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Predicting the Expansion Draft: Dallas and Edmonton

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After shifting things around for Detroit, we get back on track with two Western Conference teams.

Edmonton Oilers v Dallas Stars Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Today, we bring the Dallas Stars and the Edmonton Oilers to the forefront for Expansion Draft examination. Both teams will face some interesting situations, for varying reasons, and we’ll jump right into those after our usual intro primer. Remember to follow along with the Expansion Draft Tool from Capfriendly.

Required Selections

In the Detroit article comments, concerns were raised about who we predicted to be protected and their ranking among other teams’ exposures at their position. The argument was, at its core, an extension of Game Theory along the lines of “if better players will be available from other teams, why should we worry about exposing X player? Surely there will be 14 better forwards/9 better defensemen/3 better goalies out there...”

There are several complications to this argument. The first, and easiest to toss out, is that while Vegas has to select a specific number of forwards, defensemen, and goalies, that number (14+9+3) does not equal 30. There are going to be 4 “mystery selections” to be made, where Vegas will have the ability to chose players of any position to fill out their 30 selections. So, it’s not as easy as saying “so-and-so is easily the 16th best forward available, so we should protect this guy instead”... Vegas could select up to 18 forwards, or 13 defenders, or 7 goalies. With only 14 forward selections required, it makes more sense for Vegas to use these “mystery selections” more on forwards than other positions, but we have no guarantee that this will be the case.

This leads to the second complication to the argument - we have very little information available to analyze and predict how Vegas will value players. We don’t know if they will value veterans more than young players or vice versa, guys on long contracts versus short contracts, or recognized names over guys with up-and-coming potential. Considering that the most immediate concern for Vegas will be establishing a fan-base and creating a marketable product as quickly as possible, Peter and I feel that the most realistic option for the Golden Knights will be to take the players that are the best on the ice for Day 1 of the franchise. Yes, that could complicate the future depending on ages and contracts, but those are issues every front office has to deal with. Delaying those issues isn’t a guarantee of an easier or better path to building their franchise, but building a roster that’s competitive enough to inspire free agents to come there and players to stay when their contracts are up goes a long way toward making a franchise.

All of this comes into play as organizations develop their protection lists. If a team figures that Vegas will try to be as competitive on the ice as possible from Day 1, then it behooves organizations to protect their players that currently perform best on-ice. Until information surfaces that indicates this is not how the Vegas management team is thinking, this is how Peter and I have been making and will continue to make our protections.

Dallas Stars

SBN Blog: Defending Big D

Daily Faceoff Current Lines: Here

Projected Protection Choice: 7 Forwards - 3 Defense - 1 Goalie

Forwards

Right off the bat, two NMCs are in play - Jason Spezza and Jamie Benn. Tyler Seguin will absolutely be protected, but after that we have to start building cases for candidates. Cody Eakin is not having the best offensive year, but has been a 30+ points guy for 3 prior seasons and is currently entrusted with top-line center duties - mark him as protected as well.

Antoine Roussel is on pace for a career year, and is filling in on the second line. Brett Ritchie and Radek Faksa, both 23, are young players showing promise within the organization on the 4th and 3rd lines, respectively. If something changes with the contract status of pending UFAs Patrick Sharp or Patrick Eaves then further discussion may be needed, but until that happens we’re selecting these 3 kids to round out the forward group.

Concerning Eaves - the forward is, admittedly, in the midst of a career year in terms of points production. However, it’s not just his contract status that gives Peter and I pause in listing him as a protection. Eaves, thru half a season, has almost equaled his best season points-wise - meaning this is not a typical season for him. And, at 31 years old with a documented history of post-concussion syndrome and never having played a full season in his career, we feel he has too many red flags surrounding him to warrant protection.

Defense

Currently both occupying the top-pair, John Klingberg and Esa Lindell will most likely be kept together - and with Klingberg certainly warranting protection, we’re guessing Lindell gets it too. For spot #3, Jordie Benn makes a strong case for protection with his play. Currently on the Stars’ 3rd pair, his 13 points on the season are good for second best among the blue-line corps. Keep the family together, protect Jordie Benn.

Dan Hamhuis loses out due to his similar production yet advanced age and costly contract compared to Jordie Benn. Stephen Johns, a line up from Jordie Benn, doesn’t have the track record but could be seen by Dallas to have higher potential. Johns could very well be the #3 defensive protection, but right now we’re sticking with Jordie Benn.

Goalie

Not to be insensitive to a delicate and unpleasant situation, but holy hell... Nobody in the Dallas net has performed well, from the big club on down thru the minors. Of the 4 names available, the best option is probably Kari Lehtonen. Even though he’s on a more expensive contract than Antti Niemi, the reality is that their traditional numbers aren’t that far apart but the advanced numbers (per www.corsica.hockey) seem to favor Lehtonen - particularly GSAA (goals saved above average) which measures saves a goalie makes over what is numerically valued as an average goalie. This season Lehtonen seems far more proficient at this than Niemi, and with Henri Kiviaho and Maxim Lagace looking less than stellar in their respective leagues we feel confident in our decision.

Complications

With these protections, Dallas needs to get 2 forwards signed just for exposure. They have several options available, as practically every Dallas contract is coming due this off-season, but it’s still a hurdle they’ll need to clear.

Final Protected List

Forward: Jason Spezza, Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, Radek Faksa, Brett Ritchie, Cody Eakin, Antoine Roussel

Defense: John Klingberg, Esa Lindell, Jordie Benn

Goalie: Kari Lehtonen

Edmonton Oilers

SBN Blog: Copper & Blue

Daily Faceoff Current Lines: Here

Projected Protection Choice: 7 Forwards - 3 Defense - 1 Goalie

Forwards

This group is loaded with top-end talent. Unfortunately for Vegas, a lot of it won’t be available to them. Budding superstar Connor McDavid is exempt, and German phenom Leon Draisaitl is sure to be protected. Keep going with protections down their list of young talent with Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Milan Lucic, charged with protecting these young stars, was given a No Movement Clause along with his contract for the Oilers.

Patrick Maroon, shipped to Edmonton from Anaheim last season, is having an offensive outburst on the level of the aforementioned Nugent-Hopkins. If RNH is protected, we’d guess that Maroon will be as well. The last two spots could go to Mark Letestu and Zach Kassian. Neither are particularly high on the Edmonton depth chart, but with current roster members McDavid, Drake Caggiula, and Anton Slepyshev exempt they appear to be the best of what’s left.

Tyler Pitlick could have made an interesting case for a 6th or 7th protection spot, but with his injury keeping him out for the rest of the season Kassian and Letestu will have more chances to shine for management and sway opinions their way. Benoit Pouliot, currently playing on the 2nd line, could also make a case for protection based on his career numbers - but given his age and how this season is going, we’re sticking with Kassian and Letestu.

Defense

Andrej Sekera holds a No Movement Clause, and kids Adam Larsson and Oscar Klefbom are currently holding down the top defensive pair. The only other defenseman who warrants conversation is Matt Benning from the 3rd pair, who has power play experience and a higher points per game output than Larsson. His advanced stats indicate a more offensively minded blue-liner than Larsson, but the traditional numbers and line placement still favor Larsson.

Goalie

Cam Talbot holds a NMC, and even without that is the only goalie Edmonton has available for the draft who’s worth protecting. Laurent Brossoit doesn’t have the history or stat line for the Oilers to protect, and Jonas Gustavsson is a good back-up but not really anything more than that.

Complications

These protection selections leave the Oilers one contracted forward short of the exposure requirement. Like Dallas, they have a few options for players they can look to sign and then expose - the easiest of which could be pending RFA Anton Lander. At age 25, and already meeting the games-played requirement, they could bridge the minor leaguer to a reasonable contract that would take him into UFA status without breaking the bank.

Final Protected List

Forward: Leon Draisaitl, Milan Lucic, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Patrick Maroon, Mark Letestu, Zach Kassian

Defense: Andrej Sekera, Oscar Klefbom, Adam Larsson

Goalie: Cam Talbot