The Flyers are virtually out of the playoff picture — nine points behind Boston, which has two games in hand — with just 11 games remaining in their disappointing season.
So what can they accomplish in those 11 games?
Get Carter Hart straightened out
This, of course, depends on Hart’s health. He has missed the last two games with a lower-body injury but could be on the ice at practice Tuesday.
If healthy, he should play most of the remaining games so he can try to regain his mojo — he looked like his old self in a 2-1 shootout win over Pittsburgh in his last outing Thursday — and take something positive into the offseason.
Hart has a 9-11-5 record, along with a 3.67 goals-against average and an .877 save percentage, a drastic drop from last season, when he was 24-13-3 with a 2.42 GAA and .914 save percentage in his first full NHL season.
Find out who is worth protecting in the expansion draft for Seattle
Teams can protect seven forwards, three defensemen, and a goaltender, or eight skaters and a goalie.
The Flyers figure to use Option No. 1, and truth be told, they probably have their protection list almost finalized.
The big questions: Do they protect Phil Myers or Shayne Gostisbehere? (Probably Myers, but it’s far from a slam dunk.) Do they protect James van Riemsdyk and/or Jake Voracek? (Probably not, but those players can make a case for themselves with strong finishes.)
Claude Giroux and Kevin Hayes have no-movement clauses, so they have to be protected. Sean Couturier, Travis Konecny, and Scott Laughton look like locks to be protected.
Who will be the other two forwards?
The favorites: Oskar Lindblom and Nolan Patrick. (Joel Farabee and Morgan Frost don’t have to be protected because first- and second-year NHL players are exempt.)
In that scenario, the Flyers would be gambling that Seattle wouldn’t take Voracek or van Riemsdyk because of their big contracts. Voracek has an $8.25 million annual salary-cap hit through the end of 2023-24; van Riemsdyk has a $7 million annual cap hit through the end of 2022-23.
Or maybe they would hope the Kraken take one of them so they gain some salary-cap flexibility to make a major move. If Seattle bypassed on them, it might grab underrated defenseman Robert Hagg.
Who will be the three defensemen the Flyers protect?
Ivan Provorov and Travis Sanheim are locks. Myers, 24, looked like a lock at the beginning of the season, but he has regressed and has been a healthy scratch in four of the last seven games. Meanwhile, Gostisbehere (eight goals in 35 games), who will turn 28 Tuesday, has made great strides after an injury-plagued 2019-20 season.
Myers or Gostisbehere?
The last 11 games might help decide matters.
Hart, of course, will be the goalie they protect.
Each team will lose one player in the expansion draft. The Flyers lost fourth-line center Pierre-Edouard Bellemare to Vegas in the 2017 expansion draft. Bellemare was a leader and a solid penalty killer, a nice role player but someone who was replaceable.
Let the kids play
The last three weeks of the season should be a time to find out about the young prospects. Give them extended playing time because the experience will pay off down the road.
Coach Alain Vigneault is cognizant of that. He not only has had right winger Wade Allison in the lineup the last three games, but he also has played him on a top line and given him lots of power-play time.
When Tanner Laczynski comes back from an injury, perhaps this week, he should get extended time, too.
It would be nice for defenseman Cam York and recently signed free-agent center Jackson Cates to get into some NHL games to get a feel for the competition and get accustomed to their teammates. Cates could fit in their future plans if the Flyers deal Patrick.
Put Patrick on a high line
Patrick, 22, has been skating, and Vigneault hinted he could be ready to return Thursday after missing two games. He was injured when a shot by Myers inadvertently hit him on the side of the head in a game Thursday against Pittsburgh.
The No. 2 overall pick in 2017, Patrick was sidelined all of last season because of a migraine disorder. Healthy this year, he has looked unsure of himself and struggled mightily (four goals, four assists in 42 games).
Patrick has played mostly on the third or fourth line this season. Use most of the last 11 games — again, assuming he’s ready to play Thursday — to find out what he can do with two quality wingers. Put him with, say, Giroux and Voracek and see how he responds.
Tinker with the special teams
The special teams have been ineffective, to say the least, and have played a major role in pushing the Flyers out of the playoff picture.
Some of it is because the condensed season has limited practices and has not given them much time for adjustments.
But the Flyers have a rare (for this season) two straight practices Tuesday and Wednesday to incorporate some needed changes in both personnel and setup.
The penalty kill, directed by Mike Yeo, is 30th in the 31-team NHL with just a 73.7% success rate. The oh-so-predictable power play, guided by Michel Therrien, is 20th in the league with a 19.3% success rate.
General manager Chuck Fletcher said all his coaches are safe, so improvements will have to come from the personnel and systems.