The giant elephant in the room this summer is the upcoming expansion draft for the Seattle Kraken. It’s been talked about for years but now that it’s fast approaching, it’s becoming more of a reality than fantasy. Before the Philadelphia Flyers can even think about trades or free agent signings to improve their current team, they have to set their sights on the expansion draft. This year’s draft is far more important than the previous one and if the Kraken can be persuaded into taking a bad contract, the Flyers will surely come out as winners this off-season.
The Flyers escaped Vegas’ expansion by only losing Pierre-Edouard Bellemare. He was a good role player who understood his role but it wasn’t a huge loss. Fast forward 4 years later and due to yet another disappointing season, the Flyers find themselves in an interesting predicament come expansion-draft day. With the cap not going up and no compliance buyouts to potentially save them some money, the Flyers will be hoping that the Kraken take one of their more expensive contracts.
Players like James van Riemsdyk, Jakub Voracek, and Shayne Gostisbehere are all very talented players who could most definitely help the Kraken right away. Shedding that kind of money off their books would also help the Flyers in the present and for the future. Not only do they have to worry about restricted free agents Carter Hart, Travis Sanheim, and Nolan Patrick this year, but then Sean Couturier, Claude Giroux, and Joel Farabee will be needing new contracts the following season.
Any bit of money saved would help with their future dealings but also with their present woes. It’s no secret that the Flyers are in the hunt for difference makers on the open market and the trade block. Everything costs a lot of money and assets so what is the likelihood that the Flyers get what they want from this expansion draft? Will the Kraken take on a bad contract or will they opt for a cheaper role player?
As it stands the Flyers will most likely go with the traditional 7 forwards/3 defensemen/1 goalie protection format. They will be forced to protect Claude Giroux and Kevin Hayes because of their NMCs. They will then protect Sean Couturier, Travis Konecny, Scott Laughton, and Oskar Lindblom. The 7th and final forward spot is up in the air, depending on where they stand with Voracek, van Riemsdyk, and Nolan Patrick.
Voracek, van Riemsdyk, and Patrick are all technically pretty important pieces of their core, however they all pose hurdles that the Flyers can’t afford to overlook. Voracek (8.25 million for 4 more years) and van Riemsdyk (7 million for 2 more years) are owed a lot of money and still carry term. Meanwhile it seems that the Nolan Patrick experiment in Philadelphia has reached its breaking point, with the former second overall pick potentially wanting out.
Due to the cap being a major issue moving forward, it should be a no-brainer that the Flyers opt to leave Voracek and van Riemsdyk unprotected, while using the 7th and final spot on Patrick. Even though Patrick is disgruntled and might want out, he is still a restricted free agent. If he opted to stay he wouldn’t break the bank and if he still wants out then the Flyers could package him in a bigger trade. When it comes to Voracek and van Riemsdyk, it needs to be understood that they are still good players. The main issue is that the Flyers desperately need cap relief but a secondary issue is that they also need a roster shake-up. They can’t afford to keep those contracts on their books, especially if they have a chance to not have to retain any salary.
As for the defense and goaltending, it seems pretty straight forward. If they don’t make any moves until the expansion draft, they’ll most likely be protecting Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim, and Phil Myers. Keeping the younger and cheaper Sanheim and Myers over Shayne Gostisbehere makes too much sense and it seems like management is ready to move on from the once explosive offensive defenseman. Rumours have been ongoing for years, he was waived during the season, and there seems to be an issue between coach and player.
So the biggest question mark that remains is whether or not the Kraken will take on one of those contracts. You can make an argument for either side because it’s not like the players being offered are scrubs. Voracek, van Riemsdyk, and Gostisbehere are still gifted offensive weapons but they should be left unprotected because of cap related reasons. The Flyers are also in need of a foundational shake-up and moving on from a core piece is one way to achieve that.
However, are the Kraken willing to absorb those contracts? Due to the fact that they’re currently a blank canvas, we don’t know what route they’ll be heading in. The Flyers aren’t the only team hoping the Kraken absorb an unfavourable contract. Keep in mind, however, that they also have to hit the minimum salary cap floor of 60.2 million. If they deem those contracts as undesirables, they could easily opt to take on cheaper and younger players like Nicolas Aube-Kubel, Robert Hagg or Samuel Morin. A disastrous situation for the Flyers if that is the way the Kraken move forward.
Most teams are safe from losing out on a big player, similar to the last expansion draft. There are certain teams, however, like the Tampa Bay Lightning, Colorado Avalanche, or the Minnesota Wild who are primed to lose a very good player. If the Flyers are aware that the Kraken won’t just take on one of their bigger contracts, they should then opt to offer them compensatory draft picks to take Voracek or van Riemsdyk. The blueprint is available for all to see; trades like this actually helped the Golden Knights more than ever. Now-foundational players like Jonathan Marchessault and Shea Theodore were offered so that their previous team could protect other players they deemed more important.
In all likelihood, I think the Flyers are going to have to make a trade with Seattle. The Kraken understand that the Flyers are in a sticky situation and they could really throw a wrench in their off-season plans by taking a cheaper option. Exposing and then try trying to trade draft picks in exchange for selecting either Voracek or van Riemsdyk has more to do with their current financial predicament than anything else. The Kraken should take full advantage and if they do so, they will be rewarded with a pick and a good top 6 forward.
I think we all understand the situation we’re in to accept that losing a mid round pick won’t be the end of the world, especially if it gives us the cap relief to pursue bigger names and make bigger moves. The Flyers have a lot of work ahead of them and getting an extra 7-8 million would make all the difference in the world. Extending Hart and Sanheim and then trading for Seth Jones or signing Dougie Hamilton would be a lot easier to complete with that much more money available.
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