By Mary Cunningham
With the Las Vegas Golden Knights entering the NHL for the 2017-2018 season, NHL teams have two options to protect their players:
Keep seven forwards, three defensemen, and one goalie, or keep eight total skaters and one goalie.
Here’s Yardbarker.com’s take on who the Flyers should protect for the expansion draft on June 18.
Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds, and Valtteri Filppula all have no movement clauses, so they must take up three of the seven slots. Of the other members of the forward group, Jakub Voracek, Brayden Schenn, and Sean Couturier are all young pieces of the core and there’s no reason they shouldn’t be kept. With the offensive skill of Voracek and Schenn and the defensive ability of Couturier, it would be a complete shock if the Flyers didn’t keep these three.
So, we’re left with one spot remaining which is likely to be battled for between Michael Raffl, Jordan Weal, and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare. Even though Raffl has had success on the first line and is on a team friendly deal, he’s sputtered throughout the last couple seasons and it’d be surprising if the team chose him as the last option. With Weal exploding on to the goal sheet late last year, he would serve as a good selection because he has chemistry with Giroux and the ability to score in five on five play. However, don’t be surprised if Bellemare is the one kept. As the assistant captain, Bellemare is seemingly loved by coach Dave Hakstol and the Flyers likely want to keep the locker room leadership he provides.
On defense, it would be foolish not to keep Shayne Gostisbehere and Radko Gudas. Gostisbehere has shown game changing ability as an offensive defensemen and is a huge reason why the Flyers made the playoffs last season, and Gudas’s ability to block shots, deliver bone crunching hits, and make zone exit passes is very valuable to the team.
Since Michael Del Zotto and Nick Schultz are likely not to be resigned, we’re left with Brandon Manning and Andrew MacDonald for the last slot. It’s unlikely that Las Vegas wants either of these two players over Weal, Raffl, or Bellemare, so this selection doesn’t hold much importance. Still, it would be smart to keep Manning and leave MacDonald and his enormous contract exposed, in hope Las Vegas does select him.
With Steve Mason being an unrestricted free agent, the goaltending battle falls between Michal Neuvirth and Anthony Stolarz. Like MacDonald and Manning, it’s unlikely either of these goaltenders will be taken because there will be better goalies exposed by other teams such as Malcolm Subban by the Boston Bruins and Marc-Andre Fleury by the Pittsburgh Penguins. Still, the edge has to go to Neuvrith because of the two-year extension he signed in the offseason. It also seems unlikely the Flyers would want to have Stolarz or a free agent goalie starting the majority of the games in the 2017-18 season.
Forwards: Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn, Sean Couturier, Valtteri Filppula, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare
Defense: Shayne Gostisbehere, Radko Gudas, Brandon Manning
Goaltender: Michal Neuvirth