Surprises among Flyers' protected list; Weal deal in progress

By Sam Carchidi

STAFF WRITER

Goalie Anthony Stolarz and center Scott Laughton were the two biggest surprises among the 11 players the Flyers protected in the expansion draft.

The NHL released the protection lists Sunday.

Stolarz, 23, was protected over veteran goalie Michal Neuvirth, who is among the players exposed to the Vegas Golden Knights.

Because of recent knee surgery, it seemed a long shot Vegas would have selected Stolarz.

Protecting Laughton, a restricted free agent, was an even bigger surprise, though he did play well after being sent down to the AHL’s Phantoms last season.

Still, he clearly had fallen behind Jordan Weal on the depth chart.

It is believed the Flyers didn’t protect Weal —  who can now negotiate with Vegas as an unrestricted free agent —  because they feel they will sign him shortly. That enabled them to protect another forward, and they decided on Laughton.

The Flyers have reached an agreement with Weal on the length of a contract, but are still trying to work out the dollars.

“Philly still looks like the best choice, but we will listen to other opportunities also, to be sure,” J.P. Barry, Weal’s agent, said Sunday afternoon.

The Golden Knights’ roster will be announced Wednesday night, and each team will lose one player in the expansion draft. It is expected that Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury will be among the goalies Vegas selects.

Winger Michael Raffl, a 21-goal scorer three seasons ago, is among the intriguing players Vegas can select from the Flyers.

If Vegas selects Neuvirth — who played for Vegas general manager George McPhee when they were both in Washington —  the Flyers might make an offer to Steve Mason, a prospective unrestricted free agent. But that still seems like a long shot.

Should Vegas sign a pending free agent from the Flyers (or any team), it will be the only player it gets from that club.

NHL teams received good news Sunday: The salary cap for next season was set at $75 million, a $2 million increase over last year. The floor has been set at $55.4 million.

Here are the Flyers who are available in the expansion draft, including free agents, along with their protected list:

Available
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (F)
Greg Carey (F)
Chris Conner (F)
Boyd Gordon (F)
Taylor Leier (F)
Colin McDonald (F)
Andy Miele (F)
Michael Raffl (F)

Matt Read (F)
Chris VandeVelde (F)
Jordan Weal (F)
Dale Weise (F)
Eric Wellwood (F)
Mark Alt (D)
T.J. Brennan (D)
Michael Del Zotto (D)
Andrew MacDonald (D)
Will O’Neill (D)
Jesper Pettersson (D)
Nick Schultz (D)

Steve Mason (G)
Michal Neuvirth (G)

Protected
Sean Couturier (F)
Valtteri Filppula (F)
Claude Giroux (F)
Scott Laughton (F)
Brayden Schenn (F)
Wayne Simmonds (F)
Jake Voracek (F)
Shayne Gostisbehere (D)
Radko Gudas (D)
Brandon Manning (D)

Anthony Stolarz (G)