As teams around the NHL released their protection lists ahead of the 2021 Expansion Draft, many big-name players were left exposed. While rumors have circulated for the past few weeks about who would be protected or left unprotected, the Flyers’ choice to not protect one player came as quite a shock.
Leading up to the days before the reveal of the official protection lists on July 18, reports surfaced that Flyers’ long-time forward Jakub Voracek would most likely be parting ways with the team. With the Flyers protection list revealed, this was confirmed, as Voracek was not protected. The 31-year-old has spent 10 seasons with the orange and black as a top right winger who held a strong presence in the locker room. Joining Voracek on the unprotected list, his linemate left winger James van Riemsdyk, who was spending his second tenure with the organization after being traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs by the Flyers in 2012. Van Riemsdyk, a power forward who tallied at least 40 points in his past three seasons, was expected to be protected ahead of the expansion draft.
He’s gonna fit in juuuuust fine in Philly. pic.twitter.com/grzlIxCjWa— Philadelphia Flyers (@NHLFlyers) July 17, 2021
In fact, on July 17, the Flyers made a major trade by picking up former Nashville Predators defenseman Ryan Ellis in exchange for Flyers defenseman Philippe Myers and forward Nolan Patrick. With that, many speculated that this gave the Flyers an opportunity to then protect van Riemsdyk. While the two forwards were valuable to the Flyers’ offense, the team has a young offensive core that has already given us a preview of what is to come. After all, the Flyers’ biggest struggle hasn’t been the offense, but rather their defensive woes that Ellis will surely improve.
Accompanying Voracek and van Riemsdyk being made available for the Seattle Kraken are defensemen Justin Braun, Shayne Gostisbehere, and Robert Hagg.
As the Flyers released their protection list that so many awaited, many of the players that were protected were as expected. To no surprise, Flyers captain Claude Giroux was safe from being moved elsewhere, as the 33-year-old has been an exceptional leader to his team, especially given the struggles and circumstances he has faced.
Along with Giroux are his fellow veteran forwards, Kevin Hayes, Sean Couturier, and Scott Laughton. Despite his rough performance during the 2020-21 season, the Flyers kept their faith in Travis Konecny, placing him on the protected players’ list. Forwards Oskar Lindblom and Nicolas Aube-Kubel were protected, as well as defensemen Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim, and the newly acquired Ryan Ellis. One of the easiest players to protect was the Flyers’ starstudded goaltender Carter Hart, who will look to redeem himself in the upcoming season.
Future for Flyers
With the Flyers leaving two of their veteran offensive players available, it shows that general manager Chuck Fletcher has faith in his young offensive core. Consisting of Aube-Kubel, Joel Farabee, Morgan Frost, Lindblom, and Konecny, with the leadership of their captain Giroux, Hayes, and Couturier. The team has a skilled set of individuals offensively, and as the veterans get older and aren’t producing as much, it gives ample opportunity for the young guys to step up and prove themselves.
On the other hand, Fletcher is clearly concerned with his team’s defense, which led him to pick up a solid all-around defenseman in Ellis. In a pre-draft press conference on July 13, 2021, Fletcher was asked about the blue line core’s make-up not being right and if that’s still a priority. His response, “I think there’s been a lot of focus on our blue line, to me the number one priority is our goals against it’s just ridiculous how many goals we gave up last year. That goes back to everything, that goes back to the coaches having a great training camp and using the practice time early in the season, to reinforce our systems and our structure. … We’re gonna need to look at upgrades to our roster there’s no question and we’re also gonna need the players that are returning to play better. In particular without the puck and structurally are gonna need our coaches to get our players back into that structure and reinforce the system.”
Fletcher’s additional decision to let go of three defensemen essentially allows for a complete refresher on the blue line, with the exceptions of Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim, and Ryan Ellis. Both Provorov and Sanheim are worthy of mention as the two most solid blueliners the Flyers have had over the past few seasons, despite their inexperience.
Things are looking up for the orange and black moving forward, especially defensively. The addition of Ellis allowed the Flyers to check off obtaining the veteran defenseman they so badly needed. Provorov and Sanheim have done well, but with the guidance of Ellis will thrive as young defensemen, as will Cam York. With the off-season trades happening and so many names around the league being available, the Flyers will more than likely look to add even more defensive power to their squad.
A 24-year-old Drexel University graduate with a deep love and passion for the game of hockey. Bri grew up around the game, watching the Philadelphia Flyers as a little girl and playing street hockey. It was early on that she knew she was destined to work in sports, more specifically in hockey. Bri spent two seasons working for the Flyers as a Public Relations Game Day Intern. For more on me, check out my website, and be sure to keep up with my work here at THW!