Back in December, we took a look at the Seattle Expansion draft, set to take place in June of 2021.
I was planning on taking another look at the Red Wings’ expansion draft situation during the off-season, but when I sat down to do so, I realized that not really much has changed, at least in terms of who Detroit would protect if they had to make the decision today.
So, this is going to be a quick update on that end, but more of a look into what Detroit’s options for expansion draft protection mean for the team as Steve Yzerman enters his first season at the helm of the team he once captained.
If you haven’t already, I highly suggest you go take a look at the CapFriendly expansion draft tool. If you need a primer on how the expansion draft works, take a look at the article linked at the beginning of this one. Here are my selections at this point:
You’ll likely notice that I only selected 6 forwards. Just like last time, there are currently 5 forwards I consider must-protect at this point: Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, Andreas Athanasiou, Tyler Bertuzzi, and Michael Rasmussen.
Out of these 5, Rasmussen is a player that I could change my mind on, depending on what we see from him over the next two season. I saw some really good instincts on the power play, and it’s easy to forget that he likely would have been in the AHL for at least part of last season if he was eligible. Sending him to juniors made very little sense, to me at least.
After that, I selected Taro Hirose because I really liked what I saw from him at the end of last season. Evgeny Svechnikov is a wild-card at this point, since the team hasn’t been able to really see what they have in him because of injuries. If you forced me to pick a seventh forward right now, he would be it.
On the defensive side, I think that the must-protects as things stand today are Filip Hronek and Dennis Cholowski. The former shouldn’t need any explanation. Cholowski looked good at the beginning of the season, especially on the power play, but by the time he was sent down to the AHL it was clear that he needed some more time before becoming an every day impact NHL defender. Given his improvement going into last season, I have no reason to think that he won’t be able to be contributing at the NHL level this season or next, at the latest.
Gustav Lindstrom is my pick for the third protection slot right now. That could definitely change over the next two seasons. I don’t think Green, Ericsson, or Daley will be Red Wings in the summer of 2021, and I think at least 3 Red Wings blueliners will make much more sense to protect than DeKeyser at that point. I would protect Lindstrom over DeKeyser now.
On the goalie end, we are too far out to really have a good idea of who will be protected. I just picked Fulcher as a placeholder because he’s young and it would be great if he was worth protecting in two years. There’s not really much point in spending energy thinking about which goalie they will protect until we get a lot closer, in my opinion.
With the moves that Yzerman has made since taking over as GM, along with the repeated message of patience he has spoken of in the press, it seems reasonable to assume that he is planning on Detroit starting to enter its competitive phase in two more seasons. That doesn’t mean that the team can’t surprise people and push for a playoff spot this coming season. But it looks like he is not looking to make major moves for the team to take a big step forward this season, such as signing a veteran UFA to a high value contract.
The situation that Detroit finds itself in for the Seattle expansion draft is basically exactly where you would want to be at this point in a rebuild. The team has no players it has to protect because of no movement clauses. Frans Nielsen’s clause no movement clause ended last season, and any sort of no trade clause has no bearing on expansion draft protection.
Many of the young players that Detroit fans are excited about seeing in the next few seasons are exempt. Up front, Filip Zadina and Joe Veleno do not have to be protected. On the blueline, Jared McIsaac and Oliwer Kaski do not either. The same goes for Moritz Seider and the rest of the 2019 draft class. Not all of those players are listed in the exempt column on the CapFriendly tool, but all of Detroit’s 2018 and 2019 draft picks are exempt since Filip Zadina only played in 9 NHL games last season.
Steve Yzerman is in the position where he can add a couple young players via trade over the next two seasons and likely not have to worry about losing a great player in the expansion draft.
Assuming the plan is to look into being more active in the free agency market after two more seasons, those players will be signed after the expansion draft, so that wouldn’t be an issue.
Like I said in the headline, it’s still really early to think of expansion draft protection in concrete terms, but the team that Ken Holland turned over to Steve Yzerman is in a good position at this point.