Heading into the 2020-2021 NHL regular season, the current offseason weighs heavily for all teams. Not only are NHL franchises trying to construct the best rosters to compete for the 2021 Stanley Cup, but they’re also planning for the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft. The Seattle Kraken will enter the fold and shake up the NHL landscape. Only the Vegas Golden Knights will remain fully protected from the expansion. So, what does this mean for your Philadelphia Flyers?
For most of the NHL franchises, it makes sense to use the 7/3/1 format when protecting players. That includes players that have no-movement clauses of any sort in their current contracts. Since the Philadelphia Flyers are a team that made it to the conference semi-finals round of the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs, it makes sense for them to abide by the 7/3/1 format. The other option, 8/1, is ideal for teams who have only a core of players but lack depth production. That is the opposite of the Flyers’ identity.
With the 7/3/1 format, the Philadelphia Flyers will be protecting seven forwards, three defensemen, and a goaltender. It offers more opportunity to keep the team together, rather than keeping eight skaters (any combination of forwards and defensemen) and a goaltender. The Flyers are young and skilled enough where the 7/3/1 format makes sense due to their success in the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs. So, who will be protected? Here is who I project:
Protected From Expansion Draft
Claude Giroux; 32yrs; C/LW/RW
He’s a lock to stay in Philadelphia (not only because of his no-movement clause.) One of many when concerning the Philadelphia Flyers forwards. Giroux was fourth in scoring on the Flyers in 2019-2020, and is still a top-six player. He’ll be a top-line left winger with Philadelphia as the 1C role is reserved for Sean Couturier. In 69 games played, Giroux scored 53 points in his playmaker role, won 59% of his faceoffs, and led the Flyers in game-winning goals (6.)
Jakub Voracek; 31yrs; RW/LW
Usually, Voracek would be a lock to stay in Philadelphia. If he is still on the Philadelphia Flyers’ roster at the end of the 2020-2021 season, he will remain with the Flyers because there will be an NHL roster freeze. It makes sense that Voracek could be traded next season because his contract becomes very expensive with necessary youth to keep. The Pittsburgh Penguins did this with Phil Kessel just last summer, trading him to the Arizona Coyotes. At this moment, with Voracek on Philadelphia’s roster, he will likely be protected.
Sean Couturier; 27yrs; C
No question about it, Couturier is a lock to be protected. The reigning Frank J. Selke Award winner is to the Flyers like a cheesesteak is to Philadelphia. He finished second in team scoring during 2019-2020, but was the best defensive forward in the league. Couturier led the Philadelphia Flyers in faceoff win percentage (59.7%). People could argue that Couturier should be the captain of the Flyers, and they would have a point.
Kevin Hayes; 28yrs; C
Another lock to stay with the Philadelphia Flyers (and not just because of his no-movement clause) is Hayes. He’s a star player that the Flyers invested in long-term before the 2019-2020 NHL season. Hayes more than proved his worth in Philadelphia, not just on the second line during even-strength hockey, but more specifically on the penalty-kill. Tying the league-lead for shorthanded goals means Hayes blesses the Flyers with a lethal skill set. He’s also a player that thrives due to his relationship with Alain Vigneault.
Travis Konecny; 23yrs; C/RW
Yet another lock to stay with the Philadelphia Flyers, Konecny led the team in scoring last season. His disappearing act in the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs does not warrant exposing him for the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft. Konecny provides a balanced attack, but he became a playmaker in 2019-2020. He finished second to Claude Giroux in team powerplay goals by forwards.
Scott Laughton; 26yrs; LW/C
This one is a toss-up because it could come down to Laughton or Nicolas Aube-Kubel. While Aube-Kubel is two years younger than Laughton, he was outperformed by Laughton in 2019-2020. Laughton played 13 more games than Aube-Kubel and outpaced Aube-Kubel’s productivity. Of all players, 2019-2020 was a breakout season for Laughton. On the Philadelphia Flyers, Laughton is a bottom-six forward that would be a top-six player on most other franchises.
Oskar Lindblom; 24yrs; LW
The last forward protected by the Philadelphia Flyers is an absolute lock. Before Lindblom was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, he was on a scoring tear for the Flyers. He secured his future with Philadelphia before his 2019-2020 season ended. In the thirty games that he played, Lindblom scored 11 goals (one less than Jakub Voracek.) Lindblom finished third in shooting percentage of all players who played thirty games or more (behind Scott Laughton and Travis Konecny.)
Ivan Provorov; 23yrs; LD
Provorov is a lock to stay with the Philadelphia Flyers on defense. He’s the top investment on the defensive unit in Philadelphia. On the powerplay, Provorov quarterbacks the first team. He hasn’t missed a game in his NHL career. He’s the Flyers ironman, and he’ll continue to be a vital part of the defense even after his contract ends in 2024-2025.
Travis Sanheim; 24yrs; LD
In the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs, Sanheim saw his role expand on the Philadelphia Flyers. Matt Niskanen served a one-game suspension during the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Montreal Canadiens. In that time, Sanheim’s role expanded to the second powerplay unit. That means Alain Vigneault has invested further in Sanheim’s potential. Before the 2021-2022 season, Sanheim will need to have his contract extended by the Flyers.
Philippe Myers; 23yrs; RD
At the moment, Myers has not officially re-signed with the Philadelphia Flyers. He’s technically still a restricted free agent. I think it is very likely that Myers returns to Philadelphia, but let’s talk about if he doesn’t. If Myers decides not to return to the Flyers, then Robert Hagg needs to be protected. For now, I predict Myers to be protected before Hagg.
Carter Hart; 22yrs; G
Here is the clearest lock of the entire list. Hart is the franchise goaltender. It means that Brian Elliott is exposed. If the Seattle Kraken want to gamble on Elliott, that helps the Philadelphia Flyers.
Potential Expansion Draft Casualties
Of the forwards, the highlighted one that will be exposed is James van Riemsdyk. He scored forty points last season, but he’s the owner of an overly expensive contract. The Philadelphia Flyers could be aching to get rid of this $7mil price tag, which he hasn’t lived up to since he came to Philadelphia for a second stint. In comparing his stints with the Flyers, van Riemsdyk has performed better in the past two seasons. He is not worth the contract he has, and Philadelphia would benefit by exposing him to the Seattle Kraken.
Ron Francis may have his eyes peeled for Nicolas Aube-Kubel or Michael Raffl. Either one of those two players would boost the Seattle Kraken’s bottom six. Aube-Kubel brought the physicality when speaking of the Philadelphia Flyers forwards. Raffl was one of the more productive players for the Flyers during the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs. Of the two, I would expect the Kraken to select Aube-Kubel over Raffl (considering Nolan Patrick has yet to return to NHL action.)
Now, what if Chuck Fletcher signing Erik Gustafsson acts like a red herring to keep Shayne Gostisbehere? Yes, Gostisbehere is more expensive than Gustafsson, but the point is to keep the better of two players. When comparing both careers, Gostisbehere is the better defensive defenseman, but Gustafsson produces more offensive points. Effectively, Gustafsson is only a powerplay specialist, but the Philadelphia Flyers know Gostisbehere can thrive with Ivan Provorov on the first line. That much was apparent when Matt Niskanen missed time in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.
The Seattle Kraken would likely poach Robert Hagg or Philippe Myers anyhow. Justin Braun will be exposed with Shayne Gostisbehere and Erik Gustafsson. The focus of the next offseason for the Philadelphia Flyers will be on their defense. If the Kraken draft a defenseman from the Flyers, there will be important roles to fill. Maybe Philadelphia shouldn’t give up on Gostisbehere just yet.
Officially, one of these three players makes the most sense to land on the Seattle Kraken. Offensively, it’s likely Nicolas Aube-Kubel or Michael Raffl. Defensively, we’re talking about saying goodbye to Robert Hagg. I believe the Seattle Kraken drafting Hagg does the most damage to the Philadelphia Flyers. The Flyers would miss any one of those three players, but I think that they would be okay if Aube-Kubel, or Raffl, were selected.
Mandatory Credit – Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire