The Philadelphia Flyers and longtime franchise standout Jakub Voracek are heading for an interesting off-season. The two sides are at a cross roads with the Flyers hoping to improve and get back to the playoffs, but with limited salary cap space to do so. The team currently has just 14 players signed to one-way contracts for next season, but at a sum of $64.78MM, leaving them with only $16.72MM to add nine more players to the roster, including re-signing several key restricted free agents and ideally adding a top-four defenseman and reliable goaltender. The math doesn’t quite add up and Voracek’s $8.25MM AAV over three more seasons does not help. Voracek’s production is still strong, but has been in decline since a career year in 2017-18 and is currently not at the level expected given his lofty salary. According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, the relationship between the club and the soon-to-be 32-year-old winger are “not acrimonious”, as the two sides agree that a change of scenery may be in the best interest of both.
In order to accomplish that separation, the Flyers are not above giving Voracek away. Friedman writes that the veteran has been informed that he will be exposed in the upcoming NHL Expansion Draft, giving the Seattle Kraken the first shot at adding the former All-Star. This has been speculated by many given both the Flyers’ cap concerns but also their depth at forward. With at least forwards that deserve consideration for protection, including Voracek, and only a maximum of seven protection slots up front, Philadelphia will have to make some difficult calls. Exposing Voracek is confirmed to be one of them. While the cap commitment is an obstacle, Voracek has averaged close to 20 goals and 65 points at a full-season pace for the past dozen years and can still be a top-six forward for the right team. Losing an asset like that for nothing could be a difficult, but necessary move for the Flyers. The Kraken meanwhile have some incentive to take high-priced players, as they must hit a salary minimum in the Expansion Draft. While a number of expensive contracts will be available, Seattle head coach Dave Hakstol, the former head coach of the Flyers during some of Voracek’s best seasons, could be keen to bring in his former star.
Of course, the Kraken will have other options from Philadelphia as well, quite possibly even another high-priced but valuable scorer in James van Riemsdyk, as well as some young forwards and affordable defensemen. If they opt not to select Voracek, Friedman notes that the Flyers will move on and begin trade talks with other teams (if they haven’t already). While they won’t get fair market value for the accomplished scorer given their well-established cap issues, they will at least have a chance to get something back for Voracek in a trade as opposed to Expansion Draft selection.
If however, they can’t find a trade that they feel is fair, Friedman also notes that the two sides have an understanding that he may stay put and appear to be okay with that outcome, although it would leave the Flyers with a cap headache still to solve. With multiple potential outcomes, this summer could be a rollercoaster for Philadelphia and Voracek, but his old coach and the league’s newest team have the option of making it a short ride.