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 Metro Division protection lists and who could be exposed:
Protection Projection – Forwards(7) – Sebastian Aho, Jordan Staal(NMC), Teuvo Teravainen, Nino Neiderreiter, Vincent Trocheck, Warren Foegele, Andrei Svechnikov
Defense(3) – Jaccob Slavin, Brett Pesce, Jake Bean
Goalie(1) – Alex Nedeljkovic
Exposed – Jesper Fast, Brady Skjei, Morgan Geekie
Francis could be highly motivated to take a valuable piece from his former club, that is why GM Don Waddell will likely protect the 23-year-old Bean (who Francis selected in the first round in 2016) over Skjei, who has three years left at $5.25 million AAV.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Protection Projection – Forwards(7) – Cam Atkinson, Gustav Nyquist, Patrik Laine, Boone Jenner, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Jack Roslovic, Kevin Stenlund
Defense(3) – Seth Jones, Zach Werenski, Vladislav Gavrikov
Goalie(1) – Joonas Korpisalo
Exposed – Max Domi, Dean Kukan
Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen may choose to protect a young forward like Stenlund and expose Domi (who underwent shoulder surgery in June and will be out until December) on the chance that Seattle would not risk selecting an injured player entering the final year of his contract.
New Jersey Devils
Protection Projection – Forwards(7) – Nico Hischier, Andreas Johnsson, Miles Wood, Jesper Bratt, Pavel Zacha, Yegor Sharangovich, Janne Kuokkanen
Defense(3) – Damon Severson, Will Butcher, Jonas Siegenthaler
Goalie(1) – Mackenzie Blackwood
Exposed – Michael Mcleod, Nathan Bastian, PK Subban
The declining skills and $9 million salary will prevent any serious consideration of Seattle claiming the former Norris winner Subban, and GM Tom Fitzgerald will likely opt to protect the younger Siegenthaler, who was signed to a contract extension last week.
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New York Islanders
Protection Projection – Forwards(7) – Matt Barzal, Anders Lee, Brock Nelson, Jordan Eberle, J-G Pageau, Josh Bailey, Anthony Beauvillier
Defense(3) – Ryan Pulock, Adam Pelech, Scott Mayfield
Goalie(1) – Semyon Varlamov
Exposed – Cal Clutterbuck, Leo Komarov, Kieffer Bellows, Nick Leddy
The Isles are one of the clubs more likely to put forth a side deal with Seattle to protect valuable pieces of a team that is a Stanley Cup contender. Reports indicate that GM Lou Lamoriello is trying to trade Leddy before the expansion draft to prevent losing him for nothing, but perhaps a deal with Seattle including a young prospect like Bellows could be possible.
New York Rangers
Protection Projection – Forwards(7) – Artemi Panarin(NMC), Chris Kreider(NMC), Mika Zibanejad(NMC), Ryan Strome, Pavel Buchnevich, Filip Chytil, Brett Howden
Defense(3) – Jacob Trouba(NMC), Ryan Lindgren, Libor Hajek
Goalie(1) – Alexandar Goergiev
Exposed – Anthony Deangelo, Julien Gauthier, Colin Blackwell
The Rangers benefit from having a healthy junk of their future core group (Norris Trophy winner Adam Fox, 2019 second overall pick Kappo Kaako, 2020 top overall pick Alexis Lafreniere, goalie Igor Shesterkin) being exempt, which counterbalances the large number of NMC’s they have. Seattle will likely no do a favor for GM Chris Drury and claim the controversial Deangelo and will opt for a young forward like Gauthier.
Protection Projection – Forwards(7) – Claude Giroux(NMC), Kevin Hayes(NMC), Travis Konecny, Sean Couturier, Oskar Lindblom, Scott Laughton, Nolan Patrick
Defense(3) – Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim, Philippe Myers
Goalie(1) – Carter Hart
Exposed – Jakub Voracek, James van Riemsdyk, Shayne Gostisbehere, Robert Hagg
GM Chuck Fletcher may play on Seattle’s hesitancy to claim veterans with a high AAV and significant term and leave Voracek, JVR and Gostisbehere unprotected. Hagg, who played under Seattle coach Dave Hakstol in Philly might be well suited for a larger role with the expansion franchise.
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Protection Projection – Forwards(7) – Evgeni Malkin(NMC), Sidney Crosby(NMC), Jake Guentzel, Bryan Rust, Brandon Tanev, Kasperi Kapanen, Jared McCann
Defense(3) – Kris Letang(NMC), Brian Dumoulin, Marcus Pettersson
Goalie(1) – Tristan Jarry
Exposed – Jeff Carter, Jason Zucker, Zach Aston-Reese, Michael Matheson
Pittsburgh can take advantage of exposing players on long-term deals (Zucker, Matheson) or veterans reaching the end of their career (Carter) instead of exposing younger players on more economical contracts.
Protection Projection – Forwards(7) – Nicklas Backstrom(NMC), Evgeny Kuznetsov, TJ Oshie, Anthony Mantha, Tom Wilson, Lars Eller, Carl Hagelin
Defense(3) – John Carlson, Dmitry Orlov, Brendan Dillon
Goalie(1) – Ilya Samsonov
Exposed – Vitek Vanecek, Nick Jensen, Michel Kempny, Conor Sheary
The Capitals benefit from not having to protect UFA Alex Ovechkin, but it appears they will lose a good goaltender in Vanecek, who was their primary starter last season.