It’s going to be a busy two weeks for all NHL teams but the Flyers might be more active than most.
The NHL Expansion Draft to create a roster for the new Seattle Kraken comes up on Wednesday, July 21, followed by the NHL Entry Draft on July 23-24 and then the start of NHL free agency on July 28.
Teams must submit protection lists for the expansion draft by Friday.
The Flyers, who missed the Stanley Cup playoffs for the fifth time in the past nine seasons, figure to make a number of moves by way of trades or free-agent signings during the remainder of the summer.
But first there’s the little matter of which player they might have to give up to the Seattle team.
During a media Zoom call on Tuesday, general manager Chuck Fletcher said he’s already had conversations with several players about the likelihood of being left exposed in the draft.
“We have our expansion draft list put together,’’ Fletcher said. “If we make moves between now and then, we can adjust it obviously, but we have a pretty good idea what we want to do and who we want to protect.’’
Fletcher was GM of the Minnesota Wild when the expansion Vegas Golden Knights were put together in 2017.
“We had more time this time than the Vegas draft,’’ Fletcher said. “More time to make sure we had all the holes filled and met all the criteria we needed to meet. The pandemic and the flat (salary) cap have probably made it more difficult because there are cap pressures on teams. Seattle will certainly have an opportunity to talk to teams about helping them out with cap issues in exchange for various assets.’’
Defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere has been rumored to be left off the Flyers’ protected list and a possible target of Seattle general manager Ron Francis.
There’s also the possibility of a trade with Seattle to augment the selection process. Fletcher acknowledged he’s had multiple conversations with Francis.
“We’ll probably take guidance from them,’’ Fletcher said. “If there’s something they think would make sense for them and us but my expectation is we’ll submit the list. . .whether there will be conversations after we submit the list or not, time will tell.’’
The Flyers haven’t missed the playoffs in back-to-back seasons since 1992-93/1993-94. So there is a bit of pressure to get this thing turned around in somewhat of a hurry.
All that said, Fletcher sounds like he’s not in some sort of panic mode. He appears to be going with the flow of the NHL market.
“This summer to me is similar to every summer,’’ he said. “The goal is to try to be as competitive as we can next year. And yet we want to make sure we keep a large quantity of future assets that can continue to make us better as we move forward.’’
Fletcher said it’s an “exciting’’ time in the sense with the Seattle expansion draft, with the flat cap there might be a few more trades. The NHL Entry Draft is always an exciting time. The Flyers are picking higher than they want to pick (13th) but they should get a pretty good player.
“There’s hopefully going to be some exciting additions to our club in the next couple months,’’ Fletcher said. “We’re going to try to continue to make moves that make us better. We know we have a lot of work ahead of us. We’ll do the best we can.’’
>No. 1 pick could figure in a trade
Fletcher didn’t rule out the possibility of including his No. 1 pick in a trade package, although he knows his draft guru, assistant general manager Brent Flahr, would frown on that.
“Brent wants me to keep it,’’ kidded Fletcher, who had Flahr sitting right next to him on the Zoom call. “Look, it’s a really good asset. If we use our first-round pick to select a player, we’re obviously able to draft a high-quality player to help us. But we have to explore what we can do with it.’’
The GM indicated the odds are in favor of keeping the pick. However. . .
“This offseason in particular, I’m more willing to moving it,’’ Fletcher said. “If there’s some way we can help our team, not only in the short-term but over the longer term – if I can get that type of asset, I’ll certainly look at doing it.’’
>Reducing the bad goals-against number
It’s no secret the Flyers need to improve on their NHL-worst goals-against number (201 goals in 56 games). But the blame goes beyond their six starting defensemen.
Fletcher let it be known his team needs better defensive play from his goalies and forwards as well.
“It was just ridiculous how many goals we gave up last year,’’ Fletcher said. “It’s our goaltenders playing better, defensemen playing better, our forwards managing the puck better. We are going to need to look at upgrades to our roster and the players who are returning to play better.’’
And let’s not forget the coaching staff, which has gone on record to say a full training camp and a normal schedule can help correct some of these faults.
“We need them to get the players back in that structure and system,’’ Fletcher said. “It’s not just one thing that let us fall from seventh in the league (in 2019-20) defensively to the bottom of the pile. There’s no chance to win in this league unless you’re in the top half of the league defensively. We have a lot of work to do, a lot of holes to fill and players on the roster who need to play much better.’’