How Expansion Proceedings May Affect Flyers

Run-down of the time-table for what’s sure to be a whirlwind of a weekend for the Golden Knights, the Flyers and the entire NHL.

  • Saturday, June 17th – Roster Freeze at 3pm EST. Teams must submit the Protected lists by 5pm EST. These lists will be made public (the following morning, Sunday)!
  • Sunday, June 18th – Las Vegas starts picking their team, and talking to free agents (both UFAs and RFAs) who are technically still a part of NHL clubs (until July 1st).
  • Tuesday, June 20th – Las Vegas will finish up negotiations with teams and players.
  • Wednesday, June 21st – The initial Golden Knights roster will be revealed in its entirety to the public.
  • Friday/Saturday, June 23rd/24th – The 2017 NHL Entry Draft.
  • Saturday, July 1st – Free Agency Begins.

What Prospects Are Exempt/Not Exempt From Being Selected?

  • Any Player with fewer than 3 Years of Professional Experience is exempt. Years are defined as 10+ games played in any given season while under an NHL contract.
Ivan Provorov and Travis Konecny will be exempt.

Ivan Provorov and Travis Konecny will be exempt.

This first rule means big names like Travis Konecny and Ivan Provorov are completely exempt from being selected by Las Vegas. The Flyers don’t need to use a protection slot on these two. It also means that all of Rubtsov, Lindblom, Morin, Sanheim, Laberge, Vorobyov, Hart, Friedman, Bunnaman, Aube-Kubel, Willcox, Martel, Myers, Goulbourne, Fazleev, Lyon, Bardreau, and Vecchione are protected from selection.

  • If a Player was 18 or 19 while playing in his 1st Pro season on his ELC but did NOT play 10+ games in the NHL that season does not count towards the 3 Years of Professional Experience.

For the Flyers this is the Robert Hagg rule. Hagg came over as a 19-year-old to play in the AHL so that first season in the AHL has no bearing on his eligibility. Therefore Hagg has only played 2 years of professional hockey under an NHL contract and is exempt from being selected as well.

  • 3+ Years of Pro experience while under contract

This group of prospects would include Anthony Stolarz, Taylor Leier, Scott Laughton, and Mark Alt. I would still consider these players prospects, but they would need to be protected under the Expansion Draft rules, or run the risk of being selected. Since the Golden Knights will have much bigger fish to fry this group is probably safe anyway.

Who Will The Flyers Protect?

Teams have 2 options for how to protect their players.

  • Protect 7 Forwads, 3 Defenseman, 1 Goalie.
  • Protect 8 Skaters, 1 Goalie.

Obviously the 2nd method will be used less, but certain teams may need to protect 4 valuable Defensemen. A caveat that may catch some teams here is that players with “No Movement Clauses” will have to personally waive those clauses or will NEED to be protected. Thus players like Dion Phaneuf (who has refused to waive) may force Ottawa into using the 8 Skater Protection.

The Flyers will unanimously choose the 1st method because the only NMCs they have are Forwards. They also don’t have 4 defensemen eligible for the Expansion Draft that are valuable enough to protect.

Forwards

  • 7 Forwards: Claude Giroux (NMC), Wayne Simmonds (NMC), Valterri Filppula (NMC), Jakub Voracek, Brayden Schenn, Sean Couturier, and 1 of Bellmare, Cousins, or Weal.
Bellemare has attention of management for leadership qualities, Photo: Amy Irvin, 38 Photography.

Bellemare has attention of management for leadership qualities, Photo: Amy Irvin, 38 Photography.

Since Cousins and Weal are both unsigned at this point, it’s quite likely that P.E. Bellemare gets that last protection slot. Even though he’s a 4th Liner management really feels Bellemare is a fantastic team player and have treated him as such (gave him a lucrative extension). It’s well known he’s popular in the locker room and he even received assistant captaincy this season after Mark Streit was traded.

The rumor is that Hextall and Weal’s agent J.P. Barry have been talking over the last few days, and agreed on term but couldn’t quite hammer out the money. If that gets done before the 3pm Roster Freeze, he may get the last slot, but it doesn’t look promising. Chances are he goes unprotected.

Defensemen

  • 3 Defensemen: Shayne Gostisbehere, Radko Gudas, and Brandon Manning.
Freshly signed contract and definitely protected; Gostisbehere

Freshly signed contract and definitely protected; Gostisbehere.

This is a lay-up. Kind of a shame really because that last Defenseman slot is absolutely unnecessary for the Flyers. Since it’s probably going to be used to protect Manning it would be nice to have an extra Forward slot instead. “Them’s the breaks” as they say, and these rules were put in place to force teams into tough decisions. Andrew MacDonald will be exposed and the Flyers would be glad to be rid of his contract.

Goaltenders

  • 1 Goalie: Anthony Stolarz, or Michal Neuvirth.
Majority of Stolarz resume is in the AHL, but Flyers may protect him

Majority of Stolarz resume is in the AHL, but Flyers may protect him. Photo: Fimmano Photography.

I’ve seen a lot of confusion over Michal Neuvirth and his new contract. That deal wasn’t signed with the sole intention of protecting Neuvirth. It’s my belief that the Flyers signed Neuvirth with the intention to expose him, and protect their young goalie Stolarz. Neuvirth is the only goalie who is signed by the Flyers as of the Expansion Draft (with the exception of junior stand out Carter Hart).

The one thing that isn’t completely clear is if Vegas will be required to give up assets to sign RFAs. They could sign Stolarz as they’re allowed to talk to upcoming UFA/RFAs, but Philadelphia may be compensated with a draft pick if the salary is high enough (see Restricted Free Agents section below).

Who Will Be Exposed?

Each team is required to expose at least 2 Forwards, and 1 Defenseman that have played 40+ games in the past season, or a combined 70+ games in the past 2 seasons. These players MUST be under contract for the upcoming season. Each team must also expose 1 Goaltender who is either under contract for the upcoming season, or is a qualified RFA. No restriction on games played by Goalies.

  • 2 Forwards: Matt Read, Dale Weise, and Michael Raffl all meet this requirement
  • Defenseman: Andrew MacDonald
  • Goaltender: Neuvirth or Stolarz
Matt Read's hot start last year can't hide fact that his career is in decline

Matt Read’s hot start last year can’t hide the fact that his career is in decline. Photo: Fimmano Photography.

This group of players would be the obvious choices for Las Vegas although not necessarily the most likely. It’s possible Hextall may attempt to “grease the wheels”. If Las Vegas verbally agreed to take on a bad contract the Flyers could part with a couple draft picks to ensure someone is selected. All of MacDonald, Read, and Weise have pretty tough contracts to swallow (varying degrees) so this type of situation could happen. It would be the most positive outcome for the Flyers in my opinion.

What About Unrestricted Free Agents?

  • The Golden Knights are required to pick 20 players (out of 30 teams) that are under contract right now. The other 10 picks can be upcoming Free Agents.

Other than to get rid of a bad contract there’s 1 big reason to incentivize picking someone like MacDonald.. in order to avoid having a younger and potentially more valuable UFA/RFA selected. The Golden Knights can speak to any UFAs who are unprotected and are not exempt. A common mistake I see a ton of people making is saying, “the Flyers can just sign those guys after the expansion draft, but before July 1st.” That is dead wrong.

Weal and Flyers yet to sign new deal

Weal and the Flyers have yet to sign new deal, could be a big loss for Flyers. Photo: Fimmano Photography.

If Vegas decides to pursue Jordan Weal (UFA) it would probably be the biggest loss possible for the Flyers. They would merely need to come to terms with his agent and Weal would count as the Flyers player lost in the expansion draft. The Golden Knights could offer him a bit more money so this scenario is not outlandish.

Mason's days as a Flyer are over, could be a great pick for Vegas

Mason’s days as a Flyer are over, could be a great pick for Vegas. Photo: Amy Irvin, 38 Photography.

Something I don’t see much talk about is the fact that both Steve Mason, and Michael Del Zotto are eligible to be selected (also Vandevelde but no one should care). Neither Mason or Del Zotto seem to be in the Flyers’ plan for next season, but both are technically Flyers until July 1st. Las Vegas could sign either of them to a contract, and forgo the rest of the Flyers exposed players. There’s certainly value in both of those players, just as much (or more) than the exposed players above.

Restricted Free Agents

RFA options for the Knights include Nick Cousins, Scott Laughton, Roman Lyubimov, Taylor Leier, or (if not protected) Anthony Stolarz. It’s unclear how teams might be compensated for RFAs, but the general rule for signing an RFA to an offer sheet is for draft picks to head the other way. Under normal circumstances teams would be given a chance to match the offer presented, but I doubt that’s the same in this situation. We might see Vegas straight up steal some RFAs for nothing.

  • Contract is less than $1.2 m per year, No Picks
  • $1.2 m to $1.8 m, 3rd Rounder
  • $1.8 m to $3.6 m, 2nd Rounder
  • $3.6 m+, 1st Rounder and other picks

That scale keeps going up to a $9+ m offer sheet which would net the team losing the player 4 – 1st Round Selections. It’s likely however, that if any of those RFAs are selected the Golden Knights wouldn’t be going any higher than the above amounts. I don’t see any of these guys being priority selections for the Knights, but it’s not implausible they use some of their selections on borderline prospect/pro types.

So, Who’s It Gonna Be?

The most important thing to remember is that the Flyers are only going to lose 1 player here, heck it may even be a player they didn’t plan on re-signing in the first place! The roster isn’t going to be dismantled. How do I see it unfolding?

Most Likely

  • Jordan Weal: breakout offensive season that showed he has the chops to play inside the top-6. Couple years of growth left before he plateaus, fair chance he’s their selection. Flyers should’ve had this deal done ages ago, can only assume Weal might be holding out for more money and the chance to play in Nevada. The reason this feels more likely than not to me is it would be the worst loss for the Flyers. Still hoping he’s protected.
Cousins has been a valuable depth piece for Flyers, may have more skill to contribute as well

Cousins a valuable depth piece for Flyers, may have skill to contribute in larger role for developing expansion team. Photo: Amy Irvin, 38 Photography.

  • Nick Cousins/Michael Raffl: if Weal is re-signed or protected then these two are probably most likely to be taken. Both excellent 2-way players who can play up and down the line-up in utility roles. Not stars, but can provide value, especially to a team that will lack players in certain roles.

Somewhat Plausible

Vegas relieving Philly of MacDonald's contract would be a Godsend, but relatively unlikely

Vegas relieving Philly of MacDonald’s contract would be a Godsend, but relatively unlikely. Photo: Amy Irvin, 38 Photography.

  • Andrew MacDonald: PHI trades a couple of picks (they have 11 coming up at the draft in 7 Rounds) to LV to dump a contract and everyone rejoices! To me this is the ideal situation and is at least somewhat likely, but if I were Vegas there would have to be a considerably high pick involved.
  • Steve Mason: Knights could easily roll the dice on taking 2 – #1 Goalies. I know people will scream “MARC-ANDRE FLEURY” at this point, but Vegas could select both Fleury and Mason.. trade one of them this Summer.. play out there year with them splitting starts.. trade one at the deadline.. possibilities are endless here.. they’d be stupid not to take both. Have your cake and eat it too.

Kind of Insane

  • Matt Read/Dale Weise: not sure why Vegas would go down the depth chart this low, but they could circle around to the Flyers after they’ve hammered out all their other deals with other teams. In that situation they might need a few dollars to reach their salary cap requirement and either of these guys could provide serviceable depth.
Laughton started career hot, but hasn't taken the next step.

Laughton started career hot, but hasn’t taken the next step to NHL regular.

  • Scott Laughton: no idea why every expansion draft list I see has Vegas taking Laughton, he’s a 3rd line Center at best. Weal, Cousins, and Raffl would all be better selections at Forward, but I’d be glad if Vegas takes him. Read and Weise are also more likely picks simply because Vegas need to reach 60-100% of the Salary Cap.

Why Though?

  • Michal Neuvirth/Anthony Stolarz: there are much better goaltending options, both veterans and prospects that will be available. Picking either would be nonsense. Why pick Neuvirth when Mason has been better at everything over his tenure in Philly, and is available?
  • Michael Del Zotto: has seen his ups and downs, but was okay for the Flyers when healthy. Probably better picks available but could play in a 3D-5D role. Unlikely pick.
  • The rest..
  • Provoheim

    I believe Vegas will take Raffl. Not a huge loss.

    • He’s definitely one of the most likely picks. Replaceable for sure, but a good mid-6 forward that I for one will miss.