Now that the 2021 NHL season is on the horizon, the key dates for next offseason are being hammered out. One of the most looked forward to events is the expansion draft as Seattle finally prepares to enter the league. As of right now, the expansion draft is scheduled for the 21 of July, and all eyes in Philadelphia will be who the Flyers choose to leave exposed.
GM Chuck Fletcher failed to clear any big money during the 2020 offseason, thus making it critical that he doesn’t sit on his hands during the expansion draft. From a Flyers perspective, they’ve lined themselves up to not have any involuntary losses from the roster. All their key pieces will be protected, so this expansion draft will come down to who is not protected, and if Seattle will take the cheapest option instead of a higher-priced player unless the Flyers pay up to shed some cash.
We’ve already broke down what the Flyers’ cap space would look like if the Kraken took James Van Riemsdyk off their hands, but as insiders around the league prepare their mock drafts, one thing is becoming clear, the analytic-driven Seattle front office may not only stay away from JVR for his lackluster play, but with cap space at a premium in the flat-cap era caused by the covid-19 pandemic, many teams will be looking to offload excess cap space, and Seattle could ask for a king’s ransom to make that happen.
Depending on how Chuck Fletcher plays his cards, James Van Riemsdyk, Shayne Gostisbehere, and even Jake Voracek could all be exposed to Seattle. Shedding any of their combined $19.75 million in cap space would go a long way to potentially re-signing Carter Hart, Travis Sanheim, Joel Farabee, among others. Yet, at the same time, there’s a good chance two of three of Scott Laughton, Michael Raffl, or Nicholas Aube-Kubel will be left exposed as well. While Laughton and Raffl will be unrestricted free agents next summer, they’re still eligible to be drafted by the Kraken. Aube-Kubel is still under contract, and may be an enticing option for the Kraken as a cheap, effective bottom-six forward, especially if he builds off his strong 2019-20 campaign.
While losing one of Laughton, Raffl, or Aube-Kubel would be fairly non-consequential in the grand scheme of things, it would also be a huge blown opportunity for the Flyers to clear some cap space that is desperately needed in the future.
A few weeks back we looked at the possibility of not re-signing Couturier, and while the idea went over about as well as the Hindenburg, Couturier cashing in would hurt much worse if Ghost or JVR are still on the books. Ditching JVR would mean that his $7 million would cover most of what Couturier is expecting to make.
Who knows what the landscape of the NHL will look like come July, but an educated guess is that there probably won’t be much, if any, financial alleviation from fans returning to the stands. Ultimately, the Flyers can’t count on the cap rising any time soon, and that means they simply cannot waste this expansion draft. The market for Seattle taking on cap from struggling teams won’t become clear until the days leading up to the draft, but one thing is certain, the Flyers must stretch to any asking price the Kraken ask to take on the contract of James Van Riemsdyk.
Chuck Fletcher will, more or less, be at the mercy of Seattle when it comes to their trade demands, but they really don’t have much of a choice. If they walk away from this golden opportunity to finally clear some cap space and don’t take advantage of it, it could be detrimental to the team for years to come. Whether it will be high draft picks or a top prospect, the Flyers will just have to bite the bullet if it means getting out of a past mistake.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: tsn.ca