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Predicting The Expansion Draft: Pittsburgh and San Jose

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On today’s slate: a team that most Detroiters hate, and the San Jose Sharks.

San Jose Sharks v Pittsburgh Penguins Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

Today, our Expansion Draft coverage takes us to that other team in Pennsylvania, the one I personally have an irrational fan-hatred for that burns with the passion of a thousand suns, and the San Jose Sharks. As per usual, we covered rules and exemptions and whatnot back in the Detroit post - check that out via the storystream at the end of the article if you need a refresher. For relevant exemptions, contract statuses, and clauses with the Sens and Flyers, head to Capfriendly.com and use their Expansion Draft Tool.

Pittsburgh Penguins

SBN Blog: PensBurgh

Daily Faceoff Current Lines: Here

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

Forwards

As always, let’s get the NMCs out of the way first. That covers Phil Kessel, Evgeni Malkin, and craftsman of my nightmares Sidney Crosby. Patric Hornqvist and Bryan Rust are having solid campaigns that would make for obvious selections if left exposed, so they won’t be.

With two spots left, our choices would be Nick Bonino and Carl Hagelin. With Conor Sheary being exempt and considering the ages and pending UFA status of both Chris Kunitz and Matt Cullen, Hagelin and Bonino are the best of what’s left for the ice-birds. Both are currently sitting at around 20 points for the season and are probably looking at a modest 30-ish for the regular season, but play larger roles on the team than just their offense - Bonino currently occupies the 2C spot in Pittsburgh’s line-up, and Hagelin makes a definite positive impact on the team judging by his advanced stats at Own The Puck.

Defense

Kris Letang has a No Movement Clause, and would be a no-brainer even without it. Justin Schultz, having a fabulous offensive season, should also be a no-brainer for protection. But this is as far as the Pens get with easy decisions.

For the third defense protection, it really comes down to Olli Maatta and Brian Dumoulin. Unfortunately, neither are being incredibly productive on the scoresheet this season. To Dumoulin’s advantage, his shot prevention numbers place him as a top-pair guy and he currently occupies that position - however, that seems to be all he does well. To Maatta’s advantage, he does everything other than shot prevention modestly better than Dumoulin. Neither have really proved themselves invaluable this season but, with his track record and all-around skills, we are going with Maatta for the moment with the caveat that Dumoulin’s play down the stretch could change that decision.

Goalie

Currently, Marc-Andre Fleury holds a No Movement Clause. There’s been plenty of speculation in the media about Pittsburgh convincing Fleury to waive this clause for a trade, but until that happens he’ll be the protection choice.

Complications

This scheme requires Pittsburgh to sign-and-expose one more player at forward. Additionally, if Pittsburgh does end up trading Fleury so that they can protect Matt Murray, they’ll need to bring back a goalie who meets the exposure requirements - the rest of Pittsburgh’s goalies under contract are all exempt.

Final Protected List

Forwards: Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, Patric Hornqvist, Brian Rust, Nick Bonino, Carl Hagelin

Defense: Kris Letang, Justin Schultz, Olli Maata

Goalie: Marc-Andre Fleury

San Jose Sharks

SBN Blog: Fear The Fin

Daily Faceoff Current Lines: Here

Projected Protection Choice: 8 Skaters, 1 Goalie

Forwards

San Jose is a team deeper at defense than at forward, especially with two prominent forwards not requiring protection in Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. With their pending UFA status and ages, they’ll either be back or they won’t. But I’d put more money down on them returning to the Sharks and signing just before free agency than on anything else happening.

Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture, who lead the forward corps in points, will absolutely be protected. With the freedom to choose their own combination of forwards and defense, we suspect they’ll protect only two more forwards. Tomas Hertl has 14 points in only 25 contests this season, and the 3rd-line center makes a good candidate for protection.

With the last projected forward spot, Mikkel Boedker would be our choice. Despite only 19 points on the season, the 2nd-line winger has been improving his play over the course of his first campaign with the Sharks and looks as if he’s being groomed to take Joel Ward’s ice time eventually... at 35, probability dictates that Ward will slow down sooner rather than later.

We place Boedker over RFA Melker Karlsson for these reasons, but only barely. Karlsson doesn’t play as many minutes per game as Boedker, but he’s been spending those minutes on the top line with Thornton and Pavelski. Chris Tierney’s points production also throw an interesting wrench into things, but as he’s playing on the 4th line we consider him more of a long-shot than Boedker. It will be a situation to keep an eye on as the season closes out.

Defense

With 4 open spots, 2 protections are easy with Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic. Burns is worth his weight in gold and beard-oil, and Vlasic is no slouch either on the score sheet as well as quarterbacking the 2nd power play unit.

With the last two skater protections, Justin Braun has been a solid if unspectacular player in the Sharks’ system and helps keep the back-end stabilized. The last spot could go to either David Schlemko or Paul Martin. Martin has certainly been more prominent on the score sheet this season, with 18 points in 56 games, but advanced stats and shot metrics favor Schlemko. A muppet on skates could put up points if paired with Brent Burns, so we’re tentatively selecting 29-year-old Schlemko over 35-year-old Martin.

Over at Fear The Fin, Jake Sundstrom took a good look at this exact scenario back in November. You should definitely check his piece out, as it proved insigntful to Peter and me during our discussions.

Goalie

Martin Jones really leaves no room for argument here. He’s been solid since he was brought in, posting a solid .916 Save% and 2.27 GAA this season alone. There’s nobody else to consider here.

Complications

One forward needs to be signed and exposed under this scheme. There are several options available, including the aforementioned Tierney or Karlsson.

Final Protected List

Forwards: Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture, Tomas Hertl, Mikkel Boedker

Defense: Brent Burns, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Justin Braun, David Schlemko

Goalie: Martin Jones