One of the most underrated free agent signings this offseason has to be the Philadelphia Flyers’ inking of 36 goal scorer James van Riemsdyk. Lost in all the July 1st hoopla of John Tavares and his signing with the Toronto Maple Leafs, was the news that JVR, who scored just one goal fewer than Tavares last season, walked away from the Leafs for nothing. According to reports, Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas neglected to even offer up a deal to JVR on his way out the door.
Regardless of how things played out in Toronto, JVR is now back in Philly with the team that drafted him 2nd overall back in 2007. With him back in the fold, Flyers general manager Ron Hextall has added yet another high end offensive threat to a forward group that already boasts 100 point man Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, Sean Couturier, Wayne Simmonds, Travis Konecny and sophomore Nolan Patrick. Not bad. Not bad at all. But according to a report from Dave Isaac of the Cherry Hill Courier-Post, Hextall isn’t done adding to his roster just yet.
Check out some of these quotes from Hextall himself on adding another player either via trade or free agency to help out the Flyers’ woeful penalty kill:
Isaac: One area you said you wanted to take a step forward in was the penalty kill. You pointed to the last two months of the season where you were 80.7 percent, but that was only 14th in the league in that timeframe. There was no coaching change. How does this team improve? Where do you see the same group getting better?
Hextall: Well, again, as I stated late in the year, we tried personnel wise to do some things. Certain things haven’t worked out. As I stated, if we have the same personnel, we have to be the entire year like we were the last 25 games. We can’t be at the bottom of the league.
We saw signs at the end of the year, which is why I feel some comfort right now. Do I feel total comfort? No, I don’t. We finished bottom three in the league and that’s not good enough. Again, the players that we have, have to be better. We do have Christian Folin. He’s a right shot. Whether he helps out or not we’ll see as we move along here but all of our players that are on the penalty kill have to be better. We can’t do it for two months. We’ve got to do it for the entire season.
Isaac: I think even since you signed Folin you mentioned wanting to add another player, not a PK specialist, but someone who is pretty adept in that area. Is that still something you’re open to or are you going to ride with what you have now?
Hextall: I’m open to it, but it would probably be more of a lateral move on the market rather than a free agent. It would be a forward. We’d like to add a penalty-killing forward but to this point there’s been nothing there that’s made enough sense for us to move.
For what it’s worth, the free agent market is mostly depleted of NHL talent. Specifically, there are even fewer penalty killers available on the open market. Would the Flyers be interested in the services of Joel Ward, Lee Stempniak, Antoine Vermette, Benoit Pouliot, Scott Hartnell or Mark Letestu? Again… slim pickings.