Expansion Draft Preview: Philadelphia Flyers

This is one in a continuing series of articles outlining the options available to the Seattle Kraken during the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft. To learn more about the draft, please see our Expansion Draft Primer.

Check out articles like this one for every NHL team on our Expansion Draft Previews page.

Finally we’ve arrived at a team where the selection by the Seattle Kraken is going to have a huge impact on the opening night roster, and on the team’s fortunes in its first year. As always, there are no guarantees, and a lot can happen in the next 5 months; but the situation looks very promising.

Philadelphia is having a strong season — something they do quite regularly, to the surprise of most fans around the NHL, due to a near complete absence of national TV coverage. They’re 9-4-3 as of this morning, including last night’s win over the floundering Rangers, just 3 points shy of the East Division leading Bruins.

There’s something else surprising about the Flyers as well: their highest-paid players are (*GASP!*) performing up to their contract values! The list of the Flyers’ top 10 point producers includes all 5 of the top-paid players on the team — including guys who have missed games due to COVID-19 protocol absences. This makes assembling the Flyers’ protected list easier, but also reveals the not-so-hidden gems that Philadelphia will bring forth for the Kraken to pillage.

There isn’t a lot of surprise or potential for variance here, so let’s just get to it.

Protected List

Flyers media sources consider all but about 3 names on this list to be a “lock” for being protected in the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft. The others are highly likely, and their inclusion represents a look-to-the-future mentality that GM Chuck Fletcher appears to be leaning towards. As such, we assume (as does everyone else) that the Flyers will employ the 7-3-1 protection scheme, and the following players will be protected:

Forwards: Claude Giroux (NMC), Kevin Hayes (NMC), Jakub Voracek, Travis Konecny, Sean Couturier, Oskar Lindblom, Patrick Nolan

Defensemen: Ivan Provorov, Travis Sandheim, Philippe Myers

Goaltender: Carter Hart

There is only one other prominent name who is still officially on the Flyers roster that doesn’t show up here, and that’s Matt Niskanen, who announced his retirement before the start of this season.

No Thank You

There are players that we expect to be left exposed that are either 1) too expensive, 2) not performing, 3) too old, or 4) fall into two or more of the aforementioned categories. As such, we will be dismissing the possibility of selecting any of the following players:

Forwards: Scott Laughton, Michael Raffl

Defensemen: Erik Gustafsson, Justin Braun

Goaltenders: Brian Elliot

It should be noted that everyone on this list will be UFA at the end of the current season, except for Justin Braun who is signed for another year.

We will also note here that the one player having a terrific year for the Flyers and not appearing on either list, winger Joel Farabee, is exempt from the draft.

Who’s Left?

Who indeed! The choice here will really come down to what positions the Kraken are looking to fill, because the available selections can and should play prominent parts on Seattle’s roster. With that in mind, here are your choices:

LW James van Riemsdyk, $7 million AAV, signed through 2023. The salary alone would be enough to make most GM’s keep on walking, but he’s leading the Flyers in goals, assists, and points this young season. Big body, flame-throwing wrist shot, soft hands, good vision, and 502 points in 756 career games. He does his best work directly in front of the crease, in particular on the #1 power play unit; though he is equally likely to sneak past a cheating defenseman and catch a stretch pass for an easy break-away tally. Below is a sample of his efforts in the 2019-20 season.

Note how many he banks in off opposing defensemen’s skates…

LD Shayne Gostisbehere, $4.5 million AAV, signed through 2023. Whether or not the Kraken select Ghost in the expansion draft comes down to one word: knees. An ACL injury limited his rookie season to just 2 games played; subsequent surgery to that knee as well as a “clean up” procedure on the other have hampered his ability to get a full 82 games in. But when he does, it’s magic: his best output was in 2017-18, with 13 goals, including 7 on the power play; 52 assists, totaling 65 points; 116 blocked shots, 53 hits, and a plus-10 rating. This year he came into camp healthy, but his numbers are uninspiring through his first 10 games of effort, notching just a goal and 2 assists while logging top pairing minutes. Are there knee issues again? Or can he still deliver the kind of moves in the video below?

We’re not paying over $4 million for a stay-at-home defenseman…

Let’s Make A Deal

With the kind of offerings on the table in Philadelphia it’s difficult to see Ron Francis giving consideration to an offer of a draft pick in exchange for selecting somebody off the up-and-coming ranks of the Philly roster. Similarly, given the opportunity to free up between $4.5 million and $7 million in cap room, it makes sense that the Flyers would just accept whatever loss befalls them and make plans accordingly.

As long as their season continues apace, the Flyers won’t be selling at the trade deadline. And even if they were, with two years remaining on each of their contracts, neither Ghostisbehere nor van Riemsdyk would be considered “rentals” by anyone looking for offensive help. Nobody is taking on salary in these new financial circumstances, so it’s reasonable to assume these two will still be available come July.

Eeny, Meeny…

With van Riemsdyk you get consistent performance, but a weighty cap hit. With Gostisbehere the consistency is the question mark, and for that you pay a discount. By the end of this shortened season we will see which of the two has delivered on their multi-million dollar promise, and hopefully that will make the Kraken’s choice a little easier.

But in the final analysis, I honestly think either one could be headed to Seattle. There will be a lot of teams with unanswered questions on their exposed list and considerable ambiguity about who would be the best selection; in contrast, Philadelphia is going to be pretty cut and dried. So once some of those other decisions are set in stone, I expect the Kraken will better be able to make a choice between these two.

You can check out the Flyers and get a gander at Seattle’s potential selections from the Philadelphia roster this weekend, when they play back-to-back games against the Buffalo Sabres: Saturday at 10am, Sunday at noon, all times Pacific Standard Time. Both games are available on ESPN+.

Author: Tim Currell

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