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. (Note: The clubs released their protected lists on Sunday).
Here are the Central Division protection lists and who they will likely lose on Wednesday:
Protection List – Forwards(7) – Lawson Crouse, Christian Dvorak, Conor Garland, Clayton Keller, Phil Kessel, Johan Larsson, Nick Schmaltz
Defense(3) – Kyle Capobianco, Jakob Chychrun, Oliver Ekman-Larsson
Goalie(1) – Darcy Kuemper
Exposed – Tyler Pitlick, Christian Fischer
Arizona is not a deep club and has only four defensemen who played in the NHL last season under contract. Based on the players exposed, the 24-year-old Fischer (who has struggled the last two years after scoring 15 goals in 2018 and 11 in 2019) would be the best selection for Seattle.
Protection List – Forwards(7) – Henrik Borgstrom, Alex deBrincat, Brandon Hagel, David Kampf, Patrick Kane, Dylan Strome, Jonathan Toews
Defense(3) – Caleb Jones, Connor Murphy, Riley Stillman
Goalie(1) – Kevin Lankinen
Exposed – Brett Connolly, Calvin de Haan, Nikita Zadorov, Adam Gaudette
The Hawks are depending on the Kraken avoiding players with a hefty price tag. De Haan has struggled with injuries since being acquired by Chicago in 2018. Zadorov is an intriguing option and the likely choice, but the big Russian is an arbitration-eligible RFA this season and a UFA in 2022.
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Protection List – Forwards(7) – Andre Burakovsky, Tyson Jost, Nazem Kadri, Nathan MacKinnon, Valeri Nichushkin, Logan O’Connor, Mikko Rantanen
Defense(3) – Samuel Girard, Cale Makar, Devon Toews
Goalie(1) – Philipp Grubauer
Exposed – Joonas Donskoi, JT Compher
The surprise of the Avs protection list is GM Joe Sakic including Kadri (who was suspended in the playoffs for third time in four years) with a year left on his over Compher with two years left at an economical $3.5 million cap hit. The presence of youngster Alex Newhook may make Kadri/Compher expendable.
Protection List – Forwards(7) – Jamie Benn, Radek Faksa, Denis Gurianov, Roope Hintz, Joe Pavelski, Alexander Radulov, Tyler Seguin
Defense(3) – Miro Heiskanen, John Klingberg, Esa Lindell
Goalie(1) – Anton Khudobin
Exposed – Ben Bishop, Joel Hanley, Julius Honka
With Bishop waiving his NMC, the Stars were able to protect Khoudobin, which leaves slim pickings for the Kraken. Francis will likely not take vets like Blake Comeau or Andrej Sekera and opt for the younger Honka, who went to Europe in 2019 before returning last season and playing in the AHL.
Protection List – Forwards(7) – Joel Eriksson Ek, Kevin Fiala, Marcus Foligno, Jordan Greenway, Ryan Hartman, Nico Sturm, Mats Zuccarello
Defense(3) – Jonas Brodin, Matt Dumba, Jared Spurgeon
Goalie(1) – Cam Talbot
Exposed – Victor Rask, Carson Soucy, Nick Bjugstad, Kaapo Kahkonen
The buyout of Ryan Suter and Zach Parise enabled GM Bill Guerin to protect Sturm and Dumba, but the Wild still could potentially lose a solid defender in Soucy (with two years left at $2.75 million) or the 24-year-old Kahkonen, who was left unprotected instead of the aging Talbot.
Protection List – Forwards(3) – Filip Forsberg, Tanner Jeannot, Luke Kunin
Defense(5) – Mattias Ekholm, Dante Fabbro, Roman Josi, Philippe Myers, Alexandre Carrier
Goalie(1) – Juuse Saros
Exposed – Ryan Johansen, Matt Duchene, Colton Sissons
GM David Poile moved out defenseman Ryan Ellis to Philadelphia for Myers and flipped Nolan Patrick to Vegas for the exempt Cody Glass, and was the only team to protect five defensemen. The Preds are not happy with the production from their big-ticket forwards in Johansen and Duchene, but it is unlikely that Seattle will oblige them, making a Sissons or Nick Cousins the possible pick for the Kraken.
St. Louis Blues
Protection List – Forwards(7) – Ivan Barbashev, Jordan Kyrou, Ryan O’Reilly, David Perron, Brayden Schenn, Oskar Sundqvist, Robert Thomas,
Defense(3) – Justin Faulk, Torey Krug, Colton Parayko
Goalie(1) – Jordan Binnington
Exposed – Vladimir Tarasenko, Vince Dunn, Marco Scandella
The exclusion of Tarasenko from the protected list is not surprising, since the sniper has been sidelined for most of the last two seasons with shoulder problems and has two more years at $7.5 million. Dunn, who was frequently included in trade rumors all last season, is 24 and has offensive abilities.
Protection List – Forwards(7) – Kyle Connor, Andrew Copp, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Nikolaj Ehlers, Adam Lowry, Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler
Defense(3) – Josh Morrissey, Neal Pionk, Logan Stanley
Goalie(1) – Connor Hellebuyck
Exposed – Mason Appleton, Dylan Demelo
The Jets opted to protect big blueliner Stanley over the veteran DeMelo (who has three more years at $3 million) after a solid rookie season. Winnipeg is likely to lose Appleton, who was a presence on the Jets third line with Copp and Lowry and scored 12 goals last season.