We’re continuing to break down each team’s situation as it pertains to the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft, coming up next week: which players are eligible, and which will likely warrant protection or may be on the block. Each team is required to submit their protection lists by 4pm CDT on June 17th. The full rules on eligibility can be found here, and CapFriendly has provided a handy expansion tool to make your own lists.
The expansion scenario for the Anaheim Ducks is one of the more fascinating stories of this off-season. Ever since the rules of the Expansion Draft were announced, fans have been wondering how the Ducks could traverse such a difficult process for teams with depth at all positions. That was even before Anaheim marched to a Pacific Division title and Western Conference championship appearance behind career-best seasons for Rickard Rakell, Jakob Silfverberg, Cam Fowler, and Josh Manson. Neither the 7-3 scheme nor the 8-skater scheme offer the Ducks enough protection to emerge June 21st unscathed and they have been desperately looking for trade help since they were eliminated from the postseason. Will they find it? Or will the best player on the division rival Vegas Golden Knights be a former Duck?
Eligible Players (Non-UFA)
Corey Perry (NMC), Ryan Getzlaf (NMC), Ryan Kesler (NMC), Rickard Rakell, Jakob Silfverberg, Andrew Cogliano, Antoine Vermette, Jared Boll, Logan Shaw, Sam Carrick, Chris Wagner, Corey Tropp, Emerson Etem, Nicolas Kerdiles
The first decision the Ducks really need to make is what scheme they want to use. Many at first thought that the Anaheim would have to use the 8-skater format to protect four defenseman: centerpieces Hampus Lindholm, Sami Vatanen, Cam Fowler, and Kevin Bieksa, who has a No-Movement clause. However, as the season went on, that decision became even more difficult. Bieksa fell out of favor under head coach Randy Carlyle and will almost surely waive his clause or, if he refuses, be bought out. Yet, young Josh Manson has developed into a shutdown defender like no other in Anaheim. While puck-movers like Lindholm, Vatanen, or Fowler could be replaced by up-and-coming prospects Shea Theodore, Brandon Montour, and Jacob Larsson or a healthy Simon Despres, the Ducks would be hard-pressed to replace the skill set of Manson.
So, the Ducks could go eight skaters and protect Lindholm, Vatanen, Fowler and Manson. The problem with that is then Anaheim would lose a young impact forward. Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, and Ryan Kesler have No-Movement clauses, but would be locks to be protected regardless. That would leave just one slot left and two budding stars, Rickard Rakell and Jakob Silfverberg, in need of protection, not to mention iron man Andrew Cogliano. Vegas fans were salivating at the though of either Rakell or Silfverberg lining up on the Knight’s first line next year, but after the seasons they had, that seems next to impossible. The Ducks are in win-now mode and can ill-afford to lose one of their vital top-six forwards, especially in such a weak free agent market.
Instead, Anaheim will likely choose to go seven forwards and three defenseman as their protection scheme. Perry, Getzlaf, Kesler, Rakell, Silfverberg, and Cogliano will all be safe, as will three of the Ducks’ top four defenseman. Rather than lose the fourth for nothing, Anaheim has recently boosted its efforts to trade Vatanen. If they cannot, they will have to make a call between he and Manson, as Lindholm and Fowler have separated themselves from the pack as the team’s top two defenders.
The Ducks will also have to make a call about their seventh and final forward. Other noteworthy top-nine regulars like Nick Ritchie and Ondrej Kase are exempt from the draft, so the decision will probably come down to veteran Antoine Vermette or youngster Logan Shaw or Nicolas Kerdiles. Either way, Anaheim is in good shape with meeting the two-forward quota with the likes of Jared Boll and Chris Wagner both qualifying while not really in the conversation for protection. Vermette had a good first season in Anaheim, but he is 34 years old and has lost a step on his famous two-way game. The 25-year-old Shaw plays a physical game and contributed 10 points in 55 games in 2016-17, but was only given limited ice time and doesn’t have the ceiling of a player like Kerdiles. Yet, Kerdiles only played in one regular season game and four playoff games, notching just one assist. His AHL numbers suggest that he could do much more if given the chance though.
Projected Protection List
If the Ducks are unsuccessful in trading Sami Vatanen, Josh Manson could be the prize of the draft for the Golden Knights. The 25-year-old righty has the makings of top-pair defensive blue-liner who could anchor an entire defense. However, he just simply hasn’t reached that level yet, while Vatanen is an elite puck-mover.
If the Ducks do trade Vatanen, Manson is safe and Vegas won’t touch Kevin Bieksa, nor would would they likely take a chance on the injury-riddled Simon Despres. Minor league-caliber keeper Dustin Tokarski won’t generate any interest either. At this point, that decision on the final forward becomes key. Vegas will be on the lookout to get as much upside as possible in the Expansion Draft, and that is what Kerdiles provides. Anaheim can best protect their forward corps by retaining the young winger’s services. Vegas may have interest in Antoine Vermette as a veteran leader, but it’s doubtful. By default, Shaw could be the pick, but it wouldn’t be a major loss for the Ducks.
From potentially losing Jakob Silvferberg, Rickard Rakell, or Manson, if the Ducks can trade Vatanen and get Bieksa to waive his No-Movement clause, they could in fact leave Vegas with very little to choose from and could escape expansion with largely the same team that nearly made the Stanley Cup Final this season.