As the Lightning finished off the Canadiens to seal their second straight Stanley Cup championship, the expansion draft lurks only two weeks away.
We'll get into that and more with our latest three Flyers thoughts.
1. Exposing JVR, Voracek?
The Flyers must submit their protection list for the expansion draft by July 17. Like every club (aside from the Golden Knights), they've got some difficult, unenvious decisions. We evaluated the Flyers' decisions on defense right here.
The team's decisions at forward are hazier. If the Flyers expose James van Riemsdyk, the Kraken's eyes will widen and for various reasons. The big winger is coming off a productive 2020-21 season in which he recorded 43 points (17 goals, 26 assists), tied for the team lead, and scored 10 power play goals, tied for the NHL's fifth most. 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.
He also has ties to Seattle head coach Dave Hakstol, the former Flyers bench boss who van Riemsdyk said was a selling point when he decided to come back to Philadelphia in July 2018 on a five-year, $35 million deal. Production and connections aside, van Riemsdyk would be a good ambassador and example on an expansion club. The 32-year-old is a pro in all facets, something a team will consider when building its brand from scratch.
With the Flyers likely utilizing the seven-forward, three-defensemen protection plan, there's a good possibility the club leaves van Riemsdyk and/or Jakub Voracek exposed to Seattle. That would best be described as business decisions. 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.
Outside of important cap relief in a flat-cap world, either of the two going to Seattle would be a loss for the Flyers. If both are Flyers when the expansion draft wraps up, people inside the organization will be happy. Voracek and van Riemsdyk hold value — on the ice and as assets for the front office. They're simply players getting older with dollars and term, which make them business decisions in an expansion draft and maybe less likely to be picked.
But, make no mistake, they are valuable to the Flyers. While Voracek hasn't won much in the playoffs, he has a track record of not missing games and creating offense. It's plausible the Flyers decide to protect van Riemsdyk or perhaps Voracek, but it would have to come at the expense of leaving a younger player exposed like Nolan Patrick or Oskar Lindblom. But teams do not like to give up on young talent, particularly when the young talent is still inexpensive. In Patrick's case, the 2017 second overall pick is only 22 years old and coming off a one-year, $874,125 deal.
The Flyers' previous regime didn't want to give up on Scott Laughton in the 2017 Vegas expansion draft. We'll soon see how the Flyers' front office and coaching staff view the team's young talent and the risk of exposing it.
2. Can you help the Flyers?
The Flyers didn't play well at home this season because they were a different team than they were in 2019-20. They had holes, they were flawed and they were never consistent, which added up to a letdown year.
But the Flyers did have a full house of fans in 2019-20 and played off of it. There was a considerable buzz at the Wells Fargo Center down the stretch of that regular season and the Flyers started using it. Whereas in 2020-21, there were no fans followed by limited capacity.
Flyers at home in 2020-21
- Record: 12-12-4
- Goals per game: 2.93
- Goals allowed per game: 3.39
- Goal differential: minus-13
Flyers at home in 2019-20
- Record: 25-6-4
- Goals per game: 3.51
- Goals allowed per game: 2.00
- Goal differential: plus-53
At his exit interview, when head coach Alain Vigneault said he needed a "normal season," he mentioned wanting a "normal playoffs where you play in front of your fans, you feel the energy, you feel the passion."
The Flyers have a lot they need to resolve before the start of 2021-22, but full-capacity crowds — on top of many other aspects returning to normal — can help them. In order to feel that home-ice advantage, they'll have to give fans a reason to be excited again.
3. That's a hefty Price
What the Lightning did against Carey Price in the Stanley Cup Final was impressive.
Tampa Bay dispatched the Canadiens in five games. Price, a playoff monster known for stealing games and sometimes series, allowed 16 goals to the Lightning. Tampa Bay had 13 on him through three games.
The Golden Knights, who finished tied with the Avalanche for the NHL's most points during the regular season, scored only 13 on Price through six games of their semifinal series. In the first round, the Maple Leafs, led by Auston Matthews and Mitchell Marner, managed only 16 on Price over seven games.
In the first round of the 2020 playoffs, the Flyers had themselves a dogfight with Price and Montreal. They scratched across only 11 goals against Price but were able to get past the Canadiens in six games as Carter Hart delivered a pair of shutouts.
Tampa Bay is a complete team and truly on a different level than everybody else.
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