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Predicting the Expansion Draft: Islanders and Rangers

Two teams from the same state, but with vastly different protection situations

NHL: New York Islanders at Boston Bruins Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Once more into the breach, dear friends!

If you haven’t been following our series, each week we have two articles, with each one looking at two NHL teams and predicting whom they will protect in the NHL expansion draft.

Because we explained how free agents and exemptions are going to work in great depth in the Detroit article, scroll down to the bottom and click on the Detroit article in the story stream if you need more information on those topics.

As always, here is a link to the CapFriendly expansion draft tool. Take a quick look at the teams for today’s article before you read, if you want to see who’s exempt, etc.

Typically, Mike does the first post of the week, and I do the second, but this week we switched. As I’ve talked about before, I used to be an Islanders fan, so I wanted to write this one up. So, here goes.

New York Islanders

SB Nation: Lighthouse Hockey

Daily Faceoff Current Lines: Here

Predicted Protection Option: 8 Skaters and 1 Goalie


After only doing the 8 skaters option for the second time with Nashville last article, we are right back there again. This option is for teams that want to protect at least four defensemen, at the cost of exposing three additional forwards than the standard 7-3-1 model.

John Tavares and Andrew Ladd have no move clauses, so they must be protected. After that, the team will of course protect Kyle Okposo......oh wait. Well, they’ll clearly need to use a spot on Frans Nielsen......oh.

The team has given bad long term deals to Casey Czikas and Cal Clutterbuck, but it would be a mistake for the team to protect them. The contracts should keep Vegas away, as it should. Josh Bailey hasn’t lived up to his draft position, and Ryan Strome hasn’t done so either, although he hasn’t had nearly as much time as Bailey has. Bailey is sitting at second place on the team in scoring now, but he’s been inconsistent throughout his career. One thing to keep in mind is that GM Garth Snow seems to like Bailey, so he could definitely use the fourth forward protection slot on him.

Strome could be protected, especially if he turns it on down the stretch, but it’s not likely at this point. He was selected 5th overall, so it wouldn’t be surprising if he is protected.

The second two forward slots will be used on Brock Nelsen and Anders Lee. Lee has 17 goals on the season after a slow start, and the team is high on him for the future. Nelsen isn’t having as strong a season as he has in the past, but his play over the past few years gives him the edge.

Basically, Lee is pretty certain to be protected, and Nelsen is likely in the fourth spot at this point, although don’t be surprised if they choose Strome, Bailey, or Czikas (that would be a really bad choice, but it could happen).

I reached out to three Islander experts (including Dan Saraceni from Lighthouse Hockey), and all three said that this last spot could go a few ones. One thinks Nelson, one Bailey, and the third Nelson but maybe Strome. Don’t place any bets on this one.

The wild card here is that Garth Snow seems to value players differently than other people. Also, who knows if he will be making the decision?


This is the reason why we went with the 8 skater option.

Johnny Boychuk has a no move clause, so he’s guaranteed. Nick Leddy and Travis Hamonic are locks as well. After Tavares, Hamonic is likely the heart of the team, and it’s hard to see the team leaving him exposed. Leddy plays a strong two-way game, and is a top puck-mover.

The team has a choice here whether to protect Thomas Hickey, Calvin De Haan, or one of the team’s younger defensemen. While Hickey is a solid two-way defenseman, and De Haan was once the Islander fans’ great hope on defense, their younger players like Ryan Pulock and Adam Pelech.

Pelech is showing promise, and the team would likely want to keep him, but Pulock should be protected. He has a 100+ mph slap shot, but that’s not his only asset. Out of him, Pelech, and Mayfield, Pulock has the most upside.

While the team likely doesn’t want to lose a defenseman, they still have Devon Toews, who looks like he’s getting closer to being ready to step up. He won the fastest skater at the AHL All-Star Skills Competition this year, and he has 26 points for the Sound Tigers so far this season.


For a while, this was looking like a hard choice, but the team’s signing of Thomas Greiss made it pretty obvious where their intentions lie.

This would meet the NHL exposure requirements, and even if the team moves Jaro Halak, they just need to make a qualifying offer to one of their RFA goalies.

Final Protection List

Forwards: John Tavares, Andrew Ladd, Anders Lee, Brock Nelson

Defense: Johnny Boychuk, Nick Leddy, Travis Hamonic, Ryan Pulock

Goalie: Thomas Greiss

New York Rangers

SB Nation: Blueshirt Banter

Daily Faceoff Current Lines: Here

Predicted Protection Option: 7 Forwards, 3 Defense, 1 Goalie


I’m going to take this backwards again because the goalie and defense situation are fairly straightforward, at least as the roster stands right now.

Unless something major changes, The King will still reign: the Rangers will protect Henrik Lundqvist. He has a no move clause, but even if he didn’t there is no way the team loses him for free.


Dan Girardi and Marc Staal have no move clauses, which is “less than ideal” for the Rangers, but they are lying in the bed they made. Since the Rangers have more than four forwards they want to protect, they only have one more defense slot. That’s going to Ryan McDonagh. He’s the first person they would choose to protect, so this a no-brainer. This means that Kevin Klein and Nick Holden would be exposed.

The Rangers probably don’t want that, but the NMCs don’t give them much choice.


Rick Nash has a no move clause, so he must be protected, leaving six slots. Taking their top several scorers gives us JT Miller, Derek Stepan, Mats Zuccarello, and Chris Kreider. There doesn’t seem to be a good reason the team wouldn’t protect any of these players. Looking at their line pairings makes it easy to add Mika Zibanejad, in case you miss him on their scoring leaders page, since he’s only played 27 games. He has 20 points in that time frame, and seems like a strong candidate for protection.

It looks like this last spot will come down to Kevin Hayes or Michael Grabner. Grabner had a torrid start to the season, and has 23 goals so far, but he’s 29. Now, 29 is not old of course, but for a player who relies on his speed, losing a step as he gets older will affect him more than other types of players. Hayes is 24, and has more points for the Rangers this season in four fewer games.

You could make an argument either way, but we’re going with Hayes for now. The Rangers will need to expose a second player other than Grabner, but they have some RFAs that would count if they are extended.

Final Protection List

Forward: Rick Nash, Derek Stepan, Chris Kreider, Mats Zuccarello, J.T. Miller, Mika Zibanejad, Kevin Hayes

Defense: Dan Girardi, Marc Staal, Ryan McDonagh

Goalie: Henrik Lundqvist