Veteran blueliner Andrew MacDonald is somewhat intriguing. The likelihood for Philadelphia is that they try to dangle him in the hopes that Las Vegas will take him. MacDonald spent some time in the minors last season, so not an easy sell. When Brandon Manning is more likely to be safe, that speaks volumes.
The Flyers have enough high-quality forwards and fortunately Ivan Provorov and Travis Konecny are exempt. Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds, Jakub Voracek, Sean Couturier, Brayden Schenn, and Valtteri Filppula are obvious protections. After that, it comes down to who is the seventh forward protected in the 7F/3D/1G scenario.
Who among the bottom six is worth getting that exemption?
Ultimately, we’re talking about a team that has been accumulating some nice depth. Losing one of these players will not cause a sizable impact. This probably comes down to Scott Laughton versus Michael Raffl.
Laughton is a former first round pick but at 23, still has not cracked the big club with consistency. As a matter of fact, he has been passed on the depth chart by Jordan Weal and Taylor Leier. The forward has shown flashes and that could entice Las Vegas at least a little bit. He is also a restricted free agent which just makes it easier to not protect should the Flyers choose to. At 6-1, 190, Laughton has not quite shown the consistency, hands, or speed to warrant more than just a look here and there. He has the look of a journeyman forward.
At 28, Michael Raffl is interesting because he has shown 20 goal, 20 assist potential for Philadelphia but has not quite put it completely together. There was a logical progression toward last season and then it all fell apart. Raffl had an injury plagued year, playing in only 52 contests. Worse, he had just eleven points despite being tried with just about every top six combination imaginable. Those are red flags but the two previous seasons offer hope and intrigue should Philadelphia go that route.
Raffl at 28 fits more of the journeyman depth forward profile who does have more scoring upside. His $2.35M cap hit for two more years makes Raffl a little less expendable but again not a total loss. Some have suggested Nick Cousins being dangled. However, even he has not fallen in the organization like Scott Laughton has.
Dealing with UFA Jordan Weal should be easy for GM Ron Hextall. Expect him to have a deal in place before the expansion draft even if it is not announced. Philadelphia will not let this forward go and Weal has a real chance of breaking out next season for the Flyers.
It keeps looking like Scott Laughton will be the odd man out. Raffl and Cousins may be considered depending on how Hextall wants to maneuver around the cap, draft, and free agency. The defense is a little more crystal clear in the likely 7F/3D/1G setup.
Shayne Gostisbehere and Radko Gudas are no-brainers to protect with significant value. As mentioned above, Ivan Provorov is safe as he doesn’t meet exposure requirements. This comes down to Brandon Manning and Andrew MacDonald. MacDonald carries the far higher price tag and was even buried in Lehigh Valley for a time last season. Manning was a little more dependable defensively. One makes $5 million and the other $975,000.
MacDonald blocks more shots (158) but is approaching 31 and the speed is not where it used to be. Manning is only 27.
Either defenseman could be exposed here but the more likely possibility is that MacDonald will be the one. Las Vegas will want a relatively steady rearguard and the Philadelphia blueliner at least satisfies that.
This may be as easy can be as it is assumed that Steve Mason will not be back in Philadelphia. That leaves Michal Neuvirth as the expected protected goaltender. Anthony Stolarz is a restricted free agent and will have to be qualified before the draft.
Las Vegas is expected not to take a shot at a goalie just coming off knee surgery in the offseason. His health is too much of a question mark along with his career arc. He could break out but Stolarz might also flame out. Ron Hextall has easy decisions with his goalies at least.
Projected protected players and their cap hits
Claude Giroux (NMC) – $8.25M through 2022
Jakub Voracek – $8.25M through 2024
Brayden Schenn – $5.125M through 2020
Valtteri Filppula (M-NTC, NMC) – $5M through 2018
Wayne Simmonds (M-NTC) – $3.975M through 2019
Sean Couturier – $4.333M through 2022
Michael Raffl – $2.35M through 2019
Shayne Gostisbehere – restricted free agent
Radko Gudas – $3.35M through 2020
Brandon Manning – $975K through 2018
Michal Neuvirth – $2.5M through 2019
Top two options on who they would most likely lose
Philadelphia employs the 7 forwards – 3 defensemen – 1 goalie protection scheme. It just becomes more and more likely that Laughton could be on the Vegas roster come October and maybe even MacDonald as well. The Golden Knights did say they would take on a few larger contracts and there is a need for an NHL veteran on the blueline.
If Philadelphia were to make a trade with Vegas to select/not select a player, who would it be and why?
I think they want Raffl to stay but an interesting gamble is enticing Las Vegas with another one of their forwards (maybe Pierre Edouard-Bellemare perhaps). Nick Cousins is too much of a pest to give up on just yet. However, Philadelphia has too many ifs on defense to get too aggressive before the expansion draft. The general manger might try to get Vegas to take one of the several forwards previously mentioned to avoid losing a player but the likely outcome does not dictate as such.
Follow Chris on Twitter @ChrisWasselDFS