The Flyers value the potential of additional cap space over a proven goal scorer.
That was made evident when they surprisingly protected Nic Aube-Kubel — who had a poor, penalty-filled season as a fourth-line right winger — over left winger James van Riemsdyk, who tied for the team lead with 43 points in the shortened 2021 campaign.
Aube-Kubel was one of the 11 players the Flyers protected for Seattle’s expansion list. The Kraken will select one player from each team (except Vegas) Wednesday.
Here is the list of protected players the Flyers submitted to the league:
FORWARDS (7): Aube-Kubel, Sean Couturier, Claude Giroux, Kevin Hayes, Travis Konecny, Scott Laughton, and Oskar Lindblom.
DEFENSEMEN (3): Ryan Ellis, Ivan Provorov, and Travis Sanheim.
GOALIE (1): Carter Hart.
By trading Nolan Patrick on Saturday — the Flyers sent him to Nashville, which then dealt him to Vegas, where he will be reunited with GM Kelly McCrimmon, his former coach and GM with Brandon in the Western Hockey League — the Flyers opened up a spot on their protected list.
They could have protected van Riemsdyk, 32, a net-front presence who had 17 goals in 56 games last season and usually produces 25 or more goals in a full season. But general manager Chuck Fletcher apparently saw his cap hit — $7 million in each of the next two seasons — as a detriment.
Instead, he protected Aube-Kubel, 25, who had three goals and 12 points in 50 games last season and had a penchant for bad penalties. Aube-Kubel has a $1.075 million cap hit in the final year of his contract.
The Flyers, who added Ellis ( $6.25 million cap hit for the next six years) in Saturday’s blockbuster trade for Phil Myers and Patrick, have about $9.4 million left in cap room; they have $72.1 million committed to 17 players, according to CapFriendly.com. They will carry 22 or 23 players.
They still need to sign, among others, restricted free agents Hart, Sanheim, Carsen Twarynski, Connor Bunnaman, and a backup goalie.
Seattle’s expansion-draft selections will be announced Wednesday at 8 p.m. on ESPN2.
All first- and second-year players are exempt from the draft. That means a player like center Morgan Frost — who may benefit from Patrick’s trade — cannot be selected by Seattle.
Van Riemsdyk and Shayne Gostisbehere ($4.5 annual million cap hit for two more years) could draw interest from the Kraken if they aren’t scared off by their cap hits. Productive right winger Jake Voracek is also among the available players, but his $8.25 million cap hit for the next three years makes him an extreme long shot to be taken.
Steady defensemen Justin Braun ($1.8 million cap hit for one more year) and Robert Hagg ($1.6 million cap hit for one more year) are other players who might be on Seattle’s radar.
Around the league, there are several high-priced players available to the Kraken, including Carey Price, Gabriel Landeskog, Dougie Hamilton, Vladimir Tarasenko, Matt Duchene, and Tyler Johnson.