With NHL Expansion Draft Looming, Who Will Flyers Protect?

The official lead-in to the NHL expansion draft begins Saturday at 5 p.m. - the deadline for clubs to submit their protected list for next Wednesday's draft.

At 10 a.m. on Sunday, the NHL will release each club's protected list. The day prior to the draft, the Vegas Golden Knights will submit a list of which unprotected players they want to pluck from other teams.

Philadelphia Flyers

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The Flyers can go two ways with their protected list. They can protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie or choose to protect eight skaters and a goalie. General manager Ron Hextall said on Friday he's going 7-3-1 (see story).

With that in mind, here's our list of who we think the club will protect:

3 defensemen

Shayne Gostisbehere
By re-signing him earlier, the Flyers eliminated the possibility of Vegas exercising its right to tender an RFA offer sheet to "Ghost," which would have forced the Flyers to match.

Radko Gudas
He was the most improved Flyer of last season, finally identifying that fine line between legal and illegal hits and knowing when and where to deliver them. Gudas' 280 hits ranked third in the NHL.

Brandon Manning
Most heart of any Flyers defenseman and worked his way up from the eighth position to a starter. He would be a bargain at $975,000 if exposed, which is why he should be protected.

7 forwards

Brayden Schenn
Because of his salary - $5.1M - the Flyers might expose him and protect highly versatile Michael Raffl, but it's unlikely. Schenn has found a niche on the wing and shown consistent improvement each season with the Flyers. He tied for the NHL lead with 17 power-play goals.

Sean Couturier
Many around the league like his defense and $4.3 million with years left would make him attractive if exposed because his numbers are set. Valtteri Filppula's arrival gave him more space on the ice and Couturier finished a plus-12 - highest among all Flyers

Valtteri Filppula
He has a no-movement clause and has to be protected.

Claude Giroux
No-movement clause. His biggest challenge this season with the Flyers is to do what Sidney Crosby has done in Pittsburgh: elevate his linemates to become better, more productive players.

Wayne Simmonds
No-trade clause. Led the team in goal-scoring for the fourth straight season and finished one power-play goal behind Schenn. He has become a fixture at the net, making people forget about Scott Hartnell.

Jakub Voracek
He amassed 61 points but was capable of far better production, especially on the power play. Interesting that among the many lines in which coach Dave Hakstol used him, Voracek had his best production - 24 points - with Giroux and Raffl.

Jordan Weal
As a UFA, he would be attractive fodder for Vegas in free agency. Weal's agent, J.P. Barry, said he has agreed on length of contract with the Flyers, but not salary. Weal needs to be protected … unless Hextall has an agreement in place that Weal will sign after the expansion draft. If that is the case, then the Flyers would likely choose to protect Raffl and expose Weal.

1 goalie

Michal Neuvirth
Still a bargain at $2.5 million and could be so much more if he ever had a full, healthy NHL season. A year ago, it would have seemed logical for the Flyers to protect young Anthony Stolarz. Yet, it's pretty obvious, by now, that the Flyers don't see him as the future No. 1. Also, Stolarz had significant offseason knee surgery, which would scare Vegas away.

That's our list. We'll know Sunday how it compares to what Hextall submitted to the league.

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