Vegas Expansion Draft: Central Division

Expansion Draft: Central Division

The National Hockey League will hold an expansion draft in order to incorporate the Vegas Golden Knights franchise into the league for the start of the 2017-2018 season. Vegas will “draft” one player from each of the 30 existing NHL clubs under specific guidelines set by the league. Each team will establish a Protection List of players (either 7-3-1: seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie OR 8-1: eight skaters and one goalie) that are off limits and also must expose certain players with specific qualifications (again, under detailed guidelines set by the league). A full description and explanation of these rules can be found in the link below.

Vegas Expansion Draft Rules

The NHL recently released a new set of dates for the upcoming expansion draft process. You can find a complete list of key dates here, but below is a summary of the most important deadlines.

Monday, June 12: Deadline for teams (not including NSH/PIT) to ask players to waive no-movement clauses (5:00pm EST).
Thursday, June 15: First buyout period begins. Deadline for teams to ask players that agree to waive NMC if they want to be placed on waivers for the purpose of a pre-draft buyout (11:59am EST).
Friday, June 16: Last day for teams to place players on waivers (12:00pm EST). Last day for players to waive NMC’s (5:00pm EST).
Saturday, June 17: Trade/waiver freeze and signing moratorium on NHL SPC’s (standard player contracts) enacted for 30 existing NHL teams (3:00pm EST). Deadline for teams to submit Protection Lists (5:00pm EST).
Sunday, June 18: Deadline for league to approve and distribute Protection Lists (10:00am EST). Opening of UFA/RFA interview period for Vegas to speak to all exposed free agents (10:00am EST).
Wednesday, June 21: Deadline for Vegas to submit draft selections, including contracts given to FA’s (10:00am EST). Official announcement of Expansion Draft selections at NHL Awards (8:00pm EST).
Thursday, June 22: Signing moratorium and trade/waiver freeze lifted (8:00am EST).
 

Taking the expansion draft rules into account, here is the Central Division edition of the Vegas Expansion Draft series, which provides an overview of each of the 30 existing NHL teams’ strategy and options headed into the draft.
 

Expansion Draft: Central Division

Chicago Blackhawks

Expansion Draft: Central Division

Trevor van Riemsdyk (photo credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports)

Notable Exempt Players

Artemi Panarin, Tyler Motte, John Hayden, Nick Schmaltz, Alex DeBrincat, Tanner Kero, Vinnie Hinostroza, Michal Kempny, Erik Gustafsson

Jonathan Toews (F)–NMC
Patrick Kane (F)–NMC
Marian Hossa (F)–NMC
Artem Anisimov (F)–NMC
Duncan Keith (D)–NMC
Brent Seabrook (D)–NMC
Niklas Hjalmarsson (D)–NMC
Corey Crawford (G)–NMC

Eligible For Exposure

Forwards: Marcus Kruger (UFA 2019), Richard Panik (UFA 2019), Ryan Hartman (RFA 2018), Jordin Tootoo (UFA 2018)
Defensemen: Trevor van Riemsdyk (RFA 2018), Michal Rozsival (UFA 2018)
Goalies: Jeff Glass (UFA 2018)

Options

The Blackhawks don’t have many options headed into the expansion draft due to the high volume of no-movement clauses general manager Stan Bowman has handed out in recent years. A lot of that comes from winning three Cups in six seasons, especially since that has shaped how Bowman has managed the roster. This handcuffs the Hawks in a big way, but the Blackhawks have the best core in the National Hockey League. They’re also quite fortunate that many of their roster players are exempt from the draft, including John Hayden and Nick Schmaltz (among others), as well as star winger Artemi Panarin.

The Must’s

That being said, there are eight Chicago players that must be protected, a list that includes four forwards, three defensemen and one goalie. Those players are: Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Artem Anisimov, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Corey Crawford.

The Other Three

Beyond that, Chicago will want to protect forward Ryan Hartman. He struggled in the playoffs but had a very strong year with 19 goals and 31 points in 76 games.

Richard Panik is another strong possibility for the protection list. Panik had an outstanding season with 22 goals and 44 points, and he played very well with Toews.

That would give the Hawks six forwards, three defensemen and one goalie, which makes it seem like the team will opt for the 7-3-1 format. Since teams must expose two forwards signed through next season, protecting Hartman and Panik would mean that, unless Bowman re-signs someone between now and the draft, Marcus Kruger would have to be exposed. The other protected player would have to be an RFA or UFA.

In that case, Chicago could go with Dennis Rasmussen. He can be a strong bottom-six option for the Hawks, especially if the team loses Kruger. The other option would be Tomas Jurco, whom the Blackhawks acquired last season. At the time of the trade, Bowman was very enthusiastic about Jurco’s potential, saying, “This is a player we’ve been talking about for quite a while and had our eye on, even going back previous years watching his style of play. … We’re excited about his contributions here and the potential for what he can become once he gets acclimated.”

Jurco tallied just one point in 13 games with the Blackhawks after the trade. It’s unlikely Vegas would select him, though, so Bowman may feel comfortable leaving him unprotected.

On the Way Out

The main problem with going the 7-3-1 route is that defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk would not be protected. In order to protect TVR, Chicago would be unable to protect anyone outside of the original eight players with no-movement clauses.

In all likelihood, Chicago will lose either Marcus Kruger or Trevor van Riemsdyk. Neither scenario is one the Blackhawks want to see play out. Kruger has won two Stanley Cups with Chicago and has given them solid depth and penalty-killing over the years, and TVR is a promising defenseman who played very well in this year’s first-round playoff exit.

Ideally, restricted free agent Ville Pokka would be protected as well. Some would argue he should be the final protected player over Hartman, Panik, TVR, etc., but that forces Chicago to expose more players. Vegas will have access to strong prospects around the league, and perhaps Chicago could work something out to keep other players unofficially protected.

Both Kruger and TVR would be solid additions to the Vegas roster. Kruger has two more years with a cap hit of just over $3 million, and TVR has one year remaining with a $825,000 cap hit. In the end, this pick could be dependent on the players Vegas selects from other teams. Chicago will do what it can to minimize the lasting effects of losing one of these players.

Projected Protection List

  • F: Jonathan Toews ($10.5M, UFA 2023)
  • F: Patrick Kane ($10.5M, UFA 2023)
  • F: Marian Hossa ($5.275M, UFA 2021)
  • F: Artem Anisimov ($4.55M, UFA 2021)
  • F: Ryan Hartman ($863,333, RFA 2018)
  • F: Richard Panik ($2.8M, UFA 2019)
  • F: Dennis Rasmussen (RFA)
  • D: Duncan Keith ($5,538,462, UFA 2023)
  • D: Brent Seabrook ($6.875M, UFA 2024)
  • D: Niklas Hjalmarsson ($4.1M, UFA 2019)
  • G: Corey Crawford ($6M, UFA 2020)

Players Fulfilling Exposure Requirements

(based on above projection)

  • F: Marcus Kruger ($3.083M, UFA 2019)
  • F: Jordin Tootoo ($700,000, UFA 2018)
  • D: Trevor van Riemsdyk ($825,000, RFA 2018)
  • D: Michal Rozsival ($650,000, UFA 2018)
  • G: Jeff Glass ($612,500, UFA 2018)

All Exposed Players

Forwards: Marcus Kruger, Jordin Tootoo, Andrew Desjardins (UFA), Michael Latta (RFA), Kenton Helgesen (RFA), Tomas Jurco (RFA), Pierre-Cedric Labrie (UFA), Brandon Mashinter (UFA)
Defensemen: Trevor van Riemsdyk, Michal Rozsival, Viktor Svedberg (UFA), Johnny Oduya (UFA), Ville Pokka (RFA), Brian Campbell (UFA), Dillon Fournier (RFA)
Goalies: Jeff Glass, Mac Carruth (UFA)
 

Colorado Avalanche

Expansion Draft: Central Division

Francois Beauchemin (photo credit: Seth McConnell-The Denver Post)

Notable Exempt Players

Mikko Rantanen, Andrei Mironov, Tyson Jost, T.J. Compher, AJ Greer, Nicolas Meloche, Chris Bigras, Spencer Martin

Erik Johnson (D)–NMC
Francois Beauchemin (D)–NMC

Eligible For Exposure

Forwards: Nathan MacKinnon (UFA 2023), Matt Duchene (UFA 2019), Gabriel Landeskog (UFA 2021), Carl Soderberg (UFA 2020), Joe Colborne (UFA 2018), Blake Comeau (UFA 2018)
Defensemen: Tyson Barrie (UFA 2020), Mark Barberio (UFA 2018)
Goalies: Semyon Varlamov (UFA 2019), Calvin Pickard (RFA 2018)

Options

The Avalanche had a disaster of a season. Every member of the franchise and fanbase is desperate to turn the page on a 48-point year of misery. Unfortunately, the 2017-2018 season hasn’t gotten off to a great start as the Avs did not win the draft lottery, instead dropping to fourth overall despite holding the best odds. However, like every other team in the NHL, the Avs have to prepare for the Vegas Expansion Draft.

Beauchemin

The Avalanche have only two players with no-movement clauses. However, one of those players is an aging defenseman with another year with a $4.5 million cap hit on the books. It’s possible Colorado will ask Francois Beauchemin to waive his no-movement clause. In fact, it’s more than possible Beauchemin will agree to do that. He’s at the end of his career and likely has one more season left in him, so why would he want to spend it on the struggling, re-building Avalanche? Even going to a new franchise with new players would give Beauchemin a better chance at a better season. So this is actually a likely scenario.

Since this hasn’t happened, though, let’s operate under the assumption that Colorado will have to protect Beauchemin. But the Avs’ plans somewhat revolve around Beauchemin.

Definite’s

Aside from Beauchemin, Erik Johnson will have to be protected. Johnson has six years remaining on his seven-year, $42 million contract.

The Avalanche definitely will protect Nathan MacKinnon, Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog, even if Duchene and Landeskog remain train-block targets. Colorado will protect Tyson Barrie and Nikita Zadorov as well. That leaves room for one other forward/defenseman.

The Other Forward

The Avs would be choosing between Mikhail Grigorenko and Sven Andrighetto. Grigorenko came over in the Ryan O’Reilly trade a few years ago but has just 16 goals and 50 points in 149 games in Colorado. Andrighetto was acquired from Montreal last season in exchange for Andreas Martinsen. Andrighetto excelled in his time with the Avs, scoring 16 points in 19 games. The team definitely will bring him back this year, but it’s unclear if he’ll earn the protection slot. All things considered, Grigorenko might have more overall value even though he hasn’t played well. That could give him the edge in this case.

In the Crease

This will be a controversial decision in Denver, but reports indicate that Colorado will protect goaltender Semyon Varlamov over the cheaper Calvin Pickard, who recently played very well in the World Championships for Team Canada. The team considers Varlamov the number-one goalie and believes he can rebound.

If Beauchemin Waives NMC

If Beauchemin happens to waive his NMC, the Avalanche could protect Johnson, Barrie and Zadorov on defense, as well as MacKinnon, Duchene, Landeskog, Grigorenko, Andrighetto, Matt Nieto and perhaps Blake Comeau, along with Varlamov.

But again, Beauchemin has not been asked to waive his NMC, which makes that irrelevant for the time being.

Projected Protection List

  • F: Nathan MacKinnon ($6.3M, UFA 2023)
  • F: Matt Duchene ($6M, UFA 2019)
  • F: Gabriel Landeskog ($5.57M, UFA 2021)
  • F: Mikhail Grigorenko (RFA)
  • D: Erik Johnson ($6M, UFA 2023)
  • D: Francois Beauchemin ($4.5M, UFA 2018)
  • D: Tyson Barrie ($5.5M, UFA 2020)
  • D: Nikita Zadorov (RFA)
  • G: Semyon Varlamov ($5.9M, UFA 2019)

Players Fulfilling Exposure Requirements

(based on above projection)

  • F: Carl Soderberg ($4.5M, UFA 2020)
  • F: Joe Colborne ($2.5M, UFA 2018)
  • F: Blake Comeau ($2.4M, UFA 2018)
  • D: Mark Barberio ($750,000, UFA 2018)
  • G: Calvin Pickard ($1M, RFA 2018)

All Exposed Players

Forwards: Carl Soderberg, Joe Colborne, Blake Comeau, Troy Bourque (RFA), Brendan Ranford (UFA), Samuel Henley (RFA), Jim O’Brien (UFA), Sven Andrighetto (RFA), Matt Nieto (RFA), Rocco Grimaldi (RFA), Rene Bourque (UFA), Felix Girard (RFA), Mike Sislo (UFA), Turner Elson (RFA), John Mitchell (UFA), Gabriel Bourque (UFA)
Defensemen: Mark Barberio, Eric Gelinas (RFA), Mat Clark (UFA), Duncan Siemens (RFA), Cody Goloubef (UFA), Patrick Wiercioch (RFA), Fedor Tyutin (UFA)
Goalies: Calvin Pickard
 

Dallas Stars

Expansion Draft: Central Division

(from left) Antoine Roussel, Cody Eakin (photo credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports)

Notable Exempt Players

Julius Honka, Mattias Janmark, Devin Shore, John Nyberg

Jamie Benn (F)–NMC
Jason Spezza (F)–NMC
Ben Bishop (G)–NMC

Eligible For Exposure

Forwards: Tyler Seguin (UFA 2019), Cody Eakin (UFA 2020), Antoine Roussel (UFA 2018), Curtis McKenzie (UFA 2018), Adam Cracknell (UFA 2018)
Defensemen: John Klingberg (UFA 2022), Dan Hamhui (UFA 2018), Greg Pateryn (UFA 2018), Stephen Johns (RFA 2018)
Goalies: Kari Lehtonen (UFA 2018), Antti Niemi (UFA 2018), Henri Kiviaho (RFA 2017), Maxime Lagace (RFA 2017)

Options

The Stars have two key dilemmas heading into the draft. Six forwards, two defensemen and one goalie are locks to be protected, leaving two forwards for one forward slot and two defensemen for one defensive slot.

The Locks

Jamie Benn and Jason Spezza have to be protected because of no-movement clauses. Tyler Seguin might as well have one given his value and ability, and Radek Faksa should be a lock as well. Dallas does not need to worry about exposure requirements since they have enough players to fulfill those requirements without using a valuable asset to do so.

The defensive locks are John Klingberg and Esa Lindell, and Ben Bishop is a lock in net with an NMC in his new deal.

Filling Out the Protection List

One would assume Valeri Nichushkin will be protected. His situation is a puzzling one, but a 22-year-old former first-round draft pick who was believed to have tremendous skill and potential has a lot of value; the Stars won’t want to give him away for nothing. They can trade his rights before the expansion draft, but if he’s still on the roster, he should be protected. Restricted free agent Brett Ritchie probably will be protected after a 16-goal campaign; he has a lot of potential as a young winger for this team.

That leaves room for one more forward, and the decision likely will come down to Cody Eakin and Antoine Roussel.

Eakin, 25, has three years remaining on his deal with a cap hit of $3.85 million. Roussel, 27, has one more year at a $2 million cap hit. Though he missed 22 games, Roussel is coming off a very strong season, whereas Eakin struggled with injuries and managed only three goals and 12 points in 60 games, his worst production as a Dallas Star.

Eakin vs. Roussel

It might shock many fans to see Eakin up for debate. However, part of the issue is that it’s possible he won’t fit in as well under new coach Ken Hitchcock. He has been used a lot as a solid two-way center and even spent a lot of time on the team’s first line. However, Hitchcock is more likely to have Seguin and Spezza as the first- and second-line centers, respectively. With Faksa likely taking third-line duties, that leaves Eakin to play on the fourth line or move to the wing. That could be fine, but it’s unclear if the Stars will get as much value from him. However, he has shown a lot, is a versatile and dependable player, is 25 and has three more years on a reasonable contract.

Roussel, on the other hand, has one more year remaining on his contract. He is coming off arguably the best season of his career. He nearly matched his career-high in goals, assists and points and was able to do so in just 60 games. Roussel is a very effective player for the Stars, and he probably has more versatility than Eakin would as a winger. He could slot in nicely on a number of the Stars’ lines.

The Last Slot

This leaves Dallas with two options. They can either trade one of these players and protect the other, or roll the dice and leave one unprotected. In that case, Eakin seems like a more valuable asset to protect, though both would be considered by Vegas. Roussel’s contributions to the team aren’t always reflected on the scoreboard; he is a heart-and-soul kind of player and is definitely a fan favorite.

Trading one of the two forwards might make a lot more sense than leaving one exposed, though. Eakin could be a prime candidate for that transaction. His age, ability and contract make him an appealing option for most teams, and Dallas would receive legitimate value in the return. The team will need to replace guys like Patrick Sharp and Jiri Hudler, and moving Eakin could accomplish that. Assuming there’s no trade, though, Eakin might have the slight edge over Roussel.

There’s also an argument to be made for protecting both Eakin and Roussel and instead leaving Nichushkin out to dry. He left the team to play in the KHL and has been a major disappointment since getting drafted tenth overall in 2013.

The Other Defenseman

While Dan Hamhuis is a valued defenseman for this Stars team, he is 34 and has just one year left on his contract. For those reasons, it wouldn’t make much sense for Dallas to protect him. Therefore, the final slot for a defenseman will go to Stephen Johns or Jamie Oleksiak.

The Stars are high on Johns’ 6-foot-4, 230-pound frame. He played 19 more games this past year than Oleksiak, and the organization seems to value him highly. Some might say defenseman John Nyberg is a similar player to Johns, meaning his recent signing could indicate that Johns will be the one exposed, but both need more seasoning in the AHL. Johns has the edge in this battle.

The Goalie Mess

The Dallas Stars recently acquired Ben Bishop and signed him to an incredibly reasonable six-year deal with an average annual value of just $4.9 million. That is an absolute steal considering what many expected Bishop would fetch on the open market, but he wanted to be in Dallas and took less money to get it done. That both complicates and simplifies the Stars’ goalie situation headed into the expansion draft.

On one hand, the team finally has a legitimate no. 1 starter. On the other hand, Dallas now has three goalies signed to substantial contracts. In fact, the contracts of Bishop, Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi add up to a combined cap hit of $15.32 million. Clearly, at least one of those goalies will be leaving Dallas one way or another this offseason. Having Bishop signed this early is a major advantage for a Dallas team looking to return to the playoffs next season. The word out of Dallas seems to be that Niemi is the odd man out of the trio. Dallas is hopeful Vegas may take him (or another team in need of goaltending may take him off their hands). It’s more likely that he’ll be bought out and that Bishop and Lehtonen will share the crease for the final year of Lehtonen’s contract. Before signing Bishop, Dallas had two underperforming goalies with a combined cap hit of $10.4 million. Now the team has a true no. 1 starter and has clear-cut options for what to do with Niemi.

Projected Protection List

  • F: Jamie Benn ($9.5M, UFA 2025)
  • F: Jason Spezza ($7.5M, UFA 2019)
  • F: Tyler Seguin ($5.75M, UFA 2019)
  • F: Radek Faksa (RFA)
  • F: Brett Ritchie (RFA)
  • F: Valeri Nuchushkin (RFA)
  • F: Cody Eakin ($3.85M, UFA 2020)
  • D: John Klingberg ($4.25M, UFA 2022)
  • D: Esa Lindell (RFA)
  • D: Stephen Johns ($725,000, RFA 2018)
  • G: Ben Bishop ($4.92M, UFA 2023)

Players Fulfilling Exposure Requirements

(based on above projection)

  • F: Antoine Roussel ($2M, UFA 2018)
  • F: Curtis McKenzie ($700,000, UFA 2018)
  • F: Adam Cracknell ($675,000, UFA 2018)
  • D: Dan Hamhuis ($3.75M, UFA 2018)
  • D: Greg Pateryn ($800,000, UFA 2018)
  • G: Antti Niemi ($4.5M, UFA 2018)
  • G: Kari Lehtonen ($5.9M, UFA 2018)
  • G: Henri Kiviaho (RFA)
  • G: Maxime Lagace (RFA)

All Exposed Players

Forwards: Antoine Roussel, Curtis McKenzie, Adam Cracknell, Patrick Sharp (UFA), Jiri Hudler (UFA), Justin Dowling, Ales Hemsky (UFA), Gemel Smith (RFA), Travis Morin (UFA), Mark McNeill (RFA), Matej Stransky (RFA)
Defensemen: Dan Hamhuis, Greg Pateryn, Patrick Nemeth (RFA), Jamie Oleksiak (RFA), Andrew Bodnarchuk, Dustin Stevenson (UFA), Mattias Backman (RFA), Justin Hache (RFA), Ludwig Bystrom (RFA), Nick Ebert (RFA)
Goalies: Kari Lehtonen, Antti Niemi, Henri Kiviaho (RFA), Maxime Lagace (RFA), Justin Peters (UFA)
 

Minnesota Wild

Expansion Draft: Central Division

Marco Scandella (photo credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports)

Notable Exempt Players

Alex Tuch, Joel Eriksson Ek, Mike Reilly, Steve Michalek, Luke Kunin

Zach Parise (F)–NMC
Mikko Koivu (F)–NMC
Jason Pominville (F)–NMC
Ryan Suter (D)–NMC

Eligible For Exposure

Forwards: Eric Staal (UFA 2019), Charlie Coyle (UFA 2020), Jason Zucker (RFA 2018), Chris Stewart (UFA 2018), Tyler Graovac (RFA 2018)
Defensemen: Jared Spurgeon (UFA 2020), Jonas Brodin (UFA 2021), Marco Scandella (UFA 2020), Matt Dumba (RFA 2018)
Goalies: Devan Dubnyk (UFA 2021), Alex Stalock (UFA 2019)

Options

Minnesota is a team that may make at least one legitimate trade before the expansion draft. The team has a lot of talented players it won’t be able to protect, especially on the back end. Trading one or two pieces would allow Minnesota to protect its assets and at least get something in return for what could be lost.

The NMC’s

The Wild have four players that must be protected because of no-movement clauses in their contracts. Those players are Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu, Jason Pominville and Ryan Suter. It’s likely the team will use the 7-3-1 protection format, so that leaves room for four additional forwards to be protected.

In The Crease

Devan Dubnyk will be protected. For a lot of the regular season, Dubnyk was one of the two best goalies in the NHL (along with Sergei Bobrovsky). His play slipped down the stretch, but he has been great ever since arriving in Minnesota in early 2015. Dubnyk is signed on a very reasonable six-year, $26 million deal; he has four years remaining with a cap hit of just $4.33 million.

The Other Offensive Locks

The first will be Mikael Granlund, currently a restricted free agent. Granlund is coming off a stellar season in which he set career-highs in goals, assists and points. To take it one step further, he reached career highs in goals (26), assists (43), points (69), plus/minus (+23), power-play goals (7), power-play points (20), shorthanded goals (3), shorthanded points (4), game-winning goals (4), overtime goals (1), shots on goal (177) and shooting percentage (14.7 percent). Plus, he had phenomenal chemistry with Mikko Koivu on the team’s second line. Needless to say, he will earn his money this offseason and clearly is a “must” on the Wild’s protection list.

The next forward on the list will be Charlie Coyle, who is signed for three more years at a cap hit of $3.2 million. In HFL’s analysis from last offseason, this was written about Coyle’s 2015-2016 season:

For one thing, the progress of Charlie Coyle is something to be very excited about in Minnesota. He finished the year with career highs in goals (21) and points (42), but more importantly, he finally emerged as the big, strong and skilled power forward he was supposed to be. He has exhibited signs of his size, strength and raw talent in previous seasons, but it wasn’t until last season that he was able to fully put them all together.

Though he didn’t reach the 20-goal mark (18), Coyle saw an increase in his production once again, tallying a career-high 38 assists and a career-high 56 points. He has a bright future and is improving every year.

Eric Staal
Expansion Draft: Central Division

Eric Staal (photo credit: John Autey-Pioneer Press)

That still leaves Eric Staal (and Erik Haula) vulerable. Staal had a remarkable season, leading the team in goals with 28, finishing second on the team in scoring with 65 points and making a drastic difference in the lineup. Part of it was Bruce Boudreau’s new system, but a big part of it was Staal’s play. He allowed for Granlund to have the breakout year he had, he stabilized the lineup, he took pressure off Koivu, he played a great two-way game and, despite his age, found himself on the breakaway what felt like every night. He didn’t cash in on most of those chances, but he created scoring chances on a nightly basis. In the end, he played hard every game and was a workhorse for the team, suiting up in all 82 games.

He still could be exposed, though.

He’s 32, the third-oldest player on the team behind Pominville and Koivu. Even though he had a great year last year (his best in over five years), he is not the player he once was. Also, he sustained a concussion in Game 5 against St. Louis after going head-first into the boards. That’s not a make-or-break factor for protection, but certainly it doesn’t help.

Vegas could take Eric Staal and be very happy with that decision, though. He’s a veteran leader with a lot of talent and experience, is captain material (without a doubt) and is coming off a fantastic season. However, Vegas should think twice before turning down one of the defensemen (assuming Fletcher doesn’t make multiple trades). They all have more value, and Staal has made it clear that he wants to play for a contender. Any of the defensemen would be a steal; Vegas shouldn’t mess with that.

The Final Two

That leaves room for two more forwards.

The most likely scenario is Jason Zucker and Nino Niederreiter.

Zucker only has one more year remaining on his contract, which carries a $2 million cap hit, but he played an important role for the team this season. He spent a lot of the year on the second line with Koivu and Granlund, a line that thrived all season. Like some of his teammates, he’s coming off a career season with 22 goals, 25 assists, 47 points, 172 shots and a plus-34 rating. Zucker had a fantastic year and is on a very reasonable contract. It would be very surprising if Minnesota exposes him.

Niederreiter is another player coming off a season in which he set multiple career-highs, including goals (25), assists (32), points (57), plus/minus (+17), power-play goals (8), power-play points (14) and shots (186). The whole team had an outstanding regular season. Unfortunately for the Wild, the success did not carry over into the postseason, though the team faced a red-hot Jake Allen and outplayed St. Louis for most of the series. But that shouldn’t undermine the individual achievements throughout the lineup. Niederreiter is a very talented player with strong defensive abilities, a lot of skill and rising value. He’s an RFA but is more than worthy of protection, especially considering he is a goal-scorer and scored a career-high 25 goals while averaging just 15 minutes of ice time per game. Reaching 30 goals isn’t much of a stretch, especially if he plays 18-20 a night.

That being said, there is trade speculation surrounding Niederreiter. Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher has stated only that he is “listening” to offers, not that he is shopping the talented Swiss winger.

The Back End

As mentioned previously, the Wild must use a protection spot on defenseman Ryan Suter because of his NMC, but that is a no-brainer. Beyond Suter, Jared Spurgeon is a virtual lock. He has three years remaining on his four-year, $20.75 million contract, which carries a cap hit of $5.19 million. At 27 years old, Spurgeon is in his prime and is gifted offensively. He earned career highs in assists (28), points (38), plus/minus (+33) and shots on goal (144).

After Spurgeon comes the team’s biggest dilemma. Jonas Brodin, Marco Scandella and Matt Dumba are three defensemen most teams would be thrilled to have. However, Fletcher can choose just one to protect. Moving one before the draft takes some of the sting away, but in all likelihood, Vegas will pry a very talented defenseman from Minnesota’s blueline.

Brodin is signed for four more seasons at a $4.17 million cap hit, and Scandella has three years remaining on his five-year, $20 million contract; Dumba has one year remaining in his two-year, $5.1 million deal. Having a defenseman like Brodin/Scandella for only $4 million against the cap for 3-4 years is value you just can’t find these days. Vegas, however, will come away with a steal.

In the end, Dumba could be the one that gets protected given his offensive ability and value. He’ll be an RFA after this season but carries only a $2.55 million cap hit. Minnesota is tight against the cap with many players to re-sign, including Granlund and Niederreiter (which makes the Niederreiter rumors at least a little more understandable). That’s another reason to keep the 22-year-old offensive blueliner.

It very well could be Scandella leaving the North Star State on July 21.

Projected Protection List

  • F: Zach Parise ($7.54M, UFA 2025)
  • F: Mikko Koivu ($6.75M, UFA 2018)
  • F: Jason Pominville ($5.6M, UFA 2019)
  • F: Mikael Granlund (RFA)
  • F: Charlie Coyle ($3.2M, UFA 2020)
  • F: Jason Zucker ($2M, RFA 2018)
  • F: Nino Niederreiter ($RFA)
  • D: Ryan Suter ($7.54M, UFA 2025)
  • D: Jared Spurgeon ($5.19M, UFA 2020)
  • D: Matt Dumba ($2.55M, RFA 2018)
  • G: Devan Dubnyk ($4.33M, UFA 2021)

Players Fulfilling Exposure Requirements

(based on above projection)

  • F: Eric Staal ($3.5M, UFA 2019)
  • F: Chris Stewart ($1.15M, UFA 2018)
  • F: Tyler Graovac ($625,000, RFA 2018)
  • D: Marco Scandella ($4M, UFA 2020)
  • D: Jonas Brodin ($4.17M, UFA 2021)
  • G: Alex Stalock ($650,000, UFA 2019)

All Exposed Players

Forwards: Eric Staal, Chris Stewart, Tyler Graovac, Erik Haula (RFA), Ryan Carter (UFA), Brady Brassart (RFA), Kurtis Gabriel (RFA), Patrick Connone (UFA), Ryan White (UFA), Zack Mitchell (RFA), Martin Hanzal (UFA), Jordan Schroeder (RFA)
Defensemen: Jonas Brodin, Marco Scandella, Gustaf Olofsson (RFA), Christian Folin (RFA), Victor Bartley (UFA), Guillaume Gelinas (RFA), Alexander Gudbranson (RFA), Nate Prosser (UFA)
Goalies: Alex Stalock, Darcy Kuemper (UFA)
 

Nashville Predators

Expansion Draft: Central Division

(from left) Mattias Ekholm, Ryan Ellis (photo credit: Rocky W. Widner-Getty Images)

Notable Exempt Players

Kevin Fiala, Vladislav Kamenev, Jack Dougherty, Juuse Saros, Samuel Girard, Yakov Trenin

Pekka Rinne (G)–NMC

Eligible For Exposure

Forwards: Filip Forsberg (UFA 2022), James Neal (UFA 2018), Craig Smith (2020), Colin Wilson (UFA 2019), Calle Jarnkrok (UFA 2022), Cody McLeod (UFA 2018), Colton Sissons (RFA 2019), Miikka Salomaki (RFA 2018)
Defensemen: P.K. Subban (UFA 2022), Roman Josi (UFA 2020), Mattias Ekholm (UFA 2022), Ryan Ellis (UFA 2019), Matt Irwin (UFA 2018), Anthony Bitetto (UFA 2018)
Goalies: Marek Mazanec (RFA 2017)

Options

The only full NMC the Predators have to worry about is goaltender Pekka Rinne’s. However, he would be protected under any and all circumstances, so Nashville can protect whomever it wants. Part of it may depend on how the team fares in the playoffs, though the first Cup appearance in franchise history is not a bad starting place. Unless particular forwards have tremendous series in the Cup round, Nashville’s situation could be very straightforward. It just depends on whether the team decides to go ahead and use the 8-1 protection scheme, in which case the team would protect four forwards and four defensemen. Considering the level of talent on the team, this seems like the most likely course.

The Forwards

The Predators will protect franchise star Filip Forsberg, who has another five years remaining on his six-year, $36 million contract. Not much needs to be said about Forsberg, who has three straight 25-goal seasons and back-to-back 30-goal campaigns (33, 31). The team undoubtedly will protect star centerman Ryan Johansen, who is a restricted free agent this summer. Unfortunately, he was knocked out of the playoffs after having a brilliant postseason. There was plenty of controversy surrounding his contract talks a few years ago in Columbus, but general manager David Poile knows he will be paying Johansen a lot of money; he should be more than ok with that.

From there, the team will protect its other two top forwards: James Neal and Viktor Arvidsson.

Neal only has one year left on his contract but has played well for the Predators. His production was down this year from last season but he has proven to be a clutch goalscorer in the playoffs. He is one of the better pure snipers in the league, and he fits in Peter Laviolette’s high-tempo system perfectly.

Arvidsson definitely will be protected. No one expected how well he would perform this season; he had one of the best and most underrated campaigns in the entire National Hockey League. In his second season with the Predators, Arvidsson scored 31 goals, 30 assists and 61 points on 246 shots. Five of the 31 goals were shorthanded, and he tallied six game-winners. He’s a restricted free agent but can sign a strong bridge deal (unless Poile wants to extend him long-term right away). Again, that could depend on the team’s performance in the Cup round.

The Defensemen

Nashville has one of the best defensive corps in the NHL. Roman Josi is one of the most underrated players in the league, and the team made a huge splash by acquiring P.K. Subban from Montreal in exchange for Shea Weber. Subban didn’t put up the regular-season numbers Weber did in Montreal, but he has been great in the postseason. Aside from Josi and Subban, two number-one defensemen, the team has Mattias Ekholm and Ryan Ellis. Both have played extremely well in the playoffs, but Ellis really has shined offensively for the team.

It’s reasonable to expect that the team will protect all four of these defensemen. Josi and Subban are definite’s. Even though the Preds would be leaving some strong and important forwards exposed, such as Colton Sissons, Colin Wilson, Craig Smith, etc., Smith had a bad year, and none of those players can compete with the four defensemen (and eight skaters) mentioned when it comes to skill and value. Especially after his play in the playoffs, Sissons could be the one on the way out. Perhaps Poile can work something out with Vegas to keep Sissons in Music City.

Summary

The Predators should be one of the more straightforward teams as far as planning for the expansion draft. Poile could make a trade for one of his skilled forwards or even one of his lesser-skilled forwards, since teams are in need of players that fulfill exposure requirements. A team like Arizona desperately needs players to expose, so Poile could accumulate some assets in that regard.

But as for the protection list, it should be the four forwards and four defensemen mentioned, along with world-class netminder Pekka Rinne.

Of course, it’s more than possible that Nashville’s management will elect to protect only one of Ekholm and Ellis and use the protection slots on other players. But that would be a very surprising scenario given the level of talent the team has in those eight guys.

Projected Protection List

  • F: Filip Forsberg ($6M, UFA 2022)
  • F: James Neal ($5M, UFA 2018)
  • F: Ryan Johansen (RFA)
  • F: Viktor Arvidsson (RFA)
  • D: P.K. Subban ($9M, UFA 2022)
  • D: Roman Josi ($4M, UFA 2020)
  • D: Mattias Ekholm ($3.75M, UFA 2022)
  • D: Ryan Ellis ($2.5M, UFA 2019)
  • G: Pekka Rinne ($7M, UFA 2019)

Players Fulfilling Exposure Requirements

(based on above projection)

  • F: Craig Smith ($4.25M, UFA 2020)
  • F: Colin Wilson ($3.94M, UFA 2019)
  • F: Calle Jarnkrok ($2M, UFA 2022)
  • F: Cody McLeod ($800,000, UFA 2018)
  • F: Colton Sissons ($625,000, RFA 2019)
  • F: Miikka Salomaki ($612,500, RFA 2018)
  • D: Matt Irwin ($650,000, UFA 2018)
  • D: Anthony Bitetto ($612,500, UFA 2018)
  • G: Marek Mazanec (RFA)

All Exposed Players

Forwards: Craig Smith, Colin Wilson, Calle Jarnkrok, Cody McLeod, Colton Sissons, Miikka Salomaki, Cody Bass, Trevor Smith, P.A. Parenteau (UFA), Adam Payeri (UFA), Harry Zolnierczyk (UFA), Austin Watson (RFA), Vernon Fiddler (UFA), Mike Ribeiro (UFA), Pontus Aberg (RFA), Mike Fisher (UFA)
Defensemen: Matt Irwin, Anthony Bitetto, Andrew O’Brien, Petter Granberg, Adam Pardy (UFA), Brad Hunt (UFA), Yannick Weber (UFA), Jaynen Rissling (RFA)
Goalies: Marek Mazanec
 

St. Louis Blues

Expansion Draft: Central Division

(left) Ryan Reaves (photo credit: Jeff Roberson-AP); (right) David Perron (photo credit: Jeff Curry)

Notable Exempt Players

Colton Parayko, Robby Fabbri, Conner Bleackley, Ivan Barbashev, Tage Thompson, Zach Sanford, Jordan Schmaltz, Vince Dunn

Eligible For Exposure

Forwards: Vladimir Tarasenko (UFA 2023), Paul Stastny (UFA 2018), Alex Steen (UFA 2021), Jaden Schwartz (UFA 2021), Jori Lehtera (UFA 2019), Patrik Berglund (UFA 2022), David Perron (UFA 2018), Ryan Reaves (UFA 2018), Dmitrij Jaskin (RFA 2019), Kyle Brodziak (UFA 2018)
Defensemen: Alex Pietrangelo (UFA 2020), Jay Bouwmeester (UFA 2019), Carl Gunnarsson (UFA 2019), Robert Bortuzzo (UFA 2019), Joel Edmundson (RFA 2018)
Goalies: Jake Allen (UFA 2021), Carter Hutton (UFA 2018), Jordan Binnington (RFA)

Options

The St. Louis Blues will face some of the same issues other teams are grappling with: how to decide which one or two forwards deserve(s) the final protection slot(s). For the Blues, it’s likely it will come down to the final protection slot, with at least three-four forwards in contention. For now, let’s look at the more obvious calls.

The Easy Ones

St. Louis does not have any contracts with NMC’s, so no one has to be protected. That being said, St. Louis will go the 7-3-1 protection format route. Here are the players that will be protected.

Forwards

The easiest call is superstar Vladimir Tarasenko, a perennial 40-goal scorer and one of the best goal-scorers in the world. Jaden Schwartz is another definite; he has four years remaining on his deal, which carries a $5.35 million cap hit. Schwartz scored 50+ points for the third time in four seasons after missing 49 games last year. There’s no debate for these two.

The next round includes top-six forwards Alex Steen and Paul Stastny. Steen is good for 15+ goals and 50+ points at a minimum and is an important veteran presence on this team. He has four more years at a $5.75 million cap hit. Stastny has only one more year on his four-year, $28 million contract but gives the Blues strength and size up the middle.

The next two forwards that make the cut each recently signed long-term extensions. Patrik Berglund was set to become an unrestricted free agent but signed a five-year, $19.25 million extension shortly before the trade deadline. He scored a career-high 23 goals this season, and his contract ($3.85 million cap hit) is very team-friendly.

The Blues also signed Vladimir Sobotka to an extension even though he played in only one regular-season game. He played four seasons with the Blues before heading to Russia after the 2013-2014 campaign. Sobotka scored seven points in 12 games since joining the Blues one game before the playoffs. That’s solid production for someone who hasn’t been in the NHL in three years. His contract, inked on April 6, is for three years with a $3.5 million cap hit. Like Berglund, Sobotka is on an extremely team-friendly contract, and his extension indicates that he will be protected in the draft.

Defensemen

Captain Alex Pietrangelo will earn a protection slot almost as easily as Tarasenko. He signed a monster seven-year, $45 million contract in 2013 and has three years remaining with a cap hit of $6.5 million. That is excellent value considering he is one of the most dependable defenders in the league and can bring it offensively. He’s a definite.

The team also will protect Jay Bouwmeester, who is 33 but is still a reliable defenseman. He has two more years at a $5.4 million cap hit and will be protected by Blues management even though some fans would prefer to see him go. No matter what, St. Louis has to use the 7-3-1 format because Pietrangelo must be protected; as a result, only seven forwards could be saved no matter what. Since there are two extra slots for defensemen, St. Louis will use one of those slots on Bouwmeester.

The third defenseman that will be protected is a lock: Joel Edmundson. Some would argue that he’s not necessarily a “lock,” but he is. Many know of him from his recent scoring outburst in the Stanley Cup playoffs. He has four career goals in two seasons with St. Louis but managed three goals and six points in 11 games in the playoffs this year. However, there’s a lot more to Edmundson’s game. A guy with 24 career points is not known for his offense, but there is no doubt about his ability and value to this team. This will leave Carl Gunnarsson and Robert Bortuzzo exposed, but it makes the most sense for Vegas to aim for a forward anyway (unless they consider Petteri Lindbohm). Luckily for the Blues, gifted and soon-to-be-highly-paid defenseman Colton Parayko is exempt from the draft.

Goalie

There’s no debate here: Jake Allen will be protected. He struggled for most of the year but finished the season strong and was outstanding in the playoffs.

The Final Slot

As mentioned earlier, protecting Tarasenko, Schwartz, Steen, Stastny, Berglund, Sobotka, Pietrangelo, Bouwmeester, Edmundson and Allen leaves only one protection slot.

The candidates competing for that slot are: David Perron, Jori Lehtera, Dmitrij Jaskin, Nail Yakupov and Ryan Reaves. Reaves may be a name that jumps out at you, but do not underestimate how the Blues feel about Reaves and how significant he is to this team.

One Down

One name that can be and should be eliminated right away is Nail Yakupov. Yes, he’s a former first-overall pick, but the Blues’ experiment with him did not pay off and he is not worth a protection slot. He does not have the value of a first-overall pick; in fact, his value doesn’t even come close to that level. The Blues made a smart trade and gave him a shot considering his potential and success in junior, but he’s not worth it.

Two Down

From there, the next player to eliminate is Jori Lehtera. Some that don’t follow the Blues closely would be surprised by that considering how Lehtera came into the league. He had a great season in 2014-2015 as a 27-year-old rookie, scoring 14 goals and 44 points. On July 1 after that season, he signed a three-year, $14.1 million extension. His production dipped in 2015-2016, as he scored nine goals and 34 points. However, his performance this season was the icing on the cake. Not only did his production decrease by more than 10 points, but he was not effective and was outplayed by most of his teammates on a nightly basis. With his decline in production and effectiveness, and with the emergence of Ivan Barbashev (and Tage Thompson in the wings), Lehtera has become expendable, especially at a $4.7 million cap hit. He will be exposed.

Two to Go

Now the Blues are looking at protecting one of David Perron, Dmitrij Jaskin and Ryan Reaves. This is not an easy decision, and it’s possible the Blues haven’t yet finalized a decision. Each player is very different.

David Perron has spent seven of his 11 NHL seasons in St. Louis, and (aside from one year in Edmonton) has played his best hockey in blue and gold. He scored 18 goals and 46 points this season and is a hard-nosed player with a lot of skill. He only has one more year until he becomes an unrestricted free agent, but he carries only a $3.75 million cap hit. Among the three remaining players, it’s fair to say Perron is the best all-around player.

But hockey is not just about skill. Character and effort go a long way, and not many players check those boxes as well as Ryan Reaves. Reaves is a heart-and-soul player with some ability (he scored a career-high 13 points this year) and great forechecking skills. He brings a lot of grit to the table each and every night. Don’t count him out just because he plays on the fourth line.

The argument for Jaskin is that he is a young, skilled forward with a lot of size and a lot of potential. His stats haven’t been impressive, but he’s a big body and could turn into a solid player. He has one more year with a $1 million cap hit before becoming a restricted free agent. He might have trade value, but the Blues could survive if Vegas snatched him up.

The Last Slot

Fans and analysts alike could go with any of these three guys. There are arguments to be made for all of them, and the discussion could go on forever. In the end, the Blues very well may protect Perron and either hope that Vegas does not take Reaves or send Vegas a pick/prospect to not take Reaves. Vegas can then take Lehtera, Yakupov or Jaskin. If Vegas general manager George McPhee wants to take a chance, Yakupov is the easy answer. If he needs a big contract and wants depth at center, Lehtera is his guy. If he wants another young player with size and potential, Jaskin makes sense.

It just seems as though Perron would be the easy answer if he were exposed. Gunnarsson and Bortuzzo aren’t too appealing. It’s possible Carter Hutton could be on his way out, as St. Louis will be unable to protect him. However, it would make sense for Blues general manager Doug Armstrong to work out a deal with Vegas to leave Hutton alone as well. That might take more convincing and may require giving up more, but St. Louis would love to go into next year with an Allen-Hutton duo in net.

It’s worth mentioning one more thing. If Armstrong is unable to reach a deal involving Reaves, don’t be surprised to see him earn that lost slot. Again, don’t underestimate Reaves’ value to this team.

Projected Protection List

  • F: Vladimir Tarasenko ($7.5M, UFA 2023)
  • F: Jaden Schwartz ($5.35M, UFA 2021)
  • F: Alex Steen ($5.75M, UFA 2021)
  • F: Paul Stastny ($7M, UFA 2018)
  • F: Patrik Berglund ($3.85M, UFA 2022)
  • F: Vladimir Sobotka ($3.5M, UFA 2020)
  • F: David Perron ($3.75M, UFA 2018)
  • D: Alex Pietrangelo ($6.5M, UFA 2020)
  • D: Jay Bouwmeester ($5.4M, UFA 2019)
  • D: Joel Edmundson ($1.05M, UFA 2018)
  • G: Jake Allen ($4.35M, UFA 2021)

Players Fulfilling Exposure Requirements

(based on above projection)

  • F: Jori Lehtera ($4.7M, UFA 2019)
  • F: Ryan Reaves ($1.125M, UFA 2018)
  • F: Dmitrij Jaskin ($1M, RFA 2018)
  • F: Kyle Brodziak ($1M, UFA 2018)
  • D: Carl Gunnarsson ($2.9M, UFA 2019)
  • D: Robert Bortuzzo ($1.15M, UFA 2019)
  • G: Carter Hutton ($1.125M, UFA 2018)
  • G: Jordan Binnington (RFA)

All Exposed Players

Forwards: Jori Lehtera, Ryan Reaves, Dmitrij Jaskin, Kyle Brodziak, Kenny Agostino (UFA), Jacob Doty (RFA), Nail Yakupov (RFA), Alex Friesen (UFA), Ty Rattie (RFA), Landon Ferraro (RFA), Scottie Upshall (UFA), Magnus Paajarvi (RFA), Jordan Caron (RFA), Andrew Agozzino (UFA), Brad Malone (UFA)
Defensemen: Carl Gunnarsson, Robert Bortuzzo, Chris Butler (UFA), Petteri Lindbohm (RFA), Morgan Ellis (UFA), Reid McNeill (UFA)
Goalies: Carter Hotton, Jordan Binnington
 

Winnipeg Jets

Expansion Draft: Central Division

Mathieu Perreault (photo credit: Jonathan Kozub-Getty Images)

Notable Exempt Players

Patrik Laine, Kyle Connor, Nikolaj Ehlers, Jack Roslovic, Brendan Lemieux, Nicolas Petan, Chase De Leo, Brandon Tanev, Josh Morrissey, Eric Comrie

Dustin Byfuglien (D)–NMC
Toby Enstrom (D)–NMC

Eligible For Exposure

Forwards: Mark Scheifele (UFA 2024), Blake Wheeler (UFA 2019), Bryan Little (UFA 2018), Mathieu Perreault (UFA 2021), Shawn Matthias (UFA 2018), Adam Lowery (RFA 2018), Joel Armia (RFA 2018),
Defensemen: Tyler Myers (UFA 2019), Jacob Trouba (RFA 2018), Mark Stuart (UFA 2018)
Goalies: Michael Hutchinson (UFA 2018), Connor Hellebuyck (RFA)

Options

Dustin Byfuglien and Toby Enstrom have no-movement clauses, so that will tie up two slots for defensemen. The Jets are a serious contender for using the 8-1 protection list format in order to protect the team’s back end. There are a few players from which to choose, but most of the players should be relatively straightforward.

The Definite’s

After Byfuglien and Enstrom, the Jets also will protect defenseman Jacob Trouba. There have been rumors about him leaving Winnipeg over the past few years, but he’s coming off a great season and has taken his play to a new level. His value is sky-high no matter what, so he is a must.

The Jets will protect Connor Hellebuyck over Michael Hutchinson. The team still needs to bring in a veteran goalie for next season, but Hellebuyck will be protected. Vegas is not going to take Hutchinson, so the two will return for next season. However, it would be in the Jets’ best interests to get goaltending elsewhere in the offseason.

There are three forwards guaranteed to be protected: Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler and Bryan Little. Those are the three best offensive players on the team that are eligible for the draft, with Patrik Laine and Nikolaj Ehlers exempt. That leaves room for either four more forwards and one more defenseman or one more forward and two more defensemen. Ultimately, it will come down to Tyler Myers.

Myers
Expansion Draft: Central Division

Tyler Myers (photo credit: Derek Leung-Getty Images)

Myers is a big boy. His 6-foot-8, 229-pound frame mixed with his skating ability make him a menacing force when he’s healthy. Add in an offensive touch and a reasonable cap hit and you have a pretty stellar asset. Normally, all of those factors would add up to be more than enough to justify protecting him. The issue is that Myers has had injuries in each of the past two seasons and only played 11 games this past year. That is of some concern, but the team cannot leave him exposed. The only alternative would be to trade him before the expansion draft. Despite the injury issues, he has tremendous value; there aren’t many players with all of those factors. Myers has never lived up to the player he was expected to be when he was drafted 12th overall in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. His play has improved since coming to Winnipeg, but there’s still a lot of growth and potential for the 27-year-old blueliner who could be entering his prime.

Assuming the Jets don’t trade Myers, general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff will have to choose one forward to protect from a list of players that can be narrowed down to four guys.

The Candidates

The Jets have one final slot available for another forward. The remaining players with a reasonable chance of consideration are all forwards. They are: Mathieu Perreault, Adam Lowry, Joel Armia and Marko Dano.

Perreault’s four-year, $16.5 million deal kicks in this season and carries a $4.125 million cap hit. He has had three straight 40-point campaigns as a Winnipeg Jet, scoring 45, 41 and 41 points in the last three years, respectively. He played on the second line and first power-play unit for most of the year and had a very solid season overall. That being said, the Jets do not want to lose Adam Lowry.

Vegas general manager George McPhee drafted Perreault when he was with the Capitals. There’s a high probability that he’ll “draft” Perreault once again if possible. In a way, that’s helpful for Cheveldayoff to know. It might allow him to not worry as much about exposing Marko Dano and even Joel Armia since McPhee is likely to take Perreault. At the same time, he has to make sure to protect his most important and valuable assets.

Though Armia has shown a lot of skill and is arguably one of the best penalty-killers Winnipeg has had in years, his stats haven’t backed it up. Lowry had a great year, scoring career-highs in most categories, including goals (15), assists (14), points (29), power-play goals (5), power-play points (9) and shots (122). Even though Dano has value and was included in the Andrew Ladd trade a few years ago, Lowry is more important to this team. The Winnipeg organization is stacked beyond belief with incredibly talented young players. Dano has a lot of potential but hasn’t been consistent. In the end, Lowry is probably the best choice.

Projected Protection List

  • F: Mark Scheifele ($6.125M, UFA 2024)
  • F: Blake Wheeler ($5.6M, UFA 2019)
  • F: Bryan Little ($4.7M, UFA 2018)
  • F: Adam Lowry ($1.125M, RFA 2018)
  • D: Dustin Byfuglien ($7.6M, UFA 2021)
  • D: Toby Enstrom ($5.75M, UFA 2018)
  • D: Jacob Trouba ($2,812,500, RFA 2018)
  • D: Tyler Myers ($5.5M, UFA 2019)
  • G: Connor Hellebuyck (RFA)

Players Fulfilling Exposure Requirements

(based on above projection)

  • F: Mathieu Perreault ($4.125M, UFA 2021)
  • F: Shawn Matthias ($2.125M, UFA 2018)
  • F: Joel Armia ($925,000, RFA 2018)
  • D: Mark Stuart ($2.625M, UFA 2018)
  • G: Michael Hutchinson ($1.15M, UFA 2018)

All Exposed Players

Forwards: Mathieu Perreault, Shawn Matthias, Joel Armia, Anthony Peluso (UFA), Chris Thorburn (UFA), Quinten Howden (RFA), Mark Dano (RFA), Scott Kosmachuk (RFA), Andrew Copp (RFA), Ryan Olsen (RFA), JC Lipon (RFA), Ivan Telegin
Defensemen: Mark Stuart, Julian Melchiori (RFA), Brian Strait (UFA), Ben Chiarot (RFA), Brenden Kichton (UFA), Paul Postma (UFA)
Goalies: Michael Hutchinson, Ondrej Pavelec (UFA)
 

Check out the rest of HFL’s Vegas Expansion Series
Vegas Expansion Draft: Pacific Division
Vegas Expansion Draft: Atlantic Division
Vegas Expansion Draft: Metropolitan Division

Also check out HFL’s 2017 Offseason NHL Free Agent Signings Tracker, 2017 Offseason NHL Trade Tracker and 2017 Offseason NHL Buyout Tracker.
 

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