How Niskanen’s retirement & Braun’s extension impact Flyers draft plans

One day before the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, Matt Niskanen retired from the NHL. There is quite a bit to unpack as Niskanen makes his exit from the league, most recently having played on the Philadelphia Flyers. His efforts on the first line alongside Ivan Provorov were monumental during the 2019-2020 regular season. After the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs, Niskanen officially made his decision to retire from the sport he reached the pinnacle of.

The upcoming 2020-2021 season would be the last of his contract with the Philadelphia Flyers. Matt Niskanen deciding to retire removes the cap hit of $5.75mil. After alleviating that space, the Flyers will have nearly $10mil in cap space to play with. In reacting to the news of his retirement, Philadelphia opted to re-sign Justin Braun to a two-year contract with an average annual value of $1.8 million

Braun came to the Flyers via a trade with the San Jose Sharks during the offseason. He was typically paired with Hagg on the third pairing and was a steady presence. Braun earned $3.8 million on the last year of his five-year, $19 million deal he signed with the San Jose Sharks back in 2014. This deal sees a value much more reflective of his 2019-20 production, where he amassed 19 points in 62 games and had a -2 rating.

Flyers Defensemen

Actively on the roster from the Philadelphia Flyers 2020 postseason are Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim, Robert Hagg, and Shayne Gostisbehere. Awaiting an offer as a restricted free-agent is Philippe Myers. It is likely that Myers will receive an extension, but the Flyers don’t yet appear ready to lean on Friedman, keeping Braun as an insurance policy.

Matt Niskanen retiring means that Shayne Gostisbehere would have a role with the Philadelphia Flyers in 2020-2021. Do not be surprised if Gostisbehere appears on the first-line alongside Ivan Provorov. That duo worked well in place of Niskanen in the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs. Niskanen of course served a one-game suspension after breaking Brendan Gallagher’s on a crosscheck. It is easy to stay in the mindset that Gostisbehere needs to be moved, but 2020-2021 could turn into a redemption tour of sorts after Niskanen’s departure.

NHL Draft Strategy

In two of my mock drafts, I had the Philadelphia Flyers choosing a forward with the 23rd overall pick. The only mock draft where I had the Flyers taking a defenseman in the first round featured Braden Schneider from the Brandon Wheat Kings. It is unlikely that Schneider falls to 23 in the first round of the NHL Draft, but if he does, he would fit Philadelphia’s needs.

Braden Schneider is a playmaker defenseman. He tallied 42 points in sixty games during his final season in the CHL. His specialties include a wrist shot from the blue-line and fine-tuned passing in transition. Matt Niskanen had those same qualities and found a place on the powerplay, a department the Philadelphia Flyers need to improve. Schneider is a right-handed shot, which Alain Vigneault likes.

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