The Flyers will lose a player to Seattle in Wednesday’s expansion draft, but they could also land a five-time 30-goal scorer in right winger Vladimir Tarasenko.
For now, there are lots of balls in the air, and where they land won’t be known until Wednesday night.
Tarasenko, 29, was once a prolific scorer with a shoot-first mentality. But he has had three shoulder surgeries in the last three years, reducing his effectiveness and making him somewhat of a risk. He managed just four goals in 24 games with St. Louis last season.
If he returns to his form — he had 37, 40, 39, 33, and 33 goals over a five-year stretch that ended in 2018-19 — he would fit in nicely with the Flyers, who need a sniper because their top six is filled with mostly pass-first players.
Tarasenko has a no-trade clause but has agreed to be dealt to a handful of teams, including the Flyers. Shoulder issues have limited him to just a total of 34 games over the last two seasons, and he has reportedly become disenchanted with the Blues and feels they mishandled his first two surgeries.
There are rumors that if Seattle plucks Tarasenko from St. Louis in the expansion draft, it will send him to the Flyers for right winger Jake Voracek and a high draft pick. There are also reports that Washington will trade for him and give up Evgeny Kuznetsov, and that the Rangers want to add Tarasenko because he is close friends with star left winger and fellow Russian Artemi Panarin.
There is no shortage of rumors.
Voracek, who turns 32 on Aug. 15, is still a valuable (albeit expensive) player. Since joining the Flyers in 2011-12, he has been one of the league’s most durable players and is eighth in the NHL in assists in that span. (Claude Giroux, his teammate, is second.)
Tarasenko has two years left on a contract that carries an annual salary-cap hit of $7.5 million. Voracek has three years left at $8.25 million per year.
If the deal is made — and Tarasenko’s health makes it iffy — it would reunite Voracek with Seattle coach Dave Hakstol, the former Flyers coach.
The Kraken, of course, could just draft Voracek and someone else from St. Louis.
James van Riemsdyk, Shayne Gostisbehere, Justin Braun, and Robert Hagg are among the other Flyers available to Seattle. Voracek, van Riemsdyk, and Gostisbehere were exposed because of their big salary-cap hits.
Van Riemsdyk, 32, has a $7 million annual cap hit, but it’s less than Voracek’s, and it’s for just two more years. You could argue it’s the going rate for a player who usually scores 25 to 28 goals. He had 10 power-play goals and shared the team lead with 43 points (17 goals, 26 assists) during the abbreviated 2021 season.
Gostisbehere, 28, also has two years left on his contract ($4.5 million yearly cap hit), and he is coming off a relatively strong season in which he scored nine goals in 41 games.
Braun ($1.8 million cap hit) and Hagg ($1.6 million) have one year left on their contracts, and they are dependable third-pairing defensemen who might be attractive to Seattle. The Flyers don’t want to lose the righthanded Braun, a veteran who will probably play on their third pairing if he is bypassed by Seattle. Braun would fit nicely alongside Gostisbehere (if he’s still with the Flyers) or rookie Cam York.
The Flyers have many other players available for Seattle, including unrestricted free agent Samuel Morin, Connor Bunnaman, Carsen Twarynski, German Rubtsov, and Felix Sandstrom. It would be surprising, however, if one of those players was chosen.
The Flyers protected Claude Giroux, Kevin Hayes, Sean Couturier, Travis Konecny, Oskar Lindblom, Scott Laughton, Nic Aube-Kubel, Ryan Ellis, Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim, and Carter Hart.
First- and second-year players, including Joel Farabee, Wade Allison, York, and Morgan Frost, are exempt from the draft.
Each NHL team except Vegas will lose one player in the expansion draft, which will be shown on ESPN2 at 8 p.m.
In the 2017 expansion draft, the Flyers lost Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, a fourth-line center and valuable penalty killer, to Vegas. ... The Flyers announced they will play six exhibition games, including three at home, before the 2021-22 season. The home games are against the Islanders (Sept. 28), Capitals (Oct. 2), and Bruins (Oct. 4). The road exhibitions will be against Boston (Sept. 30), the Isles (Oct. 5), and Washington (Oct. 8). Ticket information will be announced later.