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With Gostisbehere Signed, What is the Flyers New Top Priority?

3-19-2017_FlyersvsCanes_1st_credKateFrese-18

(Kate Frese/Sports Talk Philly)

By Dan Heaning, Sports Talk Philly staff writer 

With the Philadelphia Flyers re-signing Shayne Gostisbehere to a six-year, $27 million contract, the obvious priority for general manager Ron Hextall has been dealt with.

Now arises the quandary of what is next on the docket. Should the Flyers focus on re-signing Steve Mason to a reasonable deal? How about re-signing Jordan Weal, Scott Laughton or Taylor Leier? Then there is always the wacky concept of working out a deal with the Vegas Golden Knights to take a bad contract.

Related: Flyers Sign Shayne Gostisbehere to 6-Year Deal

If Hextall were to shift gears to re-signing a few forwards, that backs him into a corner for the Expansion Draft. By re-signing Weal, he’s more than likely forced to expose Laughton and Leier. The same goes if Hextall works out a deal with Laughton or Leier instead.

One would think Hextall would want to sure up which seventh forward he wants to protect with a contract. However, he can just as easily protect one of the two forwards who will be restricted free agents and keep his bargaining position. Yet, if Weal is the one Hextall wishes to hold on to, he’ll need to act soon as the diminutive forward could hit unrestricted free agency come July.

Another route Hextall could go is re-signing Mason. While it would appear that door is closing, if not slammed shut and barricaded up by now, the Flyers GM faces having to go to the open market to find a goaltender if he doesn’t lock up Mason. Instead of testing a relatively weak goaltending market or overpaying in a trade, Hextall could just choose to keep Mason. It remains to be seen if the goaltender would want to return, though, as his views on goaltending platoons clash with that of Hextall’s.

One more path Hextall can take is pursuing a trade. With the possibility of a Stanley Cup Final Game 7 clashing with the Expansion Draft key dates, there is no time to wait for Hextall to make a deal.

Two days before a potential Game 7, Hextall faces a deadline to request players with a no-movement deal to waive it. Then a day after on June 15, the first buyout period begins. On June 16, Hextall will face the deadline of placing players on waivers. On June 17, the Expansion Draft and trade freeze begins. The protected list must be submitted then as well.

Then from June 18-21, Vegas takes over and normal day-to-day operations cannot resume for Philadelphia until June 22.

However, before that freeze, Hextall can try to make a deal with the Vegas Golden Knights. He can try to offer them compensation for not picking players he may want to keep or he can offer up picks for the Golden Knights to take one of the Flyers bad contracts.

When anyone mentions bad contracts in regards to the Orange and Black, Andrew MacDonald’s name is guaranteed to come up. On this current roster, it probably should be the only name that comes up. Hextall likely won’t consider his contracts with Brayden Schenn, Dale Weise, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare or Michal Neuvirth to be bad. Also, it would be really bad form to sign these contracts with the aforementioned players then deal a number of picks to the Golden Knights so they take one.

Despite the organization sticking up for him this past season, MacDonald’s deal isn’t one Hextall negotiated. It stands to reason that Hextall at least try to find a way to move that contract.

This might be Hextall’s best chance to move MacDonald’s deal too. Vegas is interested in taking on a bad deal if it means stockpiling picks, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Steve Carp.

The Flyers have four selections in this draft that were acquired from other teams. Hextall could dangle a few picks to Vegas in exchange for them taking MacDonald.

Is that a bit zany? Oh yes, especially since Vegas GM George McPhee would be passing on a decent forward like Michael Raffl, Laughton or Leier to take MacDonald. But it might be in the expansion team’s best interests to collect a few picks in this year’s draft and take a player with a high salary than to just take one player from Philadelphia.

The Golden Knights are only bound to their expansion selections for one season before they can utilize a buyout. Therefore, McPhee could just use MacDonald for one season and then buy him out next summer. That way they can save on some salary, but keep about $1.1 million to $1.8 million in dead money on the books to help the new franchise stay above the salary cap floor for the next four seasons.

This does create a vacancy on defense for the Flyers, but that can be filled via free agency at a milder deal than MacDonald’s.

So with the deadline approaching, Hextall’s biggest priority should be working out a deal with the new Vegas franchise. Yes, it will cost him a few picks, but it will allow the Flyers to move themselves out from under a $5 million boulder. By making a wacky move before the Expansion Draft/trade freeze, Hextall can give himself the room in free agency to sign a goaltender, a veteran defenseman and re-sign many of his young, cheap forwards.

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