A report late last week from Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman pointed to what could be an upsetting but potentially necessary goodbye. 32-year-old winger Jakub Voracek is set to be exposed during the 2021 NHL expansion draft and if he doesn’t reunite with his old coach in Seattle, then the team will look to move him on during the offseason. Naturally, fan responses to this were varied. No matter your feelings on his potential departure, there’s no skating away from the fact that it would be a bittersweet goodbye.
The Philadelphia Flyers desperately need to retool. There’s a dire need for some insurance behind Carter Hart, and Ivan Provorov needs a running-mate on the top blue-line pairing. Ticking those boxes and bringing back pending free agents with only $16.7M in cap space isn’t exactly going to be easy, and Voracek’s $8.25M AAV over the next three years almost puts the writing on the wall for him.
The Flyers needing to hit the reset button isn’t a new concept. After all, the franchise spent years banking on the development of prospects to come through and fill the team out while vets held it down. However, with the exception of the departure of Wayne Simmonds, there hasn’t been a scenario within the past 5-6 years where a franchise player has been pushed to the curb.
The last arguable player who fits the bill here would be when Danny Briere faced a compliance buyout. After the NHL lockout, he was the team’s highest-paid player whose form was declining after some injuries and the Flyers were scampering for cap space. They had little to no choice but to move on from one of their most beloved players, who throughout his six-year tenure rose to the occasion whenever asked, creating countless memories.
Jakub Voracek might not be held in the same regard as Brierre and there’s no doubting that his fiery personality can rub some the wrong way, but over the past ten years he has become a rock in the Philadelphia offense, withstanding every coaching change, every rise and fall, every oh-so-near, and every nowhere-near. His ten-year stint with the team has been filled with just about every emotion possible and it’s a journey that he’s walked down hand in hand with the fans.
His contract may no longer live up to that $8M AAV as it did after an MVP worthy season when he first signed it, but that’s okay. If this is the end of Voracek’s time in Philadelphia, he’ll end it on a high. He ranks tenth in Flyers history with 604 points and 5th in assists, racking up 427 across a whopping 727 appearances.
He may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but imagining a Flyers team without Jakub Voracek is such an alien concept. It’s unfortunately one that may have to be realized for this team to begin building in a new direction and bring them closer to the sustaining the success they enjoyed in the 2019-20 campaign.
Goodbyes are never easy, but this one just feels like something out of a romcom. A breakup that neither side really wants to happen, but understands it must in order for them both to live their best life. The love is still there and it probably always will be, but it’s okay to let go.
Photo Credit: Alex McIntyre