Ron Hextall, Flyers Passing on John Tavares Sweepstakes Is Inexcusable

Year after year, Flyers general manager Ron Hextall sits at the podium and preaches about the need to get better, both now and in the future. Of course, this declaration comes after another disappointing playoff series loss or a just-not-good-enough season. But the message is always the same.

And so are the offseason moves that follow.

A depth forward signing, another year of Brandon Manning, a middling goalie. 

Hextall's reluctance to enter a bidding war for top free agents makes sense, though. Through some black magic and cap wizardry, he's finally gotten the team out of cap hell. 

Long gone are the days of Paul Holmgren handing out blank checks to aging big-name veterans and mortgaging the future for the present. Hextall is rightfully building the team through savvy signings while drafting and developing down the middle - mainly centers and defenseman.

And that's all fine and dandy.

But the GM's decision to steer clear of John Tavares this offseason is truly inexcusable. Borderline madness. Negligence. 

Whatever you want to call it, the Flyers' inaction makes little sense.

Tavares is just 27 years old, in the prime of his career. He's a four-time 30-goal scorer and coming off an 84-point campaign for a dreadful Islanders team. Those are legitimate 1C-superstar numbers. 

Which is why this whole thing is so maddening. Players like Tavares rarely - if ever - hit the open market in today's NHL. 

The last time a player of Tavares' caliber tested free agency? Way back in 2010 when Ilya Kovalchuk signed with the Devils. 

Now, there's no way Tavares will get a 17-year deal like Kovy (good one, Devils), but this is a once-in-a-generation, franchise-shifting opportunity here.

According to TSN's Pierre LeBrun, Tavares has met with just six teams: the Stars, Bruins, Sharks, Maple Leafs, Lightning and Islanders. 

But here's the kicker. 

According to capfriendly.com, the Flyers have more projected cap space than all but the Islanders and Maple Leafs for the 2018-19 season.

With over $21 million projected cap space, there's no reason the Flyers couldn't at least kick the tires on Tavares.

Yes, Ivan Provorov and Travis Konecny are coming up on big paydays; Wayne Simmonds, too, should the Flyers decide to extend the winger. 

But when teams like Tampa - just $5 million in projected space - and Boston - just under $12 million - are in on the center, there is no excuse to not make a call.

"It's hard to plan, and you have to be careful not to over-plan," Hextall said before the draft. "But Provy is a year away and Konecny is a year away. You just go on and on with our kids … and time goes quick. We're certainly not going to reach out on a seven-year deal on a good player, I can assure you that."

That seven-year deal? That's GM speak for, thanks but no thanks on Tavares.

Hextall has always been slowly building towards the future, and we started to see that pay off with the youngsters this season.

Still, the Flyers were severely outclassed by the Penguins in the first round, but with Tavares, the Flyers - even now in their developmental state - could stand a real chance against Pittsburgh, as NBC Sports Philadelphia's John Boruk writes.

With their current roster, the Flyers are still two or three years away from serious contention. Would adding Tavares make them instant Stanley Cup contenders?

Probably not, but it would expedite the process and energize a groaning fanbase. 

The chances of Tavares signing with the orange and the black were always very slim.

But Hextall whiffed on a once-in-a-generation chance to mobilize the fanbase and give the team a much-needed jolt. 

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