Keeping on with the Flyers “Protect or Expose” series here at Pod Street Bullies, we take a look at another high-priced forward in Jakub Voracek. Voracek is no stranger to having his name tossed around as a candidate to depart the Flyers. His high price tag makes him a prime candidate given the stagnant cap. However, is his on-ice production enough to keep him protected come the NHL expansion draft?
Who Steps Up?
With James van Riemsdyk, it’s a little easier to find someone to replace his status as a bottom-to-middle six forward. The Flyers have a few prospects chomping at the bit to crack the NHL roster, and it’s more feasible if they choose JvR during the expansion draft.
Voracek’s top-six role isn’t necessarily irreplaceable, but it would be much more difficult to replace than JvR’s current role. It’s doubtful someone like Carsen Twarynski, Connor Bunnaman, or even Wade Allison or Tanner Laczynski could fill a hole left by Voracek, nor should they be expected to. Losing Voracek could prove to be too much of a loss that won’t be offset by what the Flyers have in the pipeline.
Amidst all the “SHOOT” shouts, Voracek is pretty successful as a Flyer. You could argue that he needs to score more goals, and that’s fair. However, we all know Voracek is more of a playmaker than a goal scorer. Speaking in point totals, he’s averaged .83 points per game over his tenure with the Flyers. In his nine years in Philadelphia, he’s only been below a .74 point-per-game player once, and that was his first year with the team in 2011-12. He averaged over a point per game one time, the 2017-18 season, with 85 points in 82 games.
Voracek isn’t what he was in 2017-18 anymore, but he still produces at a high level. He’s typically on the top line with Couturier as his center, furthermore bolstering his case. Shifting to the powerplay, Voracek has 35 powerplay points in the last two seasons, second-best on the team to Claude Giroux. His 122 points over the last two seasons are third-best on the team behind Giroux and Couturier. Simply put, it would be challenging to replace Voracek’s production.
You could say this about any of the premier players on the Flyers. Their contracts are hefty, making them the target of constant speculation about whether they’re available via the expansion draft. What sets Voracek’s contract aside from most others is that he’s signed on through the 2023/24 season. At that point, he will be 35 years old. $8.25mil is just too much to pay a 35-year-old who will likely continue his downward trajectory.
It would be great to say that Voracek could return to his form from three years ago and become a point-per-game player once again. At this point in his career, Voracek is what he is. He’s a solid top-line winger that you can depend on for around 60 points a season. As the next few years go by, point production will likely dip, leaving the Flyers with a giant cap hit for a declining player.
Another wrinkle to his contract is that he is the second highest paid Flyer. With that comes big expectations. You look around the league at people in his position on their team and see guys who are scoring at higher clips than he is. Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos, Toronto’s John Tavares, Edmonton’s Leon Draisaitl, even Washington’s Nicklas Backstrom. All of them are the second highest-paid player on their team, each of them contributing more on the score sheet than Voracek. It isn’t too much to ask one of your highest paid players to be one of the highest scorers on the team. While Voracek typically lingers around the top five to three, that just isn’t enough.
Who Are We Going to Yell “SHOOT” at now?
Well, anyone really.
In all seriousness, it’s no secret that Voracek is notorious for being a pass-first type of player. When he does shoot, he has great placement and knows how to pick his spot in the back of the net. The problem is that he doesn’t do that enough. The Flyers have a plethora of playmakers at their disposal. The one glaring hole in this roster is a pure goal scorer. You could argue that Travis Konecny is their scoring winger, but he hasn’t topped 30 goals yet in his career. Joel Farabee, too young. Sean Couturier, more defensive-minded (even though his offense isn’t lacking by any means.)
van Riemsdyk is the closest thing the Flyers have to a pure goal scorer, and he’s meddling in the bottom six of the lineup. Voracek’s best bet at proving his worth is to shoot the puck, period. With that said, it’s doubtful things change regarding his style of play. The adage “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” comes to mind. That’s fine, but again, the Flyers have enough playmakers.
While Voracek is technically a candidate to be left unprotected during the expansion draft, it’s unlikely. His contract is tempting to remove from the books, but the Flyers would be hard-pressed to replace his production in the lineup with their internal options. Pair that with the fact that Seattle may not be too keen on bringing in a contract worth $8.25mil until he turns 35, and you have a recipe for Voracek staying put in Philadelphia.
Photo Credit – Gerry Angus/Icon Sportswire