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Flyers' coaching staff staying; team's free agents likely headed elsewhere

In a bit of a surprise, all of the Flyers' assistants will return next season, GM Ron Hextall said. Another surprise: Hextall does not plan to buy out Jori Lehtera's contract.

As of now, the Flyers don’t have plans to buy out the contract of center Jori Lehtera, according to general manager Ron Hextall.
As of now, the Flyers don’t have plans to buy out the contract of center Jori Lehtera, according to general manager Ron Hextall.Read moreYONG KIM / Staff Photographer

Head coach Dave Hakstol and his assistants will return next season, and, at the moment, the Flyers do not plan to re-sign unrestricted free agents Brandon Manning, Val Filppula, Matt Read, and Johnny Oduya, general manager Ron Hextall said at a season-ending news conference Thursday at the Skate Zone in Voorhees.

Hextall left the door open a bit for the 34-year-old Filppula (11 goals) to return. "We're going to see what happens here," Hextall said.

Translation: If Hextall can't upgrade the third-line center position in a trade or through free agency, he might try to re-sign Filppula.

As for the coaches, assistant Ian Laperriere directs the penalty kill and was considered on the hot seat. The penalty kill has struggled mightily the last four years and it finished 29th out of 31 NHL teams this season with a 75.8 percent success rate. The PK was tied for 19th a year ago (79.8 percent success rate), tied for 20th in 2015-16 (80.5 percent), and 27th in 2014-15 (77.1 percent).

Lehtera probably staying

In a surprise, Hextall said he did not plan to buy out Jori Lehtera, a 30-year-old forward who had three goals, eight points, and a minus-8 rating in 62 games this season.

Though it might change later in the offseason, Hextall said, "Right now, the plan is to have him back."

Hextall called the slow-moving Lehtera a "good role player for us. … He's really good with our young kids."

Lehtera has one year left on a $5 million contract that has a $4.7 million cap hit. If the Flyers bought him out, they would have a cap hit that stretches to two years — $1.4 million in 2018-19, and $1.7 million in 2019-20.

Simmonds extension?

Wayne Simmonds and Michal Neuvirth will have surgery next week, Hextall confirmed. Simmonds will have core-muscle surgery, and Neuvirth will have arthroscopic surgery on both hips.

There are questions about how long it will take Simmonds to return to form, but Hextall may try to negotiate a contract extension for July 1. Simmonds' contract expires after next season.

"We'd like to keep Wayne. We'd like to sign Wayne," Hextall said. "Whether we can or not, I have absolutely no idea."

Hextall said Simmonds – who managed 24 goals despite an injury-ravaged season – was a "big part of our group."

Too many goalies

The Flyers may have to decide whether to re-sign restricted free-agent goalies Anthony Stolarz or Alex Lyon. That's assuming Michal Neuvirth remains with the Flyers.

If Neuvirth isn't dealt, Stolarz or Lyon would probably be with the Phantoms and one of them would form a tandem with first-year pro Carter Hart, who is viewed as the Flyers' goalie of the future.

"We've got to do some sorting here," Hextall said. "We only have two spots down there [in Lehigh Valley], so right now it's tough."

Stolarz had knee surgery in the offseason and recently suffered another knee injury. Hextall said it was "improbable" he would be able to play in the current AHL playoffs with the Phantoms.

Draft lottery

Assuming St. Louis doesn't move up to first, second, or third in the  draft lottery on Saturday, the Flyers will have two picks in the first round. They will have their own pick (19th overall) and either 14th or 15th from the Blues. St. Louis has a 5 percent chance of landing one of the top three picks, and, if it does, the Flyers wouldn't get the Blues' top selection until 2019.

Hextall didn't rule out moving up in this year's draft with a trade. He called it a solid draft.


Morgan Frost, the speedy center who dominated the Ontario Hockey League this season, needs to fill out before being NHL-ready, Hextall said.  Frost, who will turn 19 next month, had 112 points in 67 games for Sault Ste. Marie this season. … Coach Dave Hakstol defended playing the injured Simmonds the entire season — he could have had surgery and returned and been more healthy for the playoffs — and using a badly injured Ivan Provorov (left shoulder) for more than 20 minutes in Game 6 against Pittsburgh. He said they were both medically cleared to play. If Simmonds had the surgery and had missed two months, Hextall wondered how he would have played later in the season. "Are you ever a good player the rest of the year? It's always a hard one. There's no black and white answer," Hextall said. … Hextall wasn't sure if Brian Elliott would need a minor procedure associated with his core-muscle surgery in February. … Radko Gudas will compete in the World Championships and Michael Raffl will probably participate, Hextall said.