Philadelphia Flyers

Which Players the Flyers' Protected, Left Exposed in NHL Expansion Draft

After the Ellis trade, a bit of a surprise with the Flyers' protected list originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

With the trade of Nolan Patrick, there appeared to be a more logical opening for the Flyers to protect James van Riemsdyk in Wednesday's expansion draft.

But the Flyers elected to leave the goal-scoring winger exposed to the Kraken, who are set to build their first-ever roster as the NHL's newest club in the 2021-22 season. The Flyers instead protected role forward Nicolas Aube-Kubel.

The Flyers' list of protected players was released Sunday. The club went with the seven-forward, three-defensemen protection plan. Before we get into it all, here are the essentials for the expansion draft:

  • When: Wednesday, July 21, 8 p.m. ET
  • Where: Seattle
  • Broadcast: ESPN2
  • Live stream:

Now, let's break down the Flyers' protection list and exposed players:

Forwards (7)

  • Nicolas Aube-Kubel
  • Sean Couturier
  • Claude Giroux
  • Kevin Hayes
  • Travis Konecny
  • Scott Laughton
  • Oskar Lindblom

Losing van Riemsdyk or Jakub Voracek would be a loss for the Flyers. However, it would also be a gain in cap relief, which would create greater flexibility for offseason acquisitions and additions down the line.

Van Riemsdyk and Voracek were tied with Giroux for the team lead in scoring last season (43 points). They are valuable and impactful players. But both are older with term and large cap hits in a flat-cap world and critical offseason for the Flyers. Voracek turns 32 years old in August and is under contract for the next three seasons at an annual $8.25 million cap hit. Van Riemsdyk is 32 and under contract for the next two seasons at an annual $7 million cap hit.

As Patrick was moved in the Ryan Ellis trade Saturday, a spot was essentially freed up at forward on the Flyers' protected list, presuming the club had plans to not leave the 22-year-old center exposed. The Flyers decided to use that spot on Aube-Kubel, who is 25 years old and significantly more inexpensive than van Riemsdyk and Voracek.

It became all but certain Voracek would be left exposed. But on Saturday, the door was opened to potentially protect van Riemsdyk and save at least one of their bigger, established players up front. The Flyers, though, are clearly focused on the opportunity for serious cap relief in this situation, prodding Seattle to grab one of their better players.

Both van Riemsdyk and Voracek will be appealing to the Dave Hakstol-led Kraken. 

While the decade Flyer Voracek hasn't won much in the playoffs, he has a track record of not missing games and creating offense. Over the last 10 seasons, he ranks eighth in the NHL with 427 assists. He's an underrated teammate, as well.

Van Riemsdyk has a twofold case. He's coming off a productive season (17 goals and 26 assists) in which he was tied for the NHL's fifth-most power play goals (10). The only season van Riemsdyk had more man advantage goals was in 2017-18, when he scored 11 with the Maple Leafs and finished with a career-high 36 markers. The Flyers' NHLPA rep would also be a quality ambassador and example on an expansion club. He's a pro in all facets, something a team will consider when building its brand from scratch.

Defensemen (3)

  • Ryan Ellis
  • Ivan Provorov
  • Travis Sanheim

As we noted, the Flyers had pretty clear-cut decisions on defense. Provorov and Ellis were obvious protections, while Sanheim has shown his potential and is still young when it comes to a player reaching one's ceiling. He's big, mobile and had too much upside to lose for nothing.

Shayne Gostisbehere, who was drafted by the club and has played six full seasons in Philadelphia, very well could be the most intriguing to Seattle among the Flyers' exposed blueliners. He's a skillful, 28-year-old, puck-moving type of defenseman who can quarterback a top-unit power play. He's under contract for two more years and is coming off his best season since 2017-18 (despite many obstacles). And both his Calder Trophy runner-up rookie year in 2015-16 and career-high 65-point season in 2017-18 came under Hakstol.

If the Kraken decide to take one of the Flyers' defensemen, it's arguable that, among the blueliners, Braun would be the team's biggest loss for next season. In 2020-21, the Flyers were desperate for stability and experience on the back end. So far, they've filled their huge top-pair hole with Ellis, but losing the 34-year-old Braun, their truest defender, would then add another dent to a team that is trying to address a staggering NHL-most 3.52 goals allowed per game figure.

Goalies (1)

  • Carter Hart

A clear-cut, no-brainer here.

Available to the Kraken

  • Andy Andreoff
  • Connor Bunnaman
  • David Kase
  • Pascal Laberge
  • Samuel Morin
  • German Rubtsov
  • Carsen Twarynski
  • James van Riemsdyk
  • Jakub Voracek
  • Mikhail Vorobyev
  • Chris Bigras
  • Justin Braun
  • Shayne Gostisbehere
  • Robert Hagg
  • Derrick Pouliot
  • Nate Prosser
  • Tyler Wotherspoon
  • Brian Elliott
  • Alex Lyon
  • Felix Sandstrom

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