The Player Every NHL Team Is Most Likely to Lose to the Expansion Draft

Jonathan Willis@jonathanwillisNHL National ColumnistSeptember 23, 2016

The Player Every NHL Team Is Most Likely to Lose to the Expansion Draft

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    Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

    The expansion draft, which will create an NHL team in Las Vegas, is set to take place in June 2017.

    That’s far enough down the line to know lots will change between now and then, but it’s also close enough to take a look at the players teams should be thinking about protecting and which teams are in trouble to estimate what a constructed Las Vegas roster might look like.

    That’s what we’ve endeavoured to do here.

    For each team, we’ve provided a capsule evaluation of its position heading into an expansion draft. This is going to change as teams make moves—the Pittsburgh Penguins obviously won’t be exposing goaltender Matt Murray, for example, but that's something they’re currently required to do. So rather than try to project those moves, we’re looking at each club’s real-world position.

    Based on the roster today, we also project each team’s protected list.

    On the Las Vegas side, we look at how the team could turn each situation to its further advantage before listing the players it would select from our projected lists. After all, 30 teams are considered, so we also include our hypothetical Las Vegas depth chart.

    General Fanager was the source of all financial and draft eligibility information, and that site's expansion draft tool was invaluable in this process. We don’t list players who are ineligible here, but players with a no-move clause are marked with an asterisk to indicate their teams must include them on their protected lists unless that clause is waived. With a few exceptions, we have assumed such players will not be willing to join an expansion team.

    Read on to see which players we think your teams should protect and which ones they stand to lose to the NHL's newest club.

Anaheim Ducks

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    Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

    Anaheim’s Situation: The Anaheim Ducks have incredible depth on their blue line, and that’s a bad thing for this expansion format. Anaheim must protect Kevin Bieksa, and if the team takes a 7-3-1 approach, it would be exposing several excellent rearguards. Our guess is the team opts to protect eight skaters, allowing protection of an extra defenceman, but that also means opening up a number of good forwards.

    Projected Protected List (8-1): Corey Perry*, Ryan Getzlaf*, Ryan Kesler*, Rickard Rakell, Kevin Bieksa*, Sami Vatanen, Cam Fowler, Hampus Lindholm and John Gibson.

    Las Vegas Evaluation: The Ducks have a bunch of good players, so there may be an opportunity to squeeze the team for prospects or draft picks in exchange for passing on some specific selection. Andrew Cogliano would be an ice addition but is only one year away from free agency. More appealing are young defenders Simon Despres and Josh Manson, both under contract for a long time.

    Las Vegas Selects: Jakob Silfverberg. It’s a peculiarity of this draft format that most teams will have defencemen exposed, but finding young, offensive forwards under team control for years is going to be tough. Jakob Silfverberg is a two-way threat in the heart of his career coming off a 20-goal season.

Arizona Coyotes

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    Arizona’s Situation: The Arizona Coyotes are in great shape. Their best young players are ineligible for the most part, and they have a pile of pending free agents, something that allows them to protect their top four on defence without being overly exposed. Pending free agent Michael Stone seems a lock to be re-upped, and we have made that assumption here.

    Projected Protected List (8-1): Jamie McGinn, Tobias Rieder, Anthony Duclair, Jordan Martinook, Alex Goligoski*, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Michael Stone, Connor Murphy and Louis Domingue.

    Las Vegas Evaluation: There isn’t much here to work with here. There are some depth defenders and maybes—such as Luke Schenn and Jarred Tinordi—and for the most part, the list is unappealing.

    Las Vegas Selects: Brad Richardson. Brad Richardson is in his early 30s and will only be a year away from free agency at the time of the draft, so his long-term value is negligible. He is, however, a versatile third-line forward with two-way ability who could help Las Vegas in Year 1.

Boston Bruins

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    Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

    Boston’s Situation: The Boston Bruins aren’t in a bad position for next summer’s draft. There’s an obvious need for help on the club’s blue line in the here and now, but that also means Boston doesn’t have to sweat losing a crucial defenceman. The core forward group—we assume it includes pending free agent Brad Marchand—could be protected in its entirety.

    Projected Protected List (7-3-1): David Krejci*, Patrice Bergeron*, David Backes*, Brad Marchand, Matt Beleskey, Ryan Spooner, David Pastrnak, Zdeno Chara*, Torey Krug and Colin Miller.

    Las Vegas Evaluation: Depth defenders such as Adam McQuaid and Kevan Miller are overpaid and the wrong age for an expansion team. Malcolm Subban is a good goalie prospect, but almost every team is being forced to expose a good goalie prospect. A depth forward makes the most sense here.

    Las Vegas Selects: Jimmy Hayes. Jimmy Hayes is only a year away from free agency, limiting his value, but he’s a big, middle-six winger who would be young enough to be with the team for a while if he were to re-sign.

Buffalo Sabres

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    Ann Heisenfelt/Associated Press

    Buffalo’s Situation: The Buffalo Sabres have a bunch of key players, including Jack Eichel, who aren’t eligible for the expansion draft. Others, including Dmitry Kulikov, are bound for free agency and may or may not be re-signed. Zach Bogosian’s no-move clause compels Buffalo to spend a spot shielding a defenceman it might rather expose, but even so, the club is in decent shape. If Evander Kane is still a Sabre, it’s certainly possible he could be exposed.

    Projected Protected List (7-3-1): Kyle Okposo*, Ryan O’Reilly, Evander Kane, Tyler Ennis, Marcus Foligno, Zemgus Girgensons, Johan Larsson, Zach Bogosian*, Jake McCabe, Rasmus Ristolainen and Robin Lehner.

    Las Vegas Evaluation: Matt Moulson is somewhat tempting when you take the lack of offensive talent available into account, but given his contract, the Sabres would probably pay to have him taken off their hands. This draft isn’t about doing favours for other teams. Someone such as Nicolas Deslauriers or William Carrier would be more intriguing if Vegas opts to nab a forward here. 

    Las Vegas Selects: Linus Ullmark. There are plenty of goalies available, but Linus Ullmark is special because as long as he plays under 40 games next season, he could be sent to the minors in 2017-18 without having to clear waivers, per CapFriendly. With the vast majority of available players needing to clear waivers to be sent down, and with Vegas adding 30 players to its roster, that gives him value.

Calgary Flames

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    Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports

    Calgary’s Situation: The Calgary Flames are in pretty decent shape for the looming expansion draft. The team only has three particularly dear defenceman eligible, which gives it the luxury of shielding most of its forward core. Additionally, with both of its NHL goaltenders bound for free agency, Calgary has flexibility in net.

    Projected Protected List (7-3-1): Sean Monahan, Troy Brouwer, Michael Frolik, Johnny Gaudreau, Sam Bennett, Micheal Ferland, Mark Giordano, Dougie Hamilton, TJ Brodie and Brian Elliott.

    Las Vegas Evaluation: There are a few veterans kicking around the organization who might be useful. Matt Stajan, Lance Bouma and Alex Chiasson aren’t exciting, but they can play NHL minutes, and there will be a need for that. Still, defenceman Jyrki Jokipakka is probably the most interesting of the team’s NHLers; the only problem is there is a bunch of decent, young, left-shot defenders likely to be available.

    Las Vegas Selects: Hunter Shinkaruk. Calgary has a few high draft picks it will need to make decisions on, and Hunter Shinkaruak (62GP, 27-24-51 in the AHL last year) is probably the most enticing from a Vegas standpoint. The 2013 first-round pick will only be 22 when the draft rolls around, young enough to still have upside.

Carolina Hurricanes

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    Carolina’s Situation: The Carolina Hurricanes have a built-in advantage when it comes to the expansion draft because so many of their young defencemen are ineligible. Noah Hanifin, Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce are all important NHLers, and they are all protected automatically. This should allow Carolina to shield its best forwards without opening up any weaknesses on the back end.

    Projected Protected List (7-3-1): Jordan Staal, Jeff Skinner, Victor Rask, Elias Lindholm, Andrej Nestrasil, Teuvo Teravainen, Phillip Di Giuseppe, Justin Faulk, Ryan Murphy, Trevor Carrick and Eddie Lack.

    Las Vegas Evaluation: There aren’t any defencemen of particular note on the blue line, so those needs will be filled elsewhere. Ditto in net, where the 32-year-old Cam Ward’s age and contract make him a poor fit for an expansion franchise. That leaves the forwards virtually by default, with most of the options being second-tier youngsters who are more suspect than prospect.

    Las Vegas Selects: Lee Stempniak. As with Arizona, the play here is to take on a versatile, useful veteran for Year 1 rather than trying to find a longer-term fit. Lee Stempniak could add some much-needed offence and play any role; his coach should love him. He’s bound for free agency in 2018 but would probably retain enough value to fetch a draft pick at the trade deadline.

Chicago Blackhawks

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    Chicago’s Situation: With all of the Chicago Blackhawks' no-move clauses, the team has little flexibility for an expansion draft. Their first eight protected spots are already spoken for. The only choice to make is whether to protect a defenceman or a trio of forwards, with the desire to keep Trevor van Riemsdyk likely being factor there. That’s the bad news.

    The good news is the Blackhawks, more than any other NHL team, have been forced to lean on an exceptional core and surround it with replaceable pieces. Expansion will hurt, but it is going to hurt a lot less than the simple act of getting under the salary cap has the last few seasons.

    Projected Protected List (8-1): Patrick Kane*, Jonathan Toews*, Marian Hossa*, Artem Anisimov*, Brent Seabrook*, Duncan Keith*, Niklas Hjalmarsson*, Corey Crawford* and Trevor van Riemsdyk.

    Las Vegas Evaluation: Marcus Kruger is tempting given his age, experience and the dearth of quality centres available in this draft. However, his iffy contract and Chicago’s constant salary-cap pressure means he’s likely to be available in trade post-draft anyway. The Blackhawks have been so ravaged by the cap that the options here are less tempting than one would expect from such a successful club.

    Las Vegas Selects: Ville Pokka. Right-shooting defenceman Ville Pokka will be 23 years of age and coming off his third season in North America. He put up 45 points in the AHL last year and could be a long-term fixture on the blue line.

Colorado Avalanche

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    Colorado’s Situation: The Colorado Avalanche haven’t had a lot of on-ice success in the past few years, but they’re surprisingly vulnerable to an expansion draft all the same thanks to a lot of young players with just enough experience to be eligible for selection. There is some flexibility here in terms of whether the Avs want to protect more than three defencemen, but with its best assets residing up front, it makes more sense to take a 7-3-1 approach.

    The Avs are one of several teams that may feel the need to make a move in net prior to the draft.

    Projected Protected List (7-3-1): Nathan MacKinnon, Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog, Carl Soderberg, Joe Colborne, Blake Comeau, Mikhail Grigorenko, Erik Johnson*, Francois Beauchemin*, Tyson Barrie and Semyon Varlamov.

    Las Vegas Evaluation: Colorado has a bunch of intriguing possibilities on the back end. Eric Gelinas and Patrick Wiercioch are both competent young NHL defencemen, but potentially even more attractive is goaltender Calvin Pickard. Not only did Pickard post a .922 save percentage over 20 games last season, but he’s only going to be 25 years old when the draft rolls around.

    Las Vegas Selects: Nikita Zadorov. This was not an easy choice, but there are other goalies on the selection list, and it generally isn’t too hard to find a No. 5 defenceman in free agency or via trade. That makes taking a home run swing on Nikita Zadorov the decision here. Drafted 16th overall in 2013, the 6’5” defenceman may end up being a bust, but he could be much more than that.

Columbus Blue Jackets

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    Columbus’ Situation: The Columbus Blue Jackets are in a bad spot. It’s probably reasonable to assume that David Clarkson can be compelled to waive his no-move clause given the virtual certainty he won’t be picked, but even so, Columbus will struggle to protect all its forwards.

    Nor is the problem solely up front. There will be a painful choice to be made between Jack Johnson and David Savard. Analytics would suggest it isn’t that difficult of a decision, but Johnson continues to hold cachet in the eyes of hockey people. The Jackets’ stock of young goalies will also be open to raiding.

    Projected Protected List (7-3-1): Brandon Dubinsky*, Nick Foligno*, Scott Hartnell*, Brandon Saad, Cam Atkinson, Boone Jenner, Alex Wennberg, Seth Jones, Jack Johnson, Ryan Murray and Sergei Bobrovsky.

    Las Vegas Evaluation: There are some interesting possibilities here. William Karlsson, a young centre, is going to be particularly difficult to pass up. He had 20 points last year, will be only 24 at the time of the draft and will be a restricted free agent when his modest $1 million contract ends in 2018.

    Las Vegas Selects: David Savard. It’s extremely difficult to find right-shooting defencemen at the best of times. Savard will be 26 by next June, is signed long term at a reasonable amount and combines a 6’2”, 227-pound frame with offensive ability.

Dallas Stars

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    Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

    Dallas’ Situation: The Dallas Stars shed veteran defencemen like it was going out of fashion this summer and have four significant free agents up front next year. That gives the team more flexibility than it might otherwise have had, but there’s no way around exposing some good players. It simply comes down to whether Dallas wants to risk a strong centre (one of Radek Faksa or Cody Eakin) or expose a bunch of defencemen. Given that Vegas can only take one player, we’ve opted to shield the forwards.

    One wonders whether Valeri Nichushkin will be protected. That’s the decision we have made, but it isn’t a certainty, and he would be extremely attractive to an expansion club. Dallas also has to decide whether it should bother protecting one of Kari Lehtonen or Antti Niemi—the Stars could have added a different goalie to shield by next summer.

    Projected Protected List (7-3-1): Jason Spezza*, Jamie Benn*, Tyler Seguin, Cody Eakin, Antoine Roussel, Valeri Nichushkin, Radek Faksa, John Klingberg, Esa Lindell, Stephen Johns and Maxime Lagace.

    Las Vegas Evaluation: The available defencemen here are tempting. Dan Hamhuis is a solid veteran, superior to a lot of options out there, even if he is only a short-term solution. Jamie Oleksiak, Patrik Nemeth and maybe even Mattias Backman all have points in their favour and are young enough to be around for a while. Working against them, though, is Vegas' previous selection of Zadorov and a few other left-shot defensive picks still to come.

    Las Vegas Selects: Brett Ritchie. Brett Ritchie is intriguing, a 6’3”, 220-pound right wing who scored at just under a point-per-game pace in the AHL last season. He’ll be 24 when the expansion draft comes around and could be a long-term fit in a bottom-six role, even if his scoring doesn’t come in the majors.

Detroit Red Wings

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    Detroit’s Situation: This is going to hurt. There’s no way around it. All Detroit can hope to do is limit the damage.

    The Red Wings’ forward situation virtually forces them to shield a list of seven. Even so, players such as Darren Helm, Anthony Mantha, Andreas Athanasiou and Teemu Pulkkinen are going to be on the bubble for protection. We haven’t opted to do it here because we don’t think it will happen, even though Henrik Zetterberg and Justin Abdelkader probably shouldn’t be shielded.

    The defence is vulnerable too. Jonathan Ericsson will certainly be exposed and almost certainly not taken—he should be less appealing to an expansion team than Xavier Ouellet or Ryan Sproul. There’s a choice to be made between who out of Mike Green, Niklas Kronwall and Alexey Marchenko should be exposed; based on age, we’ve opted to leave the 35-year-old Kronwall open. However, the Red Wings may be more conservative.

    Maybe Detroit will get lucky and Vegas will take Jimmy Howard off their hands.

    Projected Protected List (7-3-1): Frans Nielsen*, Henrik Zetterberg, Gustav Nyquist, Justin Abdelkader, Tomas Tatar, Riley Sheahan, Anthony Mantha, Mike Green, Danny DeKeyser, Alexey Marchenko and Petr Mrazek.

    Las Vegas Evaluation: If Las Vegas GM George McPhee was gritting his teeth when he looked at Arizona’s list, he should be licking his lips when he gets to Detroit. No matter how cleverly the Wings maneuver, there will be a good player available here.

    Las Vegas Selects: Darren Helm. The deciding factor is the lack of quality centres that will be available. Darren Helm is a quality veteran, who is signed long term at a reasonable rate ($3.85 million AAV). While he’ll be 30 when expansion comes, his ability to provide stability at a critical position makes all the difference. The hope will be that Helm brings the habits and professionalism of the Detroit organization to Las Vegas.

Edmonton Oilers

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    Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

    Edmonton’s Situation: The Edmonton Oilers are in better position for the expansion draft than many other NHL teams, yet they’re also more vulnerable—particularly on defence—than one might expect for a club that has spent so long in the league's basement.

    The prediction here is Edmonton will opt to protect eight skaters, exposing their shallow collection of forwards in order to shield an extra blueliner. The question is who the fourth defenceman on the protected list will be. The up-and-coming Brandon Davidson is the deserving candidate, but the Oilers paid through the nose for the rights to Griffin Reinhart just one year ago and may want to shield him.

    Projected Protected List (8-1): Milan Lucic*, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Leon Draisaitl, Andrej Sekera*, Oscar Klefbom, Adam Larsson, Brandon Davidson and Cam Talbot.

    Las Vegas Evaluation: Patrick Maroon and Nail Yakupov are appealing for different reasons, with one a serviceable veteran on a decent contract and the other a reclamation project with upside. Reinhart also has obvious appeal as a long-term fit, but the issue there is Las Vegas doesn’t have a pressing need for a left-shot defencemen. Meanwhile, Edmonton would likely pay to get rid of veteran defender Mark Fayne.

    Las Vegas Selects: Benoit Pouliot. There aren’t many scoring options available at the expansion draft, and Benoit Pouliot could be a good one. He’ll have two years left on his contract and only be 30 years old by June's draft, and he could be a second-line mainstay in the early days of the franchise.

Florida Panthers

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    Florida’s Situation: The Florida Panthers' young core includes five good draft-eligible forwards, which basically forces the Panthers to take a 7-3-1 approach to protecting their roster. Jussi Jokinen is an easy add as the sixth protected forward, while there is some flexibility in the seventh spot.

    This approach does mean exposing some quality on the back end. The recently acquired Mark Pysyk and Alex Petrovic are both important players to the franchise, but there’s just no way to protect either without exposing young veteran Jason Demers and his gorgeous long-term contract.

    Projected Protected List (7-3-1): Aleksander Barkov, Vincent Trocheck, Nick Bjugstad, Jussi Jokinen, Reilly Smith, Jonathan Huberdeau, Colton Sceviour, Keith Yandle*, Aaron Ekblad, Jason Demers and James Reimer.

    Las Vegas Evaluation: With all due respect to Roberto Luongo, this is an easy decision. The only real question is which of the two exposed right-shot defencemen Vegas wants to take on.

    Las Vegas Selects: Mark Pysyk. Mark Pysyk will be only 25 years old when the expansion draft comes, and he’s arguably ready to take on a top-four role now.

Los Angeles Kings

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    L.A.’s Situation: Like most teams that have enjoyed success in recent years, the Los Angeles Kings are going to be somewhat more vulnerable to expansion than the average NHL outfit. Even opting to protect seven forwards, they’re going to have to risk Kyle Clifford. Naturally, they’ll also be exposing Dustin Brown in the hopes of being relieved of his contract ($5.875 million AAV through 2022).

    Going with seven forwards means making some tough decisions on the blue line. Drew Doughty and Jake Muzzin are easy players to protect, but that leaves one of Alec Martinez or Brayden McNabb exposed; given age and contract, it'll likely be the former.

    Projected Protected List (7-3-1): Anze Kopitar*, Jeff Carter, Marian Gaborik, Tyler Toffoli, Trevor Lewis, Tanner Pearson, Nick Shore, Drew Doughty, Jake Muzzin, Brayden McNabb and Jonathan Quick.

    Las Vegas Evaluation: Either Martinez or McNabb would be appealing. Martinez is a little older but is under team control at a reasonable rate for a long time; McNabb’s in the middle of his career but would only be obligated to put in a full season post-expansion before free agency. Derek Forbort, a first-round pick in 2010, is probably worth considering too.

    Meanwhile, if the Kings want to rid themselves of Brown's contract, they'd have to find some kind of sweetener for Las Vegas. 

    Las Vegas Selects: Alec Martinez. Martinez will be just 30 if Las Vegas were to select him, and he is under contract for four more seasons at a $4.0 million cap hit. He’d instantly be a top-four fixture for the expansion club.

Minnesota Wild

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    Minnesota’s Situation: The Minnesota Wild are a famously deep hockey team, and no famously deep hockey team is going to enjoy an exercise like the expansion draft.

    Even defending seven forwards, the Wild are going to have to expose players such as Jason Zucker and Erik Haula, who are both quality young NHLers. More importantly, defending seven forwards means only getting to protect two of Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin, Matt Dumba and Marco Scandella.

    The only good news for the Wild is they can only lose one defenceman.

    Projected Protected List (7-3-1): Zach Parise*, Mikko Koivu*, Jason Pominville*, Eric Staal, Charlie Coyle, Mikael Granlund, Nino Niederreiter, Ryan Suter*, Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin and Devan Dubnyk.

    Las Vegas Evaluation: This is certainly a scenario in which it would pay to sound out the Wild in advance to see what they’d be willing to cough up if Vegas gives them some assurance that certain players won’t be picked. Haula’s a good young centre, and they’re in short supply. Scandella is a veteran defenceman who could step into the top four immediately. There might be a way to land a good player and extract some futures from Minnesota.

    Las Vegas Selects: Mathew Dumba. Mathew Dumba joins Savard and Pysyk on the right side of the Las Vegas blue line. He’ll be just 23 years old next June, with loads of upside, and he's already a capable offensive weapon.

Montreal Canadiens

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    Montreal’s Situation: The Montreal Canadiens as constructed won’t be risking a whole lot when they put together their protected list.

    In net, Carey Price is the only goaltender they need. The pending free agency of Andrei Markov and the expendability of Alexei Emelin mean the defence can be sufficiently covered with only three protected slots. That leaves seven protected forwards, which makes the team’s most difficult choice the decision between protecting veteran centre Tomas Plekanec (who will have just one year left on his deal) or one of the club's secondary prospects.

    Projected Protected List (7-3-1): Tomas Plekanec, Max Pacioretty, Andrew Shaw, Brendan Gallagher, Alex Galchenyuk, Daniel Carr, Sven Andrighetto, Jeff Petry*, Shea Weber, Nathan Beaulieu and Carey Price.

    Las Vegas Evaluation: There are a few lower-roster options available in Montreal: players such as Zach Redmond and Mark Barberio on the blue line and Jacob de la Rose and Phillip Danault up front. Essentially, though, Las Vegas knows it’s only picking up a depth piece here.

    Las Vegas Selects: Charles Hudon. Charles Hudon turned 22 in July and is coming off a 28-goal season in the AHL and two assists in his first three NHL games. Given the lack of other options here, it'd make sense to gamble on a prospect.

Nashville Predators

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    Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

    Nashville’s Situation: The rules for this expansion draft seem specifically crafted to penalize teams with depth on their blue line. The Nashville Predators are such a team, so this process isn’t going to be much fun.

    The Predators have little choice but to protect eight skaters, thereby keeping all of the big four on defence in the fold. The trouble with taking that tack is it would expose several good forwards, making it virtually certain the club loses one of them.

    Projected Protected List (8-1): Filip Forsberg, James Neal, Craig Smith, Ryan Johansen, P.K. Subban, Roman Josi, Mattias Ekholm, Ryan Ellis and Pekka Rinne*.

    Las Vegas Evaluation: With all due respect to players such as Anthony Bitetto, the focus here has to be on the forward group. Colin Wilson is a big, versatile, veteran with years left to his major league career. Viktor Arvidsson, Colton Sissons and Austin Watson are all young forwards just starting their NHL careers. All of those players would be of some interest.

    Las Vegas Selects: Calle Jarnkrok. Did we mention how tough it is to find centres? Calle Jarnkrok is one of the crown jewels of this draft list, not just a centre but a young, versatile one signed to a reasonable long-term contract ($2 million cap hit through 2022). This was an easy pick despite the wealth of options.

New Jersey Devils

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    New Jersey’s Situation: There isn’t much on the New Jersey Devils roster for an expansion team to be interested in. This past summer’s Taylor Hall-for-Adam Larsson trade removed any real difficulty about the blue line, with three slots enough to cover off all the players who matter. That leaves seven for a forward group that wasn’t deep to begin with.

    Ryane Clowe has a no-move clause, but given he was an assistant coach for the Devils last season that’s going to be a non-story.  

    Projected Protected List (7-3-1): Taylor Hall, Travis Zajac, Mike Cammalleri, Kyle Palmieri, Adam Henrique, Devante Smith-Pelly, Reid Boucher, Andy Greene, Jon Merrill, Damon Severson and Cory Schneider.

    Las Vegas Evaluation: Jacob Josefson has some strengths and plays centre, but with 50 points in 238 career games, he doesn’t bring enough offensive pop to be interesting. Beau Bennett is still young, has decent size and, when healthy, posts decent offensive numbers. John Moore is a fit age-wise (25), but his performance with the Devils last year was underwhelming.

    Las Vegas Selects: Ben Lovejoy. Ben Lovejoy is nothing to write home about, but he’s a competent defensive blueliner and a veteran who will have two years left on his contract.

New York Islanders

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    Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

    New York’s Situation: The New York Islanders are going to take it on the chin in expansion. The team is loaded with good forwards and good defencemen, and there simply isn’t any way to cover them all.

    Making matters worse is the necessity of protecting four defencemen. Johnny Boychuk has a no-move clause, while Nick Leddy and Travis Hamonic are key building blocks. Beyond those three, New York also has Ryan Pulock, Calvin de Haan and Thomas Hickey; keeping Pulock under wraps could result in the loss of a good defenceman in the prime of his career.

    Virtually the entire forward corps is exposed too. Pricey veterans such as Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin might be interesting if they played for other teams, but in New York, the focus will be on people such as Anders Lee, Josh Bailey and Ryan Strome.

    Projected Protected List (8-1): Andrew Ladd*, John Tavares*, Brock Nelson, Ryan Strome, Johnny Boychuk*, Nick Leddy, Travis Hamonic, Ryan Pulock and Jaroslav Halak.

    Las Vegas Evaluation: This is definitely a situation in which some negotiation is in order. There are a half-dozen players who could help likely to be exposed to Vegas, and for the Isles, the difference between the expansion club relieving them of the Grabovski contract and snatching away Lee is worth paying.

    Las Vegas Selects: Calvin de Haan. Absent negotiation, De Haan would be hard to pass up. A shutdown defencemen in the prime of his career and still under team control, the 25-year-old would instantly become a cornerstone of the Las Vegas blue line.

New York Rangers

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    New York’s Situation: The New York Rangers have some tough decisions to make. It’s absolutely essential the team protects seven forwards; there are simply too many good players in their mid-20s on the roster. Even with seven forwards shielded, the Rangers would need to decide whether they should protect Rick Nash, Brandon Pirri, Oscar Lindberg and Jesper Fast. There’s probably only room for one name on that list.

    The decisions on the back end are made simple by no-move clauses; Marc Staal, Dan Girardi and Henrik Lundqvist must all be protected unless they decide otherwise. That leaves on opening for Ryan McDonagh, but no room for Dylan McIlrath or Kevin Klein.

    Projected Protected List (7-3-1): Derek Stepan*, Chris Kreider, Mats Zuccarello, J.T. Miller, Mika Zibanejad, Kevin Hayes, Jesper Fast, Marc Staal*, Dan Girardi*, Ryan McDonagh and Henrik Lundqvist.

    Las Vegas Evaluation: For the most part, any expansion team wants to skew young. Lindberg is a centre who scored 28 points last season as a 24-year-old rookie. Pirri can play any forward position and could plausibly take on a top-six role in Nevada. McIlrath is as tough as nails and just starting his NHL career. All three players are appealing for various reasons.

    Las Vegas Selects: Rick Nash. Yes, Nash will be 33 by the time the draft rolls around. Yes, he’ll only have one year left on his contract. But we’re also talking about a player who scored 42 goals as recently as 2014-15. There simply isn’t enough offensive talent available here to pass up that kind of production.

Ottawa Senators

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    Ottawa’s Situation: The Ottawa Senators are another one of those teams that have little choice but to protect seven forwards. Bobby Ryan has a no-move clause, while Mike Hoffman, Derick Brassard, Mark Stone and Kyle Turris push the team up to five frontmen. At that point, there’s only room for three defencemen.

    It isn’t hard to figure out the identities of those defencemen, either. Dion Phaneuf has a no-move clause, Erik Karlsson is the franchise and Cody Ceci seems to be regarded as an essential building block for the team.

    Projected Protected List (7-3-1): Bobby Ryan*, Mike Hoffman, Derick Brassard, Mark Stone, Kyle Turris, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Curtis Lazar, Dion Phaneuf, Erik Karlsson and Cody Ceci.

    Las Vegas Evaluation: From a Las Vegas perspective, fingers were crossed that the 21-year-old Lazar would be exposed, given his age and position. Clarke MacArthur is the next most interesting forward, but given his age (31) and injury history, he’d be an odd selection—we can talk again later if he has a great 2016-17 season.

    Las Vegas Selects: Marc Methot. Marc Methot will have two seasons left on his deal, and although he’s in his early 30s, it’s hard to pass on a 20-minute-a-night defenceman. There are other left-sided options available via expansion, though, so maybe the best play would be to flip the player back in exchange for a draft pick.

Philadelphia Flyers

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    Philadelphia’s Situation: The expansion draft seems geared to hurt teams with lots of experienced defensive depth, and while the Philadelphia Flyers have an enviable collection of riches on their blue line, most of them are exempt from this process.

    That gives the Flyers the luxury of protecting seven forwards—though they would still have to expose a few good ones—and shielding the defence almost entirely. We’ve opted to focus on protecting young players on cheap deals while exposing replaceable veterans.

    Things get slightly more complicated if Michael Del Zotto re-signs, but not a lot more. Both Steve Mason and Michal Neuvirth are bound for free agency, so Philly doesn’t have any real goalie worries; the team could re-sign the one it wants and protect him.

    Projected Protected List (7-3-1): Claude Giroux*, Jakub Voracek, Brayden Schenn, Sean Couturier, Wayne Simmonds, Scott Laughton, Nick Cousins, Radko Gudas, Brandon Manning, Shayne Gostisbehere and Michal Neuvirth.

    Las Vegas Evaluation: Matt Read and Dale Weise are both competent wingers who contribute in multiple ways; either would be a fine addition to virtually any expansion roster in NHL history. Read is a little bit older (30) and will only have one year left on his deal after the draft, though.

    Las Vegas Selects: Michael Raffl. Michael Raffl, at 27, is a touch younger than Read or Weise, and looking over the roster, there’s simply a greater need on the left side than there is on the right. A case could be made for any of the three.

Pittsburgh Penguins

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    Pittsburgh’s Situation: The Pittsburgh Penguins need to make a trade. Marc-Andre Fleury has a no-move clause, which means if he’s on the roster next June and doesn’t waive it, he'd automatically take up the only protected slot Pittsburgh has for goalies. That, in turn, would expose Matt Murray to Las Vegas, something which is obviously unacceptable.

    Assuming Pittsburgh gets the goalie situation ironed out, it’s still likely to lose a good player to Vegas.

    Projected Protected List (7-3-1): Evgeni Malkin*, Sidney Crosby*, Phil Kessel*, Patric Hornqvist, Carl Hagelin, Bryan Rust, Tom Kuhnhackl, Kris Letang*, Olli Maatta, Brian Dumoulin and Marc-Andre Fleury*.

    Las Vegas Evaluation: Young defencemen are always interesting for an expansion team, so Derrick Pouliot and, to a lesser degree, Justin Schultz deserve mentioning. Oskar Sundqvist is a decent prospect and a centre, and while Eric Fehr is coming off a bad year, he might be worth a look if he has a rebound campaign.

    Las Vegas Selects: Matt Murray. As things stand, taking Murray is an easy decision.

San Jose Sharks

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    San Jose’s Situation: The San Jose Sharks’ approach to expansion is going to depend heavily upon their free agents. Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau are both bound for the open market, but given they are both 37, neither is a pressing concern.

    The crucial free agent is Brent Burns. If he is re-upped, it seems logical San Jose would opt to protect eight skaters rather than seven forwards and three defencemen, which would result in several young-ish skaters becoming available.

    For now, though, we’re operating under the assumption the Sharks may not be able to re-sign Burns.

    Projected Protected List (7-3-1): Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture, Mikkel Boedker, Tomas Hertl, Melker Karlsson, Matt Nieto, Chris Tierney, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Justin Braun, Mirco Mueller and Martin Jones.

    Las Vegas Evaluation: Most of San Jose’s depth players are pricey enough to warrant a pass. Brenden Dillon and David Schlemko in particular have hefty salaries ($3.27 million cap hit and $2.1 million cap hit respectively), which reduces the appeal of both players. Dylan DeMelo is a better target as far as depth players go. Joel Ward and Paul Martin are both veterans, players who could help but aren’t likely to be long-term fits.

    Las Vegas Selects: Paul Martin. Martin may not be a long-term boon to the franchise, but there’s also a need to compete immediately, and he helps with that. A disciplined, two-way defender who can play in all situations against any competition and on either side of the ice, he’d be a useful player in Year 1.

St. Louis Blues

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    St. Louis’ Situation: The St. Louis Blues have a couple of wild cards. Vladimir Sobotka’s situation remains unresolved, and that will complicate matters up front. Additionally, the fates of pending free agents Alex Steen, Patrik Berglund and Kevin Shattenkirk will alter this list.

    At this point, the assumption is all those players go unsigned, but each addition to the roster would push another player off the protected list.

    Projected Protected List (7-3-1): Vladimir Tarasenko, Paul Stastny, Jaden Schwartz, Jori Lehtera, David Perron, Dmitrij Jaskin, Ty Rattie, Alex Pietrangelo, Jay Bouwmeester, Joel Edmundson and Jake Allen.

    Las Vegas Evaluation: Even with the exclusion of the four players listed in the intro, St. Louis has some interesting pieces. Magnus Paajarvi, Landon Ferraro and perhaps even Conner Bleackley up front warrant attention, as does defenceman Petteri Lindbohm.

    Las Vegas Selects: Pheonix Copley. Pheonix Copley is another goaltender like Ullmark in that he’s going to be waiver exempt for 2017-18. There aren’t a lot of players available in the expansion draft who meet that requirement, and Copley has both NHL size (6'4") and a reasonable performance at the AHL level.

Tampa Bay Lightning

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    Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    Tampa Bay’s Situation: The Tampa Bay Lightning’s situation is pretty bad, and they’re likely to be one of the handful of teams to suffer the most damage as a result of the expansion process. Some of that is just a byproduct of being a deep, excellent team, but the no-move clauses handed out to Ryan Callahan and Valtteri Filppula may end up haunting the Bolts too.

    The Lightning are going to expose good NHL defencemen, key contributors up front and, in the unlikely event Ben Bishop re-signs, a quality goaltender too.

    Projected Protected List (7-3-1): Steven Stamkos*, Ryan Callahan*, Valtteri Filppula*, Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, Jonathan Drouin, Nikita Kucherov, Victor Hedman, Anton Stralman, Andrej Sustr and Andrei Vasilevskiy.

    Las Vegas Evaluation: Tampa Bay’s inability to protect all of its considerable depth makes the club a veritable smorgasbord of NHL options. Alex Killorn, Vladislav Namestnikov, J.T. Brown and Cedric Paquette all deserve attention up front. Jason Garrison and Braydon Coburn are solid NHL defenders, though the 23-year-old Nikita Nesterov is probably the real prize on the blue line once contracts and age are taken into account.

    Las Vegas Selects: Vladislav Namestnikov. This one comes down to position and the need for centres. Killorn and Nesterov were both extremely tempting, but Namestnikov will only be 24 years old by the time of the draft, and the 2011 first-round pick scored 35 points in his first full NHL season last year. He’s a long-term fit at a position of need with scoring-line upside.

Toronto Maple Leafs

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    Toronto’s Situation: The Toronto Maple Leafs are a little different to most of the teams on this list in that a case can be made for them to protect either seven forwards or four defenceman. It comes down to whether one values their young forwards and forward prospects over similar players on the back end.

    Maximum coverage should be the way to go, which means protecting the forwards. That allows Toronto to sweep a bunch of early-20s skaters under protection, though at the same time, it may end up costing the team a Martin Marincin or Frank Corrado.

    Even so, there Leafs have some difficult choices up front, with players such as Tyler Bozak, Matt Martin and Kerby Rychel on the bubble.

    Projected Protected List (7-3-1): Nazem Kadri, James van Riemsdyk, Leo Komarov, Peter Holland, Kerby Rychel, Connor Brown, Brendan Leipsic, Morgan Rielly, Jake Gardiner, Connor Carrick and Frederik Andersen.

    Las Vegas Evaluation: Corrado and Marincin are both interesting young players, with the latter in particular noteworthy because he has experience in tough competition and plays a possession-style game. Josh Leivo is an interesting prospect, while Marincin is overpaid relative to his likely role on the team.

    Las Vegas Selects: Tyler Bozak. We’ve taken a by-committee approach to centre, which is the weakest position in Las Vegas, and that’s why Tyler Bozak gets picked. He’ll only be under contract for one more season after being selected, but he’ll be helpful in Year 1 and, at the very least, should have value at the trade deadline.

Vancouver Canucks

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    Vancouver’s Situation: No-move clauses are going to play a significant role in the Vancouver Canucks' protected list. It’s debatable whether keeping Henrik and Daniel Sedin locked up is the right decision, but no-move clauses ensure the twins and newcomer Loui Eriksson are exempt.

    With those three forward slots claimed, the Canucks have little choice but to take a 7-3-1 approach to the expansion draft. But given how shallow the defensive corps is that’s probably fine.

    For the most part, the list is straightforward, with the real question being who the seventh forward to be protected will be. Right now, Anton Rodin is penciled in, but Jannik Hansen, Emerson Etem or Brendan Gaunce could take that spot.

    Projected Protected List (7-3-1): Henrik Sedin*, Daniel Sedin*, Loui Eriksson*, Brandon Sutter, Sven Baertschi, Bo Horvat, Anton Rodin, Alex Edler, Chris Tanev, Erik Gudbranson and Jacob Markstrom.

    Las Vegas Evaluation: Hansen is tempting because he’s another versatile forward, the kind of guy who can contribute in multiple situations and roles. The 23-year-old Andrey Pedan deserves a mention because he’s young enough to have upside. So too does the 26-year-old Luca Sbisa, who is a third-pair caliber defenceman paid like a top-four option.

    Las Vegas Selects: Brendan Gaunce. The 2012 first-rounder may end up being protected, but after recording just a single point in 20 games last season, it’s possible he won’t be. Given the other options available, this is a moment where taking a chance on a younger player with upside makes sense.

Washington Capitals

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    Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

    Washington’s Situation: Another good team with lots of depth, the Washington Capitals will pay a price for their impressive roster at the expansion draft. A difficult situation is made somewhat easier by the fact T.J. Oshie, Justin Williams and Karl Alzner are all on expiring contracts, but if they re-sign, they’ll all be possibilities for Las Vegas too.

    The Caps will probably take a 7-3-1 approach, and if Alzner’s back, it’ll probably cost them a good defenceman. There’s just no way to shield all the talent on the team. For the time being, it's been assumed none of those players will be returning.

    Projected Protected List (7-3-1): Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Marcus Johansson, Lars Eller, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Tom Wilson, Andre Burakovsky, Matt Niskanen, John Carlson, Dmitry Orlov and Braden Holtby.

    Las Vegas Evaluation: As it stands, Brett Connolly is probably the most interesting available forward; he’s a complementary winger with upside, but he’s also the type of player who can generally be found in free agency (which is where Washington found him this summer). Brooks Orpik isn’t a good fit for an expansion team, but fellow defenceman Nate Schmidt is interesting.

    Las Vegas Selects: Philipp Grubauer. Philipp Grubauer is probably ready to be a starter somewhere. He posted a .918 save percentage over 20-odd games for Washington last season and has phenomenal numbers at every level.

Winnipeg Jets

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    Winnipeg’s Situation: The Winnipeg Jets are in an ugly spot because of their blue line. Dustin Byfuglien and Toby Enstrom both have no-move clauses, which means that with a 7-3-1 approach, there’d only be one spot left for the duo of Jacob Trouba and Tyler Myers. That really wouldn't be ideal.

    Unfortunately, if Winnipeg protects all of those defencemen, that leaves only four spots for forwards. Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler and Bryan Little are locks, but what about Mathieu Perreault, Alex Burmistrov and the three or four other forwards in their early 20s with potential? Tough decisions await general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff.

    Projected Protected List (8-1): Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler, Bryan Little, Mathieu Perreault, Dustin Byfuglien*, Toby Enstrom*, Tyler Myers, Jacob Trouba and Connor Hellebuyck.

    Las Vegas Evaluation: Goaltender Michael Hutchinson is a viable target, and depending on the moves Winnipeg makes (and the goalie moves other teams make) between now and the draft, he may end up being someone Las Vegas is interested in.

    Still, the most interesting names here are up front. Leaving aside Burmistrov and Shawn Matthias, the focus should probably be on Adam Lowry, Andrew Copp, Joel Armia and Marko Dano. It’s hard to imagine going far wrong with any of them.  

    Las Vegas Selects: Adam Lowry. Although this team would have loved a shot at Myers, it’s pretty happy to land Lowry, a 6’5”, 210-pound centre who may yet have untapped scoring ability.

Projected Las Vegas Depth Chart

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    John Locher/Associated Press


    • Rick Nash—Tyler Bozak—Jakob Silfverberg.
    • Benoit Pouliot—Darren Helm—Calle Jarnkrok.
    • Michael Raffl—Vladislav Namestnikov—Jimmy Hayes.
    • Brad RichardsonAdam LowryLee Stempniak.

    Spares: Brett Ritchie, Hunter Shinkaruk, Brendan Gaunce and Charles Hudon.


    • Calvin de Haan—David Savard.
    • Alec Martinez—Mark Pysyk.
    • Paul Martin—Mathew Dumba.

    Spares: Marc Methot, Ben Lovejoy, Nikita Zadorov and Ville Pokka.


    • Matt Murray.
    • Philipp Grubauer.

    Spares: Linus Ullmark and Pheonix Copley.