The NHL’s 32nd team will officially unveil its first roster on Wednesday night with the announcement of its selections in the Expansion Draft. That means that at least one Flyers player will be heading to the Seattle Kraken as part of the inaugural roster.
Who will it be? Will Seattle simply select a player or is there a side deal that could be in place? There are three potential outcomes for the Flyers in Wednesday night’s expansion draft, and we’ll detail each possibility and how it could impact the Flyers offseason plans.
Seattle Selects a Big Contract
When the Flyers protected list came out on Sunday, three names clearly stood out at the top among the unprotected players: Shayne Gostisbehere, Jake Voracek, and James van Riemsdyk. It was obvious Gostisbehere would be left exposed with Ivan Provorov and Travis Sanheim needing protection and Ryan Ellis brought in just before the roster freeze. Among forwards, there was only going to be room for one of Voracek and van Riemsdyk on the protected list anyway, but both ended up exposed as the Flyers gave the last protected spot to Nicolas Aube-Kubel.
In doing so, the Flyers seem to be trying to back Seattle into a corner with their pick. The objective appears to be opening up substantial cap space.
If Gostisbehere is selected, the Flyers would get $4.5 million in cap space. If it’s van Riemsdyk, the Flyers gain $7 million in cap space. And if it’s Voracek, then the Flyers would suddenly have an additional $8.25 million in cap space.
It may be a pipe dream on its own. Certainly a team like Seattle selecting Gostisbehere makes sense. A $4.5 million cap hit won’t come close to the highest they will take on the new roster, but it would be substantial enough to help get them to the cap limit.
Voracek and van Riemsdyk are a different story. Their cap hits are reserved for prominent cornerstone players who form the identity of your team. It is highly unlikely that either of those players would be selected on their own. It would take a sweetener to make it happen. More on that later.
But if a large contract were to be selected, it could open the door for the Flyers to do much more this offseason. They still need to sign restricted free agents Carter Hart and Travis Sanheim to new deals. They would also like to add another second-pair defenseman, third-line center, and backup goalie.
At the moment, the Flyers have approximately $9.3 million in cap space. Even if the Kraken take Gostisbehere’s contract, the lowest cap hit of the three, the Flyers would still increase available cap space to $13.8 million to attempt to address a few of those needs.
Seattle Selects Defenseman Justin Braun or Robert Hagg
Two other players left unprotected that could certainly be attractive to Seattle are Justin Braun and Robert Hagg.
In Braun’s case, the Kraken would get a veteran defenseman that has been around the block, that can become part of the leadership group right away and provide mentorship for younger players. At 34 years old and with one year remaining on his contract with a $1.8 million cap hit, he would certainly be a fit for Seattle in their first season.
Similarly, Hagg has one year remaining on his contract at a $1.6 million cap hit. For a team that will need to acquire depth from the start, Hagg could be another low-risk selection for Seattle around some of the other bigger names available.
Now, this outcome doesn’t help the Flyers much in cap space. If Seattle were to take Braun, for example, it would only increase their available cap space to $11.1 million. That’s not going to be enough to re-sign both Hart and Sanheim and address one or two of the needs that are left.
That said, leaving both Braun and Hagg unprotected means that the Flyers are at least comfortable with the prospect of losing either to Seattle. Braun ideally would slot into the third pairing, and while his veteran leadership and mentorship could go a long way for a player like Cam York, you can always try to find a similar player on the open market.
In Hagg’s case, you may only be losing a No. 6 or No. 7 defenseman at best. That can certainly be replaced, possibly even from within the organization already.
Seattle Works Side Deal with Flyers
Now to the third possibility, and it goes back to the first outcome and applying the sweetener. If the Flyers are really set on trying to free up cap space through a Voracek or van Riemsdyk, it’s going to require more than just a straight-up selection by Seattle.
How can this happen? Well, things continue to keep coming back to the Crossing Broad report on Vladimir Tarasenko and the possibility that he could end up with the Flyers. The proposed deal as reported by Anthony SanFilippo states that Seattle would select Tarasenko from the St. Louis Blues, then flip him to Philadelphia for Voracek and a draft pick – possibly a second or third-rounder. Then Seattle would also select Hagg.
If this were to happen, there are two things that become even clearer. For one, it will mark another splash early in Chuck Fletcher’s offseason. Let’s not put the cart before the horse and assume that Tarasenko is definitively Philly bound, but it’s certainly evident already this offseason that Fletcher is committed to more than just making attempts to better the team. He’s about action.
And realistically, there is still the possibility that a player like Hagg or a prospect or a draft pick will need to be included just to give the Flyers the true desired result: cap space. Whether they use most of that cap space immediately by getting a player in return or have it in their pocket to address more areas of the offseason wish list remains to be seen.
An interesting evening awaits the Flyers as Seattle makes their selections public. The player that heads to Seattle and the possibility that something could come back in return could essentially set the path for the rest of the offseason. With all eyes on the NHL’s newest team, the Flyers will certainly be heavily invested in the outcome.