The trade deadline may have come and gone, but that doesn’t mean that there won’t be any more trades over the courses of the remainder of the league year. The NHL Expansion Draft is right around the corner, with protection lists due on July 17, ahead of the draft on July 21. By that time, all 30 participating teams must be able to submit a protection list that complies with the exposure requirements of the draft. As a reminder, teams may protect seven forwards, three defensemen, and a goalie or eight skaters and a goalie. However, they must also expose two forwards and one defenseman signed beyond this season and who have played in 27 NHL games this season or 54 games over the past two seasons, as well as a goaltender under team control beyond this season.
For many teams, this is easier said than done though. Long-term forwards and defensemen with considerable games played who are also deemed expendable are not all that common. With the trade deadline completed, teams are stuck with the group that they have unless they decide to make a trade in the time between their regular season end or postseason elimination and the week of the draft. Some can solve their problems internally, while others may be more hard pressed. Based on their most likely protection scheme, here are the teams with work to do:
Problem Area: Forward
Internal Solutions: The Flames may be having a difficult season, but they have a talented top-six who are all signed long-term. Except, that’s where the term forwards end. If Calgary cannot convince Milan Lucic to waive his No-Movement Clause, the team will be missing both of their required forwards for exposure by protecting Looch and the top-six. Even if Lucic does waive, the team will need to make another forward available to Seattle. RFA Dillon Dube meets the games played criteria, but the team is likely to protect the young forward or, if not, will not do anything to make him more attractive to the Kraken. That leaves fellow RFA Dominik Simon and impending UFA’s Derek Ryan, Josh Leivo, and Joakim Nordstrom, as well as Brett Ritchie with six more games played, as other names who could earn extensions due to otherwise meeting the exposure criteria.
Likelihood of a Trade: Medium. With so many affordable, bottom-six role players that the team could hand new one-year deals, the Flames have options. However, if Lucic does not waive and the team feels pressured to re-sign two of those players, they may look for outside help rather than bring back too much of a forward corps that has underachieved this year.
Problem Area: Forward
Internal Solutions: As one of the top scoring team’s in the NHL, the Avalanche will want to keep as much of their forward corps as they can and with the likes of Gabriel Landeskog and Brandon Saad heading to free agency and not in need of protection, the team can do just that. However, if Colorado does protect their top nine scoring forwards minus Landeskog and Saad, that leaves them with, at best, one forward to expose and zero if they choose to protect both Valeri Nichushkin and J.T. Compher. If the Avs do choose to protect the duo, that should leave RFA Tyson Jost unprotected, who they could extend in order to meet the exposure requirement. However, Jost has arbitration rights and may not rush into a new deal. Other candidates to re-sign would be UFA’s Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Carl Soderberg, or Matt Calvert. Fortunately, the Avalanche have an even easier internal fix and that is simply playing Logan O’Connor five more times before the end of the season.
Likelihood of a Trade: Low. Between playing O’Connor and exposing one of Nichushkin or Compher, Colorado may not have to make any move at all. If they do, they have options. Who wouldn’t want to re-sign in Colorado right now, even if its only for the purpose of being expansion draft fodder.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Problem Area: Forward
Internal Solutions: It’s easy to guess six forwards that the Blue Jackets will protect, but the seventh is a bit trickier. Do they expose star Gustav Nyquist, who has missed the whole season due to injury and is on a substantial contract and on the wrong side of 30? Or do they expose Eric Robinson, who has been a hard-working depth presence this season but has limited upside? Well, if they choose to protect either one, it only leave the other as meeting exposure criteria. Only if both are exposed is Columbus good to go and that scenario seems unlikely. However, the only forward currently meeting the requirements other than term is RFA Kevin Stenlund, though UFA Mikhail Grigorenko requires only two more games played (and a new contract).
Likelihood of a Trade: High. The Blue Jackets surely want to bring Stenlund back, but he has arbitration rights and may not be keen to sign quickly just to help with expansion requirements. If a Stenlund deal can’t be reached sooner rather than later, Columbus may not have a choice but to bring someone in from the outside. A Grigorenko extension seems unlikely, as does exposing both Nyquist and Robinson.
Problem Area: Forward
Internal Solutions: The Stars’ protection scheme at forward is fairly obvious, as they have seven core forwards who stand out above the rest. However, those seven are also the only regular forwards with term on their contracts. Of all other expansion-draft eligible forwards for Dallas, only Joel L’Esperance has additional time on his current deal and he cannot reach the games played requirement. As a result, the Stars must find two forwards to expose, whereas most of these other problematic teams can at least scrounge up one forward. Among the options to re-sign are veteran UFA’s Blake Comeau and Andrew Cogliano or younger UFA’s Tanner Kero and Justin Dowling. However, it may be easier to re-up an RFA like Jason Dickinson or, with three more games, Nicholas Caamano.
Likelihood of a Trade: Medium. The Stars have a number of options, many of whom will likely re-sign at some point anyhow or else Dallas will have to rebuild their bottom-six from scratch. However, with two slots to fill there is always a chance that acquiring a player could be easier than negotiating a pair of early extensions.
New Jersey Devils
Problem Area: Forward
Internal Options: A rebuilding Devils team has a number of regular forwards who are ineligible for the draft and many others, protected or not, who are restricted free agents. What they lack is many term forwards, especially of the the expendable variety. While New Jersey could go in a few different direction with their protected list, the reality is simply that they have only five draft-eligible forwards who are signed beyond this season and at least four of those are locks to be protected. The x-factor is Andreas Johnsson. The first-year Devil has fallen well short of expectations and it would not be a surprise to see him exposed, leaving the team with just one spot to fill to meet the quota. However, if they are determined to give Johnsson a second chance and not lose him for nothing, then that becomes two slots that must be filled. The other problem in New Jersey is that the team doesn’t want to give Seattle any added incentive to steal some of their promising young players. Michael McLeod, Janne Kuokkanen, Yegor Sharangovich, and Nathan Bastian would all meet the exposure criteria if extended, but it’s safe to assume that the Devils will protect two or three of that group and may not be too excited to lose any of the others. Nick Merkley, who requires seven more games played and a new deal, could be seen as more expendable and may be okay with accepting a quick extension, even if it just for expansion purposes.
Likelihood of a Trade: High. With the possibility that New Jersey could protect Johnsson and, in any scenario, will want to steer the Kraken away from their young forwards if at all possible, the Devils seem like a prime candidate to bring in some outside help with meeting exposure criteria.
San Jose Sharks
Problem Area: Forward
Internal Options: Much like the Stars, the Sharks are not an elite team right now, but possess a solid group of top-six forwards who will all be protected. Also like Dallas though, the team has complete lack of long-term commitment to any forward outside of that group. The only other eligible forward signed beyond this season is Jayden Halbgewachs, who has not played a single NHL game, nevertheless enough to meet the requirement. There is not a great list of internal options to re-sign either. Of the players who would meet exposure criteria with an extension, Patrick Marleau is likely to retire, Marcus Sorensen seems to need a fresh start in free agency, and one of Rudolfs Balcers and Dylan Gambrell is likely to be the seventh forward protected. That really leaves UFA Matt Nieto as the lynchpin. If the Sharks can re-up Nieto and whoever they don’t protect between Balcers and Gambrell, they are good to go. If Nieto isn’t keen to re-sign and if Balcers or Gambrell wish to pursue arbitration, the Sharks will be stuck without any forwards to expose.
Likelihood of a Trade: High. The Sharks are in as tough a position as any team on this list. If left exposed, Washington native Gambrell seems like a very likely pick by Seattle, but San Jose needs to meet the exposure quota all the same. That could involve bringing in one if not two forwards before the draft. There simply aren’t many other options on the roster.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Problem Area: Forward OR Defense (Scheme-Dependent)
Internal Options: It should come as no surprise that a team build entirely on a small, expensive core group and veterans on affordable, one-year deals is not well-prepared for the expansion draft. Of the ten Toronto skaters who currently meet the exposure criteria, four are forwards that will be protected in any scenario and three are defensemen that will be protected in any scenario. This leaves Alex Kerfoot at forward and Justin Holl on defense(with Pierre Engvall as the odd man out will likely be exposed regardless); only one can be protected and the other is the most likely Leaf to be selected. If the Maple Leafs value Holl more than Kerfoot, they will go with eight skaters in their protection list. In this scenario, they will not have any defensemen who meet the exposure criteria. Fortunately, any of RFA Travis Dermott or UFA’s Zach Bogosian or Ben Hutton could re-sign and fill that role. Alternatively, if the team values Kerfoot more than Holl, they will go with the standard 7-3 protection scheme. This would allow them to protect Kerfoot as well as extend and protect others like Zach Hyman, Joe Thornton, or Jason Spezza. Those three would all meet exposure requirements as well with a new deal, but Toronto will not offer them up to Seattle. Wayne Simmonds, Riley Nash, or Alex Galchenyuk could be more likely though. Unfortunately, these are all unrestricted free agents and not as easy to re-sign before the off-season as a restricted free agent. The Leafs could find themselves in a bind as a result.
Likelihood of a Trade: Low. There is still so much to be determined about the Leafs’ approach to the draft and they have options either way and player who would likely be eager to re-sign. It’s not a straightforward situation by any means, but they should be able to figure it out without taking the risk of adding salary that they can’t spare by making a trade.
Problem Area: Forward
Internal Options: The Jets are known for their depth at forward and eight of their top-nine meet the exposure criteria as a result, with RFA Andrew Copp not fitting the bill but almost certain to be protected anyway. The decision for the seventh and final protection slot is likely between the recently-extended Adam Lowry and upstart Mason Appleton. Whoever isn’t protected fills one of the two exposure roles. However, no one else is currently eligible. Extension candidates include UFA’s Mathieu Perreault, Trevor Lewis, and Nate Thompson, but Winnipeg may not necessarily want to commit further to any of those three. The solution: Jansen Harkins is signed through next season and requires just four more games to meet exposure level.
Likelihood of Trade: Low. Just play Harkins and move on. The list of teams in trouble is already long enough.
The Vegas draft taught teams not to make an expansion trade. It’s not worth it. You lose who you lose to Seattle.
Teams are still going to make trades with Seattle because there are players that teams are going to want to keep. I think Nashville makes one to keep their 4 defenseman. I can see Boston making one to prevent the Kraken from taking one of their young defensemen. Tampa Bay is almost guaranteed to make one with Seattle so that the Kraken take a salary off of their books, ie Tyler Johnson.
Bruins will be fine they really only need to protect Carlo and McAvoy maybe some people will also include Grzelcky but I’m fine if they don’t I’m also pretty sure they won’t need to block a goalie because their both free agents and the other two are not available on the forwards side after this season I’m fine only blocking the big 3 and trading DeBrusk so you don’t get nothing for him
I feel like the Bruins don’t want to lose Lauzon. So, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Bruins threw something the Kraken’s way to take someone other than him. Goalie isn’t an issue for the Bruins because they can protect Vladar while exposing Booth. Rask & Halak are both UFA’s & Swayman is exempt. At forward, the Bruins protect Bergeron, Marchand, Pastrnak, Coyle & Smith for sure. That leaves two spots for DeBrusk, Fredric & Ritchie. I doubt they expose Debrusk. They either protect him or trade him.
Nashville doesn’t need to make a deal to keep their top 4 Dmen. No need to protect Duchene or Johansen because Francis would never take on those albatross contracts. At worst they lose Jarnkrok or Sissions in the draft.
I don’t why but I can see Poile protecting Johansen. I wouldn’t but it wouldn’t shock me if he did. If the Preds leave both Johansen & Duchene unprotected, then they protect Jarnkrok.
@case7187, there is the problem. Boston must have a G to expose to the expansion draft.
I think think you’re wrong about Coyle & Smith I think they would be happy to free the from those contracts this season has proven their not worth blocking instead using those for younger players
Also I believe Ritchie is a free agent and Fredric is safe from the draft I could be wrong on these but either way this is just my opinions
Callum Booth will be the VmBoston goalie exposed if they protect Vladar.
@ericl – One scenario I can see play out is that Polie leaves Ellis unprotected and extends Ekholm. Ellis has never been a solid defender and he certainly hasn’t helped a PP that’s been weak for a number of seasons now. I can see kids like Farrance and Del Grecco being able to replace him and I don’t think the trade market for a 5′ 10″ Dman like Ellis is all that great.
They do have one. Callum Booth somehow meets the requirements.
They protect Smith for sure. He’s been playing well. They’ll protect Coyle even though I wouldn’t. The front office values him a lot higher than I do. Frederic has to be protected because he is an upcoming RFA. Ritchie is also an RFA & would have to be protected if the Bruins desire to keep him.
I can’t see the Preds risk losing Ellis for nothing. They’ll be a trade market for him even if it won’t be as big as it was even a year ago. A team like Philadelphia who has all kinds of issues on the back end & haven’t really replaced Niskanen would surely be interested. Even if it is only for a prospect & a pick, I think the Preds would do that before losing him for nothing
I feel like defense is a bigger problem area for Colorado than forward. They have to protect Erik Johnson because of his No-Movement Clause. That leaves them with 2 spots for Makar, Girard, Graves & Toews. They obviously protect Makar, but that still leaves a tough decision between Graves & Toews.
Actually, Colorado could end up exposing both Graves & Toews by protecting Girard. Seattle would be getting a pretty good d-man if they take one of those two. The only way they can protect another d-man is if they can convince Johnson to waive his no-movement to be exposed
Johnson is actually on a modified no trade/movement clause. Not sure if his list has to be submitted before the draft, but usually its before season, if so Seattle is likely not considered at that time. If he had to submit his list preseason, it was submitted before this current season and he could indeed be offered to Seattle because the draft happens before the leagues year resets.
But that would be pretty dirty by the team and I dont see that as Joe’s M.O. but it is legal.
It’s kind of odd only one of these teams listed will have a problem with defense.
A half problem technically.
Considering a team must ice twice as many forwards as defenceman per game… no not really odd.
This is the reason the Canes haven’t resigned Hamilton yet. If he’s a free agent with a handshake deal, you don’t need to protect him and you protect Slavin, Pesce and Bean.
And also why they made the Fleury trade.
Or why the Leafs haven’t resigned Hyman. Or the Oilers haven’t resigned Larsson or Nugent-Hopkins, or Colorado with Landy, or WAS with Ovi, or MTL with Tatar, or STL with Schwartz, or… list is endless. Some will attempt to take advantage, others will just lose them.
Perhaps Dougie is already leaning toward signing with GM Francis and the Kraken for a lucrative deal. He can follow Brind’Amor as they build a good team in Seattle.
Likelihood of Francis taking Duchene or Johansen off the Preds hands? Very low. :/
Unless Nash is handing a VERY pretty return, odds are slim to none for Francis unhandcuffing those contracts.
Which, in the glass half full view, is good as it allows Poile to leave them unprotected so he can protect other players. Kind of a bright side to it……kind of. :/
The Lightning may really shake things up by working a deal with the Kraken to take McDonaugh and T. Johnson and their big contracts to create some cap breathing room for the future. If the Kraken can ice D. Hamilton and McDonaugh on D, they have an amazing foundation. Interesting to see what the would cost the Lightning. Would hate to see the magnificent McDonaugh go, but that contract will choke the Bolts in later years. That is why winning a second cup this year is so critical—it my be the last hurrah.