Instant Analysis: Expansion Draft & Trade Resumption

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The Philadelphia Flyers have lost 23-year-old left wing Carsen Twarynski to the Seattle Kraken in the 2021 National Hockey League Expansion Draft. Selected by the Flyers in the third round (82nd overall) of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, Twarynski played 16 NHL games for the Flyers in 2019-20 and 2020-21, along with 107 American Hockey League matches with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.

“Ron [Francis] and his group in Seattle have put a lot of time and effort into their preparation and with Carsen they have added a good, young piece to their team. Carsen is a hard-working player who has grown considerably in his four seasons since he was drafted in our organization. We wish nothing but the best for him in Seattle,” Flyers President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Chuck Fletcher.
 
The 6-foot-2, 200-pound Twarynski is at his best when he plays an aggressive north-south game, playing a physical brand of hockey on the forecheck. He has a heavy, even explosive shot but goal-scoring is not his stock in trade at the sport’s top levels.
 
Twarynski has had some consistency issues at both the AHL and NHL levels but has been an effective player when he’s been on top of his game. He had a very strong 2018-19 training camp under former head coach Dave Hakstol, and was one of the final three cuts made late in camp. The two are now reunited in Seattle, where Hakstol will serve as the Kraken’s inaugural head coach.
 
The player had an even better training camp under Alain Vigneault in 2019 and somewhat surprisingly earned his way onto the Flyers’ opening night roster. Most memorably, Twarynski was surprised by his parents in Prague before the Flyers opened the 2019-20 regular season.
 
Twarynski was unable to sustain his quick starts in 2018-19 and 2019-20 but he had stretches of solid American Hockey League play on top of his 15 NHL games with the Flyers. On Oct. 12, 2019, Twarynski scored his first (and to date only) NHL goal. On the play, he took a stretch pass from Justin Braun and, from just above the left faceoff dot, fired off a snap shot that beat goalie Jacob Markström cleanly.
 
This past season, Twarynski spent most of the campaign on the Flyers’ Taxi Squad. He dressed in seven games, getting into the lineup for the first time on Feb. 24 against the New York Rangers. Twice, the winger dressed in back-to-back games. Twarynski skated less than nine minutes of ice time in a fourth-line role in five of his appearances in 2020-21. He also got into two games with the Phantoms in order to stay ready for NHL duty if called upon.
 
The Kraken’s selection of Twarynski, a restricted free agent this summer, came as something of a surprise but ultimately fell in line with Francis’ decision to select multiple less-prominent and lower-salaried players from various teams’ unprotected lists rather than opting for bigger-name and higher cap-hit veteran talents.
 
On Thursday at 1 p.m. ET, the NHL’s temporary trade moratorium ends, and all 32 teams are once again able to finalize and announce deals. The Kraken made no Expansion Draft-specific trades prior to announcing their selections on Wednesday (the only variety of deals that could be announced before Thursday). They did sign unrestricted free agent defensemen Adam Larsson (Edmonton Oilers) and Jamie Oleksiak (Dallas Stars) on Wednesday, which counted as their Expansion Draft selections from the players’ respective now-former teams. For the rest of the NHL, free agency begins on July 28 at noon.
 
For the Flyers, their offseason tasks after the recent trade acquisition of veteran defenseman Ryan Ellis remain the same now that the Expansion Draft is over. The club is still looking to upgrade the roster, particularly in its two-way play commitment, and needs to add a goaltending partner for Carter Hart. 
 
The Kraken’s selection of Twarynski in the Expansion Draft did not alter Philadelphia’s salary cap picture. The team has roughly $9.385 of open cap space available and two internal restricted free agents (Hart and Travis Sanheim) who are currently unsigned. As of now, Philadelphia retains all seven of its 2021 NHL Entry Draft picks, including the 13th overall pick of the first round. Several times in recent weeks, Fletcher has expressed an openness to trading the 13th overall pick should the right deal come along. 
 
“I think we’re certainly going to continue to look at every avenue to get better,” Fletcher said on July 18.
 
“We weren’t good enough last year. Ryan Ellis is an upgrade. He’s a step in the right direction. We’re not going to get complacent. We’ll do what we can to upgrade in the areas we can. The primary focus certainly going into next year will be on reducing our goals against. As I mentioned the last time we all got together, part of that will be certainly looking to the outside to acquire additional help, whether that’s goaltending, defenseman or forwards. Wherever we can upgrade, we will. We also have to have a pretty big focus once we get back as a team on playing the right way and having a great training camp, making use of all the practice time we have. We need a lot of our returning players to be better, quite frankly. It’s a little bit of looking to the outside. Maybe even more importantly, having a renewed focus on playing the right way, so we can be more successful.”
 
The passage of the Expansion Draft likely does not change that fundamental outlook. The Flyers have less salary cap wiggle room exiting the Expansion Draft than they’d ideally have wanted, which is the case with quite a few NHL organizations that left some high-salaried players unprotected as a potential means to cap relief. However, they retain all of their pre-Expansion Draft trading capital in terms of players, prospects and Draft pick assets for 2021 and 2022.
 
The 2021 National Hockey League Entry Draft runs from July 23 (first round) to 24 (rounds two through seven). Will the Flyers make the 13th overall pick or will it be dealt as part of a trade? We’ll find out very soon.