Pierre-Edouard Bellemare is one of the most polarizing players on the Philadelphia Flyers — and there’s plenty of competition in that regard. From Steve Mason to Brandon Manning to stars like Claude Giroux, Flyers fans have often been infuriated by their play while at other times they’ve been content.
Bellemare could be the leader of the group. As a fourth-liner, he’s taken a lot of heat from fans for his lack of scoring and penalty kill acumen. The organization, though, seems to hold him in high standards, signing the French-native to an extension this year and naming him an alternate captain.
Those reasons, among others, could set up the possibility that the Flyers protect Bellemare in the upcoming expansion draft.
Flyers, Bellemare and the Expansion Draft
Without getting too deep into the expansion rules, the Flyers will likely protect seven forwards for the June draft. Six of them are obvious or necessary: Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds, Jake Voracek, Sean Couturier, Brayden Schenn and Valterri Filppula.
That leaves one protection spot. The rest, except for the exempt forwards like Travis Konecny, are open to being selected by the Vegas Golden Knights. Despite having less talent than Michael Raffl, Matt Read or Nick Cousins, it’s possible that Philly uses that last spot on Bellemare for several different reasons.
The Flyers clearly think of Bellemare as part of their leadership core since they named him an alternate captain. Some felt it wasn’t the right choice, but there’s no arguing that he works hard and is vocal. Plus, the ones in the locker room are in a much better position to make that call than anyone outside of it.
Then there’s the contract extension. Philadelphia could have waited to re-sign Bellemare until after the expansion draft since an unsigned player looks a lot less attractive to Vegas than one signed to a couple years. But the Flyers felt that early March was the time to lock him in.
He’s also seen favorably outside of the organization. Bellemare made Team Europe’s roster at theWorld Cup, playing an important defensive role and Elliotte Friedman commended the extension:
Hearing PHI closing in on extension with P-E Bellemare. Word is two years, $1.45M AAV. I'm a fan.
— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) March 1, 2017
But maybe the most important point is that the Flyers think very highly of Bellemare’s skill and capabilities. At the start of the year, they had him centering the third line. That didn’t work out, but there’s still games where he’s played 13 minutes or more a night.
On some occasions, he has been able to exceed expectations like helping to slow down Connor McDavid in November while also scoring an even-strength goal. Nights like that have the Flyers convinced he’s more than a regular fourth-liner.
Protecting Pierre-Edouard Bellemare A Mistake
The Flyers believe the center isn’t a dime-a-dozen fourth-liner – a $1.45 million cap hit proves that – and for the most part I agree. His offensive troubles could probably be improved by better linemates or if he’s moved to the wing, while the fact that he’s usually in a shutdown role goes ignored.
Having said that, if he’s not a dime-a-dozen player, Bellemare’s a quarter-a-dozen player. The extension may make him more valuable to the Golden Knights, but not so much that they’d select him.
He can play in a defensive role and have some success. but not against a team’s top offensive players. While it’s possible he has more offensive capabilities we haven’t seen it yet.
Fourth-liners are simple to find; maybe less so with 31 NHL teams, but a younger player like Cousins or Scott Laughton aren’t and neither is a 30-point winger like Raffl. The Flyers may hold Bellemare higher than them, but Vegas won’t, even if there is support from other parts of the hockey world.
The expansion draft will be a difficult process for any team in meeting requirements and protecting the right players. One way to make it easier is to look at from the Golden Knights’ perspective instead of our own.
If the Flyers do that, it should be simple to see that Bellemare isn’t one of the seven most important to protect from a start-up team.