in Weal [in 2014-15]."
And this, from the Boston Globe, also in June:
"The thinking is antiquated. The thinking is irrelevant. The way guys perceive lack of size? I think that's antiquated. Now, size matters. If he's small and he can't skate, or if he's small and he can't think, or if he's small and he's scared, then size definitely matters. If you're 6-foot-4 and not a great skater, size matters. It's the perception of size that doesn't matter.
"[Weal is] an elite thinker. The way he sorts the game, his creativity, the way he reads and recognizes space with and without the puck. His mind allowed him to deal with spatial things in a way that helps compensate for size."
Ready to make the NHL jump?
"He's coming here."
That's what Hextall said in his talk with the media after the deal was announced, saying that Weal will start off his Philadelphia career in the NHL with the Flyers. Weal has just 10 NHL games under his belt, all scattered across the early part of this season with the Kings. But Hexy knows the kid from his time as an assistant GM with the Kings, and in fact was part of the staff that drafted Weal in 2010.
"He's been a top AHL player and he's trying to prove himself as an NHL player," Hextall said, "so he's gonna have to answer that question. He's a very dedicated player. He's got a high skill level. He's not the biggest guy but he does work hard and he's gotta establish himself as an NHL player."
His AHL resume is striking, and he definitely has a lot of upside. He's at that turning point in his career though -- much like, say, Jason Akeson was here in Philly the last several years, although Weal's talent is clearly more impressive. It sure seems like he will have every chance to be an NHL player here -- maybe more so than he did in L.A. -- and that's an exciting prospect as the year carries on.