Grading Hak & Hex: Sandstrom ELC, Taylor Leier and Robert Hagg

Updated: April 3, 2018 at 11:45 am by Wes Herrmann

The Philadelphia Flyers are inching closer to a playoff spot, but general manager Ron Hextall is busy signing prospects, including Felix Sandstrom and coach Dave Hakstol is hinting at player’s future in this week’s grading of the Flyers management.

Felix Sandstrom Signed to ELC

I’ve held back from getting into any of the Flyers’ ELC signings (Strome, Sushko, Ratcliffe) in March because they were your run of the mill junior prospect signings where the contract slides next year and the player finishes his junior career. Felix Sandstrom’s ELC is under a much different situation, though.

First off, he doesn’t play in Canadian juniors; he’s in Sweden and he’s signed for another year there with his club HV71. That’s why the ELC came as a surprise and ignited speculation that the 21 year old was making a jump to North America early.

Despite usual NHL out clauses in European contracts, players signed to ELC deals can be loaned to European teams. That’s likely what the Flyers will do with Sandstrom next year.

But why even sign him to his ELC then? It’s the same exact reason that I detailed in explaining the Cooper Marody trade last week.

NHL teams hold onto draft picks’ rights from the European leagues for four years. Next year would have been Sandstrom’s fourth meaning he could become a free agent in the summer of 2019.

Obviously, Hextall didn’t want Sandstrom seeing the allure of free agency. He’ll pay the penalty of not having the contract slide (2018-19 will count as one of the three years on the deal and against the 50-contract limit) but it’s a price every GM should be willing to pay.

Sandstrom ended up wearing a Phantoms jersey this weekend due to an emergency injury situation, but he may not wear another purple sweater until late next year or the 2019-20 season.

Weise in Over Leier

In the scheme of last week’s game against the Avalanche, inserting Dale Weise instead of Taylor Leier probably mattered little. Weise played just 7:36 and the Flyers won the game 2-1. But as for Leier’s standing with the team, I think it speaks volumes.

The 24 year old has largely been the odd man out since the calendar changed to 2018 and he’s watched veteran Jori Lehtera and fellow rookie Oskar Lindblom take spots over him.

I know Lehtera isn’t a favorite among Flyers fans, but I have a hard time imagining Leier would make a bigger impact. He’s fast — a lot faster than Lehtera — but he’s not an effective penalty killer or strong along the boards. Neither are dangerous offensively, which hurts Leier even more.

As for Weise, he’s been in the same boat as Leier as a frequent healthy scratch with little impact. But Hakstol was willing to insert the former Canadien first despite playing a speedy Avs team.

It’s unfortunate for Leier, who will be a restricted free agent at the end of this season. It wouldn’t be shocking to see him not tendered a qualifying offer or put on the trade block as other Flyers prospects continue to grow and develop.

Robert Hagg Remains Out of Lineup

Hagg hasn’t played a game since March 20 so this isn’t a new development, but it’s one that’s certainly been made clear in the last week or so. When the Swede was first taken out of the lineup, there was speculation that it was due to lingering effects from an injury.

Philadelphia has now played five games since the last time Hagg suited up. If there was any doubt, the defenseman has been removed from the lineup for reasons that go beyond any injuries.

That conclusion is certainly an odd one. Despite being a rookie, Hagg was a player that Hakstol trusted immediately, playing him over 18 minutes a night on average and in late-game matchups.

But an injury in early March welcomed a return for Travis Sanheim. To the surprise of most, Sanheim was able to win a spot. Hagg was inserted in the lineup after he was healthy for Brandon Manning, but that only lasted two games.

That’s where the real issue came. Hakstol told the media he didn’t like a Hagg-Radko Gudas pairing saying there were “bad gaps” and “wasn’t as effective as we needed to be”. The coach decided to go back to one of his favorite pairings of Manning and Gudas.

I can understand why Hakstol wouldn’t want to shuffle his pairings. Ivan Provorov and Shayne Gostisbehere won’t be touched and Sanheim with Andrew MacDonald has been surprisingly successful.

I would have given Hagg a longer leash to work with Gudas, but Manning has long been in Hakstol’s favor.

Hagg should be playing over Manning, but at this point it would likely take an injury to get the 23 year old back in the lineup. Luckily for the team, if/when that does happen, it’ll have a decent defender in Hagg to rely on.

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