We’re only five days away from the NHL Expansion Draft that will see the Seattle Kraken poach unprotected players from their current NHL teams like a toddler left unchecked in the Jelly Belly section of a candy store. If you happened to watch Tuesday’s press conference featuring Flyers President & GM Chuck Fletcher and Vice-President & Assistant GM Brent Flahr, you’d know that nary a media member asked specific questions surrounding the fate of a number of high-priced players whose names have been bantered about for months. However, if you listened to or watched the exclusive interview conducted by me and Anthony SanFilippo for Snow The Goalie, you’d know that Fletcher clarified the status of a number of forwards ahead of the July 21 Expansion Draft.
Let’s get to it.
The most notable name that came up in the interview was that of the enigmatic Jakub Voracek:
Breaking: @NHLFlyers President Chuck Fletcher confirms to me and @AntSanPhilly that he's discussed leaving Jakub Voracek unprotected ahead of the Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft. "There's been no ultimatums either way. It's just 'Jake, we gotta get better…' and he gets it." pic.twitter.com/Ovf8eunj2Z
— Russ Joy (@JoyOnBroad) July 13, 2021
Fletcher: Oh definitely. I’ve definitely had conversations with Jake. I had a lot of conversations with Jake during the year. Look, there’s no secret he’s getting older, he’s got a big cap hit. Any manager’s not doing their job if they don’t have conversations with players. We have to look at different ways of getting better. Having said that, he tied for the team lead in scoring, he’s still a really good hockey player. So, I can see a lot of paths where Jake would be part of our team next year, and still a valuable, contributing member of our team. And certainly there could be ways where he isn’t. I’m not trying to be vague. I don’t know how it’s going to play out with other teams or with expansion specifically as it relates to Jake, but when you make that kind of money in a flat-cap era… there’s gonna be conversations involving you. That’s just the way it works and he understands that. We have a great relationship and certainly no acrimony. There’s been no ultimatums either way, it’s just, “Jake, we gotta get better. You know, I’m gonna have to look at every way of getting better.” And he gets it. He loves Philly. I think ultimately he would like to be here, all things going well. And that might very well be the reality.
While he didn’t say the word, “Jake will be left unprotected in the expansion drat,” verbatim, it’s clear that’s the direction the team is heading. It makes sense. After all, Voracek’s $8.25m cap hit over the next three seasons is the second-largest on the team behind captain Claude Giroux’s $8.275m for the upcoming season alone. Voracek had his best season in terms of point production under Kraken coach Dave Hakstol during the 2017-18 season, tallying 20 goals and recording 65 assists (85 total). The real question is whether or not the Flyers are so desperate to get off that contract that they’d attach a pick, prospect, or both in a side deal to influence Seattle’s selection.
The mid-April signing of forward Scott Laughton was somewhat of a shock, as many believed the market for his services at the trade deadline had been heating up while the team’s playoff chances dwindled. Fletcher confirmed that saying:
“With Scott… I was either gonna sign him or trade him, and we were close to trading him. We had several teams… I give Scott credit. As I mentioned, I think he adjusted his number in a direction that made me happy… We gave him a fifth year, which I think made him happy. At his age and the way he skates, we didn’t think that was a big risk. There’s always risk, but I think with Scott, it was always gonna be he was gonna be traded and were were gonna get a couple picks or whatever it was gonna be or he was gonna be signed and part of our group. Scott’s a good hockey player. He’s one of those young men that if we did trade him, my sense was that if we play the way we do next year, the way I believe we’re gonna play next year and we had traded him, now we’re just gonna be going out and trading assets to get a guy like Scott Laughton. So, I don’t know that you’re ever gonna get quite ahead. You’re spinning your tires there. I think he answered the question for us thankfully, and I give him a lot of credit. We’re really happy he returned.”
Clearly the decision to re-sign and Fletcher admitting that they would’ve had to burn assets near the deadline this upcoming season to acquire a guy with his skillset indicates he’ll be protected.
Let’s go into the weekend on a high note. After revealing that he and the rest of the front office began creating a list of potential players to protect as far back as a year ago, I asked if there had been a player who played himself onto the protected list after a strong showing in the abbreviated 2021 season. While he noted the strong play of Joel Farabee –who was automatically protected by virtue of playing on his entry-level contract– the one player he highlighted was one who made an inspirational comeback: Oskar Lindblom. The recently-named recipient of the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy returned to the lineup in the Bubble playoffs less than a year after being diagnosed with Ewing Sarcoma.
“Obviously there’s a young man Oskar Lindblom, who we are going to protect, but a year ago there was different questions,” Fletcher said. “A player like Oskar Lindblom, obviously what he went through, seeing that he’s back healthy, was able to play… I think gave us that we feel very comfortable now knowing that he’s gonna be even better next year, he’s healthy. He’s gonna be a guy that can contribute to our roster here for the next couple years for sure.”
Lindblom’s story has been an inspiration to many. He’s obviously a guy the entire league will root for. If he can return to his pre-diagnosis form, the Flyers will have an exceptional talent on an affordable contract.
Overall, Fletcher was far more candid and open about the off-season ahead in the interview. You can listen to it wherever you get your podcasts or watch it here:
For more Flyers coverage, follow Snow The Goalie on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Also be sure to tune into The Press Row Show as Anthony SanFilippo and Russ Joy provide pregame and intermission coverage of every Flyers home game from press row of the Wells Fargo Center via the Crossing Broad Facebook page, YouTube Live, and Twitter, and their Twitter accounts Follow @SnowTheGoalie Follow @AntSanPhilly Follow @JoyOnBroad