Welcome back to our Seattle Expansion Draft Series. If you haven’t read the first article that lays out the rules of the expansion draft, that would be a good starting point, as I’ll only give the very basic rules in each of these follow up articles. If you are interested in Detroit, that was the second article.
I’m going to take a look at either one or two other NHL teams each week. My goal is to get some input from people who cover the team because let’s face it, I don’t have the knowledge of each NHL team to be able to give you the best idea of what to expect. Keep in mind that there’s a lot that could happen between now and July, when the lists are finalized. So let’s dive into Boston and Buffalo!
Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak are both going to be UFAs, so we’re going with Daniel Vladar. He’s the number one in Providence, and Ryan says that along with Jeremy Swayman, who is exempt, he’s considered the future in net for Boston. Callum Booth meets the exposure requirement.
Not surprisingly, Boston has some “no-brainer” selections, and their defense starts off with two: Charlie McAvoy and Matt Grzelcyk. Ryan says the third pick is where it can get tricky. He thinks right now it’s Brandon Carlo. He thinks that Seattle would take him almost immediately, which makes sense to me.
This would leave Connor Clifton as the most likely player from their defensive group for Seattle to consider. Ryan says he’s not a bad player, but that a lot of people like him because he skates fast and throws big hits. Jeremy Lauzon may also be a player Seattle takes a look at.
Ryan wonders if Boston may try to make a trade with Seattle because Boston may not want to lose Clifton or Louzon, but at the same time, he knows that backfired for some teams last time. I think you’ll see fewer trades this time, but that remains to be seen.
We can check four names off right off the bat. Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and Charlie Coyle all have NMCs. David Pastrnak is one of Boston’s best forwards, if not their best. David Krejci does not have to be protected, since he will be a UFA.
Jake DeBrusk is an interesting player here because Ryan says there has been “rumblings among the fanbase of discontent with DeBrusk, to put it mildly.” He says he “wouldn’t be shocked” if he was traded by the trade deadline. For now, he’s on my list, but keep an eye out for that.
Craig Smith is the next forward on the list. Ryan says “he’s been fine, not great.” But he’s a solid middle-six player, and it would be hard to lose that for nothing.
For the last player, there are a few options. Both Ondrej Kase and Nick Ritchie will be RFAs. Anders Bjork is a young player who has 2 more years left at a low salary. The fourth option is Trent Frederic. Ryan admits that it may be recency bias, but he think
Frederic makes the most sense out of all of them.
“He’s become kind of a cult hero,” says Ryan. “He’s fought Tom Wilson twice and has been all over the place.” He sold me at “fought Tom Wilson twice.”
“Kase’s been injury prone, Bjork’s been underwhelming, and Ritchie’s really streaky,” he said if you are wondering why those players are behind Frederic on Ryan’s list.
A healthy Kase could change things by July, but we’ll re-assess these picks as the draft gets closer.
Current Predicted Protections
Notable Unprotected Players
One of the fun parts of doing this series is getting to talk to some of my favorite people and people I’ve never had the chance to talk to. Dan fits into the second category, and Hannah Burry fits into the first one. She is the co-host of the Balls and Sticks podcast, where along with Meghan Hall, she talks about baseball and hockey. She is unfortunately a Buffalo Sabres fan.
To get an idea of Buffalo’s situation, at the beginning of our conversation, she said “we really only need something like five protection slots.”
Neither NHL goalie is playing well. Both are UFAs. For right now I’m putting Jonas Johansson because he’s younger than Dustin Tokarski. Does it really matter? Probably not.
Rasmus Dahlin is an automatic protect. He hasn’t played as well as one would expect, but it seems a lot of that may be the coaching and systems of Ralph Krueger. Rasmus Ristolainen has not lived up to the potential many saw in him, but according to Burry, he was having one of his best seasons so far before he got COVID. Ristolainen describes having a horrendous experience with the virus. The third slot goes to Henri Jokijarvu for now.
Colin Miller will be an interesting call. As of right now, he would qualify as the one defenseman to meet the exposure requirement. Miller, you may recall, was an original member of the Vegas Golden Knights. Could he go to his second expansion team? Burry says he was healthy scratched often last season, and his point production is way down, so I think it makes sense for Buffalo to protect youth with potential.
Jack Eichel gets the first slot. The second one goes to Jeff Skinner, who has to be protected because of his no movement clause. When I brought up the possibility of Skinner waiving it, Burry says she doesn’t see that happening. “Jeff Skinner doesn’t want to leave Buffalo,” she said. “When he waived his no movement clause in Carolina, he said ‘I will go to Toronto or Buffalo.’” He wants to be close to home of Southern Ontario.
Sam Reinhart is the last of the players that Burry thinks are clear choices. Casey Mittelstadt has not had the beginning to his career that they hoped for when they drafted him. This year, he’s shuttled between the AHL, taxi squad, and NHL, playing 9 NHL games so far. It would be very surprising for Buffalo to give up on him, though, so he’s the next pick.
One thing you notice when looking at Buffalo’s forward options is that they have a lot of players who will be UFAs after this season. This leaves only a few players to even choose from for the last few spots. Victor Olofsson is next on the list, although as Burry says, the team won’t be too upset if any of the players from here on out are selected by Seattle.
It was more of a process of elimination at this point. The last two I’m going with here is Curtis Lazar and Tage Thompson, leaving Cody Eakin and Zemgus Girgensons exposed. Along with Kyle Okposo, those two more than cover the exposure requirements.
Current Predicted Protections
Notable Unprotected Players
Riley Sheahan :)