The expansion draft looms leaving the question, who should the Flyers protect?
Now before people start going crazy about who should or shouldn’t be handed immunity, there are a few rules to know.
First, players with no movement/no trade clauses are automatically protected, barring them waiving that clause. That means both Claude Giroux and Valtteri Filppula will be back in Orange and Black next season.
Second, any player with two years or less experience in the big leagues don’t need to be protected, so they Flyers don’t have to worry about losing guys like Ivan Provorov, Travis Konecny, Samuel Morin, Travis Sanheim and even Alex Lyon (though he only signed a one-year deal).
And third, there are two different formats to choose from. You can either choose to go with seven forwards, three defenseman and a goalie or a smaller, simpler group of eight skaters (offense or defense) and a goalie.
Now that you have an idea of who the Flyers don’t need to worry about, let’s make the arguments.
First and foremost, I think the Flyers should go with the first of two format options, protecting seven forwards and three d-men. The biggest reason being that the Flyers have lots of core players and young players they wouldn’t wanted to see walk out the door for nothing.
As far as forwards go, the no-brainers to me are Jakub Voracek, Wayne Simmonds and Brayden Schenn. Voracek led the Flyers in points this past season and is one season removed from a monstrous campaign. He’s got the goods. Simmonds has back-to-back 30-goal seasons and is a team leader and one of the most complete players on the team. And Brayden Schenn, while I’m weary about his contract, he had 17 power play goals in 2016-17 and a player you’d rather trade and get value for than to see leave without getting a return.
That leaves two open spaces, given Giroux’s and Filppula’s protections. With only two spots left, the brass is left to decide between Sean Couturier, Michael Raffl, Scott Laughton, Nick Cousins, Jordan Weal, Taylor Leier and a couple others.
Laughton was thought to be a a great pick in 2012, but he struggle during Dave Hakstol’s first year and was delegated to the AHL this past year. Is he a guy the Flyers see as a future player? Or is he not considered to be a sure thing anymore? Cousins jumped in and out of the lineup this past year and Leier and Weal each saw some playing time.
For me, Couturier is almost a no-brainer. Yes, people wish he was more offensive. His career high in points is 39 and he notched a respectable 14 goals and 20 assists in 66 games last year. But it’s his defensive capabilities as a center that make him valuable to me. Coots frequently goes up against top forwards on the other team and comes out better off.
Though his limited NHL action may make this choice a head scratcher, if I was Hextall, I’d probably put my last tag on Weal. Raffl is more experienced and a guy the Flyers like, but Weal netted 8 goals in 23 games with the big club while averaging better than a point-per-game in the AHL with the Phantoms. There’s no guarantee Raffl would get chosen in the expansion draft and with other good forwards surely being made available, I’d roll the dice on it.