Release the Kraken indeed, my friend.
With Ron Francis recently being named the General Manager of the new Seattle franchise, this had me thinking about the Flyers’ roster and strategy come the 2021-22 season. The NHL has said that the rules for this coming expansion draft will be the same as before with the Vegas Golden Knights:
“The 2021 NHL Expansion Draft will be under the same rules for Seattle as the Vegas Golden Knights in 2017. Seattle will select one player from each team excluding the Golden Knights for a total of 30 (14 forwards, nine defensemen and three goalies) not including additional players who may be acquired as the result of violations of the Expansion Draft rules.”
Additionally, as per the last go around of expansion, clubs will have the opportunity to protect seven forwards, three defensemen, and one goalie (or eight skaters and one goalie). To give a quick refresh of the other players who will and who will not be exposed to Seattle (via NHL.com):
“All players with no movement clauses at the time of the draft, and who decline to waive those clauses, must be protected and will be counted toward their team’s applicable protection limits.
All first- and second-year NHL players, and all unsigned draft choices, will be exempt from selection (and will not be counted toward protection limits)
In addition, all NHL teams must meet the following minimum requirements regarding players exposed for selection in the draft:
One defenseman who is a) under contract in 2021-22 and b) played in at least 40 NHL games the prior season or played in at least 70 NHL games in the prior two seasons.
Two forwards who are a) under contract in 2021-22 and b) played at least 40 NHL games the prior season or played in at least 70 NHL games in the prior two seasons.
One goalie who is under contract in 2021-22 or will be a restricted free agent at the end of his current contract immediately prior to 2021-22. If a team elects to make a restricted free agent goalie available to meet this requirement, that goalie must have received his qualifying offer prior to the submission of the team’s protected list.
Players with potential career-ending injuries who have missed more than the previous 60 consecutive games (or who otherwise have been confirmed to have a career-threatening injury) may not be used to satisfy a team’s player exposure requirements unless approval is received from the NHL. Such players also may be deemed exempt from selection.”
With this in mind, let’s project and see who the Flyers will likely need to protect when the expansion draft occurs:
As they both have no-movement clauses that last beyond the 2021-22 season, both Claude Giroux and Kevin Hayes will need to be protected. This is no shock, and I doubt these first two players cause any controversy in this regard. They are talented veterans whom the Flyers would be devastated to lose.
There are a few ‘no brainer’ selections as well: Sean Couturier, Nolan Patrick, and Travis Konecny will 100% be protected.
In my opinion, provided he is still here, I think Jakub Voracek should be protected. He is an often criticized member of this organization, but he is one of the best forwards on the team and to lose him for nothing would be a failure of the front office.
This leaves one more spot at forward left, and according to capfriendly.com, the following players are left to consider:
- James Van Riemsdyk
- Scott Laughton
- Michael Raffl
- Tyler Pitlick
- Oskar Lindblom
- Kurtis Gabriel
Van Riemsdyk is the only forward there signed through 2021-22, though he wouldn’t be the guy on this list I protect. I would personally choose Oskar Lindblom. This is for three reasons, the first of which is that I would bank on Lindblom improving and taking the spot that Van Riemsdyk currently holds in the forward corps. Second, Lindblom will almost certainly be a cheaper retention than JVR, and lastly, that the Flyers need to expose two forwards who played in the previous season or two to a minimum extent. If the Flyers are looking to rid themselves of that contract, exposing Van Riemsdyk would certainly be an option. They could then have the option of exposing one of Michael Raffl or Scott Laughton (I don’t think Gabriel and Pitlick are here beyond 2019-20).
The only moves that would throw a caveat into this selection would be other roster additions, or the more projectable and likely event that a prospect plays in the NHL this season. As first and second year professionals are protected automatically, guys like Morgan Frost and Joel Farabee will be safe, which is a relief.
Matt Niskanen currently has a modified no-trade clause in his contract that lasts until after the 2020-21 season. Should the Flyers choose to re-sign him, it is likely they will attempt to rid his contract of that clause, though fortunately this doesn’t impact the expansion draft. His case is an interesting one, since I had two conflicting thoughts: The likelihood that they sign Niskanen and then expose him to the draft is unlikely, so if they hang on to Niskanen further than his current contract, we can still expect the Flyers to protect him. Next, they could re-sign him and expose him to the draft as the defenseman to have played at least 40 games last season. This last option would be an interesting option, considering the potential ramifications it could have. While the Flyers could bank on Seattle taking Niskanen (due to his experience and cap hit in order to satisfy the cap floor), if they don’t then the Flyers will be stuck with him. I guess all we can hope for is that getting stuck with him won’t be a liability.
In the event that the Flyers move on from Niskanen or choose to expose him as a tactic, Ivan Provorov is the obvious first choice. While he may have had a down year, Provorov is still the cornerstone of the Flyers’ defense and one hopes that he returns to his old ways of being a legit #1 at the blue line.
This leaves a very difficult choice to be made between Shayne Gostisbehere, Travis Sanheim, and Philippe Myers. Personally, I would go with Gostisbehere and Sanheim because I am more sure/entirely confident in their status. Whereas with Myers, he has yet to, at this point, play a full season. I am hoping that he changes my mind!
Must I even write this? It’s Carter Hart. He’s the only goalie I care about protecting, and if they lost one of their other goalies, I wouldn’t mind at all.
While this projection is rough considering that the Flyers’ roster could look completely different by 2021-22, it is not out of the realm of possibility that many of the current roster players will be making an even larger impact by this point in time. In fact, that’s what we are all hoping for! 70 point winger Travis Konecny, #1 defenseman Travis Sanheim, game saving goaltender Carter Hart? If that’s who the Flyers have rostered in 2021-22, then they’ll certainly be in cup contention, and by this calculation, their key pieces will all be protected.