Welcome back to the second article in our Seattle Expansion Draft Series. The first article went over the rules, so if you didn’t read it, you should take a little time and start there. I will explain some of the rules as we go through Detroit’s choices, but not in as great detail as I did there.
Today’s article will focus entirely on Detroit. Because we still have over half of the season left to go, there are a few choices that could change by the time Detroit has to make its final decisions (July 17 at 5pm ET).
As always, the CapFriendly Expansion Draft Tool is an indispensable resource for people interested in the expansion draft. I’m not going to list every player, but if you want to see that, click that link.
Before I get started, here are a few key points:
- Detroit could select either the 7 forwards, 3 defensemen, and 1 goalies or 8 skaters and 1 goalie options.
- There is no reason to keep a player like Givani Smith, Taro Hirose, or Evgeny Svechnikov from playing NHL games for expansion draft purposes. People keep asking that, so I’ll just put that right at the top. All three players are going to be eligible for Seattle to select unless Detroit uses a protection slot on them.
- Anyone drafted by Detroit in 2018 or later is exempt. Filip Zadina was the only possibility from that draft, but he didn’t play enough NHL games his first season to qualify. That includes players like Seider, Berggren, McIsaac, Veleno, Raymond, etc. Mathias Bromé is also exempt.
- While it’s true that Detroit doesn’t currently meet the requirements to expose 2 forwards, 1 defenseman, and 1 goalie that meet certain criteria (to keep teams from leaving Seattle nothing worth taking), I don’t think it’s something to either be worried about right now or something that should drive decision making for Yzerman right now. Right now Detroit has one forward and one goalie who will likely be exposed who would meet the requirements.
- In each section, I’m going to list ways that the team could meet the requirement. I’m mainly doing it because I figure people will ask. This was not an issue in the Vegas expansion draft, and it shouldn’t be hard to meet the requirements this time. These will be the easiest ways the team could meet the requirement with the current roster. They could also easily make a small trade for a player who qualifies. They could also pick up someone off waivers near the end of the season, etc.
- Unrestricted free agents are an interesting wrinkle. Teams can protect players whose contract is expiring this season and who will be UFA. They would do this if they expect to re-sign them and don’t want to lose the opportunity to do so. Seattle must take at least 20 players under contract for the coming season, meaning that they can sign up to 10 UFA players. Vegas was given a 2 day window to talk to and sign unprotected UFAs ahead of the expansion draft last time, and it should be the same this time. If Seattle signs a UFA from a team during this window, they will not select a player from that team in the expansion draft.
- Because I remember this being confusing last time, let me give you an example. Let’s say that Detroit has a player who is on an expiring contract that will leave them as a UFA. Prior to July 17, they should have a good idea if that player is interested in returning or if they might consider signing with Vegas. If they think (or know) that the player wants to re-sign with Detroit, they just wait until after the expansion draft is over and re-sign them.
- Things could change a great deal between now and the end of the season. I am assuming no trades between now and when teams must make their selections. I’m doing the article on Detroit first since that’s the team everyone is most interested in, but I’ll do a follow up article on the team much closer to when they have to make the decisions.
- There is no way in which Detroit could have Seattle select Jeff Blashill.
As of right now, Thomas Greiss is the only goalie under contract really worth talking about protecting. He has not had a good season, to put it mildly, but he has a good track record. Jonathan Bernier’s contract expires at the end of the season, so unless Detroit extends him, it doesn’t make sense to protect him. If they do extend him, then he would be the goalie to protect, barring other goalie acquisitions. Kaden Fulcher meets the requirement for the one goalie Detroit must expose, so if nothing else changes, they’re all set for ticking that box.
Basically each team is required to expose a minimum of four players that meet NHL games played requirements from either this past season or the past two seasons who are under contract. Goalies are a little different as they just have to either be under contract in 21-22 or whose contract will be expiring as an RFA. Fulcher meets the requirement since he is under contract for 21-22.
I’m putting Detroit down for the 7 forwards, 3 defense, 1 goalie protection option. Looking through the players who could be exposed, I value the 5th, 6th, and 7th forward more than a 4th defenseman. Actually I value the fifth forward alone more than anyone who could be the 4th defensemen protected, so it’s an easy call for me, as the roster is currently constructed.
Filip Hronek is a no-brainer, even though he hasn’t had a great season this year. While Dennis Cholowski hasn’t stuck at the NHL level, he has the potential to help Detroit offensively from the blueline, as long as he can improve his defense at the NHL level. Assuming he hasn’t been traded, which I see as a real possibility this season, I’m using a protection spot on him. For the third spot I’m going with one of the bright spots on Detroit’s backend in Troy Stecher.
Out of other defensemen who are under contract after this season, the one I’m looking at to change my mind is Gustav Lindstrom. Just like I imagine the team is, I’m open to changing the list by the end of the season when I re-visit Detroit’s options.
As of right now, Detroit doesn’t have the 1 defenseman to expose who meets the requirements. I’m not worried about that, but I will include some scenarios to solve that. Re-signing Christian Djoos for one season would do the trick, since he’s on track to meet the games player requirement. Same with Merrill, although I would re-sign Merrill after the expansion draft so we don’t have to use a protection slot on him and keep him for another few years. Alex Biega is three games away and would have to be re-signed. I don’t think all three would be re-signed, but just one would do the trick.
Also, Danny DeKeyser needs 15 games to qualify, and it seems like he might get there. I think if his back holds up, that’s the plan, but that’s just my guess.
For the forwards, a few choices are obvious. Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, and Tyler Bertuzzi are obviously going to be protected, assuming all are on the roster by the end of the season. I only say that because I would not be shocked for Mantha to be traded before the expansion draft. Michael Rasmussen is an easy choice from my perspective. My next two slots go to Robby Fabbri and Vladislav Namestnikov. Fabbri has shown that he can provide offense since being acquired and Namestnikov is a versatile NHL player. I took a look at Evolving Hockey’s Standing Points Above Replacement per 60 for Detroit forwards this season, and Fabbri is first, with Namestnikov 5th.
The last slot is going to depend a lot on Detroit’s future plans for a few players. Right now I’m choosing Givani Smith, but I want to go over the other options and scenarios.
Bobby Ryan has been a good acquisition both on the ice and reportedly in the locker room. It wouldn’t be surprising for Detroit to trade him at the deadline to a playoff team, in which case he could sign another contract with Detroit after the season. If they don’t trade him, they could technically re-sign him before the expansion draft and use a slot on him. That makes no sense though. They would just wait until after the expansion draft and sign him.
The other obvious players for consideration are Evgeny Svechnikov and Taro Hirose. I really liked what I saw from Hirose in his NHL stint earlier this season. It would be really helpful to see both of them get an extended look in the NHL (hint, hint). If that happens, a high-level performance could lead to a change in the last slot.
For the games played requirement, Frans Nielsen satisfies one of the two players. Re-signing Adam Erne for one season would take care of the second player. As with the defense section, I’m not specifically advocating for signing that contract, but with Glendening, Helm, Gagner and Filppula coming off the books at the end of this season, it’s not a big deal to sign a player like Erne who is a legitimate NHL player even if he’s not a star.
What Does This Look Like?
Notable Names Not Protected:
Notable Names Who are Exempt
Anyone else drafted 2018 or later
As I said at the beginning, some things could completely change between now and July 17th when the expansion protection lists have to be finalized. There will be an update article in a few months to look at any changes between now and then.
Right now the worst case scenario I see is Detroit loses a player who wasn’t really given a chance to show what they could do this season and that player develops into a good player with another team. I don’t see any of the players Detroit could lose making the team look nearly as foolish as some of the players Vegas acquired did last time. While anything is possible, I don’t think Detroit will lose anyone who ends up better than a depth player on a good team.
That being said, at this point it’s baffling to me that a player like Svechnikov hasn’t gotten into a game since his call up to the taxi squad. Detroit should use another lost season as a way to see what they have at the NHL level in the few players they have to make decisions on when it comes to expansion draft protection.