WASHINGTON - The latest rumor barely rolled off a reporter's tongue and Ron Hextall grinned, albeit only for a second.
"I'm not going to talk about trades," Hextall said. "But I will give you one other piece of advice: Don't believe everything you read."
The rumor, from TSN's Bob McKenzie, said Hextall is actively shopping a defenseman - particularly Luke Schenn or Nick Grossmann - in order to open up a space in the lineup for 2013 first-round pick Samuel Morin.
Hextall wasn't happy. He was rankled about "players' names being specifically mentioned," because there are families and homes and lives attached to those names.
"It's one of my least favorite parts of the business, the stuff that gets out, particularly the stuff that has zero credibility," Hextall said, still fired up.
The problem for Hextall is that yesterday's rumors were 100 percent credible. The one difference, according to a front-office source, is that it may not be to open up room specifically for Morin.
Realizing that the young defensemen in training camp are already equal or ahead of their logjam of veterans on the roster, the Flyers' goal is to move veterans to clear a path for youth. That includes Shayne Gostisbehere, who was far and away their best young defenseman in camp.
Morin, 19, remains with the Flyers in training camp, but he is in a different situation than Gostisbehere. Due to transfer agreements with the Canadian Hockey League, Morin cannot play in the AHL this season. His two choices are the NHL or the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
Gostisbehere, 21, left Union College last spring after his junior year and turned pro. He was sent to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms on Wednesday.
The Flyers have the option of playing Morin in the first nine games of the season without using up a year on his 3-year, NHL contract. He could then be sent back to Rimouski, Quebec, at any point.
Without a roster spot to play him, it wouldn't make sense for the Flyers to hang onto Morin any longer than they already have, since Rimouski is already six games into its regular season.
It is clear that Gostisbehere is the more NHL-ready prospect. For now, it seems like the Flyers have hung on to Morin simply because the more time he trains around NHL players is better for his development than playing in Rimouski, largely unmonitored and out of the Flyers' control.
"Does Sammy having to go back to juniors to have some effect? Maybe a little bit," Hextall said. "But Shayne's done a good job in his own right. They've both been impressive."
To be clear, Schenn and Grossmann are not the only defensemen on the trading block. Braydon Coburn, who put together a terrible training camp, is also available. It is unclear what the potential return might be for any one of those players.
The Flyers were believed to have been very close on a deal in the last year with Edmonton involving Coburn. Since Edmonton has young forwards available, the Oilers could be interested, especially if newly acquired defenseman Nikita Nikitin's injury is serious.
There are plenty of teams interested in defense at the moment. According to Canadian sportscaster Darren Dreger, five Western Conference teams have made pitches to Boston GM Peter Chiarelli for Johnny Boychuk, Matt Bartkowski and Adam McQuaid, who are all on the block.
From May 7, the day Hextall was hired, his philosophy has been to not rush the young prospects he was handed. It's not rushing, though, if they can do as good of a job (or better) as the more expensive veterans already in place.
"I believe in what I believe in," Hextall said last night. "My philosophy won't change in terms of rushing a young player. We're not going to keep a kid that's going to be here 15 years because we think, 'Wow, it's nice to have a young kid in the lineup.' So, any decision that we make on young players is going to be what's best for the player, because in turn, that's what's best for the franchise."
Forward Wayne Simmonds was the Flyers' only regular not participating in last night's preseason finale, a 3-2 shootout loss to the Capitals. Winger Blair Jones, a strong bet to make the final 23-man cut, moved up to Simmonds' spot with Sean Couturier and Matt Read.
Simmonds apparently discovered his "lower-body" injury sometime after Tuesday night's win over the Rangers. He did not skate yesterday and did not make the trip to Washington.
The injury is believed to be minor and should not affect his status for Opening Night. He is officially listed as "day-to-day" by the team. Simmonds, 26, has missed just nine games in his six full NHL seasons.
Defenseman Mark Streit finished with the league lead in preseason points with eight in four games . . . Steve Mason stopped 18 of 20 shots in his best outing of the preseason . . . The Flyers agreed to terms with second-round pick Nicolas Aube-Kubel yesterday on a 3-year, entry-level contract. Aube-Kubel, picked 48th overall in June, was returned to his junior team in Val d'Or, Quebec, last week . . . Philadelphia-based hedge-fund manager Andrew Barroway is nearing a deal to become majority owner of the Arizona Coyotes, according to the New York Post. The Coyotes later confirmed the report but did not mention Barroway by name. Barroway, 47, was deep in negotiations to purchase the 76ers, New Jersey Devils and most recently, the New York Islanders.