Philadelphia Flyers

With NHL expansion draft looming, who will Flyers protect?

With NHL expansion draft looming, who will Flyers protect?

The official lead-in to the NHL expansion draft begins Saturday at 5 p.m. — the deadline for clubs to submit their protected list for next Wednesday's draft.

At 10 a.m. Sunday, the NHL will release each club's protected list. The day prior to the draft, the Vegas Golden Knights will submit a list of which unprotected players they want to pluck from other teams.

The Flyers can go two ways with their protected list. They can protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie or choose to protect eight skaters and a goalie. General manager Ron Hextall said Friday he's going 7-3-1 (see story).

With that in mind, here's our list of who we think the club will protect:

3 defensemen

Shayne Gostisbehere
By re-signing him earlier, the Flyers eliminated the possibility of Vegas exercising its right to tender an RFA offer sheet to "Ghost," which would have forced the Flyers to match.

Radko Gudas
He was the most improved Flyer last season, finally identifying that fine line between legal and illegal hits and knowing when and where to deliver them. Gudas' 280 hits ranked third in the NHL.

Brandon Manning
Most heart of any Flyers defenseman and worked his way up from the eighth position to a starter. He would be a bargain at $975,000 if exposed, which is why he should be protected.

7 forwards

Brayden Schenn
Because of his salary — $5.1M — the Flyers might expose him and protect highly versatile Michael Raffl, but it's unlikely. Schenn has found a niche on the wing and shown consistent improvement each season with the Flyers. He tied for the NHL lead with 17 power-play goals.

Sean Couturier
Many around the league like his defense and $4.3 million with years left would make him attractive if exposed because his numbers are set. Valtteri Filppula's arrival gave him more space on the ice and Couturier finished a plus-12 — highest among all Flyers

Valtteri Filppula
He has a no-movement clause and has to be protected.

Claude Giroux
No-movement clause. His biggest challenge this season with the Flyers is to do what Sidney Crosby has done in Pittsburgh: elevate his linemates to become better, more productive players.

Wayne Simmonds
No-trade clause. Led the team in goal-scoring for the fourth straight season and finished one power-play goal behind Schenn. He has become a fixture at the net, making people forget about Scott Hartnell.

Jakub Voracek
He amassed 61 points but was capable of far better production, especially on the power play. Interesting that among the many lines in which coach Dave Hakstol used him, Voracek had his best production — 24 points — with Giroux and Raffl.

Jordan Weal
As a UFA, he would be attractive fodder for Vegas in free agency. Weal's agent, J.P. Barry, said he has agreed on the length of contract with the Flyers, but not salary. Weal needs to be protected … unless Hextall has an agreement in place that Weal will sign after the expansion draft. If that is the case, then the Flyers would likely choose to protect Raffl and expose Weal.

1 goalie

Michal Neuvirth
Still a bargain at $2.5 million and could be so much more if he ever had a full healthy NHL season. A year ago, it would have seemed logical for the Flyers to protect young Anthony Stolarz. Yet, it's pretty obvious, by now, that the Flyers don't see him as the future No. 1. Also, Anthony Stolarz had significant offseason knee surgery, which would scare Vegas away.

That's our list. We'll know Sunday how it compares to what Hextall submitted to the league.

NHL Notes: Devils lose Travis Zajac for 4-6 months with pectoral injury

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NHL Notes: Devils lose Travis Zajac for 4-6 months with pectoral injury

NEWARK, N.J. -- The New Jersey Devils have lost top center Travis Zajac for four to six months with a pectoral injury.

Devils executive vice president and general manager Ray Shero announced that Zajac had surgery to repair the pectoral muscle on Thursday.

Shero said the Zajac was hurt last week during offseason training.

Dr. Jonathan L. Glashow performed the surgery and estimated that Zajac's recovery time could last until February. The season starts in October.

The 32-year-old Zajac had 14 goals and 31 assists last season. He has 155 career goals and 280 assists. He has played for the Devils since the 2006-07 season.

The 20th overall pick in the 2004 NHL Draft, Zajac signed an eight-year, $46 million contract in 2013.

Sabres sign Zemgus Girgensons to 2-year deal

Sabres: Team signs forward Girgensons to 2-year deal
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Sabres have signed forward Zemgus Girgensons to a two-year contract.

The team announced the deal Thursday that carries an average value of $1.6 million.

Girgensons, from Latvia, is the last of the Sabres' restricted free agents to sign with the team. Buffalo's first-round pick in 2012 has 37 goals and 49 assists in 277 career games over four seasons.

He skated in a career-best 75 games last season after signing a one-year extension last September.

NHL Notes: Oilers sign star Leon Draisaitl to mega 8-year contract

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NHL Notes: Oilers sign star Leon Draisaitl to mega 8-year contract

EDMONTON, Alberta -- The Edmonton Oilers have signed center Leon Draisaitl to an eight-year contract extension with an average annual value of $8.5 million.

The extension runs through the 2024-25 season, similar to the eight-year, $100-million extension superstar captain Connor McDavid signed with the team in July.

With the signings, the Oilers are banking on McDavid and Draisaitl providing a potent one-two punch for the team as it looks to build on last season's return to the playoffs after a decade of futility.

Draisaitl, a 21-year-old German, had 77 points (29 goals, 48 assists) last season, his third in the NHL.

He finished eighth among NHL scorers, and second on the Oilers behind McDavid.

He led the Oilers in scoring during the 2017 playoffs, posting 16 points (six goals, 10 assists) in 13 games.

Draisaitl was selected third overall by the Oilers at the 2015 draft (see full story).

Avalanche: Hobey Baker winner Butcher now free agent
College hockey's top player is an NHL free agent after former University of Denver defenseman Will Butcher allowed a deadline to pass without signing with the Colorado Avalanche.

The Avalanche selected Butcher in the fifth round of the 2013 draft and had until Tuesday to sign the Hobey Baker Award winner who led Denver to a national championship in April.

A person with direct knowledge of the discussions told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Butcher already has had discussions with the Buffalo Sabres, New Jersey Devils and NHL-expansion Vegas Golden Knights. The person said Butcher has not yet narrowed his list, and is also talking with other teams.

The person spoke to the AP on the condition of anonymity because the talks are private.

The Denver Post first reported the three specific teams expressing interest in Butcher (see full story).

Wild: Cullen comes home for 21st NHL season
The Minnesota Wild and center Matt Cullen have agreed to a one-year, $1 million contract, bringing him back to his home state for a 21st season in the NHL.

The Wild announced the deal, which includes $700,000 in potential performance bonuses, on Wednesday.

Cullen played the last two years with Pittsburgh, winning consecutive Stanley Cups with the Penguins. He played three seasons for the Wild from 2010-13, his first return to Minnesota since launching his career at Moorhead High School and St. Cloud State.

Cullen, who will turn 41 on Nov. 2, had 13 goals and 18 assists in 72 games in 2016-17 for the Penguins, plus two goals and seven assists in 25 playoff games. He has played in 1,366 career regular season games, the sixth-most among active players (see full story).