Expansion Plan: Projecting the Nashville Predators’ protection list for the 2021 expansion draft

Expect more of the same from Nashville in the next round of expansion, particularly as the blueline remains the foundation for success.
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Welcome to the Expansion Plan, our summer series projecting the protected lists for the 30 NHL franchises who will participate in the June 2021 Expansion Draft.

Over the next two seasons, every team – save the Vegas Golden Knights, who will be exempt – will be planning for the arrival of the NHL’s 32nd franchise and Seattle GM Ron Francis will begin to consider the options for his inaugural roster. As such, over the course of the next 30 days, we will profile one team, in alphabetical order, and forecast their potential list of protections and exposures, as well as address each team’s expansion strategy, no-brainers, tough decisions and what lessons they learned from the 2017 expansion process.

This exercise requires some important ground rules. The 2021 Expansion Draft will follow the same rules as the 2017 Expansion Draft, but some assumptions are necessary. These are the guidelines followed:

  • No pre-draft trades
  • All no-movement clauses are honored
  • Players who will become restricted free agents in 2020 or 2021 remain with current teams
  • Players who will become unrestricted free agents in 2020 or 2021 either remain with current teams or are left off lists entirely (eg. Nicklas Backstrom protected by the Washington Capitals, Tyson Barrie not protected by Toronto Maple Leafs or any other team.)

• • • 

While other GMs were hesitant to let talent walk entering the expansion draft, Predators GM David Poile was wise enough to let the chips fall where they may. Thus, he protected the most important part of his franchise, his uber-talented defense corps, and let the Golden Knights pick who they pleased from the rest of his group. Among those exposed were Craig Smith, Colin Wilson, Colton Sissons and James Neal, who was the player picked from the Nashville roster. But what Poile didn’t do in order to protect any of those players is pay up in any way.

Chances are that the more things change, the more they’re going to stay the same, too. With the 2021 expansion draft in the offing, Poile and the Predators still have one of the best defense corps in the league despite sending former Norris Trophy winner P.K. Subban to the New Jersey Devils earlier this summer. But that doesn’t for one second mean Poile is going to send some talent to Seattle just to protect some of his players. If anything, he’ll expose a number of talented forwards and let the NHL’s 32nd franchise take who they please. Better to lose one player than two.

PROTECTED (4F, 4D, 1G):
Forwards:

  • Matt Duchene
  • Ryan Johansen
  • Filip Forsberg
  • Viktor Arvidsson

Defensemen:

  • Ryan Ellis
  • Roman Josi
  • Mattias Ekholm
  • Dante Fabbro

Goaltenders:

  • Juuse Saros

NOTABLE EXPOSURES: Kyle Turris, Colton Sissons, Calle Jarnkrok, Steven Santini

STRATEGY: There is so much talent on the blueline and it’s what drives the Predators to success, so protecting four defenders only makes sense. Between Ellis, Josi and Ekholm, there’s a foundation upon which a perennial playoff contender can be built, and Fabbro’s upside is significant. Matter of fact, he’s the reason Subban was able to be moved without so much as a second thought. Up front, the choices are rather obvious, particularly as Forsberg and Arvidsson as the drivers.

Rinne’s name not appearing anywhere above might give some pause, but keep in mind that the longtime Nashville netminder will have celebrated his 38th birthday by June 2021 and will be an unrestricted free agent. If the Predators want to bring him back for one last hurrah as a second-stringer, that’s a possibility, but he’s not someone Seattle will target even if he’s exposed.

THE NO BRAINER: It’s not a player but the draft scheme. Protecting four defensemen is the best way for the Predators to ensure they leave the 2021 draft with the best chance at continued success. The bread and butter of the franchise has long been its defensive play, and that’s not going to end any time soon.

THE TOUGH DECISION: There are some serious ifs-and-buts here, but what if Kyle Turris rebounds after his strong showing at the worlds and rounds into form in Nashville? The Predators are a safe bet to protect only four forwards, so who is the odd man out? That might come down to Duchene and Johansen, with whoever is the better fit for first-line duty getting the protection.

LESSON LEARNED: Seattle is going to take the best player that Nashville exposes, if only because Nashville is going to have to expose a player that is of considerable quality. Be prepared to lose a useful hand.

Up Next: New Jersey Devils

Previous:Anaheim Ducks | Arizona CoyotesBoston Bruins | Buffalo Sabres | Calgary Flames | Carolina Hurricanes | Chicago Blackhawks | Colorado Avalanche | Columbus Blue Jackets | Dallas Stars | Detroit Red Wings | Edmonton Oilers | Florida Panthers | Los Angeles Kings | Minnesota Wild | Montreal Canadiens

(All salary cap information via CapFriendly)

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