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By Dan Silver (@dsilver88)

**All photos courtesy Heather Barry®**

Franchise Overview – It’s Been a While…

Quick, can someone tell me how long it’s been since the Philadelphia Flyers finished a season with 100 points? Got to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs? Won the Division?

Like me, you probably had to look it up. The answers are 2011-12, 2011-12, and 2010-11, respectively.

Here are the team results the past eight seasons:

  • 2017-18 – 98 points, 3rd in division, lost in 1st round
  • 2016-17 – 88 points, 6th in division, missed playoffs
  • 2015-16 – 96 points, 5th in division, lost in 1st round
  • 2014-15 – 84 points, 6th in division, missed playoffs
  • 2013-14 – 94 points, 3rd in division, lost in 1st round
  • 2012-13 (lockout shortened season) – 49 points, 4th in division, missed playoffs
  • 2011-12 – 103 points, 3rd in division, lost in 2nd round
  • 2010-11 – 106 points, 1st in division, lost in 2nd round

Well folks, that’s all about to change.

This upcoming season the Flyers are going to register 100+ points, finish no worse than second in the division, and advance to the second round in the playoffs.

And as Senator Vernon Trent said in my favorite Steven Seagal movie, Hard to Kill, “You can take that to the bank.”

They have a ridiculous top two lines, one of the best defensemen duos in the NHL, and a horde of youngsters ready to make their impacts felt. Yes, there are some issues, most notably between the pipes, but the rest of the team is good enough to overcome that and put together this franchise’s best season since 2010.

One item I am not going to delve into in this piece is coaching, but I will say that is still one of the biggest question marks with the team right now. However, until more of the young talent matriculates through the system and the team gets more playoff experience, it’s hard to accurately and fairly judge head coach Dave Hakstol. So for the purposes of this article I am going to concentrate on the players.

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Offseason Overview – JvR, Folin, and Addition by Subtraction

Often criticized by Flyers fans for not having made any big splashes since taking over as general manager in 2014, Ron Hextall quieted down those rumblings by inking the second biggest unrestricted free agent contract over the summer.

And the name was no stranger to Flyers fans as James van Riemsdyk returned to the team that drafted him second overall in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, signing a five-year deal with an average annual value (AAV) salary cap hit of $7 million.

After scoring 47 goals and adding 52 assists in his first three years with the Flyers, the talented 6’3″ winger was shipped by then general manager Paul Holmgren to the Toronto Maple Leafs in June 2012. He blossomed offensively with his new team, putting up 27 or more goals four separate seasons, including a career best 36 last season.

However, with the Leafs landing this summer’s biggest fish in John Tavares at $11 million AAV, and needing to re-sign young stars Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and Michael Nylander, there simply wasn’t any money to retain van Riemsdyk.

The signing filled one of the major two offensive voids for the Flyers, as the 29-year-old van Riemsdyk will slot in as the team’s second line winger and take a lot of the pressure off the 22-year-old Oskar Lindblom, who is expected to play his first full NHL season.

The five-year term is perfectly fine for the Flyers, as van Riemsdyk should continue to be a significant offensive contributor through his early 30’s.

The other void – third line center – will have to be filled internally as it was not addressed during the offseason.

The Flyers other signing added depth on the blue line, as Hextall brought in 27-year-old Swedish defenseman Christian Folin on a one year deal worth $800,000. The 6’3″ Folin is expected to serve as the team’s seventh defenseman, only dressing in the case of injuries. His role has been even more muddled by the emergence of Philippe Myers, but we will get to that a bit later.

The Flyers other two significant “moves” over the summer were addition by subtraction, as they did not re-sign center Valteri Filppula or defenseman Brandon Manning, much to the relief of the fan base.

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Roster Construction – Still Some Questions to be Answered

As I sit here writing this, there are still some question marks as to who is going to fill out the team’s bottom six forwards and what the defense pairings are going to be. However, we do know enough to put together a projected roster for the start of the season.

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Forwards

  1. Claude Giroux – Sean Couturier – Travis Konecny
  2. James van Riemsdyk – Nolan Patrick – Jake Voracek
  3. Oskar Lindblom – Jordan Weal – Wayne Simmonds
  4. Michael Raffl – Misha Vorobyev – Scott Laughton

The Flyers now boast one of the best top-six forward groups in the entire league, with the players who finished 2nd (Giroux), 13th (Voracek), and 26th (Couturier) in points last season in addition to the the 13th leading goal scorer (van Riemsdyk).

I won’t spend much time discussing those four players except to say that I expect similar production from them this upcoming season, barring injuries.

Rounding out the top six are two young players with star potential in the 21-year-old Konecny and the 20-year-old Patrick.

After being elevated to the team’s top line last December, Konecny became one of the league’s most effective scorers with 37 points in the team’s final 46 regular season games. That works out to around 65 points over a full season. Perhaps most impressively, he did what he did in the second half without playing on the club’s first power play unit. I am still not completely confident in saying that Hakstol will keep him on the top line for most of the season, but he absolutely should.

Patrick, the second overall pick in the 2017 draft, had a similarly impressive second half of the season. After undergoing core body surgery over the summer, he came into the season and struggled greatly for the first few months. However, at roughly the midway point of the season, a completely different Patrick emerged – fast, confident, and looking in control. He scored 23 points in his final 44 regular season games. With a full offseason to train I would expect him to be the most improved player on the entire team – and he likely gets to play with two very skilled guys in van Riemsdyk and Voracek.

It should be noted that Couturier, who is coming off a breakout season, did sustain a knee injury over the summer, but all signs indicate that he will be fine for the start of the regular season.

The bottom six is a bit more muddled, but one thing is for sure – the Flyers should have the most effective fourth line that they have had in a long time.

The van Riemsdyk signing allows the team the luxury of dropping Lindblom to a bottom six left wing spot for what should be his first full NHL season. The 6’1″ Swedish power forward has the ability to control the puck in the corners and down low when he’s on his game, and also boasts excellent finishing ability.

It is a pivotal season for the 30-year-old Simmonds, who is coming off his lowest goal output (24) in five seasons while battling injuries the entire campaign. He is in the final year of his team-friendly $3.975 million AAV contract, a topic that will come up again and again during the season. It’s likely that next summer Simmonds will want to cash in on his excellent goal production and his reputation as one of the league’s top power forwards, but it’s just as likely that Hextall will stand firm on his likely desire to not sign him to anything longer than a three- or four-year extension.

The Flyers simply have too many young up-and-coming forwards to commit a spot to an aging power forward whose numbers have been in decline the past two seasons. It could create a conundrum for Hextall, because if Simmonds is playing well and the team is in a playoff spot, it’s unlikely he will want to disrupt that chemistry by trading away one of the leaders. However, that means that he would risk losing Simmonds for nothing at the end of the season.

It’s one of the more interesting story lines for the Flyers this season – and if I had to predict what will happen, I think he has a good, but not great, season, the team does not trade him, and he ends up signing elsewhere next summer on a five- or six-year deal.

One more note on Simmonds – keep an eye on his usage. Much of his production has been parked in front of the net on the first power play unit with 86 of his 187 career goals coming with the man advantage. However, when he missed a chunk of games late last season, Patrick excelled in the same role, and van Riemsdyk has also done well in a similar spot. I expect that Simmonds will begin the season on the top power play unit, but if he doesn’t it could drastically reduce his production, along with his payday next summer.

One of the biggest battles in training camp is for third line center. Last season the role was filled by Patrick and Filppula, who mercifully is now on the New York Islanders.

The contenders are the 26-year-old Jordan Weal, the 24-year-old Scott Laughton, and the 21-year-old Misha Vorobyev.

Weal hasn’t played much center in the NHL, but he did play pivot in both the Canadian juniors as well as the AHL. The former third-round pick has been a point-per-game player in the AHL but has yet to put it together fully in the NHL – with only 16 goals and 33 points in 106 games. That being said, at the end of the 2016-17 season he was one of the Flyers most effective players, which is probably a big reason why they have not given up on him yet. Hextall mentioned him as a third-line center candidate multiple times during the offseason, and he has been playing center exclusively during training camp. It seems he will be given every chance to occupy either the third- or fourth-line center role for the team this season.

For most Flyers fans, it seems like Laughton has been around the team forever, but he’s still a relatively young player. He has had a strange career to this point, playing in five NHL games as an 18-year-old, none as a 19-year-old, and with an uncertain role with the team over the past few years. Like Weal, he has not experienced much NHL success with only 47 points in 190 games. To my eyes, he was pretty effective in a bottom six center role for the team last season, but head coach Dave Hakstol moved him to the wing late in the season. Early in camp he was still on the wing, but in the September 19 game against the New York Rangers he centered a line with Lindblom and was very effective.

The final candidate for the third-line center role is one of my favorite prospects in the organization – Misha Vorobyev. How can you not love a guy who has changed the spelling of his last name (formerly Vorobyov) and told people he wanted to be called by a different first name (formerly Mikhail). Drafted in the 2015 fourth round, the Russian-born Vorobyev is a prototypical NHL center – he is 6’2″, 190, very good defensively, a terrific passer, and boasts excellent hockey IQ.

He led all players with 10 assists in the 2017 World Junior Championships – very impressive considering the tournament includes the best under 20-year-old players out there. He had a pretty good first season in the AHL – scoring 29 points in 58 games, and has been one of the Flyers best players in training camp. Vorobyev has a very high floor due to his size, skill set, and hockey IQ, and in the long run I think he will be the perfect third-line center to slot in behind Couturier and Patrick. The question is whether or not he is ready for that role this season. If it were up to me, I would start the season with him as the Flyers fourth-line center, see how Laughton ot Weal does on the third line, and go from there.

The other forward I have in my starting bottom six is a guy who is always underrated. Boasting some of the best possession stats on the team year-in, year-out, Raffl never quite gets the respect that he deserves. This is the last year of his contract, and almost assuredly his last season as a Flyer, and I think he’s a perfect fourth-line winger to complete the bottom six. He will add offense, veteran leadership, and won’t hurt you defensively.

The team’s other bottom six candidates are as follows:

  • Jori Lehtera – 30-year-old in final year of contract, I am hoping the team relegates him to the press box or sends him to the AHL, but he could end up as a fourth-line fixture
  • Dale Weise – 30-year-old with two years left on his bad contract, only played in 46 games last season and I’d expect him to be in the press box or with the Phantoms a lot this season
  • Nicolas Aube-Kubel – 22-year-old who struggled in his first AHL season but was much improved last season, finishing sixth in the league in even-strength points – he brings a lot of grit as well and personally would be my choice for fourth-line right wing, but he may be a victim of the Flyers depth for one more season
  • Taylor Leier – 24-year-old with seven points in 55 career NHL games – I simply don’t think he is good enough to be in the Flyers forward group
  • Mike Vecchione – 25-year-old who garnered some hype as a 2017 Flyers-signee out of college, but I have yet to see him do anything that indicates he has a future in the NHL
  • Cole Bardreau – 25-year-old who plays with a lot of physicality, but given the skill among the potential bottom six forward group on the Flyers, I don’t think he quite makes the cut

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Defensemen

  1. Ivan Provorov – Shayne Gostisbehere
  2. Travis Sanheim – Radko Gudas
  3. Robert Hagg – Philippe Myers
  4. Christian Folin
  5. Injured – Andrew MacDonald

The Flyers are blessed with two of the best defensemen in the league, and they bring slightly different skill sets to the ice.

Provorov is an absolute beast – and I do not use that term lightly. Drafted seventh overall in 2015, he made the Flyers a year later as a 19-year-old and played in all 82 games while leading all skaters on the team averaging 22 minutes a game. This past season he once again played in every game, averaged 24 minutes, and tied for the lead among all NHL defensemen with 17 goals. Making that stat much more impressive is the fact that he did not play on the first power play unit. He is a force in all three zones, an absolute workhorse, and is just tapping into his offensive upside. At the age of 21 entering his third season, you would be hard pressed to find an NHL defensemen who is more important to his franchise than Provorov.

Gostisbehere has a chance to lead all NHL defensemen in points one of these years – maybe this one. Last year as a 24-year-old he finished fourth among all defensemen with 65 points. He is an above-average skater and passer with an absolute bomb from the point and was the quarterback for this team’s power play basically from day one of his NHL career. The defensive part of his game is also very underrated.

Halfway through last season Hakstol finally decided to pair Provorov and Ghost together, and they were absolutely dominant. It’s unclear whether or not they will start the season as a pairing or whether Hakstol will try to spread out their talent through the pairings, but if together they form arguably the top pair in the league.

The Flyers remaining four starting defense spots are a mix of talented youngsters and mediocre veterans.

The two most talented potential blue liners after the top two are Sanheim and Myers.

Sanheim, 22, is, in my opinion, the best skater on the entire team, and also boasts plus passing ability to go with a very good shot – he can be an offensive dynamo from the back end. The former first-round pick also has the size to go with it, checking in at 6’3″. The question marks for him, at least insofar as Hakstol is concerned, comes in with his play in the defensive zone. Sanheim had some lapses last season that resulted in a prolonged stay in the press box followed by a 20-game stint with the Phantoms. However, when he came back up towards the end of the season his play was much improved. He has all the upside in the world and is a potential top pairing NHL defensemen, but he just has to button up his play in his own zone.

Myers, 21, is slightly inferior to Sanheim in the skating and passing categories, has a better shot, and to my eyes is much more effective in the defensive zone. Also, Myers is a towering 6’5″. Without any NHL experience, he went into training camp facing an uphill battle to make the team, but his impressive play coupled with the injury to MacDonald has given him a fighting chance to be on the opening day roster. He also profiles as an eventual top-pairing NHL defensemen and as a righty, he might ultimately prove to be the perfect partner for Provorov.

The other youngster on the Flyers blue line is the 23-year-old Hagg. Not nearly as flashy as Sanheim or Myers, he made the Flyers roster last season based on his steady defensive play, which Hakstol seemed to fall in love with. He’s never going to be a dynamic offensive player, but as a bottom pair defenseman he should be just fine. That being said, if Myers makes the team and impresses, once MacDonald returns it is certainly possible that Hagg could find himself a healthy scratch at times during the season.

The two main veterans who figure to play most games for the Flyers are Gudas, 28, and MacDonald, 32.

Gudas really struggled last season, especially after coming back from a long suspension, but when he is playing well he is a rock in the defensive zone who brings a nasty, physical edge. Expect him to be paired with Sanheim to start the season.

MacDonald has long been a focus of Flyer fan vitriol, mainly based on his $5 million AAV contract and his penchant for making very noticeable mistakes in the defensive zone. That being said, he’s coming off one of his better seasons and is a respected guy in the locker room. He’s expected to miss the first week or so of the season with a lower-body injury, but should be back and likely will be paired with Hagg or Myers.

The Flyers signed Folin to provide an experienced player who could serve as the seventh defenseman and come in when injuries dictate. However, if Myers makes the team, once MacDonald comes back it might relegate Folin to a role with the Phantoms.

There are obviously a lot of moving parts with the Flyers defense, and the domino that is going to set them in motion is whether or not Myers makes the team.

Stay tuned…

Goalies

  1. Brian Elliott
  2. Michal Neuvirth

The lack of a franchise goaltender has been the Flyers undoing since Bernie Parent won back-to-back Stanley Cup, Conn Smythe, and Vezina trophies in 1974 and 1975, and going into this season yet again the team’s biggest question mark is between the pipes.

Elliott and Neuvirth are both veteran netminders in the final years of their contracts.

Elliott, 33, enters his 11th NHL season with the leg up on Neuvirth to start the lion’s share of the games for the team. He was pretty good in the first half of last season, but injuries derailed him late in the season and into the playoffs – he actually underwent two core body procedures, one in February and then another over the summer. With a goaltender of his age, that is certainly cause for concern, and I am very hesitant to predict a major rebound season for him. If he can stay healthy, expect him to play 40-50 games.

Neuvirth, 30, is a real enigma. A former second round pick, the talent is there but he simply hasn’t been able to stay healthy. Only once in the last six seasons has he played more than 30 games – during his stellar 2015-16 season with the Flyers. Like Elliott, he also underwent surgery over the summer, which creates a real question mark coming into the season. Based on history, it’s unrealistic to expect him to play more than 30 games. We just have to hope that he doesn’t miss too much time with the inevitable injuries.

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Lest you fret, the Flyers have a trio of very promising young goaltenders on the horizon in Carter Hart, Felix Sandstrom, and Kirill Ustimenko.

To borrow some Game of Thromes nomenclature, Hart is basically the “Prince that was Promised.” He is here to save the world, or lead the Flyers to the Stanley Cup, or at least one of the two. There is a strong case to be made that he is the best North American-based goaltending prospect in the history of hockey. Last season he became the first Western Hockey League (WHL) player to win three end-of-season Top Goaltender Awards and perhaps even more impressively he also became the first to win two Canadian Hockey League (CHL) Goaltender-of-the-Year Awards, which comprises all three Canadian junior leagues.

His numbers were downright silly – leading the WHL with a 1.60 goals-against-average and a single-season record .947 save percentage. He also was the starting goaltender for the gold medal winning Canadian team in the World Junior Championships. Now 20-years-old, Hart is finally turning pro, and is expected to begin the season for the Phantoms. If the Flyers sustain injuries at the goaltender position this season, and Hart dominates the AHL, I believe there is a chance that we could see him in the NHL this season.

Sandstrom is a personal favorite of mine – as in each of the past two Flyers summer development camps he has outplayed Hart. A year older than Hart at 21, Sandstrom has spent the past three seasons in the Swedish Hockey League (SHL) playing against professionals – ie. players much older than him, for the most part. He was named top goalie at the 2017 World Junior Championships.

Sandstrom’s numbers haven’t been gaudy, and his progress stalled last year due to strange injury season that cost him most of the season, but if he can stay healthy he has all the tools to become a successful NHL goalie. At 6’2″, he fills the net more than Hart and also boasts slightly better athleticism than Hart, but he lacks Hart’s incredible technical prowess. It’s a huge year for Sandstrom, and if he plays to his talent level we should see him with the Phantoms, or perhaps even the Flyers next season.

Ustimenko is the youngest of the three, going into his 19-year-old season. A third-round pick, he had arguably the best 2017-18 season of any goalies drafted in 2017. He is expected to spend a few more seasons in Russia and should be on the roster for the upcoming World Junior Championships. He is a number of years away from a potential NHL impact but the talent is there.

Two additional goaltenders who could factor into the Flyers plans this season are Alex Lyon, 25, and Anthony Stolarz, 24.

Lyon has spent the past two seasons with the Phantoms, putting up pedestrian numbers in the process. He did look OK playing in 11 NHL games last season, but to my eyes his positioning is questionable and I don’t think he has the talent to be a consistent NHL goaltender. He is also nursing an injury that has kept him out of preseason play.

Stolarz is a bit more intriguing. A second round pick in 2012, he had a pretty good season for the Phantoms in 2015-16 with a 2.60 goals-against-average and a .916 save percentage. He also looked good in seven games with the Flyers the following season. However, he missed basically all of last season with knee problems and entered training camp as a major question mark. To this point in camp he has outplayed Lyon and might have a leg up on him in the organization.

If Elliott and/or Neuvirth get injured this season, and if Hart isn’t deemed ready, it will probably be one of Lyon or Stolarz who get the call.

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Salary Cap Outlook – Now and in the Future

Hextall has done an absolutely masterful job in managing the salary cap to the point where the Flyers will have $10 million in space entering the 2017-18.

Here’s how it breaks down – and keep in mind one of these defensemen won’t be on the roster.

Flyers 2018-19 Cap

I have highlighted the players are pending free agents – either restricted or unrestricted – at the end of the upcoming season.

So we’ve established that the team is in great shape headed in this season vis a vis the salary cap, but what about in years moving forward. If we predict that the cap will keep going up by approximately $5 million a year, let’s play it out.

2019-20 Season

  • Salary Cap goes to $85 million – Flyers currently at $70 million
  • Expiring Money – $22.4 million
    • Lehtera – $4.7 million
    • Simmonds – $3.975 million
    • Elliott – $2.75 million
    • Neuvirth – $2.5 million
    • Raffl – $2.35 million
    • Weal – $1.75 million
    • Laughton – $962,500
    • Provorov – $894,167
    • Sanheim – $863,333
    • Konecny – $894,167
    • Folin – $800,000
    • Salary Cap goes to $85 million
  • Projected Re-Signings – $15.75 million
    • Provorov – $7 million
    • Konecny – $4.5 million
    • Sanheim – $2 million
    • Elliott – $2.25 million
  • Cap Space After Departures and Re-Signings – $22 million
  • Additions to Roster from Within System
    • Morgan Frost – $894,166
    • German Rubtsov – $894,166
    • Nicolas Aube-Kubel – $1 Million
    • Carsen Twarynski – $775,833
    • Hart – $761,666
  • Cap Space with Complete Roster – $16.7 million

I am making assumptions for the sake of this exercise that neither Laughton (RFA) nor Weal (UFA) will be re-signed, but obviously one or both could very likely return. Laughton as an RFA is more likely to come back than Weal.

Really I just want to demonstrate how the Flyers can re-sign all their big pieces, fill from within the system and still have a ton of cap space to add through free agency or trades.

Here is how 2019-20 could look:

Flyers 2019-20 Cap

Players highlighted in orange are the ones I am predicting they re-sign, and players in yellow are players whose contracts are up at the end of the 2020 season.

Now let’s move forward one more season.

2020-21 Season

  • Salary Cap goes to $89 million – Flyers at $69 million at end of season
  • Expiring Money – $17.4 million
    • Andrew MacDonald – $5 million
    • Radko Gudas – $3.35 million
    • Dale Weise – $2.35 million
    • Brian Elliott – $2.25 million (remember, this was my guess on a one-year extension for him at the end of 2018-19 season)
    • Nolan Patrick – $925,000
    • Misha Vorobyev – $784,167
    • Oskar Lindblom – $925,000
    • Phil Myers – $678,333
    • Robert Hagg – $1.15 million
  • Projected Re-Signings – $16.2 million
    • Nolan Patrick – $6 million
    • Misha Vorobyev – $2.75 million
    • Oskar Lindblom – $2.75 million
    • Phil Myers – $2.75 million
    • Robert Hagg – $2 million
  • Cap Space after Departures and Re-Signings – $21 million
  • Additions to Roster from Within System
    • Joel Farabee – $900,000 (guess at contract)
    • Jay O’Brien – $900,000 (guess)
    • Isaac Ratcliffe – $811,666
    • Linus Hogberg – $750,000 (guess)
    • Sandstrom – $792,500
  • Cap Space with Complete Roster – $17.7 million

Keep in mind that these rosters are over-subscribed by a forward and a defenseman as I can’t predict exactly who will make the team. The point is that the Flyers can again re-sign all their big young guns at the end of the 2019-20 season and have tons of cap space left to add through free agency and trades.

Here is how that 2020-21 roster that I constructed would look:

Flyers 2020-21 Cap

The players highlighted in orange are guys whose contracts have expired by this season and I have predicted new contracts for.

The bottom line is that Hextall has created a situation where he has plenty of money to sign all of his young stars to generous extensions while also having a ton of additional cap space to purse additional free agents or players via trade.

It is an enviable position to be in and will give the Flyers every chance to take a run at the Cup, or multiple Cups, in the next half-decade.

Prospects – The Deepest System in the NHL

I am not going to write a ton of words in this piece on the Flyers prospects, because I already wrote more than a ton of words on this in another article for Philly is Flyer.

Check out my Top 20 Flyers Prospects piece by clicking here.

The bottom line is that the Flyers are stocked at almost every position with prospects – forward and goalie being deeper than defense, but only because most of our top blue line prospects have graduated to the NHL already.

It creates a situation where Hextall will have a bevy of talented youngsters who won’t be able to make the roster but he can add to trade packages to add NHL players to put the team over the top.

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Expansion Draft Impact

Seattle is expected to obtain an expansion team in the NHL, and they are aiming to come into the NHL for the 2020-21 season – although that timeline can certainly change.

The Flyers were lucky when Vegas joined the league last season because most of their young stars were exempt from being taken in the expansion draft. That will not be the case this next time around.

As a reminder, NHL teams have two options for who they can protect in the expansion draft:

  1. Seven forwards, three defensemen, and one goaltender
  2. Eight skaters (forwards/defensemen) and one goaltender

All players with No Movement Clauses (NMC) have to be protected and all first- and second-year professionals (including AHL) are exempt from selection.

Let’s play it out with how the Flyers could utilize both options.

  • First option
    • Seven protected forwards – Giroux, Couturier, Konecny, van Riemsdyk, Patrick, Voracek, Vorobyev
    • Three protected defensemen – Provorov, Gostisbehere, Myers
    • Protected goalie – Hart
    • Notable players left unprotected – Sanheim, Lindblom, Rubtsov, Hagg
  • Second option
    • Eight protected skaters – Giroux, Couturier, Patrick, Konecny, Provorov, Gostisbehere, Myers, Sanheim
    • Protected goalie – Hart
    • Notable players left unprotected – van Riemsdyk, Voracek, Vorobyev, Lindblom, Hagg, Rubtsov

Obviously none of these scenarios are ideal.

My guess is that Hextall will go with the first option and try to work out a trade with Seattle so that they don’t take either Sanheim or Myers, but considering both players look like potential top pairing defensemen, that might be a tall task. And even if Hextall accomplishes that, the team risks losing Vorobyev or Lindblom.

It’s certainly also plausible that Hextall could leave Voracek or van Riemsdyk exposed and hope that Seattle takes one of those aging stars.

Either way, it’s one of those situations where we have to put trust in Hextall to figure out a way to lose as few valuable assets as possible.

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Bottom Line – Hard to Screw this Up

Right now the Flyers boast the NHL’s best combination of veteran talent (Giroux, Voracek, Couturier, van Riemsdyk), up-and-coming young stars already on the roster (Provorov, Gostisbehere, Patrick, Konecny) and top prospects (Hart, Sandstrom, Vorobyev, Frost, Myers, Farabee, O’Brien, Ratcliffe, etc…)

In addition, Hextall has created a situation where he can re-sign all of those young players while maintaining a surplus of cap space and prospects for going after additional pieces to put this team over the top.

I predict a second place finish in the division this season, a trip to the second round of the playoffs, and an upward trajectory every year over the next half-decade.

Buckle your seat belts, it’s going to be a fun ride!

**All photos courtesy Heather Barry®**

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