With the Vegas Golden Knights running roughshod over the NHL in its inaugural season, fans of the Seattle expansion franchise are hoping they can have the immediate success of their expansion forebears.
In order to achieve such success, they'll have to have similar if not the same expansion rules as Vegas received in the 2017 offseason. NHL general managers were informed during their March meeting in Boca Raton that would be the case.
However, unlike the Vegas Expansion Draft, the Seattle Expansion Draft could result in the Philadelphia Flyers losing a key piece of their future.
First, let's break down the rules the Golden Knights had to play with to build their first-year Pacific Division Champion, Western Conference Final appearance hockey club.
The 30 NHL teams had a choice of protecting either seven forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender or eight skaters and a goalie. All No-Movement Clause players required protection unless those players waived the clause. Some players, like Marc-Andre Fleury for Pittsburgh, did so, but players like Dion Phaneuf did not and it caused a good deal of controversy in Ottawa.
All first and second-year players, as well as unsigned draft choices, were exempt from being plucked off the 30 rosters. However, the term "professionals" that the league uses includes the AHL and the ECHL, but did not cover KHL or the SHL. So the determination of a player's rookie NHL season is irrelevant.
Since it appears those rules will be reused for Seattle, the Flyers would be in a situation where they could lose a player more vital to the team than Pierre-Edouard Bellemare.
In breaking this down, let's clear up a few things first: A lot of this is based on the idea that general manager Ron Hextall doesn't make a big trade or let a young player go for whatever reason. It's also assuming that in the years between now and a potential Seattle expansion draft that most of the young players will make their way onto the Flyers roster and, therefore, be re-signed whenever their respective entry-level contracts are up.
Also, the Seattle franchise is, at least, two full seasons away from becoming reality. However, preparation for how the expansion draft might go should be underway soon. This is especially true for a team building for the future like the Flyers, given how the Golden Knights made out like bandits in their draft.
So, let's go over the potential protection list for Philadelphia.
The seven forwards that the Flyers would be required to protect or should protect are: Claude Giroux (NMC), Jake Voracek, Sean Couturier, Nolan Patrick, Travis Konecny, Oskar Lindblom and German Rubstov.
That would leave forwards like Scott Laughton, Taylor Leier, Mikhail Vorobyev, Danick Martel and Nicolas Aube-Kubel exposed.
Defensemen that the Flyers would need to protect: Shayne Gostisbehere, Ivan Provorov and Travis Sanheim.
This puts the Flyers' embarrassment of riches at defense at risk as Philippe Myers, Robert Hagg and Sam Morin would be exposed in this situation. In this case, Myers would be the clear choice as he is a big, offensively-capable right-hand shot blueliner. Losing Myers to the Seattle franchise would definitely be a punch to the gut as Myers has been an undrafted gem for the Phantoms and has the potential to be a top-four defenseman for the big club.
It would be possible for the Flyers to protect all four defensemen, but then they could only protect three forwards as Giroux requires protection or they could protect Couturier, Patrick, Konecny and Lindblom, but have to ask their captain to waive his no-move clause and endure all the drama that would come with that.
It's harder to predict just where the Flyers goaltending situation will be in the 2020-21 landscape, but regardless of whether Carter Hart is in the AHL for two full seasons or splits his time between the NHL and AHL, he won't require protection as a two-year pro.
At the same time, Felix Sandstrom would escape exposure as he'll likely come to Lehigh Valley or Philadelphia in the 2019-20 season, if not later.
Yet, this could leave Alex Lyon or Anthony Stolarz exposed depending on how the organization views their respective developments. Lyon is making a case to be a front-runner for a spot in the net with his play in the AHL playoffs thus far and Stolarz will likely need a season or two with the Phantoms to get his development back on track after missing practically all of this season with a knee injury. If one or both of these goaltenders are still with the Flyers organization, they would be exposed.
Luckily, with the rules of the expansion draft, the Flyers would only lose one player unless they do some foolish thing like the Florida Panthers did when they traded a quality player like Reilly Smith to ensure that Vegas takes a better player like Jonathan Marchessault.
Unlike their Vegas expansion draft situation, when Hextall had multiple options for the inaugural team to pick without damaging the team's future, this Seattle draft could result in the Flyers losing a good young player like Rubstov or Myers or require Hextall to make a side deal. Vegas took full advantage of this and has benefitted by such deals with a trip to the Stanley Cup Final.
This might force Hextall to trade a valuable asset to prepare. Who that would be is still a mystery as any player can surge or slump from now until 2020 and make themselves available to be purged from the roster.
So, while the Seattle draft may be two full seasons away, the Flyers stand to lose a good young player to the 2020-21 expansion franchise when they are given the same rules as the current Western Conference Champions, the Vegas Golden Knights.
While the front office cannot sacrifice the present to completely prepare for this situation, it is something that Hextall and company may need all hands on deck to handle.