With the 2020-21 regular season and Stanley Cup Playoffs in the rearview mirror, the 31 NHL clubs are prepping for the NHL Draft and the start of free agency later this month, but first will have to submit protection lists for the Seattle expansion draft on July 21.
A number of factors will go into who teams will protect, including players that have to be sheltered due to their no-movement clauses and those that might be exposed because of a side agreement made between a team and Seattle GM Ron Francis.
There is no way to know if those understandings have been made until the protection lists have been submitted to the league on Saturday, so we will take a look at who each team may lose based on which players are protected.
Here are the likely Atlantic Division protection lists and who could be exposed:
Protection Projection – Forwards(7) – Patrice Bergeron(NMC), David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand(NMC), Charlie Coyle(NMC), Jake Debrusk, Craig Smith, Nick Ritchie
Defense(3) – Charlie McAvoy, Matt Grzelcyk, Brandon Carlo
Goalie(1) – Daniel Vladar
Exposed – Ondrej Kase, Trent Frederic, Jeremy Lauzon
Boston benefits from having prominent players not needing protection as UFA’s (David Krejci, Taylor Hall, Tuukka Rask), but could still lose a former first-rounder in Frederic or a 24-year-old blueliner in Lauzon.
Protection Projection – Forward(7) – Jack Eichel, Jeff Skinner(NMC), Sam Reinhart, Victor Olofsson, Anders Bjork, Casey Mittelstadt, Tage Thompson.
Defense(3) – Rasmus Ristolainen, Rasmus Dahlin, Henri Jokiharju.
Goalie(1) – Linus Ullmark
Exposed – Kyle Okposo, Rasmus Asplund, Will Borgen
Sabres protection list could change based on potential trades of Eichel, Reinhart or Ristolainen, but Okposo will be exposed based on his $6 million cap hit. Both Asplund and Borgen are young and have shown potential, and could be attractive to the expansion Kraken.
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Detroit Red Wings
Protection Projection – Forwards(7) – Dylan Larkin, Jakub Vrana, Robby Fabbri, Tyler Bertuzzi, Vladislav Namestnikov, Adam Erne, Givani Smith
Defense(3) – Dennis Cholowski, Gustav Lindstrom, Filip Hronek
Goalie(1) – Thomas Greiss
Exposed – Frans Nielsen, Richard Panik, Michael Rasmussen, Troy Stecher
GM Steve Yzerman will opt for keeping younger players like Erne, Smith, and Lindstrom who have limited success at the NHL level. The only possible exception is Rasmussen, a former first-round pick who has not lived up to expectations.
Protection Projection – Forwards(7) – Aleksander Barkov, Patric Hornqvist, Jonathan Huberdeau(NMC), Sam Bennett, Frank Vatrano, Anthony Duclair, Carter Verhaeghe.
Defense(3) – Aaron Ekblad, Keith Yandle(NMC), MacKenzie Weegar
Goalie(1) – Sergei Bobrovsky(NMC)
Exposed – Markus Nutivaara, Radko Gudas, Noel Acciari.
Barring the unforeseen trade of Yandle after being benched in the playoffs, the Panthers are likely to lose a veteran depth D to Seattle.
Protection Projection – Forwards(7) – Jonathan Drouin, Josh Anderson, Tyler Toffoli, Brendan Gallagher(NMC), Artturi Lehkonen, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Jake Evans
Defense(3) – Jeff Petry(NMC), Ben Chiarot, Joel Edmundson
Goalie(1) – Carey Price(NMC)
Exposed – Paul Byron, Shea Weber, Jake Allen
Habs GM Marc Bergevin may gamble that the likelihood of Seattle selecting an experienced goalie in Allen (under contract for two more years at $2.875 million) is more enticing than the prospect of picking the 35-year-old Weber, who was a rock on the Montreal blueline during their Cup run but has five more years left at nearly $8 million per season.
Protection Projection – Forwards(7) – Evgeni Dadonov, Colin White, Connor Brown, Chris Tierney, Nick Paul, Brady Tkachuk, Drake Batherson
Defense(3) – Thomas Chabot, Josh Brown, Victor Mete
Goalie(1) – Filip Gustavsson
Exposed – Austin Watson, Logan Brown, Nikita Zaitsev, Matt Murray
The Sens may gamble that Seattle will choose not to select two-time Cup winner Murray after an off year and making $6.25 million for the next three years and choose to protect one of their young goalies.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Protection Projection – Forwards(7) – Nikita Kucherov(NMC), Steven Stamkos(NMC), Brayden Point, Ondrej Palat, Yanni Gourde, Anthony Cirelli, Alex Killorn
Defense(3) – Victor Hedman(NMC), Mikhail Sergachev, Erik Cernak
Goalie(1) – Andrei Vasilevskiy
Exposed – Patrick Maroon, Mathieu Joseph, Ryan McDonagh, Cal Foote
With such a deep reservoir of talent exposed in the expansion draft, everything points to GM Julien Brisebois offering up a couple of young prospects to Seattle to prevent Francis from selecting an important veteran like McDonagh off the roster of the two-time Cup Champion.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Protection Projection – Skaters(8) – Auston Matthews, John Tavares(NMC), Mitch Marner, William Nylander, Morgan Rielly, Jake Muzzin, TJ Brodie, Justin Holl
Goalie(1) – Jack Campbell
Exposed – Alex Kerfoot, Pierre Engvall, Travis Dermott
Leafs are likely to be one of the few teams to opt to protect eight skaters with their core four forwards and their top two pairings on D. Kerfoot (from Western Canada) and Dermott (recently signed to a two-year, $3 million extension) are the most attractive options for the Kraken.