Due to the state of the current COVID-19 pandemic, there isn’t much optimism that hockey will return this season. The Flyers, a team that was riding a hot streak, were looking forward to a deep playoff run. But now, as Kevin Hayes says, those guys “are excited to be gamers again.”
With the status of the season up in the air, it could be time to direct attention to the offseason. For the 2021-2022 season, the NHL will be debuting its 32nd franchise in Seattle. That being said, this offseason’s plans will rely heavily on the expansion draft that is to come next year. During the 2017 expansion draft for Las Vegas, the Flyers lost Pierre-Édouard Bellemare.
The rules of the 2021 expansion draft will follow the exact guidelines as the 2017 draft for the Vegas Golden Knights:
- All 31 current NHL teams must submit a Protected List of players to the NHL before draft day.
- Either include a list of seven forwards, three defensemen, and one goaltender OR eight skaters (forwards/defensemen) and one goaltender
- Players with a “No Movement” clause must be protected if the player does not waive the clause.
- First and second-year professional players and unsigned draft picks are not eligible for the expansion draft and won’t need to be protected.
- Players with potential career-ending injuries who have missed more than the previous 60 consecutive games may not be used to satisfy a team’s player exposure requirements unless approval is received from the NHL.
- All other players are eligible for the Expansion Draft
- The entire NHL will be put under a ‘roster freeze.’ No trades, no waivers until after Seattle’s roster is created
- Protected lists are sent to all 31 teams, and Seattle will be allowed to interview eligible players
- Seattle must select one player from each current NHL team
- The 30-man roster must include 14 forwards, nine defensemen, and three goaltenders
- 20 players must be under contract for the 2021-22 season
- Salaries of the players selected must combine to be between 60 and 100 percent of the salary cap’s upper limit
Rules provided by https://www.nbcsports.com/washington/washington-capitals/rules-2017-nhl-expansion-draft-date-time-whos-eligible-how-watch
Flyers’ Protected list:
With all of those rules in mind, let’s direct our attention to what the Flyers’ protected list could look like. For this expansion draft, the Flyers may not lose an elite player, however, it’s very likely that they lose someone more significant than Pierre-Édouard Bellemare.
Any player with two or fewer years of NHL experience is automatically exempt from eligibility. This would include many of the players that the Flyers used during their carousel of call-ups earlier in the season, but most notably, protects Morgan Frost and Joel Farabee.
Philly looks to have plenty of difficult decisions going into this draft. With the status of Oskar Lindblom and Nolan Patrick still up in the air, it’s uncertain if these guys will even be protected. For the sake of optimism, we’ll focus on those two being full-time contributors in 2020-2021. Lindblom could ultimately fall into the “potential career-ending injury” clause in the rules too.
As of now, two of their seven protected forwards will go to Kevin Hayes and Claude Giroux, as they have no-movement clauses. It’s also obvious to keep the core together. The rest of their list could include:
- Claude Giroux
- Kevin Hayes
- Sean Couturier
- Travis Konecny
- James van Riemsdyk OR Jakub Voracek
- Nolan Patrick
- Oskar Lindblom
This bottom portion of that list is fluid. If Oskar, or even Nolan, find themselves out permanently, the Flyers could keep both JVR and Voracek. Both of those guys have contracts with yearly averages of $7 million or over. Despite what many fans may think, Voracek has always been an underrated guy in orange and black, so JVR could be the preferred guy to go if there needs to be a choice.
The Flyers need to realize that it’s not always a good move to keep expensive veterans over young studs, however. It’s impossible to predict how the Flyers will perform two years from now, however, their youth seems to be their strength. The veteran role players, similar to Nate Thompson and Derek Grant, could be more important than a have-been, expensive player.
One notable guy not on that list though?
I love Scott Laughton as much as the next guy, but I can’t see the Flyers keeping him over a fully healthy Patrick and/or Lindblom. In my opinion, if this was the case, I could see them trading Laughton for a draft pick, which would prevent them from losing him for nothing.
Due to the depth in their defense, the Flyers could be a team that opts to use the eight total skaters option, as it would allow them to keep four defensemen rather than three. However, I don’t think they have an additional defenseman that they’d rather keep over potentially three forwards.
It would be in Philly’s best interest to keep:
- Ivan Provorov
- Travis Sanheim
- Phil Myers
The biggest name left off this list?
Ghost obviously has been on the decline since the stellar first half of his career. After posting numbers of 46, 39, and 65 points in his first three seasons, Gostibehere has accumulated 49 total points over the past two seasons. We’ve seen him move to a healthy scratch role, as his offensive play hasn’t been close to good enough to compensate for his below-average defense.
If I had to make a guess, I could see the Flyers trading a pick to the Seattle franchise as compensation to take Ghost. This deal would obviously protect the rest of the roster, and give Ghost the much needed fresh start the 26-year-old could need.
Robert Hagg would be the remaining guy under contract still at this point, and losing him wouldn’t hurt as badly as one of the young forwards on the roster.
Is this even a question?
If Carter Hart was open to the expansion draft, I think the entire city of Philadelphia would riot.
The Flyers have a loaded list of free agents this offseason. General Manager Chuck Fletcher will have negotiations about salary and contract lengths with the likings of Nolan Patrick, Oskar Lindblom, Phil Myers, Robert Hagg, Misha Vorobyev, Derek Grant, Tyler Pitlick, Nic Aube-Kubel, Justin Braun, Mark Friedman, Brian Elliott, and Nate Thompson.
In terms of an expansion draft, the biggest name as a question mark on that list is Nic Aube-Kubel. Myers, Patrick, and Lindblom could be protected/exempt and Vorobyev and Friedman as an AHL-ers for the most part. Braun, Grant, Pitlick and Elliott could be off the team/ retired by the time of the expansion draft. NAK has been stellar for the Flyers since being called up in December. He is definitely one that Fletcher will aim to re-sign. Depending on his playing time in 2020-2021, he could be exempt as well.
As mentioned above, Laughton could be seen on the trade market. This would not be an idea for this offseason, though. Laughton would remain in orange and black as long as possible, and most likely wouldn’t be traded until the 2021 trade deadline.
Last offseason, we saw Chuck Fletcher make quick decisions, and change the aura of Ron Hextall. He praises NHL-ready players as Hextall loved development. Fletch will continue to improve the roster with the talent we have, and Flyers’ fans should trust his decision making with the expansion draft looming.
Mandatory Credit – © Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
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Student at Stockton University