In anticipation of the Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft on July 21, “armchair general managers” representing every NHL team completed a Mock Expansion Draft for The Hockey Writers. The Philadelphia Flyers were among the most active teams in the mock activity. They completed one trade prior to the submission of the protection list, one trade following Seattle’s selections, and lost an exposed player that few pundits have predicted.
Flyers’ Pre-Draft Strategy
General manager (GM) Chuck Fletcher and the Flyers enter the 2021 offseason with multiple needs after a disappointing sixth-place finish in the MassMutual East Division in 2020-21. They will likely opt to protect seven forwards, three defensemen, and one goaltender. Their choices included on the protection list could also enact a domino effect on other moves.
The highest priority of the offseason is the acquisition of a top-pair defenseman to partner with Ivan Provorov. Given the obvious need and the continuing rumors linking the Flyers to the top available defensemen, the acting Flyers GM in the mock exercise pursued Dougie Hamilton of the Carolina Hurricanes and Seth Jones of the Columbus Blue Jackets in the trade market prior to submitting the protection list.
The Flyers acquired Dougie Hamilton in a sign-and-trade with the Hurricanes for defensive prospect Yegor Zamula, a 2021 second-round pick, and a 2022 fourth-round pick. The move was contingent on Hamilton’s agreement to sign an eight-year contract, which is only permitted if he is acquired prior to hitting unrestricted free agency on July 28.
Philadelphia also inquired, at several points, about a possible trade for Jones, but the high asking price ultimately broke the deal. The acting Blue Jackets GM initially suggested a package with winger Joel Farabee, defensive prospect Cam York, and the 13th-overall pick in 2021. The acting Flyers GM decided on Hamilton mainly due to the lesser trade package, particularly because of an unwillingness to move Farabee. The draft compensation was also lesser, and Zamula is not considered as valuable of a prospect as York. Both Jones and Hamilton would require similarly pricey signings.
Flyers’ Protection List
- Mandatory: Claude Giroux, Kevin Hayes
- Protected: Sean Couturier, Travis Konecny, Scott Laughton, Nolan Patrick, Oskar Lindblom
- Notable Exemptions: Joel Farabee, Wade Allison, Morgan Frost, Tanner Laczynski, Connor Bunnaman
- Notable Exposures: Jakub Voracek, James van Riemsdyk, Nicolas Aube-Kubel
Forwards Giroux and Hayes require mandatory protection because of no-movement clauses in their contracts. Couturier, Konecny, and Laughton are no-brainers that will require protection. Fletcher will likely follow the same path taken in the exercise and use the final two spots for Patrick and Lindblom.
- Protected: Dougie Hamilton, Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim
- Notable Exposures: Philippe Myers, Shayne Gostisbehere, Justin Braun, Robert Hagg
- Notable Exemption: Cam York
- Unrestricted Free Agent: Sam Morin
- Chosen: Philippe Myers
The obvious choices for protection on defense were Hamilton, Provorov, and Sanheim. The acquisition of Hamilton led the acting Flyers GM to explore the trade market for Myers, but no real interest materialized. He did not receive protection and was ultimately chosen by the Kraken’s acting GM.
- Protected: Carter Hart
- Unrestricted Free Agents: Brian Elliott, Alex Lyon
- Exposed: Felix Sandstrom
Goaltender Hart was the clear and obvious choice as the protected goaltender. Fletcher will follow with the same decision barring extreme and unexpected circumstances.
Aftermath for Chuck Fletcher
The hypothetical scenario generated from the exercise left a complicated financial situation. Given the need for the Flyers to clear cap space, big names like Voracek ($8.25 million cap hit), van Riemsdyk ($7 million cap hit), and Gostisbehere ($4.5 million cap hit) were left exposed. All three remained on the roster. The loss of Myers ($2.5 million) did free up more than half of Gostisbehere’s cap hit and only cost the Flyers a defenseman who brought on serious concerns about his hockey IQ due to continuous defensive lapses last season.
No “sweeteners” were offered by the Flyers during this exercise in order to entice the Kraken to select players with high salaries. However, the resulting need to clear additional cap space would push the Flyers to move one of their high-priced veterans, likely Voracek. A track record of offensive production would be enticing for teams looking to acquire Voracek, but his salary would lessen his value.
The Flyers also made an additional trade following the expansion draft. Center Colin Blackwell of the New York Rangers was one of three players selected by the Kraken who were never intended to remain in Seattle. He was acquired by Philadelphia in exchange for prospect Connor McClennon and a 2022 fifth-round pick.
Blackwell would fit into Philadelphia’s lineup in the bottom-six as a depth scorer and penalty killer. He finished with 10 goals and 12 assists in 47 games in 2020-21. He killed penalties toward the end of the season around the time the Rangers hit their stride, and the addition would help improve the second-worst shorthanded team in the NHL from last season. His $725,000 salary would be ideal given the tight cap situation in Philadelphia.
The acting GM of the Vegas Golden Knights, who are exempt from the Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft, also inquired about a potential trade for Patrick. No agreement was reached mainly because of his minimal current value following a disappointing season in 2020-21.
Remaining Flyers Roster
*Minimum 10 NHL games played in 2020-21
Forwards: Claude Giroux, Kevin Hayes, Sean Couturier, Travis Koecny, Scott Laughton, Nolan Patrick, Oskar Lindblom, Colin Blackwell, Jakub Voracek, James van Riemsdyk, Nicolas Aube-Kubel, Wade Allison, Connor Bunnaman
Defensemen: Dougie Hamilton, Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim, Shayne Gostisbehere, Justin Braun, Robert Hagg
Goaltenders: Carter Hart
Other Notables: Cam York, Morgan Frost, Tanner Laczynski
Notable Unrestricted Free Agents: Brian Elliott, Sam Morin, Alex Lyon
Colin Newby is a freelance journalist from Delaware County, PA covering the Philadelphia Flyers for The Hockey Writers. He is an encyclopedia of useless sports knowledge with an uncanny ability to rattle off Flyers goaltending stats from 2004 and every Stanley Cup winner during his lifetime. The depths of his knowledge stem from spending his entire life following the Flyers and the NHL, from fan favorites like the Legion of Doom and Claude Giroux to no-namers like Andy Delmore and Branko Radivojevič. Colin also writes fictional sports stories and covers the Philadelphia Eagles.