Monday, March 02, 2015

Pebbles forever: Hextall retains Bellemare with multi-year pact

The Philadelphia Flyers locked up a key member of their bottom-six forwards on Monday, retaining Pierre-Edouard Bellemare with a multi-year contract extension.

According to several reports, the deal is for two years at $1.425 million and carries an average annual value of $712,500 -- yet another frugal positive for Ron Hextall's roster crafting.

Bellemare, who will turn 30 later this week, has totaled four goals and four assists over 62 games during his first North American campaign. He has won 50 percent of his faceoffs and posted 97 hits over an average ice time of 12:18. That's been a good investment at the $600,000 Hextall offered to bring him stateside in the offseason, and solid enough to earn a raise of $700,000 next season and $725,000 two years from now.

“He’s been a good player for us,” Hextall noted in his usual understated style. “He’s a smart player. He works hard. He’s becoming a good penalty killer. He’s kind of taken the coaches’ direction on what we want him to do and he’s been a real good role player.”

An unknown quantity to all except those who kept close tabs on the Swedish Elite League over the last several seasons, Bellemare has held strong against any and all suggestions that he might not be able to hack a longer season in the tougher NHL.

He has integrated nicely on the fourth line alongside Zac Rinaldo, Chris VandeVelde and whomever else Craig Berube decided to saddle him with at certain junctures this season, bringing the right amount of aggressiveness to his role night after night. Having the speed to drive play at times from the defensive and neutral zones and to work with Jakub Voracek when he's placed on the bottom pairing hasn't hurt either.

The small scale of the new pact ensures that Hextall will have the flexibility to do what he wants once the deal is through. A waiver-wire raid for an Adam Hall-type player is on the table, as is a trade, if a Phantoms player on the order of Taylor Leier, Austin Fyten or is not ready to assume that role.

Bellemare had totaled 20 goals and 15 assists over 50 games last season for Skelleftea of the SHL. 

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