On Sunday morning, the National Hockey League released the protected and unprotected lists from each of its 30 participating teams in Wednesday evening’s Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft.
The 2017 expansion club Vegas Golden Knights are exempt from this process as the league deemed the team ‘too new’ to be forced to give away one of its players just four full seasons since its inception.
Although not physically participating in the draft, the Golden Knights have been busy over the past 24 hours, however. General Manager Kelly McCrimmon and Co. have already added forward Brett Howden through a trade with the New York Rangers and dealt prospect Cody Glass for former No. 2 overall selection Nolan Patrick. These deals were done as a way of asset management to help alleviate the losses felt by the Rangers, Flyers, and Predators.
When the lists were announced by the league on Sunday morning, shockwaves were felt across the hockey community. Various big-name superstars were left exposed, including St. Louis’ Vladimir Tarasenko, Montreal’s Carey Price, Colorado’s Gabriel Landeskog, Nashville’s Ryan Johansen and Matt Duchene, Calgary’s Mark Giordano, and Columbus’ Max Domi – to name a few.
Of course, as many found out at the 2017 Expansion Draft, a number of teams opted to make side deals in order to hand-pick which player the Golden Knights selected from their unprotected list in exchange for whatever other asset was sent to Vegas by way of trade.
This idea very well may be in effect for a number of the clubs that left big-ticket items on their ‘available’ sheets heading into the week of the draft. Again, this process did not go over particularly well for some clubs in 2017 – see the Florida Panthers for more.
In Winnipeg, all the talk leading up to the Expansion Draft has surrounded that of defencemen, and whom the Jets would likely lose to Seattle. Yes, the opportunity is there for the Kraken to select Mason Appleton, Jansen Harkins, or even UFA Paul Stastny, but the most intriguing names were to be Logan Stanley or Dylan DeMelo on the team’s back-end.
With Neal Pionk and Josh Morrissey locked in as the No. 1 and 2 defencemen protected on the team, Winnipeg opted to select Stanley as its third protected blueliner, thus dangling DeMelo as available and for the taking.
Catching many off-guard, as DeMelo had been deemed the ‘perfect fit’ as a right-side partner for the top-pairing alongside Morrissey, general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff clearly had other priorities. Do they involve a side deal to ensure DeMelo stays in Winnipeg? Maybe? That will all come to light on Wednesday.
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Stanley, 23, spent his first year with the Jets in 2020-21 and left a lasting impression on the mind of head coach Paul Maurice and Cheveldayoff. Enough so that the duo opted to choose the menacing 6-foot-7 homegrown talent over that of the stable DeMelo. Although his advanced statistics and analytics were not as favourable as those of the elder DeMelo, Stanley was able to contribute more to the offence and the punishing defensive style of game that the Jets have certainly been missing since the departure of Dustin Byfuglien.
Making the team out of training camp in 2021, the former 18th overall selection (2016 NHL Draft) suited up in 37 games for Winnipeg, scoring once and adding three assist and 26 penalty minutes. He finished the year a +13 (first among Winnipeg’s defencemen), before scoring twice and adding an assist in eight postseason contests.
“It obviously was my goal to get in the lineup and be a part of this team this year,” Stanley said of his season. “That was something I was thinking about coming into camp, but we had a lot of bodies at first in training camp. We had eight guys on one-way deals. I just wanted to come in and work hard and see what I could do and it was definitely nice to get in some games this year and it’s definitely nice to try and help the team win in the playoffs.”
With a host of options available for Ron Francis to sift through, various scenarios will most certainly play out over and over in advance of Wednesday’s event. Teams will not be allowed to announce official trades in the mean-time, however, handshake-styled deals will be made official on draft day as the Kraken announce their respective selections.