This figures to be an historic day for the NHL and, quite possibly, for the Flyers, as well.
Wednesday in Las Vegas, the league’s Board of Governors is expected to approve Vegas to enter as the 31st team, via expansion, for the 2017-18 season.
Among the major four sports in North America, the NHL will become the first professional sports league in Las Vegas, which may spur the NFL to follow suit.
This will be the first time that the Flyers will be represented by a lead governor other than Ed Snider, who died in April. Comcast CEO Dave Scott has assumed Snider’s role in club and league matters.
Later this evening, the league will present its 2016 NHL Awards show.
The historic part for the Flyers is that defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere is among the three finalists for the Calder Trophy, as the league’s rookie of the year.
No Flyer has ever won the Calder.
With expansion comes an expansion draft that will be held next summer. Clubs can protect up to 11 players. All players with no-trade or no-movement clauses are also protected. First and second-year pros are also protected.
Teams can protect one goalie, three defensemen and seven forwards or one goalie and eight skaters. No club will lose more than one player in the draft.
The goalie situation doesn’t harm the Flyers, either, because it is expected prospect Anthony Stolarz won’t be ready for the NHL full-time until 2017-18 anyway, while veterans Steve Mason and Michal Neuvirth are both fighting for contract renewals this coming season.
Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said recently he’s not worried about the expansion draft and doesn’t feel it will have a significant impact on his organization.
“We’re in good shape for expansion,” Hextall said. “We’ve already been through that exercise and we feel like we’re in good shape. So if we can add a good player, we would — I’m not afraid of the expansion draft.
“Some other teams, they’re going to lose good players if they don’t move somebody. For now, we’ve been through the exercise and we’re in good shape. … We’re probably a little bit fortunate right now to have some young players that don’t need to be exposed.”
As for the Calder Trophy award, Chicago’s older-age rookie, 24-year-old Artemi Panarin, who played six years in the KHL, is the favorite to win, followed by Edmonton’s Connor McDavid.
“I’m very humbled,” Gostisbehere said back on May 2 when the finalists were announced. “It truly is an honor. Having the season I did last year, just to be associated with this award and the moment right now, it’s truly humbling.
“I didn’t expect to be where I am right now. It’s a compliment to my teammates, the coaching staff and the front office for believing in me all the way.”
Hextall said he didn’t have an issue with the fact that Panarin came into the NHL as an older rookie from Europe. Gostisbehere turned 23 in April.
“I'm fine with it the way it is,” Hextall said of the rookie parameters.
Two Flyers have come close to winning the Calder. Hextall was runner-up in 1987 behind Luc Robitaille while Bill Barber finished second in 1973 behind Steve Vickers.
“It’d definitely be cool to be the first Flyer,” Gostisbehere said. “Anything for the Flyers organization and the fans … it would definitely be pretty cool.”
Ghost scored 17 goals and 46 points this season. He set a franchise record for goals by a rookie defenseman and was within three points of tying Behn Wilson’s club record for points by a rookie blueliner.
Gostisbehere is rehabbing from right hip and abdominal surgery he underwent on May 17.
“He’s feeling really good, training hard, looks good,” Hextall said.