Philadelphia Flyers right-winger Jakub Voracek tied for the team lead in scoring with 43 points in 53 games played during the 2020-21 season. He and long-time teammate Claude Giroux were the most consistent offensive producers on the team this season. His season will most likely be remembered best for a bizarre encounter with a reporter via Zoom after the Flyers’ victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Jan. 15.
The 31-year-old Czech-native is an alternate captain who has been well-liked in the Flyers’ dressing room throughout his 10 seasons in Philadelphia. However, the disappointment of a sixth-place finish in the MassMutual East Division in 2020-21 will bring all elements of the organization under the microscope this offseason. Voracek’s future is one of the many uncertainties that Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher will be examining in the coming months.
Voracek’s Value and Discrepancies
Voracek was acquired during the 2011 offseason from the Columbus Blue Jackets, along with the two draft picks the Flyers used to select center Sean Couturier and winger Nick Cousins, in exchange for forward Jeff Carter. He climbed to 10th in franchise history in points and fifth in assists this season. He is 15th in the NHL in points and eighth in assists during the span of his tenure in Philadelphia. The 2020-21 season was the fifth consecutive year in which he finished in the top three in team scoring, and he has been in the top five every season since he was acquired. He has also established himself as a top playmaker on the Flyers’ first power-play unit.
The Flyers allowed the most goals in the NHL in 2020-21, and their team defense lacked continuity and general rhythm throughout the season. Voracek has never been the most effective 200-foot player, but he did show noticeable defensive improvement during the first year of newly hired head coach Alain Vigneault’s system. However, his subsequent regression was among the multitude of reasons for the Flyers’ inability to keep the puck out of their own net this season.
Despite his undeniable playmaking ability, Voracek’s pass-first mentality has frustrated Flyers fans in recent seasons. He is constantly hesitant to take a shot himself on odd-man rushes despite the demonstration of a capable shot. The prolonged point production does not give him reason to alter his style of play entirely, but he could benefit from a slightly more aggressive approach.
Offseason Options: Expansion Draft, Trade
Aside from Voracek’s individual success, the Flyers have earned just two playoff series victories since acquiring him. He is part of a veteran core, along with Giroux and Couturier, whose personal accolades have not been enough to pull the Flyers out of a lackluster era in the history of a storied organization. The organization could be willing to go to extreme lengths to shake up their roster this offseason, and Voracek is a candidate to be moved.
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Voracek is signed through 2024 with an average annual value of $8.25 million. A team acquiring his salary in a trade is highly unlikely, and the expensive number will likely lead Fletcher to keep Voracek exposed to the Seattle Kraken in the expansion draft this summer. The lure of possibly escaping his contract and creating financial flexibility for the Flyers to land a coveted, big-name defenseman to play with Ivan Provorov on the top pair next season is tempting. Seattle general manager Ron Francis hasn’t given indicators of his plans yet, but he could potentially ask for a sweetener — most likely a draft pick — if the Kraken claim Voracek.
Losing one of the most statistically productive Flyers of all-time, and possibly even an additional asset with no return package, would create a vacancy on the wing in the top six. Proven point producers like Voracek command high salaries, and filling that vacancy with an acquisition from outside the organization certainly would not be cheap. The multi-layered situation surrounding him is more complex than a simple salary dump. Given the complications of a potential move and the offensive value that he still brings to the team, he will likely stay in Philadelphia in 2021-22.