Ron Hextall: Valtteri Filppula ‘makes plays,' will ‘upgrade' Flyers


VOORHEES, N.J. -- Everyone knew there was a good chance the Flyers would try to move Mark Streit at the trade deadline.

What no one expected, however, was that they would trade him to Tampa Bay for a player who is coming back with a salary nearly identical to the one they're losing, but with a year left on his contract.

That's the shock reaction to Wednesday's trade deadline deal that sent Streit initially to the Lightning in exchange for longtime swing forward Valtteri Filppula, who will earn $5 million next season at age 33.

Streit was then flipped to Pittsburgh (see story).

Beneath the shock, there's more to this deal.

"This kid gives us flexibility because centers are really hard to find," general mnager Ron Hextall said. "Most teams have four or five centermen. This kid gives up depth and options. He is highly competitive and competes on pucks. He makes plays."

Streit, whose contract ends this summer, was making $5.25 million.

Because Filppula, who spent eight years in the Detroit Red Wings organization, had a no-movement clause, he has to be protected this summer in the NHL expansion draft. Hextall said he was going to do that, anyway.

The Flyers also received a fourth-round pick and a conditional seventh-round pick that was locked in once Streit went to Pittsburgh, which Hextall admitted he knew was possible.

Streit had a no-movement clause but these teams were both on his list of 10 clubs to which he could be traded.

Last week, Hextall said he was not looking to be a buyer at the deadline, but a seller. On Wednesday, he said Streit was the only UFA he was able to move.

"On July 1, you don't get a player like this on a one-year deal," Hextall said of Filppula. "The money, you won't get this type of player on a one-year deal, which was attractive to us. We know what we have coming."

One piece Hextall knows the Flyers have coming is Swedish left winger Oskar Lindblom, who should be on the roster next fall.

"We're not going to buy at the expense of giving away assets," Hextall said. "Mark Streit was a terrific human being. A really good character person we valued getting up in age (39 years old) a little bit."

Filppula will add some scoring but help more with playmaking. He's had declining numbers since his career 2013-14 season in Tampa when he posted personal bests in goals (25) and points (58). Filppula (plus-1) has seven goals and 34 points this season.

"It's not necessarily about the amount of points you get," Hextall said. "It's about the plus-minus points you get and give up. The game is not about outscoring a team, 7-6. It's about two-way hockey … he's one of those guys who helps you win hockey games.

"He'll fit in this group and he's an upgrade. The cost was, we felt, reasonable. You connect the dots in the middle. The centermen are the guys who make the wingers better."

One benefit here is that Filppula, who won a Stanley Cup with Detroit, will take pressure off Claude Giroux, who has been a minus player on the road this season. This should create a better matchup for Giroux.

"If you have three guys that match up, you can pretty much match one of the three up all game," Hextall said. "If you have one or two, it's pretty difficult. Whenever you add guys who can match up against top lines, it's going to help your team."

Filppula can help the Flyers transition to a younger club. He centered Jonathan Drouin and Ryan Callahan parts of this season. He'll be slotted as a second-line center. Hextall considers him top six or nine.

"We've got good players in the organization," Hextall said. "There aren't many pure scorers. We prefer all hockey players. How many Alex Ovechkin's are there, [players that] score 40 to 50 goals a year?

"Valtteri makes plays. Talk about a scorer. A scorer is not real good when someone is not making plays to him."

He also believes Filppula could make a difference in the Flyers' stretch run.

"We're in a tough spot, I understand that," Hextall said. "Can we make the playoffs? Yes, I believe we can. Do we have to go on a lights-out run? Absolutely. And we did last year."

Loose pucks
Because of salary cap issues, the Flyers agreed to pick up 4.7 percent of Streit's salary. When Streit got flipped, Tampa picked up half of his salary. … Hextall announced that Michael Raffl will miss six to eight weeks with a lower-body injury (see story).

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