Despite a stunning season for top winger Jakub Voracek, who until recently was alone leading the league in scoring (he's now tied with Tyler Seguin and Patrick Kane), there has not been much to smile about in Philadelphia. The Philadelphia Flyers are not completely out of the playoff race yet, but the team will be fighting long odds as it sits 11 points back of the last wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference standings with 30 games to go. That makes for some tough decisions for first-year general manager Ron Hextall, who heads into the trade deadline with players to move but hefty contracts that could make it exceptionally difficult to do so.
Available: With playoff teams clamoring for defensemen at this time of year, two cost-effective options that might seem attractive to buyers are Nick Schultz and Michael Del Zotto. Both were signed this summer to one-year deals as low-risk depth defensemen. Recently, however, they have been two of the Flyers' best defenders, and multiple sources have told ESPN.com that the team would like to keep them around. Preliminary contract discussions have begun for Schultz, though negotiations have yet to commence for Del Zotto, a restricted free agent. Locking up those two makes sense for the Flyers, whereas Hextall might be looking to shed salary by moving higher-earning veterans Braydon Coburn, Nicklas Grossmann or Luke Schenn, who all have one year remaining on their respective deals. Veteran Kimmo Timonen is attempting a return after a frightening blood-clot situation that has sidelined him the entire season, though the nature of the injury and time missed could make teams pretty hesitant to take that risk. Pending unrestricted free agent Ray Emery would presumably be available, but a hot market for a netminder who is 8-9-1 with a 3.38 goals-against average and .887 save percentage is unlikely.
Finances: Unfortunately for Hextall, he inherited some whoppers in terms of unsightly contracts, thereby greatly restricting his maneuverability in his first season running the team since succeeding Paul Holmgren. That much was also true during free agency last July, though Hextall made shrewd moves in signing Del Zotto and Schultz. Concerns about next season's salary cap might make things more difficult, with Coburn, Schenn and Grossman due to earn $4 million, $3.5 million and $3.35 million, respectively.
Scouting the GM: Despite this being his first season as GM, Hextall does not lack for experience at the management level, having served as assistant general manager under Holmgren before his promotion in May and previously working under Los Angeles Kings GM Dean Lombardi. Said one veteran agent, "He's paid his dues." As for his approach heading into this deadline, one Flyers source indicated Hextall will take a pragmatic, long-term outlook into the frenzied weeks ahead. Though the Flyers must realistically view this deadline as sellers, the belief within the organization is that the team still has a strong core with promising pieces Voracek, Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds and defensive prospects Samuel Morin and Shayne Gostisbehere. Hextall will do his best to unload what he can without a total teardown.