(April 10, 2016) – A verdict on the potential expansion of the National Hockey League is due ahead of the 2016 NHL Draft, according to NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. While there has been no 100% guaranteed-official format announced, the NHL has discussed a potential format for an Expansion Draft (full details here): Teams will protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender OR eight total skaters and one goaltender with the choice belonging to the team. It is unknown what will happen with players who have a No Movement Clause (NMC) or a No Trade Clause (NTC) in their contract, but the same report states that any player in their first or second year of professional play will be exempt. It also looks like each team would lose one player if there is one expansion team, or two if both Las Vegas and Quebec City are awarded teams.

For this 30-part #TFTPB series, we will be taking a closer look at each current NHL team and what players might be available to a new franchise at the conclusion of the 2016-17 NHL season. For the sake of simplicity, players with a NMC/NTC will not be made automatically exempt. All contract and salary information for this series is courtesy of NHLNumbers.com.

Today, we’re taking a look at the Philadelphia Flyers.

 

FORWARDS:

Claude Giroux ($8.275 million), Wayne Simmonds ($3.975 million) and Jakub Voracek ($4.250 million this season, $8.250 million starting next season) all posted over 50 points this season and will be protected right off the bat. Brayden Schenn ($2.500 million) also topped 50 points this season, but will be a Restricted Free Agent this summer. He’ll join the group mentioned above as locks once the Flyers lock him up to a new contract.

That leaves three open spots. Sean Couturier ($1.750 million this season, $4.333 million starting next season) and Michael Raffl ($1.100 million this season, $2.350 million starting next season) should each get one of those spots. Both Raffl and Couturier have their contract extensions kick in this summer, keeping each from becoming Unrestricted Free Agents until at least 2019.

The final spot has a little more flexibility. Top prospect Travis Konecny ($1.137 million) will be exempt from selection and won’t need to be protected by the Flyers. Of the players not listed above, Matt Read ($3.625 million) has the most points this season with 25. A younger player like Scott Laughton ($1.076 million), Nick Cousins ($0.894 million) or Jordan Weal ($0.632 million) could work their way into the spot, though Cousins and Weal are both RFAs this offseason and Laughton becomes an RFA in 2017. Sam Gagner ($3.200 million cap hit for the Flyers, $4.800 million total cap hit) and Ryan White ($0.800 million) both become UFAs this summer, though each managed just 16 points this season. R.J. Umberger ($4.600 million), Pierre-Edouard Bellemare ($0.713 million) and Chris VandeVelde ($0.713 million) all become UFAs next year but would all be unlikely choices for protection.

 

DEFENSEMEN:

Shayne Gostisbehere ($1.421 million) might win the Calder Trophy this season as the Rookie of the Year and easily locks up one of Philly’s three defensive slots. Prospect Ivan Provorov ($1.775 million) will be exempt from selection and won’t need a spot. However, Samuel Morin ($1.363 million) would need to be protected or the Flyers will expose him to the expansion team(s).

Mark Streit ($5.250 million) and Michael Del Zotto ($3.875 million) will both become UFAs in 2017, as will Nick Schultz ($2.250 million). Yevgeni Medvedev ($3.000 million) hits free agency this summer as a UFA, and both Radko Gudas ($0.992 million) and Brandon Manning ($0.625 million) will be RFAs this offseason. Andrew MacDonald ($5.000 million) is locked up long-term, though carries the third-highest cap hit of any Flyer.

 

GOALTENDERS:

Both Steve Mason ($4.100 million) and Michal Neuvirth ($1.625 million) are set to become UFAs in 2017. Prospect Anthony Stolarz ($0.894 million) will be an RFA in 2017. If none are re-signed by the Expansion Draft, Stolarz would be the sensible choice for protection as an RFA. However, Mason would very likely get the protection slot if he’s re-signed ahead of the Expansion Draft.

 

THOUGHTS:

The first chunk of forwards the Flyers will protect is an easy choice, but the last spot becomes a little more tricky. The first six forwards protected should be: Giroux, Simmonds, Voracek, Schenn, Couturier and Raffl. The final forward protected will likely come down to one of three players: Scott Laughton, Nick Cousins and Jordan Weal. Weal has posted the best AHL numbers, but is also the oldest. Cousins posted the best numbers in 2015-16 (albeit for the AHL Phantoms). Laughton has been the most productive at the NHL level so far and is a former First Round Pick. For now, give the edge to Laughton (or an incoming free agent).

Matt Read could sneak back into that discussion with a step forward next season. However, his numbers have declined each year since putting up 47 points in his rookie season in 2011-12 (he posted just 25 points this season and 30 last season).

Gostisbehere and Morin are likely to lock up the top two protected spots on defense for Philadelphia. Streit will turn 40 in 2017, so he’d be unlikely to make the cut for the final slot. Del Zotto and Medvedev would likely battle for the third spot. What the Flyers do with those contracts between now and the Expansion Draft could determine which player is protected.

Mason should be the guy protected in the crease so long as he’s under contract beyond 2017 by the Draft. Exposing Stolarz is less of a risk given the bevy of young, talented goalies that will likely be available through the Expansion Draft.

 

In the next edition of #TFTPB: NHL Expansion, we’ll be looking at the Pittsburgh Penguins.