Having two first-round picks gives the Flyers currency to be active during the draft at American Airlines Center in Dallas. The first round is June 22 (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVAS). Rounds 2-7 are June 23 (11 a.m. ET; NHLN, SN, TVAS).
“It would be easy to make a deal to make us better for next year,” Hextall said. “We’ve got lots of young assets that teams are frothing at the mouth for. We could do that, sacrifice a lot of our future, but that’s not going to happen.”
Hextall said Philadelphia benefits from having a deep pool of prospects at a number of positions, but said defenseman could be an area of focus. Some of the Flyers’ top prospects at the position have become NHL regulars, including Robert Hagg and Travis Sanheim , or are in line to compete for a spot next season, including Philippe Myers and Samuel Morin.
“We need that next layer coming,” he said. “We’re not going to shy away from defensemen because we have a lot of good young defensemen.”
Philadelphia would like to add a right-shot defenseman in the draft and to the current roster. Radko Gudas has been the only right-shot defenseman to play at least 10 games for the Flyers the past two seasons. Myers, who had 21 points (five goals, 16 assists) in 50 games for Lehigh Valley of the American Hockey League, is their top right-shot defenseman prospect.
Three of the top players for the draft are right-shot defensemen: Evan Bouchard of London of the Ontario Hockey League and Noah Dobson of Acadie-Bathurst of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, who are No. 4 and No. 5 on NHL Central Scouting’s final ranking of North American skaters; and Adam Boqvist of Brynas in Sweden’s junior league, who is No. 2 on the final International ranking. But each could be gone before Philadelphia selects at No. 14.
“When you look at the hockey world, it’s a weakness,” Hextall said. “We’d love to add one. We intend to go by our lists. We’re not going to take our lists and go [far] down to draft a right-shot defenseman. We can make a move, maybe we move down where you think you’re going to get a guy, maybe you do that. We’re not going to jump 10 guys on our list to draft a right-shot [defenseman].”
Among the right-shot defensemen who could be available in free agency are John Carlson of the Washington Capitals and Mike Green of the Detroit Red Wings. Each can become an unrestricted free agent July 1.
The Flyers could use free agency to find a goal-scorer to complement an offense that finished 12th in the NHL in scoring this season (3.04 goals per game), Hextall said.
That will not be forward Ilya Kovalchuk, 35, who intends to play in the NHL next season after spending the previous five seasons in the Kontinental Hockey League. Hextall said he has no plans to speak with Kovalchuk’s representatives.
Any free agents the Flyers bring in likely will be on shorter-term contracts, as a way to keep roster spots open for their prospects and NHL salary cap flexibility into the future.
“We’re certainly not going to reach out on a seven-year deal on a good player, I can assure you of that,” Hextall said.
“We have money to spend short term. If we can do something short term that makes sense that doesn’t bottle us up in three, four years, we can do that. We will do that if the pieces are there. The right fit, we’ll find a way.”