Hextall snags an improved player from Flyers

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Back in early October of the offseason, Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher was discussing the club's overall makeup on the blue line after Matt Niskanen had retired.

"From the time I’ve been in the organization, no player has improved more than Mark Friedman," Fletcher, who took over in December 2018, said of the defenseman.

The Flyers on Wednesday lost Friedman to the Penguins for nothing in exchange. Pittsburgh claimed the 25-year-old off waivers. The Flyers placed Friedman on waivers Tuesday for the purpose of moving him to either the taxi squad or AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley.

An old friend said not so fast. Yep, Ron Hextall.

Hextall, only 16 days into his new gig as Pittsburgh's general manager, had selected Friedman in the third round of the 2014 draft, his first as the Flyers' GM.

Friedman will be on the Penguins' roster. If Pittsburgh wants to place Friedman on its taxi squad or send him to the AHL affiliate Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, he would have to go through waivers again.

The righty-shot Friedman was on the ice this morning at Virtua Center Flyers Skate Zone in Voorhees, New Jersey, for the team's optional morning skate. With the Flyers badly undermanned last Sunday, he played as a winger in the Flyers' 7-3 outdoor loss to the Bruins at Lake Tahoe. It was his fourth game this season and the 11th in his NHL career. He made his NHL debut with the Flyers in the final game of the team's forgettable 2018-19 season. Fletcher took over midseason after Hextall was fired in November 2018.

"I've met Chuck a couple times down in Lehigh," Friedman said then in April 2019. "It's just rewarding for me to come here and finish the year with the Flyers and see where I end up next year."

Righty-shot defensemen are of premium value and depth on the back end is as good as gold in the NHL. Clubs highly covet depth along the blue line, so the Flyers won't be unbothered with losing a younger, developed defenseman for nothing. That hurts the club's organizational depth and it's the division rival Penguins rubbing salt in the wound.

Friedman, a smaller defenseman that plays with pace and purpose, had started to look like the Flyers' seventh or eighth blueliner, both currently and possibly in the future. The Flyers are solidly stocked at the position and have prospects like Egor Zamula and Cam York not far in the distance, which might have made Friedman more expendable.

Friedman has a new opportunity in Pittsburgh, where the Flyers will play March 2-6 for three straight games.

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