The second-longest-tenured Flyer is going to be exposed in expansion. Could he be on Seattle’s radar?
Our look at feasible targets for the Seattle Kraken in this month(!)’s expansion draft began with James van Riemsdyk and continued with Shayne Gostisbehere, and today we’ll move along with a look at the Flyers’ other highly-paid winger that figures to be exposed in the draft — one who, in light of recent news, seems relevant to discuss in this space.
2021 Statistical Overview: 9 G, 34 A in 53 GP | 16.96 TOI/G | 48.46 5-on-5 xGF%
Contract: Signed through 2023-24 at $8,250,000 per year
Current Player Evaluation
Voracek has become fairly predictable over the past few seasons, and this one was not much of a deviation from the norm. In 2020-21 Voracek tied with van Riemsdyk and Claude Giroux for the team lead in scoring with 43, and was second in points per game (0.81) to only Sean Couturier. His production is right around where it’s been for the last half-decade or so; in fact, his per-game goal and assist rates were exactly the same (0.17 and 0.64) last season as they were the year prior.
Evaluating Voracek gets trickier when you look at his full on-ice impact beyond “is he helping place pucks into the net by way of his passing or shooting”. His on-ice play-driving numbers tumbled a bit, as the Flyers were underwater by Expected Goals in his time on ice — not overwhelmingly so (48.09% xG-For), but when only one regular forward (Nicolas Aube-Kubel) comes out worse in that regard, it’s tough not to notice, which brings us to our next point.
Long-Term Player Evaluation
Voracek’s all-around impact has been inconsistent at best from season-to-season, and it’s tough to imagine that a forward who turns 32 next month is going to get drastically better in that sense. Scoring-wise, it seems like you know what you’re getting: around 60-65 points (in an 82-game season), probably in the vicinity of 10-15 goals and 40-50 assists. But that feels almost more like a ceiling than a floor going forward. We’re now three years removed from Voracek’s last real supernova season, where he, Giroux, and Couturier single-handedly dragged the Flyers to the playoffs in 2017-18.
And while yes, the scoring totals this year were good, they were buoyed to some extent by a single-season-career-high 10.86% on-ice shooting percentage at 5-on-5. Some of that’s a product of Voracek’s plus playmaking ability, to be sure, but given that the only time he’s ever been above 8.5% in that number in a full, 82-game season with the Flyers is back in 2011-12(!), betting on him being close to that number again next year feels like a dangerous game, and if he isn’t, those point totals could drop faster than we think.
It ain’t cheap. Voracek is on the hook for $8.25 million against the cap for each of the next three seasons (his age-32, 33, and 34 years). Voracek remains a top-6 winger who could probably continue to be one in the right situation, and he puts up points and those tend to get people paid, but unlike when we had this same conversation about JVR, it doesn’t seem likely that if Voracek hit the market as a UFA tomorrow he would be signed for a deal worth what he’s currently making. Being a negative-value-contract player in a flat cap world? It’s tough.
Potential Value to Seattle
Tough to say. Without any sort of sweetener or retention from Philadelphia, the contract could make it a non-starter. That said, like with JVR, there is some potential appeal in the sense that, contract be damned, there just might not be that many players exposed that are putting up top-of-the-lineup scoring totals. And if they see a guy who, for whatever the trends say, might just need a bit of a kick in the ass to rediscover some of his old self, there’s some potential appeal. In a world where both he and JVR are exposed, I don’t see them taking the former over the latter without some sort of side deal, but weirder things have happened.
Potential Losses for Philadelphia
To continue the parallels here, how the Flyers see Voracek’s removal is probably similar to how they’d see JVR’s. Yes, they’d be worse off on the ice without him. Yes, they’d have to find a way to replace that offensive production. Yes, that might still be worth it to pick up a big chunk of cap space in a summer where cap space is going to be at a premium.
But to a degree it all just feels even more obviously the case with Voracek that it might just be time to move on, and if that wasn’t already clear, Elliotte Friedman’s 31 Thoughts post from this past weekend in which he straight-up says that the Flyers are thinking this seems like a pretty good tell. Voracek has been with the Flyers for a decade, and it’s not his fault that he’s had some really, really good years in there wasted by ineffectiveness elsewhere on the team, but the level of play isn’t where it used to be and you can forgive the Flyers for thinking it isn’t going to get much better as long as he’s here. And if you’re looking for a true “shake-up” move among the guys in the locker room now, Voracek is the one that seems logical: good enough and a big enough name that moving him sends a message, yet not so good or big that his departure creates a hole too big to fill.
Friedman also effectively confirmed in that piece there that Voracek will be exposed in expansion, which we’ve mostly treated as a given from the start due to his contract, which ties us back to the discussion at hand here. How much say Dave Hakstol has in the decision-making process here is anybody’s guess, as is what Hakstol’s actual thoughts on Voracek himself are. Jake had one of the best seasons of his career under Hak in that 2017-18 season, but he had two other full ones and part of a third that were just at the same baseline we’ve seen from him under Alain Vigneault.
Ultimately, it feels like if Seattle wants to take an expensive winger from the Flyers, it’s more likely they’re going to take van Riemsdyk than they are Voracek. Even so, though, the Flyers have made it clear they’re open to moving on from Voracek, and if they decide the most convenient way to do that is to try and dump that salary onto Seattle as part of some kind of deal, maybe that conversation will be had and Voracek ends up being the pick.
Statistics in this article courtesy of Evolving Hockey unless otherwise noted.