Ron Hextall (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
The Philadelphia Flyers have been counted on as one club always active in the trade market, but with the off-season winding down GM Ron Hextall is standing pat, even amidst rumors the Flyers could be interested in St. Louis Blues center David Backes. In New York, the Islanders and Kyle Okposo haven’t made progress on contract talks which could mean this is his final season with the club.
For the past several years, the Philadelphia Flyers could be counted on to swing a major off-season trade. Since 2007, they've acquired such notables as Kimmo Timonen, Scott Hartnell, Joffrey Lupul, Chris Pronger, Jakub Voracek, Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn, Luke Schenn and Mark Streit via summer deals.
It's only natural to assume second-year GM Ron Hextall would continue the trend, especially since he swapped Hartnell for R.J. Umberger in one of last summer's more puzzling moves. In June, Hextall made a salary-dumping deal, shipping blueliner Nicklas Grossman and the rights to the all-but-retired Pronger's to Arizona for center Sam Gagner.
Since that move, however, things have been quiet on the Flyers' trade front. That prompted some internet rumormongers to dream up trade scenarios for Hextall. The most recent claimed he was interested in St. Louis Blues captain David Backes, with the Blues seeking Brayden Schenn in return.
Hextall denied that speculation last Thursday during a meeting with reporters. NJ.com's Randy Miller reports the Flyers GM reminded them of his comments a year ago, when he stated he's not interested in swapping his younger players for older veterans.
The Backes-for-Schenn rumor made absolutely no sense. The Flyers are already set for the upcoming season with Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier centering their top two lines. They also have limited cap space, so even with moving Schenn and his $2.5-million annual average salary, they still can't afford to take on Backes' $4.5-million cap hit.
As for the Blues, Backes' no-trade clause should've stopped that speculation cold. Assuming he'd waive that clause, shipping him out for a winger weakens the Blues' depth at center. With Jori Lehtera (ankle surgery) questionable for the start of the upcoming season, it makes even less sense for the Blues to move their captain.
OKPOSO’S FUTURE WITH ISLANDERS UNCERTAIN
Prior to the 2015 NHL Draft, it was speculated New York Islanders right wing Kyle Okposo might be available. Okposo, 27, is slated to become an unrestricted free agent next July, prompting talk the Isles could trade him if unable to reach an agreement on a new contract.
Ultimately, nothing came of the trade talk during the draft. Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman subsequently reported Islanders GM Garth Snow downplayed the speculation, claiming only a couple of teams made less-than-serious inquiries. However, questions regarding Okposo's future still linger.
Last week, Newsday's Arthur Staple claimed there was no truth to reports of Okposo and the Isles engaging in contract discussions. He added things were quiet on that front throughout the summer.
Okposo's current annual cap hit is $2.8 million, while his actual salary for the upcoming season is $4.5 million, SI.com's Allan Muir believes the winger could seek a six-year deal worth around $40 million. If there's no deal in place before the start of the season, Muir feels there's a good chance Okposo could be dealt.
Without a long-term contract extension entering this season, Okposo's future with the Islanders will become a hot topic in the rumor mill. Still, the Isles' chances of reaching the playoffs this season are better with physical scoring winger in the lineup.
Snow is under no pressure to deal Okposo now. Perhaps the earliest such a move occurs is near the Feb. 29 trade deadline, and then only if the Isles are out of playoff contention by that point.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
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