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Trying to make sense of where exactly the Flyers currently stand

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What do Ron Hextall’s recent moves and comments tell us about where the team is and where it’s headed?

Zack Hill / Flyers

As the fevered buzz of free agency dies down, and the dust around the Flyers’ Big Move and smaller non-moves begins to settle, we’re left with a moment to look around and begin to take stock of things. This is, without a doubt, a big shake-up, and the team has taken a not-insubstantial step forward in terms of raw talent and roster depth, but what does this mean for the future of the organization? Are we looking at a paradigm shift? What’s happening?

Hextall addressed the media after the opening of free agency on Sunday and again on Monday, and while most of the time GMs aren’t particularly candid or upfront in these things, and you shouldn’t necessarily give what they say too much weight, there was still some content mixed into his comments. He did a fair bit of hedging, but his comments were still illuminating.

Knowing what Hextall has said since free agency began, and knowing what we do about his time in charge of the team and his leadership style in general, let’s try and talk through where things stand with the team at the moment. You ask the questions, we’ll respond as such.

So, the Flyers signed JVR. That’s kind of really sick.

I agree!

And that means they’re trying to win now, right? We’re all in, we’re moving on to the next phase?

Well, I mean maybe. I guess you could make that case.

It feels pretty clear though, right? Hextall’s been all about building up through the draft and not really signing big name roster players to get better now. But now he’s done that. And we’re better now. We’re doing something new.

Okay, I see where you’re going with this. My answer is yes and no. Yes, he made a good move to lock up a player that a lot of us like and who will almost certainly make the team better than it was last year. But the focus hasn’t shifted, not totally. It’s not all about the big moves.

But Hextall just signed JVR for five years.

Right. And he could have given him seven. He had been offered seven elsewhere, or so we’re hearing. And he’s not just any player we’re throwing a big contract at. He’s a very good player who addresses a need.

And he just signed Christian Folin.

Yeah, for a year. To be the seventh defenseman.

But he’s adding pieces now to be effective in the now. We haven’t seen him doing a whole lot of that.

You’re right, but it’s all about term and improvement. He’s said so over and over himself. He’s not going to sign a stopgap who’s more or less a lateral move, talent-wise, to a long term deal, because that would block the kids. JVR is a special case, but Folin is telling. He got one year to be the seven because Myers wasn’t going to make the team just to sit in the press box. Next year’s another story. If he had been all in on trying to win right now, this season, he would’ve been all in on trading for Karlsson or something.

Hey, that still might happen...

Sure.

...I’m just saying, it’s not out of the realm of possibili—

Sure. But back to my point.

Since he got here, Hextall’s been all about fortifying his prospect pool and building from within. That hasn’t changed. He still made both of his first round picks at the draft. He could have packaged them and tried to make a bigger Win Now move, but he didn’t. He got two really good prospects.

The same goes with the JVR signing, to keep circling back to it. He got a roster player and gave the team a serious boost in terms of just raw roster strength. But he did it without giving up any picks or prospects. The pool stays intact.

So we’re still doing this same old rebuilding on the fly thing?

In a way, but the timeline to being really, truly competitive has just been accelerated. The kids are here, we have more coming, and the Flyers now have their most talented roster, top to bottom, in recent memory. We...

But we’re still probably two years away from being two years away, right?

Do not even start with me.

Sorry.

It’s okay.

So, where are we at, then?

It’s like I said: the pieces are coming together, the kids we invested so much time in are going to get their chance, but that chance to do some good things and make some noise is drawing nearer.

So we should be excited?

Yeah, I think we should be excited.