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Avalanche Claim Nicolas Aubé-Kubel Off Waivers From Flyers

Nicolas Aubé Kubel

Nicolas Aubé-Kubel looked like a future depth fixture for the Flyers not too long ago. But after struggling with penalties and consistency since the start of last year, Aubé-Kubel was waived on Friday and subsequently claimed by the Avalanche. (Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

Avalanche Claim Nicolas Aube-Kubél Off Waivers From Flyers

In 2019-20, Nicolas Aubé-Kubel was a revelation for the Philadelphia Flyers. Only promoted due to an onslaught of injuries in December, Aubé-Kubel quickly established himself as a quality fixture in the Flyers bottom-six. On a Flyers team well known for their forecheck, Aubé-Kubel was one of the team’s best players in that department. He flashed some solid skill as well, scoring at a 34-point pace over 82 games (15 points in 36 games). His underlying numbers (50.47% Corsi, 54.55% Expected Goals) were excellent. And he memorably scored each of the first two goals in Philadelphia’s 4-1 victory over the Lightning in the final game of the round-robin to clinch the number one seed in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

With other bottom-six contributors like Tyler Pitlick and Michael Raffl heading out the door, Aubé-Kubel seemed like an obvious candidate to fill out the Flyers fourth-line for years to come. But on Saturday, Aubé-Kubel’s time in the City of Brotherly Love came to an abrupt end.

Anyone paying close attention to the Flyers likely saw this coming. Ever since the start of the 2021 calendar year, the noticeable, impactful version of Aubé-Kubel has been absent, replaced by a far less effective model. Basically, every single piece of Aubé-Kubel’s game regressed last year, and he failed to revert to 2019-20 form to start this season. His offensive totals dropped 12 points in 50 games, a 20-point pace), but that was hardly his biggest issue. Aubé-Kubel’s forechecking, the hallmark of his excellent rookie campaign, took a step back.

Instead of wreaking the good kind of havoc, Aubé-Kubel got caught up in the bad type of it; namely, bad penalties. Discipline was an issue for Aubé-Kubel in the AHL; he received three suspensions in 2017-18 while playing for the Phantoms. Since the start of last season, Aubé-Kubel has taken the ninth most penalty minutes per 60 (2.01) and is 14th worst in penalty differential per 60 (min. 25 games). Many of them came off as bad penalties to take; some in the offensive zone, others out of frustration, and several that simply didn’t need to happen. It cost him the trust of the Flyers coaching staff; Alain Vigneault healthy scratched Aubé-Kubel in five of their first twelve games, including each of the last three.

With Kevin Hayes set to come off long-term injured reserve as a game-time decision on Saturday, waiving a player on Friday was necessary for the Flyers to be under the cap when Hayes returns. Since Patrick Brown and Zack MacEwen both had played less than 10 games for the Flyers as of Friday afternoon, their previous teams (Vegas and Vancouver, respectively) would have been eligible to re-claim and send them to the AHL without passing waivers (MacEwen did play his 10th game as Flyer on Friday; the CBA didn’t seem to clarify whether he would need waivers to go to the AHL if claimed by Vancouver). Even if that wasn’t the case, I wonder if Aubé-Kubel may still have been the odd man out. The coaching staff clearly seems frustrated, and with good reason; his decline from excellent bottom-sixer to borderline liability was inexplicable and sudden.

The Colorado Avalanche will hope to reverse that trend, of course. The Avalanche lost a fair amount of their depth in the offseason and are off to a slow start in large part due to a plethora of injuries. They are on the hook for Aubé-Kubel’s $1.075 million cap hit; he’s an RFA at season’s end. The player that wowed Flyers fans as a rookie is more than worth that. Somewhere inside of Aubé-Kubel, a 2nd round pick by the Flyers in 2014, that player still exists. Yet that player kept being buried farther and farther behind a wall of bad penalties and poor underlying numbers (43.41% Corsi, 33.56% Expected Goals in 2021-22). Sadly, he’s out of time to rediscover that once-strong form in Philadelphia.

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