Expansion Plan: Projecting the Philadelphia Flyers' protection list for the 2021 expansion draft

Philadelphia's core roster is often overlooked, but with a promising young goaltender and talented veterans, the Flyers look ready to tackle the 2021 expansion draft head-on.
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Welcome to the Expansion Plan, our summer series projecting the protected lists for the 30 NHL franchises who will participate in the June 2021 Expansion Draft.

Over the next two seasons, every team – save the Vegas Golden Knights, who will be exempt – will be planning for the arrival of the NHL’s 32nd franchise and Seattle GM Ron Francis will begin to consider the options for his inaugural roster. As such, over the course of the next 30 days, we will profile one team, in alphabetical order, and forecast their potential list of protections and exposures, as well as address each team’s expansion strategy, no-brainers, tough decisions and what lessons they learned from the 2017 expansion process.

This exercise requires some important ground rules. The 2021 Expansion Draft will follow the same rules as the 2017 Expansion Draft, but some assumptions are necessary. These are the guidelines followed:

  • No pre-draft trades
  • All no-movement clauses are honored
  • Players who will become restricted free agents in 2020 or 2021 remain with current teams
  • Players who will become unrestricted free agents in 2020 or 2021 either remain with current teams or are left off lists entirely (eg. Nicklas Backstrom protected by the Washington Capitals, Tyson Barrie not protected by Toronto Maple Leafs or any other team.)

• • • 

The Philadelphia Flyers have had a strange few years. The Flyers have rotated in and out of the playoffs since 2012-13, failing to win a series in that time, but there's been growth and genuine optimism for the future given the way the organization has drafted throughout the past few years.

Come expansion, the Flyers won't lose a key player, but they'll almost definitely lose someone better than Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Vegas' pick from Philadelphia back in 2017. The Flyers have put a lot of stock in developing youth while keeping free-agent signings – outside of Kevin Hayes – to depth roles. They don't need a young star forward to lead the way, but the depth of Philadelphia's lineup is often overlooked.

Regardless of Seattle's eventual choice – and of course, it's early enough where a lot can change – the Flyers have the depth to make up for it. Most of the free agents between today and June 2021, including Oskar Lindblom, Nolan Patrick and Philippe Myers, are no-brainers to bring back in the meantime. But what does that leave for Seattle?

PROTECTED (7F, 3D, 1G)
Forwards

  • Claude Giroux (NMC)
  • Kevin Hayes (NMC)
  • Sean Couturier
  • Nolan Patrick
  • James van Riemsdyk
  • Travis Konecny
  • Jakub Voracek

Defensemen:

  • Travis Sanheim
  • Ivan Provorov
  • Shayne Gostisbehere

Goalie:

  • Carter Hart

NOTABLE EXPOSURES: Robert Hagg, Oskar Lindblom

STRATEGY: Of all teams, the Flyers are one of the top candidates to use the eight-player strategy by saving four forwards and four defensemen. But Kevin Hayes' NMC means that if they were to take that route, they'd expose three key forwards that they wouldn't want to let go. Thus, the typical 10-skater format will be used. That means upcoming RFA defenders Robert Hagg, Samuel Morin and Myers, among others, will be left available for Seattle, and it's fair to think they'd pick from that group. Of the defensemen they'd keep, Philly would take three of their top four, with pending 2020 UFA Justin Braun, who could easily leave next summer, left unprotected.

With the forward group, the Flyers will make sure the team's core remains untouched. Hayes and Claude Giroux can't go anywhere and Sean Couturier and James van Riemsdyk do a lot of heavy lifting offensively. Jakub Voracek is still a top forward for the Flyers despite a drastic offensive decline in 2018-19 and the Flyers could hold on to him and use him as a trade chip later on.

The team isn't taking any risks with the players they're keeping, but after two mediocre seasons to kick off his career, the Flyers are hoping Patrick can become the next Couturier – a player who struggled at the beginning of their career before shooting off to stardom. By 2021, Patrick may finally have hit that mark, helping to make some of their veterans expendable.

THE NO BRAINER: For once, it appears as though the Flyers have the No. 1 goaltender they've been searching for over the past two decades. Hart had a super stint as a rookie call-up and will be the youngest starting goalie in the league at 21 this season. Obviously, expectations need to be tempered for a young goalie – just remember the turmoil Carey Price went through early in his career – but he's one of the best U-25 goalies in the league and is set to lead Philadelphia into the future.

THE TOUGH DECISION: Voracek has had at least 60 points in five of the past six seasons, so letting him go wouldn't be ideal. But with an $8.25-million cap hit until 2024, the Flyers could consider exposing him and betting on Seattle deciding to steer clear of his hefty cost, choosing a defenseman instead. It's a big risk, for sure, but one that could benefit the Flyers down the road thanks to the freed up cap room.

LESSON LEARNED: It's OK to move on from expensive veterans. In 2017, keeping Valtteri Filppula and his $5 million AAV didn't pay off, with the center contributing just 33 points in 81 games in 2016-17. Voracek is good, no doubt, but what if he doesn't hit 80 points again? His cap hit doesn't look as attractive anymore, does it? Seattle could very well take a young defender instead, making Voracek's status a moot point, but it might be worth keeping his exposure as an option.

Up Next: Pittsburgh Penguins

Previous:Anaheim Ducks | Arizona Coyotes |Boston Bruins | Buffalo Sabres | Calgary Flames | Carolina Hurricanes | Chicago Blackhawks | Colorado Avalanche | Columbus Blue Jackets | Dallas Stars | Detroit Red Wings | Edmonton Oilers | Florida Panthers | Los Angeles Kings | Minnesota Wild | Montreal Canadiens | Nashville Predators | New Jersey Devils | New York Islanders | New York Rangers | Ottawa Senators

(All salary cap information via CapFriendly)

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