Expansion Plan: Projecting the Vancouver Canucks' protection list for the 2021 expansion draft

The Vancouver Canucks are still rebuilding. But unlike other teams in the same situation, they're unlikely to lose an important piece, instead sitting with an opportunity to shed some salary.
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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.)

• • • 

The Vancouver Canucks have been in a years-long rebuild, have failed to win a playoff series since 2011 and have missed the playoffs in five of the past six years. But the 2021 expansion draft could help ease the pain of past mistakes, giving the Canucks some cap relief in the process.

In a perfect world, Seattle would take a big-money forward off Vancouver's hands and add some additional cap relief to move the rebuild along. In Loui Eriksson's case, he'll only have one year remaining on his deal at $6 million and is in desperate need of a new home. But there's also Jay Beagle and Antoine Roussel, who, while on more cap-friendly $3-million deals until 2022, the Canucks would surely love to move on from. Add in Micheal Ferland's $3.5-million salary until 2023 and there's reason to believe Vancouver will need some room to sign young talent in the coming seasons.

Only seven players are signed past 2020-21, meaning Vancouver's roster could end up looking much different come the expansion draft. If all goes to plan, the Canucks will be littered with talented youngsters capable of making the group a contender, but there are a bunch of "what ifs." Either way, the Canucks – a team in close proximity that will become very familiar with the NHL's 32nd club in the future – will have a few options they would be glad to unload.

PROTECTED (7F, 3D, 1G):
Forwards:

  • Bo Horvat
  • J.T. Miller
  • Jake Virtanen
  • Elias Pettersson
  • Adam Gaudette
  • Brock Boeser
  • Micheal Ferland

Defensemen:

  • Tyler Myers
  • Olli Juolevi
  • Troy Stecher

Goaltender:

  • Thatcher Demko

NOTABLE EXPOSURES: Loui Eriksson, Jay Beagle, Antoine Roussel

STRATEGY: Rebuilds are slow, and Canucks fans know that all too well, but Vancouver has been able to draft key assets. Bo Horvat, Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser (who is still waiting for his next contract) are in charge of moving the team forward and are the backbone of the rebuild.

The Canucks made a couple of big moves this summer, adding forward J.T. Miller from the Tampa Bay Lightning and defenseman Tyler Myers through free agency. Both are signed well past the expansion draft date and won't be going anywhere. Adam Gaudette and Jake Virtanen are set to become RFAs next summer, but their value in filling out depth roles is vital for Vancouver's long-term success, particularly given the money that will be spent on Boeser and Pettersson.

One intriguing case is that of Micheal Ferland. It has been reported that Ferland, who signed a four-year deal with Vancouver this summer, has agreed to be exposed in 2021, just as his NMC comes to a close. That could make this interesting, but given the Canucks' lack of players signed past 2021 – Ferland is one of few who is – there's a chance he goes on a tear and makes it challenging to let him go.

Of note, while there's no guarantee he'll still be as effective at 35, defenseman Alex Edler will be a UFA in 2021, meaning he won't have to be protected. Seattle could still pick him, but it's a big risk to pick a guy who could walk away weeks later. So, consider him safe.

THE NO BRAINER: At present, Thatcher Demko is the only goaltender on the roster who meets exposure requirements, but count on his protection. Current starting goalie Jakob Markstrom likely won't be around then as he'll still be in the market for a starting spot, something Vancouver will likely hand to Demko in 2020-21. Better yet, the Canucks could sign Markstrom for an extra season and expose him instead.

THE TOUGH DECISION: In reality, the toughest decision is figuring out what it would take to convince Seattle to take Eriksson. Beyond that, it's assessing what Vancouver's blueline situation will be in two years' time. Quinn Hughes and Jett Woo are exempt and are future cornerstones. Olli Juolevi has been slow to develop and knee surgery in December limited him to just 18 AHL games last season, but he's still an important piece of the future. Vancouver has time to address their defensive needs, but Juolevi will need a big 2019-20 if he wants to earn protection.

LESSON LEARNED: It's not worth overpaying to fill needs. Yes, you don't see star players hit the free-agent market each summer, but that doesn't mean you need to overpay for bottom-six talent. Between Beagle, Eriksson and Roussel, the Canucks paid $12 million for 23 goals last season. The Canucks wouldn't have to do salary cap gymnastics to sign Boeser this summer if they hadn't overpaid for the trio. As the Canucks continue to rebuild, look for the team to make smarter cap choices and focus more on developing young talent.

Up Next: Washington Capitals

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 | Nashville Predators | New Jersey Devils | New York Islanders | New York Rangers | Ottawa Senators | Philadelphia Flyers | Pittsburgh Penguins| San Jose Sharks | St. Louis Blues | Tampa Bay Lightning | Toronto Maple Leafs

(All salary cap information via CapFriendly)

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