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February 24, 2017

NHL Trade Deadline: Ron Hextall promises Flyers won’t be buyers

PITTSBURGH – With the 2017 NHL Trade Deadline less than a week away, the top names on the Flyers roster aren’t in rumors like, say, Colorado’s Matt Duchene or Gabriel Landeskog. That doesn’t mean the front office won’t be active before deadline day, though. Goalies Michal Neuvirth and Steve Mason, both hitting unrestricted free agency this offseason, are examples of players that the Flyers could move on from in the next few days.

Before his team took the ice at Heinz Field on the eve of their Stadium Series matchup against the rival Pittsburgh Penguins, Flyers general manager Ron Hextall made one thing clear: If the Flyers will be active at the trade deadline, it’s going to be as a seller.

“We’re not buying,” Hextall said. “I’ve said that for a while now, we’re not buying. We’ll see where we’re at in a couple days. Like I said, tomorrow is a big game. I have ideas and we’ll execute [them].”

A few defensemen on the Flyers roster have popped up in trade rumors as well. Just the other day, ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun opined that Mark Streit would be a fit next to Shea Weber in Montreal, where he started his career. In that same article, LeBrun played matchmaker with Michael Del Zotto and the Boston Bruins.

Both Streit and Del Zotto, who make a combined $8 million, are also unrestricted free agents this summer. The Flyers are expected to continue the youth movement, with blue line prospects like Philippe Myers, Robert Hagg, Samuel Morin, and Travis Sanheim waiting in the wings.

When asked if he wanted to follow the lead of teams like Chicago and Pittsburgh who have made successful Stanley Cup playoff runs with younger players up and down the roster, Hextall said that he would like to as long as the prospect doesn’t make the Flyers a worse team.

The Lehigh Valley Phantoms, a team with a few of the Flyers’ top prospects, currently have the third-most points in the AHL. Like has most often been the case, Hextall has taken the patient approach with his young guys.

“Their guys helping in the playoffs were all 23-years old except for the goalie,” Hextall said of the defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins. “So keep that in mind. They were kids, but 23-year-old kids.”

This philosophy would make some sense. The Flyers are five games out of the final wild-card spot with three teams to jump over. According to Hockey Reference, that puts the Orange and Black’s playoff odds at only 3.7 percent.

There are two games on the Flyers schedule before deadline day, Saturday night’s Stadium Series game and then Tuesday back in Philly against the Colorado Avalanche. Hextall admitted that the results of those games could affect his philosophy when it comes to making trades.

Perhaps the Flyers lead decision maker is hinting at “to sell or really sell.”

“It could have some effect, it could,” Hextall said of those final two games. “Again, we’ll watch the standings closely. We need to win tomorrow night, it’s a big game for us.”

Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann