By: Mark Lester (@futureofphilly)
It has been a busy few months for Philadelphia Flyers general manager Ron Hextall. From winning a top-3 pick in the draft lottery all the way to free agency, let’s recap all of the major (and minor) moves of the 2017 offseason.
APRIL 21: FLYERS SIGN CONNOR BUNNAMAN TO ENTRY-LEVEL CONTRACT
The Flyers inked 2016 fourth round pick Connor Bunnaman to an entry-level contract. Bunnaman scored a career high 37 goals and 52 points last season for the Kitchener Rangers after the Flyers selected him in the fourth round of the 2016 NHL draft. The 6-foot-2 forward is not AHL-eligible for next season and will return to juniors.
APRIL 25: FLYERS SIGN MIKHAIL VOROBYEV TO ENTRY-LEVEL CONTRACT
Russian center Mikhail VorobyEv was given an entry-level contract by Philadelphia after a couple of seasons in the KHL. Vorobyev turned heads at the 2017 World Juniors, leading all players with 10 assists in seven games. Plucked in the fourth-round in 2015, he will be headed to Allentown this fall to suit up for the Flyers AHL affiliate, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.
APRIL 29: THE DRAFT LOTTERY
This must be one of the more unforgettable moments of the offseason. The Philadelphia Flyers jumped 11 spots, from #13 to #2, in the 2017 NHL Draft Lottery.
“This is a big point for our franchise. We’re obviously going to get a very good player and hopefully in years, we’ll look back on this as a turning point for us,” GM Ron Hextall told CSN Philly.
— Philadelphia Flyers (@NHLFlyers) April 30, 2017
MAY 30: FLYERS SIGN OSKAR LINDBLOM TO ENTRY-LEVEL CONTRACT
After an outstanding season in the Swedish Hockey League, the Flyers inked 2014 fifth-round pick Oskar Lindblom to a three year entry-level contract. The 20 year old registered 47 points in 52 regular season games in the top professional men’s league in Sweden. Many fans have already penciled Lindblom on the Flyers’ opening night roster.
JUNE 7: FLYERS HIRE KRIS KNOBLAUCH AS ASSISTANT COACH
Ron Hextall elected to hire Erie Otters head coach Kris Knoblauch as head coach Dave Hakstol’s assistant. Knoblauch led Erie to four consecutive regular seasons with at least 50 wins, and has coached the likes of high-end talents such as Dylan Strome, Alex DeBrincat, and NHL superstar Connor McDavid.
JUNE 9: FLYERS RE-SIGN DEFENCEMAN SHAYNE GOSTISBEHERE
Following somewhat of a disappointing sophomore season, Hextall locked up Shayne Gostisbehere long term. The dynamic defenceman accepted a six-year, $27 million contract from the Flyers, a cap hit of $4.5 million per season. The man they call ‘Ghost’ tallied 39 points in 76 games last year.
JUNE 17: FLYERS TRADE COUSINS AND MADSEN FOR PICK, PROSPECT
Ron Hextall’s first trade of the offseason was a minor one. The Flyers sent forward Nick Cousins and goalie prospect Merrick Madsen to the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for forward prospect Brendan Warren and a 2018 fifth round pick. The surplus of bottom-six forwards and goaltenders in the organization allowed Hextall to get some value out of both Cousins and Madsen.
Rights to Merrick Madsen
— CapFriendly (@CapFriendly) June 17, 2017
JUNE 18: FLYERS PROTECTED LIST FOR EXPANSION DRAFT REVEALED
The Flyers protected seven forwards, three defenceman, and one goalie from the Vegas Golden Knights. Scott Laughton, Brandon Manning, and Anthony Stolarz were among those protected by Hextall. Notable names left exposed for Vegas included Michael Raffl, Pierre-Édouard Bellemare, Andrew MacDonald, and Michal Neuvirth.
JUNE 21: VEGAS SELECTS PIERRE-ÉDOUARD BELLEMARE FROM FLYERS
Golden Knights GM George McPhee surprised the likes of many Flyers fans when it was announced that Vegas had selected Pierre-Édouard Bellemare from Philadelphia. Known for being a great leader in the locker room, the 32 year old Bellemare was picked over more offensively skilled Michael Raffl, as well as goaltender Michal Neuvirth, whom McPhee drafted back in 2006.
JUNE 23: DRAFT DAY & SCHENN TRADE
After receiving the second overall pick via the draft lottery back in April, Flyers fans finally found out whether their team was drafting Nolan Patrick or Nico Hischier. The New Jersey Devils took the Swiss center first overall, meaning it was a no-brainer to select Patrick with the second pick.
— Philadelphia Flyers (@NHLFlyers) June 23, 2017
Patrick, a Winnipeg, Manitoba native, is a powerful 6-foot-2 center. Despite dealing with injury all year, he still managed to put up 46 points in 32 games for the Brandon Wheat Kings.
However, Hextall’s job wasn’t done after drafting Patrick. Later in the draft, Brayden Schenn was traded to the St. Louis Blues in exchange for the 27th overall pick, a conditional first round pick in 2018, and forward Jori Lehterä. The Flyers ended up selecting Morgan Frost with the 27th pick, a skilled center from the Soo Greyhounds of the OHL.
JUNE 24: ROUNDS 2-7 OF THE 2017 NHL DRAFT
Ron Hextall welcomed seven more players into the organization on day two of the draft. Some notable draft picks include 6-foot-6 power forward Isaac Ratcliffe, goaltender Kirill Ustimenko, and winger Matthew Strome.
Hextall also acquired a seventh round pick in 2018 from the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for the 199th pick in a minor swap.
The Flyers drafting in recent years has received praise from many scouts:
I think the Flyers had one of the best drafts for the third straight year. Quality work…have one of best crops of prospects in the league.
— Grant McCagg (@grantmccagg) June 24, 2017
JUNE 29: FLYERS RE-SIGN JORDAN WEAL
Jordan Weal avoided free agency by signing a two year, $3.5 million contract extension. Weal was set to be an unrestricted free agent on July 1st, and was gaining interest from other NHL teams, but ultimately decided to re-up with Philadelphia. The 25-year old tallied 12 points in 23 NHL games last season, including seven points in his final seven games.
JULY 1: FREE AGENCY
After Steve Mason was let go in free agency, Ron Hextall made it clear that he was planning to go after a goaltender. He wasted no time, signing 32 year old veteran goalie Brian Elliott to a two-year contract. Elliott’s cap hit is relatively cheap at just $2.75 million per season. The Ontario native struggled at times with the Calgary Flames last season, but has solid career numbers, overall.