Philadelphia Flyers: Is Shayne Gostisbehere headed to Seattle?

(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

It’s here; it’s finally here. After days, weeks, even months of anticipation, each NHL team – sans the Vegas Golden Knights – have published their protected players list, which includes seven or eight players with three or more years of experience, depending on the situation.

For the Philadelphia Flyers, the list is relatively predictable, with only a few minor surprises both on and off it.

Some players selected by Chuck Fletcher and company are obvious. No one expected a player like Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier, Oskar Lindblom, Ivan Provorov, or the recently acquired Ryan Ellis (more on him here) to be left off the list, and thus, protecting them from their former head coach was a borderline no brainer.

But what about the decision to protect Kevin Hayes over similarly talented players like James Van Riemsdyk or Jakub Voracek? While Hayes had every right to not waive his no-movement clause and continue to reap the benefits of his seven-year, $50 million contract, one could argue which of the three is the best fit moving forward and thus is worth guaranteeing their inclusion moving forward.

Now granted, if the Kraken do select either JvR or Voracek, it could be a blessing in disguise. Because both players are under contract for the next two-plus seasons at an AAV of at least $7 million, expunging them from the books would free up enough money to make a serious swing at signing a marquee-level free agent or continue to be active in the trade market.

But between you and me, I just don’t see that happening.

No, with a number of solid players available across the board, the Kraken may opt to avoid getting locked into middle-six winger for the next two or three years and instead poach a 28-year-old defenseman who had his best professional season under their current head coach. That’s right; in my humble opinion, Shayne Gostisbehere is as good as gone.

The Philadelphia Flyers and Shayne Gostisbehere may finally be separating.

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There was a time in the not-too-distant past where Shayne Gostisbehere looked like one of the brightest young defensive stars in the NHL.

A third-round pick out of Union College in 2012, Gostisbehere took the ice for the Philadelphia Flyers for two games in 2014-15 before becoming a fixture of their defensive rotation the following season. Tasked with taking up the skates left behind by Nicklas Grossmann, Braydon Coburn, and Carlo Colaiacovo, Gostisbehere burst onto the scene with 17 goals and 29 assists for a 46 point season and a corresponding spot on the All-Rookie team.

Though Gostisbehere’s follow-up campaign didn’t quite rise to his rookie theatrics, he was still able to put up 39 points and was rewarded for his efforts with a six-year, $27 million contract extension to keep him around the City of Brotherly Love through the 2022-23 season.

Have the Flyers regretted said contract? Initially, no. Playing under Dave Hakstol, Gostisbehere recorded another double-digit goal season in 2017-18 and even surpassed the 50 assist threshold to lead all Philly defensemen with 65 points, but in the seasons after, things sort of fell off a cliff for Ghost.

Playing under three coaches in as many seasons, Gostisbehere never quite returned to his mid-2010s form and steadily fell down the depth chart as a result. In 2021, things got so contentious for Ghost and the Flyers that the team optioned him to Taxi Squad despite having to pass through waivers, a move that theoretically could have ended his time with the team right then and there. Granted, Gostisbehere survived said trip through the waiver wire and actually turned in some solid performances once he returned to the ice for the Flyers later in the season, but the damage was essentially done.

Gostisbehere is simply here because he’s under contract, and there’s almost no way he actually sticks around once his contract expires at the end of the 2022-23 season.

Fortunately for Ghost, he might not have to wait that long.

No, because of his pre-existing relationship – and success – with Hakstol from 2014-19 and his comparably lower cap hit when compared to Jake Voracek, Gostisbehere looks like the obvious choice for the Seattle Kraken to select in the 2021 NHL Expansion draft, even if they could still be in on other players via trade depending on the situation. Though it’s impossible to imagine exactly what role Ghost would be asked to play for the NHL’s newest team, as, ya know, the team hasn’t been assembled yet, it’s easy to imagine him filling a role on one of the Kraken’s top-two defensive pairings, especially if they can land a throwback defensive specialist to compensate for Gostisbehere’s pension for freestyling at the offensive end of the ice.

If that happens, the Philadelphia Flyers will have to kick themselves for never quite figuring out a way to make things work with Gostisbehere and hope that Ryan Ellis comes as advertised, as he’ll be under contract for a very, very long time.

Next. Ryan Ellis trade halts any rebuild talks. dark

Could Shayne Gostisbehere survive the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft purge? Most definitely, but frankly, I hope he doesn’t. That would just mean kicking the can even further down the road and even more speculation over the final two years of his contract. No, sometimes, it’s just better to have a third party come in and force a decision, as it removes the what-ifs associated with moving on from a defenseman with 60 goals under his belt in six professional seasons. Better for all parties involved to focus on a fresh start.