I’m not sure about you guys, but I think an expansion draft every season would be pretty damn exciting.
Even going through relentless scenarios and countless mock drafts, teams continue to surprise. The protected lists for the Seattle Kraken expansion draft were revealed Sunday and there were some surprises – big names were made available and one team even protected five defensemen.
Here are the most curious and interesting decisions that have been made. The full list of available and protected lists can be found here.
GM Marc Bergevin loves rolling the dice, and he’s doing it again leaving Carey Price available for the Kraken. This was, by far, the most interesting decision when the protected lists were released even though there were a few reports from the night before that Price had waived his no-move clause so the Habs could protect Jake Allen. It should be noted Price, who backstopped the Habs to the Stanley Cup Finals and was definitely their MVP, may miss significant time with potential knee surgery and/or a hip issue, according to The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun.
The Habs are hoping the Kraken pass on Price for at least two reasons: one, that Price’s $10.5-million cap hit with five years remaining is prohibitively expensive in a flat-cap environment and notwithstanding his playoff performance has been very average over the past few seasons; and, two, that the Kraken wants to be good right from the jump and an injured Price won’t help them do that, especially considering the quality of goalies available.
The Cup finalist Habs now face the prospect of starting the season without Price and captain Shea Weber… and perhaps forever. We’ve seen teams reset, re-tool, re-build – whatever “re-” you want to use – following tough losses in the Finals, but are we witnessing a massive turning point in the Habs’ franchise direction?
Tampa Bay Lightning
Considering how many quality forwards the Lightning were going to lose to free agency and the expansion draft, the most obvious path would be to protect as many of them as they could. But the Lightning zigged when everyone else zagged, choosing to protect Erik Cernak and keep their defensive corps intact.
It makes a lot of sense; they have the best goalie in the league and if they’re going to lose a forward anyway, why not double down and be the hardest team to score against? That also implies the Lightning are okay being stuck with Tyler Johnson’s contract and believe that the potential loss of either Ondrej Palat or Yanni Gourde, both good two-way players and excellent picks for the Kraken, can be offset by a good defense and maybe a return to form by Johnson.
Toronto Maple Leafs
It seems like a win-win situation for the Leafs. If the Kraken pick Alex Kerfoot, Jared McCann could potentially be the third-line center, and his speed and skill match the Leafs’ style. If the Kraken pick neither, then the Leafs have added depth up front and it will take some pressure off their young stars and aging veterans.
The Leafs made an interesting decision to acquire a player yet also make them available as an insurance policy when most teams were trying to move players out so they could make their own decisions easier (Ryan Graves) or get an asset for a player they may otherwise likely lose (Jason Dickinson). And when teams did acquire players, they made sure to protect them (Adin Hill). It’s an interesting strategy by the Leafs, which cost them Filip Hallander and a low pick, but there’s additional risk in being wrong in their value judgments: Is Justin Holl really that valuable? Are McCann and Kerfoot really interchangeable?
It’s not unprecedented to protect five defensemen – the Islanders did it in the Vegas draft but it cost them two high picks – but the Preds’ timing is curious. Trading Ryan Ellis for Philippe Myers and Nolan Patrick saved them some money, and flipping Patrick for Cody Glass also made sense because Glass is exempt from the draft and he’s considered the better playmaker on a team that desperately needs it.
But it was the Flyers who win in this deal because they get the best player and trading Patrick means one fewer player they have to think about protecting (and potentially losing for nothing). There are likely more moves to come with the Preds, but you wonder why they couldn’t have waited until after the Seattle draft – when more information is available – to trade Ellis if they always intended on protecting five defensemen. Making Calle Jarnkrok, Colton Sissons, Nick Cousins and Yakov Trenin available while protecting Tanner Jeannot, an undrafted forward who has just 15 games of NHL experience and an unlikely Kraken target, was also a curious decision, though it’s obvious they did it because they believe in Jeannot’s long-term contributions.
New York Islanders
To be fair, the Isles have done this before, but it was entirely under different circumstances. Josh Bailey was again left available in the expansion draft, repeating his experience in 2017 when then-GM Garth Snow opted to protect five defensemen.
It’s a curious decision because the Isles clearly made a decision in picking style over talent, keeping the “Identity Line” intact by protecting Matt Martin and Cal Clutterbuck and ignoring the team-leading 261 points Bailey had amassed for the Isles over the past five seasons. This decision also means Jordan Eberle, who’s tied with Mathew Barzal with 76 goals over the past four seasons, is also exposed, and the Kraken will get to pick between two 31-year-old, proven second-line players with identical cap hits, each with three years remaining.
The assumption was that Jakub Voracek was the only high-priced veteran the Flyers were willing to expose in the expansion draft, and trading Patrick seemed like an additional sign they intended to protect James van Riemsdyk, who was fifth in the league in power-play goals.
By making van Riemsdyk available in addition to Voracek, it also allowed the Flyers to protect another young forward on a cheaper contract with a long-term future with the club – in this case Nicolas Aube-Kubel – and if the Kraken pick one of either Voracek or van Riemsdyk, it still leaves the Flyers with a veteran scorer they can trade later.
The decision to make Matt Murray available is a sign the Sens don’t have much confidence in him, although it doesn’t necessarily mean they regret giving him $25-million dollars – they’ll still have to reach the cap floor somehow.
But with five goalies who meet exposure requirements, the Sens protected Filip Gustavsson instead, feeling convinced his 34-33-7 record and .894 Sv% in 75 games in the American League and a nine-game stint with the big club last season (5-1-2, .933 Sv%, 2.16 GAA) had shown enough to be their future starter. The highest-ranked European goalie in the 2016 draft and part of the haul the Sens received for trading Derick Brassard to the Penguins, Gustavsson will be penciled in as the starter if Murray is picked or, at worst, get a chance to win the starting job.
Columbus Blue Jackets
From the Jackets’ point of view, protecting a player making $6 million in the final year of his contract whom they don’t seem keen on re-signing makes a lot of sense. Still, if the Kraken takes Max Domi, it would represent a putrid return – 24 points, minus-18 rating, a few healthy scratches and still a gaping hole at center – for Josh Anderson, who became a key player in the Habs’ playoff run.
The Jackets could potentially lose Domi for nothing, but he’s also just 26 years old with some playmaking ability, something they sorely need. Poor trades have hurt the Jackets’ competitiveness over the past two seasons but maybe some more patience with Domi could turn him into a trade piece if they really don’t want to re-sign him.